After two years of controversy, the proposal to build a mountain bike park in Marblehead will be decided at Town Meeting on May 2. Supporters say if it passes, the park could welcome bikers by Memorial Day.
“The pandemic reinforced the importance of kids getting off devices and getting outside,” said Pat Milner, who has been leading efforts to build a bike park. “People need a place to ride bikes that’s not on the road.”
The proposed site is at the corner of Beacon and Green Streets and is currently owned by the School Department. It has been vacant for many years. Dr. John Buckey supports the bike park plan, which would use about one acre of the 249,000 square foot lot.
“The land is rolling, not steep,” Milner said. “There’s quite an open area in there. The bike park will be built with all-natural materials and it’s not going to cost a lot to build. ”
Milner emphasizes that there would be zero cost to the town, as supporters and volunteers would fund, build, and maintain the park.
“We already have $ 10,000 in pledges,” Milner said. “That’s more than enough to get us started.”
The park would be owned by the town and managed by volunteers, similar to how the Marblehead Dog Park is run.
Milner said if the town ever determined the park to be a good site for affordable housing, park supporters would return it.
‘Frustrating, to say the least’
During the pandemic, local teens started gathering regularly with their mountain bikes, looking for places to ride. Last spring, they built small bike jumps at Lead Mills, which is conservation land. The Conservation Commission flattened the bike jumps and kicked the kids off the land, angering parents.
More:Bike jump controversy at Marblehead’s Lead Mills angers teens, parents
Next, the teens started riding in the Green Street woods and were kicked off (and their parents were fined) for riding too close to wetlands, which are protected. The area of the proposed park does not include wetlands.
More:Clearing the way for a Marblehead bike park
“The years of working for a sanctioned space for off-road biking and all the red tape we’ve run into in our town have been frustrating, to say the least,” said Eleanor Sachs, whose son, Charlie, was one of the teen mountain bikers looking for places to ride. He has since given up the sport.
“But I do hope that Marblehead is the kind of town that, when given the opportunity at Town Meeting, will see the importance of this and make it a priority,” Sachs continued. “This is not an ask for any permanent structures to be installed or budget allocations. This is an ask for dirt to be moved around and natural trails to be maintained by community members for community members in a space that has not been used in more than 50 years. This is about creating more opportunities for healthy outdoor activity in our town for any and all community members. ”
An important part of growing up
Chris Fields runs bike clubs and classes at the Tower School. “I’ve been riding bikes in town with kids for almost 20 years,” he said.
Fields strongly supports the new bike park, which he said is inherently safer than riding near cars on streets or on Marblehead’s bumpy sidewalks.
Biking is an important part of growing up, he said, especially for kids who don’t enjoy structured team sports.
“The kids are getting fresh air, they’re competing, they’re exploring,” Fields added. “It’s so fun, so eye-opening to the environment around us.”