A growing number of cyclists from across Alberta are using the Red Deer Mountain Bike Park, which has 10-km of jumps and trails for beginner to expert riders.
What the 90-acre park in the city’s north side doesn’t have yet is a designated parking lot or any maintenance dollars from the City of Red Deer, say some members of the Alberta Downhill Enduro Club that operates the park.
“I’m not sure some members of city council know this exists,” said outgoing president and trail director Adam Staniowski, who wants to raise the park’s profile among municipal officials.
Staniowski has seen cyclist visits to the facility grow phenomenally since the pandemic began. According to numbers gleaned from a computerized trail counter and the TrailsFork App, there were 70,000 to 80,000 park entries and exits over the past year.
“The numbers have been” 100 per cent higher, year over year, over the last four or five years, he added.
In June, 121 racers came out for the Red Deer club’s Lung Buster Mini Enduro Competition. Staniowski believes that kind of participation in a local event is amazing, considering only 300 cyclists compete in the B.C. Cup.
He knows many families from Edmonton and Calgary regularly drive to Red Deer to use the park’s extensive runs. “We get people from all over Alberta because there isn’t anything else like this.” Staniowski believes the closest thing to the expansive Red Deer infrastructure is Calgary’s Olympic Park.
Although the Alberta Downhill Enduro Club received the City of Red Deer’s permission to build the bike park on municipal land between 77th and 79th Streets and east of Gaetz Avenue, so far, all fundraising for infrastructure and insurance costs and all labour has been done by volunteers.
Staniowski noted this is different to how most other local sports groups operate. Generally, the city maintains rinks and soccer fields.
Enduro club members want to see the City of Red Deer take more of a funding interest in their park, now in its sixth season.
Parking, for one thing, has become a safety issue, said Mike Wiseman, the club’s vice-president.
While city crews have been widening the shoulder of 77th Street to allow for some parking, many semi-tractor trailers drive along that stretch, making it dangerous for getting in and out of parked vehicles, he added.
Wiseman believes there’s enough land available off 77th Street for the City of Red Deer to create a small off-road parking lot for park users. He said, “A parking lot would make a lot more sense.”
Some safer parking spaces are available near the north entrance to the park, but only because the adjacent Wheels On driver training company is allowing park users to use its private lot, said Staniowski.
Last year, a Savy Beginnings Trail was created in the park for young cyclists, just starting out. Wiseman said it’s named in honour of Rod Rysavy, a local advocate for youth cycling who recently passed away from cancer.
The most recent project is creating a Double Black Diamond Trail for very seasoned mountain bike users. And Wiseman eventually wants to add some more intermediate trails to help bridge the gap.
But all of these have required a lot of fundraising efforts from the club, either crowd-sourcing or asking for donations from corporations. Staniowski said local businesses have been very supportive, but he wants the City of Red Deer to contribute towards operating/maintenance expenses for the park.
Paul Belliveau, the city’s parks infrastructure and Waskasoo Park services supervisor, said on Friday, that he is aware that mountain biking is a growing sport in Red Deer.
While municipal grants are available for recreation groups to apply for, he acknowledged these usually do not cover operational expenses.
However, an agreement between the city and the park that outlines terms and responsibilities is coming up for renewal next spring. Belliveau added, “It’s a fairly new agreement and is a work in progress…”
As talks about possibly revising the agreement will be scheduled between the city and the Alberta Downhill Enduro Club later this fall, Belliveau said he’s open to having discussions about the club’s future expectations at that time.
Funding required for a parking lot may not be in next year’s budget, he cautioned, ”but we can have that conversation…”