When SBLA visited Pomona City Hall last week, Pomona Police Detective Fernando Flores couldn’t wait to show off the concept designs for what’s to become the city’s first bike park, situated on the shady southern side of Ganesha Park, beside the 10 Freeway.
Mayor Tim Sandoval posed next to him to take the obligatory “smile with your poster boards” picture, but the mayor was reluctant to take much credit. “This bike park wouldn't have happened without Officer Fernando Flores. It was really his brainchild.”
Flores is 42, a father, and a lifetime Pomonan. “This is an idea that I've had for years and years.” said Flores. “I've been riding bikes for probably at least 25 years. And growing up in the city, there was always a need for somebody like me that rode BMX [to have] somewhere to ride. Back when I was growing up in the 90s, there were a lot of dirt lots, so we would just build jumps and ride our bikes there. But as the years went by, those lots kind of developed. So what the state started doing, and the city started doing, was building skateparks. So we would go to skateparks. But the problem I realized real quick, especially [at the skatepark] here, it says no bicycles are allowed, and I know firsthand because I got a ticket when I was 17 at the skatepark. And it came up in my background when I was applying to work for the city.”
Mayor Sandoval chimed in, “One of the things that really struck me when I first met Fernando and he did a presentation for me is he told me the story of what the bike park meant to him as a kid growing up. There are a lot of kids who are dealing with all kinds of different challenges. Sometimes you just need outlets, need places to go and to have a good time to hang out with friends. And if it doesn't exist, you kind of create it. And sometimes you pay a penalty for it."
"But why not actually create something that the community can use that people don't have to worry about PD coming up and giving them a ticket," the mayor noted. "So for us in a city like Pomona where you have a lot of young people, this to me, this is really an opportunity for them to just express themselves and have a good time.”
Why Ganesha Park? Flores said the park’s south end has two incredibly important features for building a bike course: inclines and shade. “I think the location is perfect for that.” said Flores. “This gives it more of a trails feeling. You have to jump around the trees or you know, hit a berm around them, stuff like that. And it's kind of going downhill. So basically, you just pumped through the whole section and you don't have to pedal.”
The area’s well known by Pomona’s road bike clubs too; in the past, there have been unsanctioned bike races in the Ganesha Hills.
Though Flores has been in talks with several professional ramp companies, he still envisions a grassroots meeting place. It’s the kids, he believes, who will take care of the park’s dirt landings when they need repacking. That’s what he said he and a crew of lifelong friends did at the empty lots of their youth.
“I've spent hours and hours and hours working on jumps,” recalled Flores. “None of us ever played on a team. Never. None of us ever played basketball, football, but we rode bikes. Now just thinking back, if there was a bike park back then, I mean, we would have spent days, hours, the whole time there.”
An initial estimate from American Ramp Company for the jump line course was roughly $257,000, though Flores is already thinking bigger and broader than the initial design he mocked up with assistance from ARC’s sister company, Progressive Bike Ramps (see top of article). Flores told SBLA he’d like to also include a pump track for younger riders downhill from where the jump lines will be, and hopefully have bike trails built higher up in the Ganesha Hills. He also hopes to have an onsite bike repair shed, and to have the bike park staffed with volunteer instructors.
Mayor Sandoval did not seem worried about cost estimates.
“We’ve allocated some funds from the American Rescue Plan [in the amount] of $200,000,” said the mayor. “We know that the bike park probably won't come in at 200,000... first of all there's the whole design of it. Once we understand the design and the cost, then I can go back and look at: are there other funds that we could draw from? Are there general funds that we can look at? Certainly, this will be an addition to our park. There's park funds that we can look at. The bottom line is we want to bring a bike park to the city.”
And park funds, there may be. Sandoval said in recent years, the city finally raised its park fees for housing developers for the first time since 1989, from a paltry $675 per unit to over $10,000 per unit.
The project – named Casillas Bike Park after deceased Pomona police officer Greg Casillas – is part of a larger slate of park improvements citywide. Sandoval said this includes rehabbing “a third to half” of all park restrooms, building a new playground at the Civic Center, and construction of the San Jose Creek Multi-Use Bikeway, which will connect Cal Poly Pomona and several grade schools to the future bike park at Ganesha.
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