A 12-acre patch of land at the corner of Lindsey Street and 24th Ave. SE has been lying in wait for roughly a quarter century, but wheels are in motion to transform it into the largest bike skills park in the state.
Park planner James Briggs said it could be open by spring, complete with ramps, trails and a bicycle playground. He said the aim is to have a contract on the council agenda before the end of the year.
Last week, city officials, members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee and residents came to city hall to hear an update from Progressive Bike Ramps president John Hunter who is working with the city to develop a design. His company has designed parks throughout the region and he said Norman has something special on the horizon.
The exact features have yet to be selected, but Hunter said Tuesday’s presentation offered a good idea of what’s to come. Ultimately, he said the goal will be to create a progressive trail that lets riders work up to bigger features as they feel comfortable. The bicycle playground, which he aptly said is “exactly what it sounds like,” will be an accessible trail befitting riders of all skill levels.
From there, riders can make their way through other portions of the long and winding course, which he said will be accessible with adaptive equipment, as well.
“The cool thing about your site is you can ride almost a full mile without riding the same thing,” he said. “We’ll be able to pack a lot of fun into this trail.”
He said the piece of land is a perfect site, due to its topography and drainage properties, and will require little maintenance because the design will incorporate sustainable features.
Ward 1 council member Kate Bierman said it’s a low-impact design that maintains green space and will give Norman something unique. She said she is thrilled with the plan, not just because it happens to be in her ward, but because it promotes a healthy lifestyle and continues the city’s trend of promoting non-traditional sports — the city already has four popular disc golf courses.
“These are sports that have lower barriers to entry,” she said. “It does not cost a lot to throw a disc at a basket and it does not cost a lot to find any old bike, hop on it and head to the bike skills course.”
It won’t cost a lot to build, either, Briggs said.
Unlike the new Blake Baldwin Skate Park at Andrews Park, which has about $1.5 million in Norman Forward funds to draw from, Briggs said the bike skills park will be funded through accumulated room tax allocations to the park department.
He said it’s a vision that has been in development for a long time and will tie in to the expansion of 24th Ave. E with its sidewalks and bike lanes.
Tom Woodfin said the idea was already picking up steam when he joined the Bicycle Advisory Committee in 2011.
After a few years of looking for a site, various committee meetings and city council approval, Woodfin said the Parks board stepped up.
“They said we think we can do this in our capital projects budget,” he said. “And this land was dedicated as park land 25 years ago.”
Woodfin said it’s fulfilling to see the park so close to fruition. He said it’s something that Norman residents, young and old, can enjoy.
“I’m tremendously excited,” he said. “It’s very cool. This will be the largest bike skills park in the state of Oklahoma. It is no small thing.”
When asked if he would be sailing off of any ramps, the 65-year-old bike enthusiast said “absolutely.”
“Any day on a bicycle is a good day,” he said.
Ruby Grant Park update
Park planner James Briggs said the design of Ruby Grant Park is coming into focus.
The $6 million Norman Forward park project to be built at 3110 W. Franklin Road was the topic of various meetings last week with residents and stakeholders (disability coalition, disc golf, cross country, dog park) coming to give input.
The current proposed design includes an addition to the Legacy Trail, picnic areas, a cross-country trail, skate park, dog park, disc golf course and a proposed amphitheater as well as standard park amenities such as restrooms, picnic shelters and play areas.
“We went through the plan and everyone seemed excited about what’s going on,” Briggs said. “The big thing coming out of it is I think we’re headed for some more steering committee type guidance meetings about the playground, in particular, because that’s going to be a huge feature.”
Briggs said though the design has been in development for some time, the city will continue to gather as much feedback as possible before the end of the year.
The park is already funded through Norman Forward, but Briggs said he believes there could be citizen-led fundraising effort that could push the playground over the top.
“We could make it even bigger if we get to that point,” he said. “And the disability coalition is pretty excited about doing that.”
He said another accessibility-minded playground could be developed for Reaves Park, as well.
The Norman Forward implementation plan states that Ruby Grant Park could be completed by 2020.
In total, Norman Forward calls for $25 million to be spent on parks projects.