ST. GEORGE — A new bicycle skills park promising to be the biggest of its kind in Southern Utah will begin construction this month in St. George.
The park, to be constructed in the Sand Hollow Wash area just east of Snow Canyon High School, will feature a variety of trails and courses designed to help bicyclists develop mountain biking skills.
“There’s a huge group of the bike community, mountain bike community, even the BMX community, that’s very excited about this facility,” Mark Goble, park architect for the city of St. George, said.
During a public meeting Thursday, the St. George City Council approved a bid of approximately $1.4 million by Interstate Rock Projects to begin building the Sand Hollow Bicycle Skills Park.
The city will use money from its recreation, arts and parks tax fund to pay for the project, with additional substantial contribution from the Washington County Convention and Tourism Office.
“This is going to be first class,” Mayor Jon Pike said of the park.
The park’s skill areas will include gravity jump trails, a beginner gravity skills area, a progressive drop zone, pump tracks, a pump and bump skills loop, a dirt jump zone and cross country trails. The various courses and trails will be located primarily on the west side of the park along Lava Flow Drive, with some additional courses on the east side along Tuweap Drive.
The park is also anticipated to hold race events on the cross country trails, Goble said, adding that the Utah High School Cycling League will hold regional mountain bike races and possibly the statewide race at the park.
While the park is expected to attract professional riders, Goble said, the primary draw will be for community members of all ages.
Park planners hope beginners will be able to learn from experts as they use the park’s amenities, preparing them for mountain biking along the many trails available around St. George.
The first phase of construction, set to begin May 21 and projected for completion in September, will include a large pavilion, restroom, paved trails, landscaping, utility connections and a gravel parking area, with future phases to implement additional pavilions and restrooms, paved parking areas and a playground.
With construction scheduled to begin shortly, not all area residents are enthusiastic about the park, which falls between an area zoned primarily residential.
“I’m not against this park at all. I actually ride my bike every day for 10 miles. I’m against the venue you’ve chosen, because we already have way too much traffic,” park neighbor Diane Braithwaite said during a May 3 City Council meeting, noting the traffic generated by the two adjacent schools and various events held in the area.
In their application for a conditional use permit to build the park, city planners said the park will increase traffic to the site, especially during the race events, but that necessary steps will be taken to ensure that appropriate traffic control measures are in place prior to and during the events.
There has also been concern about the implications of the park’s proximity to the Sand Hollow Wash and the potential for flooding.
“Are we going to spend all this money to have it wash away,” Braithwaite asked. “I have seen this little tiny four-foot stream turn into a raging river in a matter of 20 minutes.”
Goble said the park’s most expensive features will be outside of the flood plain area of the wash.
“When a flood happens,” he said, “it might take a few thousand dollars to replace instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace.”
Other than flooding, some city residents expressed concerns for the natural environment surrounding the wash, which is home to roadrunners, doves, rabbits and quail.
“It is a nature area with a water run off corridor that can not be altered or affected to disturb the natural flow of drain water run off or affect the habitat of the natural environment,” city resident Russell D. Markle wrote in a letter to the city.
According to city planners, the riparian area around the wash will not be disturbed and no bike skills courses will be built near it.
“It will flow with the natural contours of the site,” Goble said of the park’s design. “We’re completely staying out of the riparian zone.
“We don’t want to remove any trees. We want to be sensitive to the site. We don’t want to remove too many shrubs or other plants.”
Existing paved walking and bicycle trails will also be completely preserved, and additional paved connecting trails will be built for walking, running and non-motorized biking.
“It’s never going to be easy for those people that live in these neighborhoods to see something changing,” Councilman Jimmie Hughes said of the park’s pending construction, explaining that the city has been proactive in building a variety of venues to appeal to the widest scope of recreational pursuits.
“I know there’s some negative impacts to this site,” Goble said, “but there’s so many positives to this site, as well, that the positives outweigh the negatives that this facility will create.
“This is something for the kids to do. Something other than doing video games, staying at home not doing anything. This is something that gets kids out, get some exercise and build skills.”
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