The International Mountain Biking Association has broken the code of silence and now Richmond knows about the proposed Belle Isle Off-Road Bicycle Skills Area. What is it and who would it serve? A mountain bike pump track has been proposed for the area under the Robert E. Lee Bridge on the east end of Belle Isle, the […]
A mountain bike pump track has been proposed for the area under the Robert E. Lee Bridge on the east end of Belle Isle, the popular and busy gem of the James River Park which is expected to be a central hub for the greenway connections that will intersect Richmond.
The majority of the work for this propsal would be done by the IMBA – which visited during the XTERRA East Championships to inspect the site. It would be done with assistance from the volunteer trail builders of Richmond MORE, which has been consulting on this proposal along with City of Richmond trails manager Nathan Burrell and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities.
“We picked Belle Isle because its in the [James River] Park System,” Burrell said at a Friends of James River Park meeting in May, when the proposal was introduced to the non-profit group. “We were looking to give it a centralized location…and this is typically an under-utilized area.”
There would be no permanent structures as a part of this development, which could be constructed in Spring 2012. It would not be a BMX course, like the one at Gillies Creek Park in Fulton Bottom, Burrell said. It has been proposed to be constructed with dirt, rock and wood and would be laid out on the ground, Burrell said. It could be “peeled back” or altered as needed.
“We’re trying to teach people how to use the off-road areas of the park,” Burrell said in May, pointing out that a survey conducted during the Pedestrian, Bicycling and Trails Commission meeting in September 2010, pointed out that bikers wanted help to learn the rules of off-road riding and to become more comfortable riding trails.
“We’re looking to train folks how to use our trail system,” Burrell said at the meeting, adding that many people are intimidated by the JRPS trails. “We’re looking to populate [the skills area] with a different strata of users.”
Children are expected to be a part of the bike skills area, and the bikes and equipment they use could be stored in the brown triangular shed located in the center of Belle Isle. There is also a proposal to renovate the metal shed located on the east end of Belle Isle to create a road course to allow children to learn how to ride bikes on roadways without the pressure and danger of real vehicles.
There are some restrictions and obstacles for the bike skills area. Most importantly, there are constraints on Belle Isle under the Conservation Easement, and there is some historic designations for the area near the area due to the Civil War prison camp area on the island. The City of Richmond has approved of the plan as it pertains to the conservation easement.
NOTE: Apologies to Nathan Burrell and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. I have been informed that everything is still just a proposal. I took the post from IMBA as confirmation that everything had been approved and wrote this blog entry without checking with Nathan Burrell or the Parks Department. I edited to indicate that this is still a proposal.