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Riel is the proper site for bike park

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 06:00 am

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The mountain bike skills park debate intensified last week at an open house, with echoes reminiscent of the Erin Ridge school site controversy. Upon closer examination, however, the bike skills park seems much more cut and dried.

A St. Albert city council agenda item from back in September 2013 named the final two locations proposed for the mountain bike skills park, Gloucester Park and 43 R Riel Dr. City administration recommended the Riel Park location in the report for a number of reasons, and administration was correct to do so.

The Riel Park location, northeast of the BMX park along the Sturgeon River, has, in essence, no neighbours, so nobody can complain about noise, traffic, dust or anything else associated with competition events. The Riel site, already home to sports fields, has amenities like washrooms, lighting and ample parking. The Riel site is already linked to the trail system, which is a bonus the Gloucester Park location lacks. More activities in the area also have the effect of preventing crime, as vandals, for example, canít do their work there if the parkís occupied more often.

The Gloucester site suffers from a number of drawbacks such as no link to the trail system, lack of parking, lack of infrastructure to accommodate event traffic and itís not as conveniently located as Riel.

One extra expense facing the project is the natural area assessment review, part of the cityís environmental master plan and land use bylaw rules. In essence, the city must do a first-hand inspection of the Riel site over the span of about six weeks before construction work starts in order to ensure no accidental damage is done to, for example, endangered or unique species that may occupy the site. The September agenda report estimates this review will likely cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

Mayor Nolan Crouse, a supporter of the bike skills park, has already gone on record as saying the $200,000 city budget for this project will not be increased. The $200,000 budget does not contemplate the assessment review, according to Chris Jardine, general manager of community and protective services.

St. Albert Bike Association president Jason Wywall told the Gazette Monday the group hasnít fundraised for the park, as they assumed the review would come out of the cityís budget. Also, the group was hesitant to fundraise until it knew a site had been chosen and the project was moving ahead. But Wywall also noted the association could apply for grants for the bike park project and said the association is interested in doing whatever is necessary to help with the park.

It would be a great gesture for the association to pitch in and raise $10,000 to $15,000 to cover the cost of the area assessment, giving the group a true vested interest in the project. That way the entire $200,000 budget can be used for its actual purpose: a bike skills park for youth.


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