Meet you there . . .
With the onset of the COVID pandemic, community youth gathered more frequently in the public space in the Olmos Basin area behind the Little League fields that has historically been frequented by cyclists. They were riding, collaborating, enjoying the outdoors (and were off their screens), getting physical activity—all good things for them to do in a confusing time when their options for activity were severely limited due to the lock down.
The kids loved this outdoor space, and were exercising their team-building and bike handling skills, when suddenly and unfortunately, the city leveled the area after receiving some anonymous complaints. The kids were told “not to go down there with their bikes anymore.” Their spirits were crushed at the surprise demolition and denied access to their favorite place and activity. These children and their parents were drawn together by a shared sense of purpose to find a way to reestablish, in some way, shape or form, what was lost.
Public support for riding . . .
The nascent group invited community members who support having a designated, safe place for riding bikes off road to sign up for information and updates on ways to more efficiently advocate for a feasible location for kids to do all the things they’d previously done in the Olmos Basin. We quickly realized that not only was this a path to finding a tangible location for the kids, but the process itself could teach us valuable lessons about taking ownership of the effort and showing the benefits of a bike park to kids and riders of all ages.
On the AH City Council agenda . . .
Members of this community organized and spoke during the “Citizens to be heard” portion of the City Council meeting, asking the Council to acknowledge that the space is open for public access and that the ordinance that restricts “wheeled vehicles” does not prohibit bicycles. We felt encouraged by their response, and the ask was that we show how important this is to the young people in our community. Easily done! The need for a public bike park is established and momentum is growing: kids need a space to be outside, riding with their peers in a safe place.
Nonprofit formation . . .
To further solidify support and better organize, steps are taken to create a nonprofit in support of finding a permanent space for riding off road in the neighborhood.
Young riders respond . . .
A youth survey is circulated through our Youth Committee to gather feedback and input on what community youth would like to see in a bike park in our neighborhood, how often and in what ways they would use bike trails, to indicate their interest in volunteering their time to work on it, and preferred name for the space. Great response! The Alamo Heights Bike Park is named.
Meeting with the city . . .
The community organized quickly to work with the City: Alamo Heights Bike Park Board of Directors is fully formed and the nonprofit organization is official. Members of the Board met with City Council to work productively and in tandem with the City to work on the dream of realizing a wonderful bike park for our community. We are moving toward securing space in our community that will allow youth and families to have a safe, designated place to strengthen their love of being outdoors riding bikes. The City suggested the land next to the Alamo Heights Dog Park for the kids to use for riding bikes because it is an undeveloped piece of property in the heart of Alamo Heights and since 1947 has been designated to be used solely for “park, playground or recreational purposes.” Excitement builds for a place to ride again!
Working on the plan . . .
The Alamo Heights City Council continues to collaborate with us to find a suitable space for our community to utilize as a safe riding zone. We are anxious to find a place the kids can go, under tree cover and out of the street, so they can build, ride and jump together again soon.
Dialogue continues . . .
At the request of city leaders, members of the AH Bike Park board met with the Friends of Hondondo Creek and AH City leaders to explore the options of either sharing space in Olmos Basin or using the land next to the AH Dog Park. The group conclusion was that Hondondo Creek was not a good fit due to seemingly incompatible combined uses (bike riding / bird watching) in the Hondondo Creek area. We continue to work with the AH City leaders and our community members to find the best location in our neighborhood.
Kids find a way . . .
Given the continued desire for kids (and their parents) for kids to ride outdoors and the now limited available areas where they can pursue this type of activity, children identify some open space near the gardens off of Ogden. Thinking they have found a temporary place to “be” during the pandemic, kids start assembling there and start bringing to this new spot jumps and wooden features they have created themselves. Suddenly and unfortunately, again, the jumps are removed. The kids were again told they “could not be in this space” either.
Collaboration continues . . .
We are provided an opportunity to meet with some neighbors of the proposed Bike Park property. We present a proposed map, preliminary conceptual design, and are ready to discuss ways to allow the kids to utilize this open public property to ride their bikes, while also accommodating reasonable requests the neighbors may have. It has always been our goal to work with the neighbors to come up with a solution that works best for all! We were excited to collaborate and work through how we could potentially incorporate what the neighbors were looking for into the Bike Park conceptual design. Their only tangible request was to leave a tree barrier that preserves the view from Corona. Yes, done! With that request included in our plans, we prepared a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the city to review and further negotiations.
While we work on a permanent location and final plans, a City Council meeting will be held on December 14th at 5:30pm to approve a temporary, interim location for the children to use during holiday breaks, and also officially and publicly show community support for a permanent location for the Alamo Heights Bike Park.
Temporary Use approved!
The City of Alamo Heights has entered into an agreement with the AH Bike Park organization to permit the temporary use of the crushed granite parking lot north of the Bark Park for riders to use while we work on a permanent location for a bike park!
This spot is immediately available for use! We are excited to have this space and want to make sure we are communicating the conditions under which the City has allowed us to use this property. Please help us ensure we abide by the following guidelines:
· Remember, riding and jumping in this area is at your own risk. Helmets are mandatory.
· Hours of operation are dawn-to-dusk only.
· Please take time to read and understand City-posted signage at the area and stay within the boundaries designated by the City (i.e., if you’re in the cleared parking lot, you’re safe…please do not venture into the wooded areas beyond the parking lot).
· Please respect adjacent landowner’s rights (neighbor’s and the Bark Park users) to quiet enjoyment of their property.
· Leave no trace; please pick up and dispose of any trash you notice on the site.
· This space is for riding and jumping using non-permanent structures (i.e., wooden jumps); we are in a floodplain so no digging holes or removing vegetation is permitted (leave this for the permanent location!).
· Please practice and model our community’s Eight Keys of Excellence in this space: Integrity; Failure leads to Success; Speak with Good Purpose, “This is it!”; Commitment; Ownership; Flexibility and Balance!
· You are welcome to bring your jumps to the site, but please remember that AHBP is not responsible for such structures and you will be responsible for removing such structures once this temporary agreement ends (beginning of February).
We have made the news! Check out the article about the AH Bike Park! https://localcommunitynews.com/2020/12/alamo-heights-sets-up-temporary-bike-park/
The AH City Council meeting went well tonight for our mission! We are pleased to see the temporary location extended through Spring Break with a new expiration date of March 19th. We appreciate all the collaboration with the city to get to this point! We look forward to continuing our work to find a permanent place for the community to ride safely very soon.
If you would like to join us in our mission, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!