Locals turn bushy hillside into a great place to ride

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

May 20, 2006

Hood River’s new BMX track is almost finished.

The winding 800-plus foot course is laid out. The corners are banked. The kickers are built up and the dirt is packed down. The approaches are clean and the landings smooth. In fact, other than signage, and an irrigation system to control dust and keep the dirt firm, the track is ready to rock and roll.

“We’ve put in so much time and energy on this,” said Hood River Valley High School student Gary Paasch. “It was great that we received so much support from the community, and the whole community can come out here and use the track. It’s not just for crazy teenagers.”

The track, which is located on 2.7 acres of lightly-forested park land also occupied by the Rotary Skate Park, winds its way from the top of the hill by Columbia Street across and back to the top of the skate park, which sits at the bottom of the hill by Wasco Street.

After about a year of proposals and the approval process within the county, which started in November of 2004, groundbreaking for the park started last November. The tedious task of removing underbrush and poison oak came first. From a brushy and unmaintained hillside to a dirt track for riders of all ages and abilities, the area saw great change in a matter of about six months.

“The track has been a grass roots effort, with all-volunteer equipment, time and money,” said Jeff Blackman, who has been one of the project’s biggest advocates since the beginning. “It is a natural fit to have the BMX track and the skate park together. Our hopes are to hold local races this summer and to have an open, fun track for kids of all ages to enjoy.”

The Hood River Parks and Recreation District, which also runs and maintains the Rotary Skate Park, has been instrumental in the BMX track coming into reality. According to Blackman, Parks and Rec. has agreed to run the track and cover it under the insurance umbrella the district currently has for the skate park.

“Parks and Rec. has been really cool for providing this land for us,” said HRVHS student, rider and volunteer Kody Moga. “We’ve spent a lot of time working and raising money for this and it’s great that now there is somewhere close for riders to spend time and practice.”

A good deal of work still needs to be done for the track to be fully ready for the summer season. Anyone interested in helping with donations or labor is encouraged to contact Blackman at (541) 806- 0505 or the Hood River Parks and Recreation District at 386-5720.

Once it is completed, the track will be named the Jeff Johnson Memorial Track in the name of the mountain biker who died last summer on the Sincline trail.

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