One thing is clear: cyclists, neighbors in the San Antonio neighborhood and Pima County officials all say they are committed to rebuilding a BMX park that will be bulldozed to make way for a flood control project.
What isn’t entirely clear is when, where or how the park will be rebuilt.
Barrio Trails, the unauthorized BMX park located along the Arroyo Chico near Park Avenue and Broadway Boulevard, has quickly become a hot spot for BMX riders across the region because it is the only organized place for them to ride in the Tucson area.
The land is currently owned by the city, but will be handed over to the county once the flood control project has been completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Barrio Trails creator Rocky Serna has been working with Suzanne Shields, director of the Pima County regional flood control district, to come to an agreement about rebuilding the trails after several new retention basins for flood water are completed.
Shields said she is committed to having a BMX park in the area.
“I do want to maintain some kind of BMX track, I just have to figure how we can best do that,” Shields said. “We are not going to be working there for a while, which gives us a chance to sit down with Rocky and neighbors and work out a plan of where is the best place to put some improvements.”
According to Serna, he was told the trails would be safe for a year, but Drew Savage, the Army Corps of Engineers project manager, said they would likely begin work in the area this spring.
About half of the trails are located in the area where a retention basin will be built and the riders had hoped the other half would remain intact until the end of the project and the new Barrio Trails were created. Savage said that wasn’t likely.
“This isn’t a delicate process” Savage said. “When they come in and they start moving dirt, they have the right as part of our contract to move it in the most efficient manner that they deem necessary.”
Barrio San Antonio Neighborhood Association president Ted Warmbrand, wishes the area would be left alone, but has accepted the fact that the trails will be destroyed. He said the neighborhood is committed to seeing the trails rebuilt once the project has been completed.
Originally, Warmbrand said the neighborhood didn’t want any type of recreational feature in their neighborhood, but that changed when Barrio Trails was created.
“Rocky and the people who did it proved how positive it is to us,” Warmbrand said. “I say with confidence that the neighborhood supports the trails, given everything I know.”
Barrio Trails is also being utilized by other groups like El Grupo, who train on their mountain bikes at the park.
“I think it is an amazing opportunity to have a safe place within the city limits to really have fun riding your bike regardless of ability,” El Grupo’s director Daniella Diamente said.”It is hands-down the coolest thing that we have found since we started as a way to train kids.”
That is something Serna said is important about the trails.
“I don’t have the mentality of building something specific for one group of riders,” Serna said. “My whole thing was to get everyone to ride together.”
Serna said if he does indeed get to rebuild he wants to make it even more friendly to other types of riders.
“If I have freedom to build a park, it is going to be built without fear,” Serna said. “When that park was built now, it was built out of fear thinking that is was going to get bulldozed any day. If I build without fear, I do want to build mountain-bike-specific routes within the trails.”
One of the challenges for the county in allowing the trails to be rebuilt is liability, but Shields said that is something that can be overcome.
Serna said the tentative plan is to build the park at the bottom of the basin that will be constructed in the area because it will act like an amphitheater and allow people to sit above the park and see everything.
Shields said there is some money in the project for recreational features like water fountains and benches, but the county would also be able to grade the area and then let the riders start rebuilding the park, but she said she wanted it to keep “the neighborhood kind of flavor.”
Diamente said money shouldn’t be an issue.
“I think it is important to note that it was built on volunteer time,” She said. “You don’t need $15 million to do something like this. You just need some people that are interested in doing it and we’ve got that.”
Shields said she liked how small it is and said it seemed safe compared to the BMX park that was torn down on the east side.
“It looked like you could hurt yourself just looking at it,” Shields said of the east-side park. “What he has out there and what the kids have built looks very reasonable to me. It doesn’t look that unsafe. Anybody can get hurt riding a bike, even on a paved street, but it looks like there is a lot of thought put into what is out there.”
Shields said they would start working on the details in the coming months.
“We’ll just take this time over the next year to work with him (Serna) and figure out what is the next step, where can we place it,” Shields said. “It is nice that the kids are out there working on it. I want to work with Rocky and the neighbors.”
No official timeline has been completed, something that concerns Serna.
“I don’t have a exact time schedule of what is going to go down, which is kind of worrisome,” Serna said.
According to Savage, the basins could be completed as early as next summer.
“That is my biggest concern right now is getting our voice heard,” Serna said. “We already have our foot in the door and now I think it is time for us to push it open.”
Shields wrote in an email that the county would send out an official announcement once the details had been finalized.
A meeting about the project will be held on Thursday, October 28 at 6 p.m. in conference room C in the basement of the Pima County Public Works building at 201 North Stone Ave.
Serna said he hoped many cyclists would come out and let the county know how important Barrio Trails is.
Check out the two images and videos below.