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motorcross is Not a crime bikers want a park, too

By Casey McKinney Special to the Daily Planet
Friday September 13, 2002

Area motorcross bikers are frustrated. And they’re teaming up to take action. 

“It’s time bikers were shown the same respect as skaters,” said biker John Wold, 33-year-old graphic designer. 

Berkeley’s new $750,000 skate park is scheduled to open Saturday but bikers are not permitted to use it for their two-wheeled acrobatics. As commuters raced down Interstate 80 Tuesday evening, dozens of bikers met in a parking lot near the pedestrian bridge at Berkeley’s Aquatic Park to plot a strategy. Their goal: a new park for motorcross biking, otherwise known as BMX. 

“The city of Berkeley is a big fan of volunteer-park building,” said Stephen Swanson, the president of Berkeley Partners for Parks.“This piece of land and an adjacent smaller piece are what we are hoping will be the site of a new bike park,” he said, as bikers huddled together on an 11,000-square-foot piece of land at Aqautic Park, adjacent to the bay. 

Planning of the new park began in democratic fashion. Some bikers proposed concrete and wooden ramps. Others preferred just dirt. A fence was suggested to define the area, to protect it from vandals and keep pedestrians from wandering into the action. A bathroom or a portable toilet would also be needed. The bikers voted against electricity to keep costs down and to ensure the park would close at an early hour. 

Their motivation was part survival, part envy. Development of the new Eastshore State Park threatens a current dirt bike course called the Shady 80. Bikers are seeing other recreation groups, like skateboarders, get more attention from park and city officials. 

They think the new park can be created for about $75,000 and even less if only dirt obstacles are used. 

“All we need is to haul in some fill dirt, which contractors would donate free of charge,” said biker Jeremy Swanson. 

Bikers like Jake Taylor, who has done much of the building and maintenance of jumps at Shady 80, would gladly volunteer services at a new park. 

“We just need a water source, and maybe a tool shed for rakes and shovels,” Taylor added. 

The idea is gaining support. Kate Obenour, who was a chief lobbyist for the Berkeley Skate Park is also pushing for the creation of a bike park. So is Councilmember Linda Maio, who represents the district where the park is proposed. 

“I think when a sport arises from the youth, like this one has, we should support it,” Maio said. She suggested that perhaps neighboring cities like Albany and Oakland could invest in the project as well. 

The bikers plan to meet again at the same place 7 p.m. Sept. 24.