With the cut of a ribbon, Creekside Bike Park is officially open.
Located at the corner of 24th Ave Southeast and East Lindsey Street, several from the City of Norman, Parks and Recreation Department and Progressive Bike Ramps turned out for a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday morning.
"It's important to celebrate as a community when we have wins," Norman Mayor Breea Clark said. "So often, I think the rhetoric is negative and we focus on what we don't have, so I love these moments where we can focus on what we do have and what we are providing for citizens."
Since the park is located in Ward 1, council member Kate Bierman began the day with a speech on the importance of bike riding for children, sharing personal stories and her thoughts on what the park offers the community.
"For children today, the bicycle is not just their invitation to their first real taste of parentless freedom; it is also the key to a classroom, a classroom in which they teach themselves independence, self-reliance, a love of exploration, facing their own fears and the delicate balance of risk and reward," Bierman said.
As the costs of organized sports continues to grow, Bierman said, it's incumbent on cities to provide kids and adults with outdoor spaces and opportunities that do not need a collection of specialized sporting equipment. She expects there will be a lot of skinned knees, but also there will be more confidence built, skills learned and freedom exercised.
"I also hope we as a city can continue to focus on projects like these that enrich our community in unquantifiable ways," Bierman said. "This is the fourth park between 12th and 24th, and I'm very happy we are providing a home for another non-traditional sport."
The bike park was built by Progressive Bike Ramps, a sister company to the American Ramp Company. The installation of the park began in early June, said James Briggs, City of Norman parks planner, and ended up costing around $250,000, which was funded through the Parks and Recreation Department's portion of Norman's room tax.
"We are just really happy that we have got it open," Briggs said. "We know people have been wondering whether to ride or not, and now it's official you can ride."
With several skill levels offered, park rules are posted at several park entrances. Briggs said they feel better in the Parks Department knowing people will know how to use the park safely.
The park is full of hills and ramps and includes a drop zone, jump line, technical skills area, children's biking playground and trails for people of all skill levels. Some trails connect to several surrounding neighborhoods.
"The topography that is just naturally occurring right here, you can't make that with a bulldozer; it's the best," City Manager Darrel Pyle said. "We just have all the benefits of what Mother Nature threw at us, and it really became a true amenity for this type of course."
John Hunter, American Ramp Company and Progressive Bike Ramps president, said the outer trail goes into dense residential areas and connects to neighborhoods, giving local children easy access to the park. It will be a regional destination, too, he said, but the fact that it serves as a gathering place for area neighborhoods is significant for him.
"What's really cool is without this park here, kids that live over there or over there aren't going to connect to each other, but now a place like this gives them that opportunity," Hunter said. "Really, for me, that's the big thing: to get kids outside so they can learn those skills and progress."
Hal Cantwell, Norman Bicycle Advisory Committee chairman and Bicycle League of Norman president, said it was amazing seeing the city support, staff dedication and everybody in the community working together to plan the park.
"We had public meetings on this, and folks turned out to review plans and gave feedback, so this, to me, was one of the best examples I've seen of the organic growth of a local city park with input from everybody. I have been and still am impressed," Cantwell said.
Norman currently has a bronze distinction in the League of American Bicyclist' Bicycle Friendly Community program, but Cantwell said the bike park is a big step toward silver.