After leading dozens of children on an inaugural ride around San Francisco’s first recreational bike park, professional mountain biker Greg Minnaar reflected on the importance of the park to youth.
“I just remember building ramps as much as I could when I was growing up,” Minnaar said, watching local riders try out the pump track, a group of small hills and ramps meant for riders with intermediate skills. “This would have been a dream come true for me.”
Minnaar, a South African, three-time worldwide downhill mountain bike racing champion who now calls the Bay Area his second home, was the guest of honor at the opening ceremony for McLaren Bike Park, on Saturday, Oct. 21.
Professional and amateur bicyclists, their familes and city officials celebrated the opening with a raffle drawing and lots of practice on the new course, which bikers advocated for for over eight years.
Although the Bay Area is the birthplace of mountain biking, San Francisco, unlike New York, Seattle and Boulder, has never had its own dedicated recreational bike park, causing riders to commute to parks outside the city –– and sometimes outside the Bay Area –– to practice their sport.
Frustration with this situation led members of the San Francisco Urban Riders to start their quest to build a bike park in San Francisco.
Two years ago, a few members of the Urban Riders formed the McLaren Bike Park Founders to raise money and finish plans for the park.
The group raised $135,000 from 120 donors to create a design and then won funding from the Recreation and Parks Department and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to build the park.
“This is a long overdue investment in McLaren Park,” Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg said in a speech. “[McLaren Park] has been a secret for too long and it’s maybe been neglected for too long. But no more.”
Also overdue was the city’s recognition of the popularity of mountain and BMX biking as sports, Ginsburg said.
“You know, lawn bowling’s nice –– but it ain’t this!” Ginsburg said.
The McLaren Bike Park Founders hope that the new park, which was previously used as a dumping ground for discarded cement and other waste, will be used by locals to train the next generation of recreational and professional mountain bikers.
“I once traveled 40 or 50 miles to visit a BMX park,” said Jeff Taliaferro, whose owns Ocean Cyclery in Ingleside and was an event sponsor. “This is something that San Francisco has needed for years. The kids will come out here to train their skills. Hopefully we’ll see some champions coming out of here.”
Will Aldrich, co-chair of the McLaren Bike Park Founders, said that the support from the surrounding neighborhoods and bicyclists across the Bay Area had been overwhelming. Aldrich hopes the park will be a place where cyclists from all walks of life connect.
“It’s really important that this is the first big project that’s hitting [as part of a $12 million investment in McLaren Park] and it’s going to benefit Sunnydale,” Aldrich said. “We’ve seen that other urban bike parks act as a force to bring people together. You see kids from all kinds of backgrounds meeting out on the pump track and getting stoked.”
The current bike park covers less than half of an available lot. McLaren Bike Park Founders has created a concept design for the second half of the park and is seeking funds for the project.
McLaren Bike Park is located at 2050 Sunnydale St. and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily in the fall and winter and between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the summer and spring.
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