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Neighbors worry about BMX trails

Neighbors of a Marion County park near The Oregon Garden are concerned that a proposal to build a BMX bike trail at the park could be a dangerous addition to their otherwise quiet, rural neighborhood.

CRYSTAL BOLNER Statesman Journal Salem, Oregon

July 25, 2005

A Silverton businessman wants to build 900 to 1,200 feet of bike trails at Rogers Wayside Park, a 5.5-acre site on Cascade Highway. The dirt trails would be built and maintained free of charge for the county by a nonprofit group he set up for the purpose.

The proposal is scheduled to go to the Marion County Parks Commission for a vote Aug. 1. If recommended, the plan would be forwarded to the Marion County Board of Commissioners for approval.

Illegal bike trails currently exist in the woods on the park property. The existing trails include elaborate jumps and hurdles winding in and out of trees.

"That's one part of the reason I began this project," said Jason Franz, owner of Fall Line Sports in Silverton, a BMX bike shop. "The local kids brought me out there to ride the jumps."

Franz said the illegal trails have been at the park for several years. He admitted to helping some of the local riders add to the trail system.

"If these kids are putting that much effort into something that's not even legal, maybe we should try to channel their energy into something that is legal," Franz said.

His proposal includes a trail system that would make use of about a third of the park space.

Karen Seifer, 62, a homemaker who lives on a hill across the street from the park, said she thinks it's a wonderful idea for the young people of Silverton to have a place to ride their bikes. However, she thinks it should be in Silverton's city limits, not in the county.

"There's just not that many deputy sheriffs to patrol the area. The city can come out, but they can't do anything if there's a problem. That is one of our main concerns," Seifer said.

Roger Smedstad, 53, a carpenter who lives across the street from the park, said Rogers Wayside Park was a haven for drug dealers and other bad seeds about 10 years ago.

"I just hate to see it go back the other way," Smedstad said.

John Brandt, chairman of the parks commission, said the commission is likely to approve the proposal. Brandt said the commission was impressed that Franz took the time enough to come up with the proposal. Brandt said commissioners think he has addressed all safety and logistical concerns.

Franz has worked out an agreement with The Oregon Garden to allow bike riders traveling to the park to use one of the garden's gravel maintenance roads as an alternative to traveling on Cascade Highway.

He also received support from the Silverton's City Manager Bryan Cosgrove and Mayor Ken Hector for the project.

There still are questions about insurance to cover liability from accidents that might happen at the park as well as a question about whether building a BMX bike trail at Rogers Wayside will turn the park into a single-use public space.

"But I'm willing to examine it for a while. There may be room for everybody," Brandt said.

He said the parks commission likely would want to re-evaluate in another year whether the BMX bike trails at the park were serving the community's needs.

On a recent day, there were five or six cars in the parking lot of the park as the vehicles' drivers stopped to eat lunch.

Bill Davis, 57, of Portland said he stops at the park about twice a month on his way from Stayton to Silverton to deliver auto parts.

"This park seems to be under-utilized. To me, (the bike trail plan) sounds like a smart thing. The kids need a place to go," Davis said.

Kathleen Hardie, 42, who works at Silverton Hospital but lives in Portland, said she thinks the park is nice in its natural state, but "it could use some help. There might be room for a bike trail." or (503) 589-6967

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