Beginner bike skills park planned along Millcreek path

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Planned Mill Creek Bike Skills Park design 2020

[Courtesy Grand County Active Transportation and Trails]

Moab is famous for its scenic, technical mountain biking trails, but local trail planners noticed a gap when it comes to access. While skilled mountain bikers are drawn to the challenge of Moab’s trail system, there are few options for beginners just dipping their toes into the sport.

Planners said that a new bike skills pocket park located along the Millcreek Parkway is designed to provide a stepping stone for local beginner bikers, particularly youth, to get from the primary basics to a skill level that will carry them on to the world-class biking opportunities in the Moab area.

Maddie Logowitz, director of the county Division of Active Transportation and Trails, which is spearheading the project, presented the latest designs for the park to the Moab City Council on May 28. Logowitz compared the proposed park to the artificial “boulders” designed for climbing located at Lion’s Park.

“Because Moab is a world-famous mountain bike destination, and there’s 200 miles of single track in the area, we really wanted something similar to that boulder park—but for mountain biking,” she said. “It will be a stand-alone attraction for kids and families, and also as a gateway so people can get exposed to technical biking.”

The park is planned for where south 100 East dead ends into the Millcreek Parkway and will include training features built by the Progressive Bike Ramps company. The park will also integrate elements commonly found on trails in the Moab area, like rock ramps and steps.

Logowitz emphasized that this park is not meant to be a “jump track” like Anonymous Park on 500 West, where skilled bikers take on steep jumps at high speed. Instead, the new park will help new riders develop skills like balance and wheel lifts.

“These are more about precision than speed,” said Logowitz of the obstacles planned for the new park.

Anonymous Park is already heavily used by advanced riders, Logowitz said, and was not an ideal location to build a beginner skills area. The location of the pocket park allows residents to reach it via the bike path.

The new park will be ADA-accessible and include shaded benches where parents and caregivers can supervise kids using the park. Multilingual signs will give information on where users can find beginner mountain biking trails in the Moab area.

There will also be a restroom at the park, providing a public facility in an existing gap along the parkway between the restroom at Rotary Park and the restroom at Anonymous Park.

Logowitz assured the council that her department would work with grading contractors to make sure as few trees as possible are removed when preparing the site for the park. A little over half of the funding for the project will come from a $63,683 grant secured by the Grand County Active Transportation and Trails Division in 2019 from the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation. That spring, the City of Moab committed to providing $30,000 to fund the remainder of the park, as well as another $30,000 for a restroom, which will also serve other users of the Millcreek Parkway. The City of Moab has a standing interlocal agreement with the Division of Active Transportation and Trails to pay for projects within city limits.

Some in opposition to park

Not all Moab citizens are excited about the prospect of the new pocket park. Friends of the Parkway is a partnership that evolved out of local nonprofit Moab Solutions. The network of groups and individuals is committed to caring for specific areas along the path, cleaning up trash and recycling and monitoring for major problems. They remove weeds, perform minor trail maintenance, and have hosted one community lecture along the parkway. Sara Melnicoff is the founder of Moab Solutions and Friends of the Parkway.

“Moab Solutions started Friends of the Parkway in partnership with the city in 2004, yet we weren't contacted at all about this planned park,” she wrote in a May 26 Facebook post. She wrote that the city intended the parkway as a place of quiet reflection, and she sees the bike park as incompatible with that vision.

“We are not opposed to people learning bike skills,” she wrote in an email to the Moab Sun News. “We just feel that the parkway is not the place for this. Set in a flood plain, the creation of this park will require removal of trees, shrinking wildlife habitat even more, and forever altering a peaceful place by turning it into yet another crowded area in Moab.”

“When we make everything a playground, we rob children of the joys of just being and exploring in this beautiful world. And that is worth a lot,” Melnicoff said.

In a comment submitted to the City Council for its online May 26 meeting, Melnicoff wrote, “The parkway is a gem of an oasis within city limits but is getting littered with ‘thrill’ sites that are pushing people out who want to enjoy the calm, the sounds of water and birds, and, a very real concern, be able to walk without fear of being hit by a bike, many of whom are riding way too fast on the ‘slow biking’ parkway system.”

Melnicoff also pointed out that the city’s budget is in trouble, and doesn’t think a new park and restroom are an appropriate use of city funds.

“The optic of the city spending $30,000 (and another $10,000 a year on bathroom maintenance), sends a sad message during a pandemic,” Melnicoff told the Moab Sun News, pointing out that recent layoffs of city workers were directly tied to budget issues.

The project received endorsement, however, from the Grand County High School Red Devils Mountain Bike team and the Moab BEACON afterschool program.

At the May 28 council meeting, Mayor Emily Niehaus suggested that the park be named after Robin Groff, founder of the first bike shop in Moab, Rim Cyclery. After getting approval from the Groff family, the Division of Active Transportation and Trails gladly commemorated the late local legend by naming the new park the Robin Groff Memorial Park.