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February 6, 2012
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BMX riders look for new home for track in Basalt

BASALT - BMX riders in Basalt might not have to be bandits much longer.

Basalt and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails are developing a plan for a new park proposing a full-size BMX track on a bench of land near Basalt High School.

"We're going to explore that option," said Gary Tennenbaum, land steward with the county program. "There is an existing (track) in Basalt - not the most legally created."

The existing bandit track is tucked in the woods on the strip of land between the Basalt Bypass and Roaring Fork River, east of the commercial area that includes Stubbies and Harry Teague Architects. The Ponderosa Track, as it's been dubbed by users, winds around the roots of some "really old ponderosa pine trees," Tennenbaum said. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane told the Town Council at a recent meeting that the track needed to be moved because it has compacted soil around the roots and threatens the old trees.

BMX enthusiasts welcome the opportunity to establish a sanctioned track, said Paul Viola, an organizer of the effort who rides with his son. He predicted that a developed track would prove popular and draw more people into the sport.

"The fact that it's an Olympic sport makes it right up the Roaring Fork Valley's alley," he said.

BMX is a hybrid of cycling and motocross racing. Riders of the light, rigid bicycles zoom around a snaking course built with sharp and sometimes banked turns, jumps of various sizes, rolling terrain and obstacles. The bikes feature padded handlebars, and riders must wear special helmets to reduce the chance of injury during falls.

BMX enthusiasts are gathering support to show Basalt and Pitkin County that demand exists for a track. They have a Facebook page at RoaringForkBMX, which describes their plan in more detail.

Tennenbaum said Basalt and Pitkin County will gauge public reaction to the track as well as other proposed components. They held an open house Thursday night that attracted about 30 people.

Grace Park, formerly known as the Sopris Chase property, was purchased by the two governments last year. They are working on a management plan for the 25-acre property. The land is on the slope just to the west, or downvalley, of the high school and on the slope of lower Light Hill.

The site includes 6 acres of fertile ground that nearby farmer and rancher Billy Grange has said grows a good crop of hay even without irrigation, according to Tennenbaum. A community garden is proposed for one-half acre of that ground, with a reservation on another half-acre if enough gardeners embrace the space. The governments will rely on a citizens group called Mid Valley Community Garden Collective to organize individual plots in the garden. Irrigation will be provided by a town of Basalt water line.

In the short term, the remaining five acres of agricultural lands will be leased to the Grange Family Ranches. In the long run, the site might be appropriate for greenhouses, row crops, hay production and livestock pasture, according to the proposed management plan.

The park and open space also provides potential for a number of other recreational uses. Tennenbaum said nordic ski trails are envisioned on the property during winters when there is enough snow. A track on Grace Park would be tied into the Rio Grande Trail.

The property also has an "unofficial" trail onto Light Hill. The governments will work with the Bureau of Land Management to a plan for that route.

"Developing a sustainable non-motorized trail with appropriate seasonal closures to protect critical winter wildlife habitat will be a goal of the planning process for Open Space and Trails and Basalt," said the proposed management plan.

Along with the management plan, the name of the property is in flux. The governments are welcoming comments on whether Grace Park should stick or if the public prefers another alternative. Grace is the name of the family that homesteaded the area in the late 1800s.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 6, 2012 08:19AM Published Feb 6, 2012 02:28AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.