Well, I'm writing this as a start to my service to such an amazing place. I can go into the specifics of jumps, pump tracks, trails, obstacles and other details......later.
At the present, I'd like to express (to the best of my ability) what a multi-dimensional space and community resource the River Bend Bike Park is.
How did I find it?
Being a Buellton resident, I kept hearing that Lompoc ( a really cool town nearby ) was opening a bike park with tons of tracks, jumps, and fun. About a month ago, I asked my girlfriend to cruise to Lompoc with me to find this mythical place. We could have searched the internet, yet a drive with some detective work seemed more fun!
As we came around the bend on the end of A Street my jaw dropped....This place was Mecca! It was huge! It looked like Hell Track from the 80's movie RAD! I couldn't believe it. We jumped out of the car and walked the entire park on foot. I scanned all the features high and low. This was and is a triumph to be seen. Having competed nationally in BMX as a youngster I was stoked! I also had my own full sized track on our ranch growing up that I built with my friends and father ( I asked for dump truck loads of dirt for Christmas when I was 11)... Lompoc's Bike Park was full of nostalgia for me. Great signs, info and path markings helped let us know just how to use the park. Restrooms and a high tech water fountain are right at the entrance. The fence surrounding the park has banners up belonging to the rotary, local non-profits, foundations, and local businesses that donated time, effort ect. This is something special. I'm stoked for Lompoc! A safe place for kids and adults to socialize, get off computers, build friendships and challenge yourself. I left the park on day one blown away. I'd be back asap.....
Two days later with an amazing BMX 24" dirt thrasher bought on craigslist ($80)...I was at the park. Ready to ride and let loose, I strapped on my pads, helmet and gloves, entered the gates and cranked away!
So, now that you know a bit of how I came to find this place, I want to share what you don't quite see by looking at the jumps and berms.
Don't you agree that the world is a bit crazy right now and can be overwhelming with negative info? Well, nothing combats all that madness like being part of the community around you. The bike park is a beautiful representation of community. Not only was it funded, built, envisioned by community members of Lompoc, it was helped from the Rotary, Local Buisinesses and people I have yet to meet. The park has signs up letting you know how to volunteer and help keep the park going. Dirt jumps require more maintanece than you might think. The bike park has a great FACEBOOK page that will keep you up to date on events and community days.
I have met so many different types of families out at the bike park. I feel a place like this breaks down barriers and helps people just be people. No cliques or bad vibes. Once you are in the park you are first and foremost....a cyclist. I have seen a wide variety of people and bikes here. Young and old, novice and advanced, the bike park feels SO welcoming. Not being a Lompoc resident, I also have to let you know that the bike path from town ends right at the park! How cool is that? This park made me so happy and jealous at the same time. The Santa Ynez Valley has so much to learn from Lompoc. I hope this bike park can radiate up and down the coast as an example of how to have a community park based around cycling. Oh...A quick shout out to Holly Delaney for her tireless efforts and years put in for the Solvang Skate Park. Holly and the community here in the valley worked for seven years to get the skate park put in. It is a hidden strength over in our part of the woods.
The bike park is open....wait for it.... EVERY DAY FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET!!!
What does that mean? The park department trusts YOU to be RESPONSIBLE.
This is a huge opportunity for everyone. You can practice riding your bike...yes, but the bigger picture is.... treat this like it is your own....because it is.
Speaking only for myself, I find the bike park makes me a better community member just by its silent energy that suggests to stop and take a moment to help. In the park, I feel encouraged to pick up trash, water jumps, roll up hoses, and generally treat it like a zen garden. The more I practice these acts inside the park, the more I will find myself doing this anytime, anywhere in life.
Please, respect the bike park. I feel you will leave knowing down deep that you also respect yourself and your community.
3. Social Skills
My favorite thing about the bike park are the people that are within its gates. Interacting with all sorts of people young and old has been a joy. The bike park has enabled me to meet a whole new group of friends. Remembering everyone's names and what bike they ride is fun! While at the bike park I've also been able to schedule times to ride with new friends I've met on the dirt. It's always fun when you pull up in your car and people know who you are. Sometimes when I'm at the bike park I'm the oldest person. When I find myself in that position, I do my best to be a positive role model. If I'm at the bike park when any really young kids are around, I'm make sure to introduce myself to the parents to build trust and say hello. By doing this, not only can the parents feel safe, with what type of person I am, but it can also break down barriers for parents to find it hard to let their children interact with other people. I have personally seen a handful of kids actually roll on two wheels for the first time at the bike park. Imagine how cool it would be to come back twenty years later and say this is the park where I learned how to ride a bike. While sitting on top of dirt jumps, there are many conversations going on. Many of the things being said between riders are words of encouragement. Some children may not get that encouragement in other places of our society. The Lompoc bike park is definitely a place to improve social skills while having fun!
I would encourage anybody that judges the bike park without actually going and trying it to pause for a moment. BMX and dirt riding are one of the most physically exhausting things you can get yourself into. I like to ride many different styles of bicycles. Road cycling brings plenty of different things out in your muscles and mental state, but dirt riding is so demanding. When I'm in the bike park I'm continually blown away with how many calories I burn and how exhausted I am after only 30 minutes of riding. I have been going to the bike park for one month about four days a week. I can't believe the changes that I've experienced in my torso, shoulders, and arms. A core workout is something that you do not get from road biking. You don't have to be into jumping high or racing at all to get plenty of benefits from riding at the bike park. There are so many different obstacles that allow you to go at your own pace. It's a twenty-five minute drive for me to get to the bike park. During that time I get to clear my mind so that when I arrive I can carry out and improve my skills on a bicycle. This adds peace to my busy, daily schedule. I have heard from other people that my physical and mental health have improved greatly since I started going to the bike park. I have to say that I feel fantastic. A big part of the bike park is working on your skills in increments. The park is built in such a fabulous way that allows you to always step up to the next thing you're ready for. Please only ride the portion of the park that you are ready for. Take your time and you will be able to step up to harder sections. As you keep track of your improvement, a deep sense of fulfillment and excitement will fill your every molecule. The bottom line is, riding a bike in the dirt is good for you. It is good to note that we are safe from cars while riding on dirt!
Bicycling is one of the most popular sports in the world. There are so many different ways to ride a bike and compete with one. Yet, we find so few bike parks for people to enjoy. I have met many people that say the bike park is something that they always look forward to coming to. I am one of those people. The bike park also enables the youth to have a challenging and inspiring drug free zone. Bettering yourself on a bicycle can kickstart a healthier and happier life. Showing up day after day and watching yourself improve can really plant seeds of purpose within you.
Thank you for reading this lengthy blog. I can't wait to talk about all the fun jumps along with, the various things that I find amazing about the River Bend Bike Park. For now, I hope you take in some of the absolutely amazing and wonderful things that you might not identify at first glance when you see the park.
I also wanted to note, I did not help build the bike park. I came into this late in the game. Now that I know where it is and I go almost everyday, my involvement will only grow more overtime.
A special thank you to all the people that helped build and visualize this park. I look forward to seeing you all out there, with smiles on your faces and dust in the air!