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Paynesville Press - April 2, 2003

City may build BMX course for youth

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Since the city of Paynesville will soon have piles of dirt, it is considering using them to build a BMX (bicycle motocross) course as a low-cost way to entertain youth.

Public works director Ron Mergen got the idea after noticing that dirt piles during city construction projects seem to attract kids on bikes. "Any time we have a pile of dirt, we have kids on bikes riding on it," Mergen told the city council at its last meeting. "Why not give them their own dirt to ride on?"

Mergen believes his own kids would be thrilled with a BMX course.

"I think they should make a couple of them," said 12-year-old Bryce Hartmann, who lives in the city and likes to do tricks on his bike. "We need a half-pipe, high jumps, and a mud pit."

One local mother likes the idea but wants to know if helmets would be required.

The cost of building the course, which would be similar to one in St. Michael, should be minimal, said Mergen, since the main construction material - dirt - should be plentiful when the the city digs a stormwater retention pond on the east side of Lake Avenue this spring. The city plans to use some of the extra soil at the new airport, but Mergen believes there will be more than enough to make a BMX course, too.

Mergen proposed building the course near the city well site between Highway 55 and Spruce Street near the Chladek Addition.

There are some concerns about the site, though. Council member Dennis Zimmerman pointed out that kids from north of Highway 55 would have to cross the highway to get to the course, which could be dangerous. He also noted that the city should talk to the owners of nearby businesses, just to get a feel for what they think.

According to Mergen, though, the course could be built on the southern edge of the city's two-acre lot, near Spruce Street and away from the businesses along Highway 55.

Mergen also has a few concerns of his own. Although the city's insurance would cover a BMX course, he is unsure if the course would need to be fenced and he was also unsure if the course would need to have an asphalt track to make it handicap accessible.

These are issues that Mergen will need to research before the next city council meeting on Wednesday, April 8, when the course will be discussed again.

If the course is approved, construction could begin this spring in conjunction with the other city projects.

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