The City of New Westminster is working with local youth to create a bike skills park in Queen’s Park – one that’s sensitive to the ecological restoration efforts taking place in the park.
Last year, the city’s operations staff removed bike jump features that had been built by local residents in the forested area of Queen’s Park near First Street and Sixth Avenue. A staff report stated the bike jumps were not suitable for public use and would negatively impact the ongoing restoration within the forested area.
On July 12, council approved the construction of a new bike skills park facility in Queen’s Park, in an area not far from the city’s tree nursery and below the road through the park. The space will also include opportunities for stewardship initiatives.
“Some young people in our community set up a few ramps unofficially in Queen’s Park and had been using that. The city did have to remove that. They were concerned about damage to some of the natural habitat, and obviously it wasn’t a city-built facility,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “But what came out of that was city staff actually developed a relationship and began to engage with the youth that were quite interested in that activity and being able to bike there. It started a really constructive process of actually developing a proper facility within the park.”
A report to council says the project aims to create a purpose-built bike park meets the needs of the biking community, from beginners to experts – but also encourages safe and responsible use of the forest and respects the ongoing ecological restoration efforts in Queen’s Park.
After removing the jump features, staff collaborated with local youths to come up with a better location and design for a bike skill park in Queen’s Park. Now that the plan has been approved by council, city staff will get to work building the new bike skills area in the fall – with the help of youth stakeholders who have expressed interest in assisting with the construction and stewardships of the recreational space.
“The first area obviously wasn’t set up by the city and wasn’t sanctioned,” Cote said. “I am really pleased that city staff stepped up and didn’t just remove the site and move on but actually sat down and said, ‘How can we engage the youth and find an appropriate place that doesn’t damage the park, but actually recognizes that there is a community interest and need for this type of a bike park?’”
According to the staff report, the 2013 Queen’s Park master plan viewed this area as “open space” and deemed it appropriate for a variety of recreational uses. The report notes there has been a recent boom in the popularity of bikes skills parks.
“This projects aligns with the Queen’s Park master plan and offers opportunities for a new experience in Queen’s Park leading to enhanced participation and active living, especially for those children and youth who don’t participate in organized sports,” said the report. “This project also links to our biodiversity strategy and urban forest management strategy.”
The city’s financial plan allows for $65,000 from the construction of a gravel trail base and up to 10 bike skills features.
“I am really pleased to see it being moved forward. It was really rewarding to actually see the youth who have been involved in this discussion, who were actually very involved in the planning and setting up exactly what they were looking at in a facility,” Cote said.
“I think it’s just one of those activities that is more and more popular as people are looking for different things to do. We are never going to have a full mountain biking course in the City of New Westminster, but providing these kind of areas in a small way can help people build some skills and they can maybe take them to bigger journeys later on.”
Cote believes the bike skills area will be a great addition to Queen’s Park.
“It’s been wonderful to see in Queen’s Park just how busy new skateboard park is. I think this will just kind of add to that type of activity,” he said. “I probably won’t be riding the circuit myself but I will definitely, as I am in the area, enjoy watching young people and people of all ages in our community enjoying the circuit.”