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Paynesville Press - June 18, 2003

City to build BMX track

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Youngsters who dream of flying over jumps and kareening around corners on a dirt bike will not have to dream much longer. The city of Paynesville is building a BMX track on the south side of town.

The Paynesville City Council voted last week to build a bike park on the city well site near the Chladek Addition. Construction should begin next week, and the track could be finished as early as next month, according to public works director Ron Mergen.

The 300-foot, U-shaped track will be built in the southwest corner of the city's well site between Highway 55 and Spruce Street. The four-acre site is one of the locations that was listed as a possible location for a community pool.

Mergen first proposed building a BMX track to the city council in April because he thought the city could use the dirt from the city's street project to build the track. That dirt, however, turned out to be the wrong type for a BMX track. Instead, the city would need to purchase clay to build the track.

Still, the city thought the track was a good thing to offer area kids, and Mergen kept working on a plan.

When the project was presented, safety concerns were expressed about having kids cross Highway 55 to get to the facility, as well as concerns about how the track would affect surrounding businesses. But the city council decided that getting to the facility would be no more hazardous than getting to the school ball fields.

Neighboring business owners were polled as well, and most of them agreed that the well site would be a good location for the track, Mergen told the council.

Mergen got some ideas for the track from a similar facility in St. Michael and then turned to two local BMX enthusiasts who have built their own tracks: Tom Stone-burner and Phil Johnson.

Johnson - who has raced both motocross and snocross, and has worked with young BMXers - designed the track's three table jumps (four-foot high jumps with an eight-foot wide flat area on the top), a triple whoop (a series of peaks and valleys), a quadruple whoop, and a banked curve. Stoneburner helped with the current plan and had some ideas if the track is ever expanded.

Johnson liked the idea of having a local BMX track and said he will probably help out after it is finished by teaching youngster how to ride safely and how to help maintain the course. He believes it's important for riders to have some responsibilities at their track.

Johnson and Stoneburner both offered their services free of charge, said Mergen.

Mergen estimates the course can be built for $1,000 plus labor, which will be provided by city maintenance workers. Maintenance will need to be done at the track by city workers every time it rains, but if the riders pitch in to help, that cost can be kept to a minimum, said Mergen. Insurance for the track will be covered by the city's existing liability policy.

Some details about how the park will operate still need to be ironed out. Mergen emphasized that safety gear - at least helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads - will be required on the track, but he is unsure how the track will be supervised or how the rule will be enforced. Also, hours of operation need to be determined.

Currently, the city doesn't plan to charged for using the track.

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