A dream come true

Boulder's cutting-edge bike park set to open

James Dziezynski | Boulder Weekly

In 1996, mountain biking was finally beginning to hit its stride, evolving from a ragtag group of California hill bombers to a full-fledged Olympic sport in the Atlanta summer games. Quality bikes were becoming more affordable, and elements such as full-suspension  frames, super-light carbon-fiber materials and high-end components were pushing the limits of cycling technology.

It was around this time that the city of Boulder and the Boulder Offroad Alliance (now known as the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, or BMA) began to toy with the idea of a free, public bike park. When the Valmont Bike Park officially opens on Saturday, June 11, it will be the culmination of almost 15 years of planning, hard work and dedication on behalf of the biking community and the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department.

It wasn’t just the raw logistics that prolonged the process; there was also a dedication to the vision of making Boulder’s bike park the very best it could be. Keeping up with trends in the cycling world offered another challenge.

For example, cyclo-cross was barely a blip on the radar in the 1990s despite being introduced in the USA in the early 1970s. After an explosion of popularity shortly after 2000, the revived sport was vital enough to be included in the final plans for the Valmont Bike Park.

Because of the dynamic nature of cycling, the city of Boulder has hired four full-time employees to maintain the park and keep it up to date. Top designers, engineers and planners all contributed to the construction of the 40-acre park. Former world cup racer Judd de Vall, principal of Alpine Bike Parks LLC, was at the forefront of the modern design and cutting-edge features, such as ideal hard-pack soil, reinforced features and sustainable grasses to absorb water and prevent erosion. Mike Lamb, parks project manager, sold his home and moved his family from Seattle specifically to come to Boulder and be part of the Valmont Bike Park project. Countless other volunteers have spent more than two years physically bringing the park to life. And the BMA contributed significantly.

“BMA has helped in every step of the process since 1996, and we are thrilled to continue to help long into the future,” says Botsy Phillips, vice president of the BMA. “There are some key people who need to be thanked for their volunteer time and energy. Bobby Noyes has been integral in the development, construction and overall support the park has received.

BMA and the parks department worked together in a partnership to raise $500,000 for the park, and BMA and other volunteers have completed more than 12,000 hours of volunteer time to this project.”

Kirk Kincannon, director of the Boulder Parks and Recreation Department, gives insight into what the park offers for the community.

“With feedback from the cycling community, our partner, Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, and others, we developed Valmont Bike Park to offer natural-surface features and elements for a range of ages, abilities and riding styles,” he says. “From a children’s play area and trike lot to advanced-level slopestyle, dirt jump and cyclo-cross elements, the park offers amenities for all off-road riders. This skill progression design allows riders to develop their cycling abilities in a fun, non-intimidating environment and take on new challenges as their skills develop.”

Kincannon says building the park did not come without its share of challenges.

“This park is on the cutting edge of public facilities of its kind,” he says. “It offers so many styles of riding and terrain, features a range of elements from mild to wild, and sets a new standard for urban bike parks. So virtually every aspect of building this park involved breaking new ground. Moving 220,000 tons of soil, moving a building, constructing more than

three-dozen various riding features and miles of inter-connecting trails — that was relatively easy. Ultimately, the overwhelming support and involvement of the community — who tirelessly participated in public and city council meetings, assisted with design input, raised funds and helped develop programmatic and maintenance guidelines for the park — made all these challenges seem manageable.”

Boulder Weekly was invited to preview the park prior to the public unveiling, and we are happy to say it lives up to the hype. The first things that grab your attention are the terrain parks, including huge dirt jumps, a slope-style course with wild amusement-park like features and a dual slalom course. A pair of pump parks along with smaller and intermediate dirt jumps round out the more extreme features. Cross country mountain bikers will dig the beginner and intermediate singletrack trails that hone trail skills with twisty turns, log rides and rolling bridges. These tracks offer ride-arounds for most obstacles, so riders can progress at their own pace. And the aforementioned cyclo-cross track has a flight of stairs that complements the longer course.

The term “family-friendly” often translates to watered-down fun, but the Valmont Bike Park achieves the rare balance of great terrain for all levels without dumbing down the trails for more experienced riders. Oh, did we mention the scenery? Two shady creeks run through the park, while the mesa at the north side offers gorgeous vistas of the hallmark Flatirons to the south and the summits of the Indian Peaks and Long’s Peak to the west. Justice aficionados might like the Boulder County Jail to the north.

Valmont Bike Park sets a new standard in urban bike facilities and does so in a sustainable and affordable way. The park is free to the public and is open from dawn to dusk starting June 11. From free riders to cross-country enthusiasts, BMXers to kids just taking off the training wheels, there’s a wealth of riding waiting right in town.

The city of Boulder, the BMA and all the volunteers and who brought the dream to life and took the time to do it right deserve a lot of credit and thanks.

Enjoy, and ride hard. Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com