Pedaling Opportunity and Unanswered Questions at Boise Bike Skills Park Explainer 

click to enlarge Judd Duvall of Alpine Park Design (left) looks on as Toby Norton (right) describes features of the bike skills park.

Harrison Berry

Judd Duvall of Alpine Park Design (left) looks on as Toby Norton (right) describes features of the bike skills park.

Jimmy Hallyburton, director of the Boise Bicycle Project, said he thinks an area in the Military Reserve that's now used as a dog park would be a prime spot for a bike skills park.

"Most of the target population we work with—they need facilities within a 20-minute bike ride," he said.

The bike park, planned by the City of Boise and the Albertsons Family Foundation, would be accessible to riders from as far away as Garfield and Jefferson elementary schools, not to mention the North End, West End and South Boise neighborhoods. BBP, which hands out approximately 800 bikes per year to Treasure Valley children and advocates for expanded bike-friendly infrastructure and facilities, has a longstanding interest in better serving the two-wheeled needs in those communities.

At an informal information session on the skills park held Wednesday evening at BBP headquarters on Lusk Street, though, Hallyburton admitted the project had "put blinders" on him regarding the public process surrounding it, which has some neighbors concerned.

"Looking back now," he said, "I wish I had pushed for more [of a] public outreach process."

The construction of the skills park would transform two-thirds of the existing dog park on the Military Reserve into bikeable terrain surfaced with durable, drainage-friendly materials and asphalt, and broken up by natural features like mature cottonwood trees and other native species. The rest of the space would remain a dog park, albeit with improvements like turf, shelters, and separate areas for "passive" and "active" dogs.

The park has been praised by advocates—Hallyburton called it a facility that "serves the entire population" and "not just people with $4,000 mountain bikes"—but several people at the information session worried about the costs of maintenance, parking, potential flooding and what one attendee called "user saturation" of nearby trails. As part of its agreement, the City of Boise has allocated $250,000 for the project.

"There are a lot of costs," said Brittney Scigliano, president of the East End Neighborhood Association. "Half a million [dollars] being put forward by the city—I wonder, where's that threshold of costs before the city says, 'No?'"

Toby Norton, a project manager at the City of Boise, said the Boise Department of Parks & Recreation has conducted analyses of the likely impact of the park on nearby trails and determined it to be acceptable. During a conversation with park designer Judd Duvall of Alpine Bike Parks, Norton told attendees the cost to the city for maintaining the park has yet to be determined. Duvall said one or more dedicated staffers will be crucial to keeping the facility in good working order, adding that he has met and spoken with many who use the park, and hopes to build on its relationship to the community.

"People describe it as part reserve, part church, part sanctuary," he said.

click to enlarge - Left to right: Judd Duvall of Alpine Bike Parks, Toby Norton of the City of Boise and Jimmy Hallyburton of Boise Bicycle Project fielded questions from the audience about the bike skills park. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Judd Duvall of Alpine Bike Parks, Toby Norton of the City of Boise and Jimmy Hallyburton of Boise Bicycle Project fielded questions from the audience about the bike skills park.
There has been some formal objection to the project, and an appeal has been filed against floodplain permits in the area, "challenging the adequacy of the project plans" for the park. A hearing with Boise Planning & Development Services has not yet been officially scheduled, but is expected to take place in June.

By the end of the meeting, Scigliano said some of her questions had been answered, but others hadn't.

"I'm not entirely opposed; I just think there are a lot of unanswered questions about it. I think I'm frustrated with the city, that it allowed something like this to happen," she said, referencing what she saw as a debacle over public outreach and an opaque cost-benefit analysis by the city. "Sometimes they forget they're affecting large numbers of people."
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