With today's opening of the McLennan Park bike park, Kitchener now is home to the two best bike parks in Ontario.
That's the opinion of Mark Schmidt, trail specialist and point person for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (Canada), who turned up this morning to watch the ribbon-cutting and test the four circuits on the city-operated free bicycle park.
Since Coun. Kelly Galloway told the 90-some people at the opening that city officials haven't been able to keep people off the courses prior to the opening (Snow fence? What snow fence?), I just assumed that Schmidt had already had a spin through the park.
"I was respecting the opening day," he said. Schmidt said Chicopee's bike park and the McLennan bike park will be magnets for those wanting to develop themselves as downhill and freestyle cyclists in Ontario.
There are four courses in the park: a jump track with three lines for different skill levels and a grade change of 13 metres; a race-style 4X course with a grade change of 28 metres; a 183-metre free-ride course with skinnies, boulder gardens, a teeter totter and other challenges; and a beginner pump track with rollers, table tops and banked corners.
Among the jump track users was a cautious Kitchener Coun. John Gazzola, the only municipal politician to bring his own bike. (That's him in the orange shirt.)
There was a lot of energy this morning. And some of the challenges facing the city are already apparent.
Although signage is everywhere indicating helmets must be worn on the tracks, several riders who knew better were there, helmet-free.
A somewhat jaded Cody Frericks of Kitchener, anticipating the municipal response when the park records its first serious injury, said, "I give it five weeks before they take it down."
But other riders were just there to ride, and talk cycling.
Reps from East Side Cycles were there to offer support, and show jump frames to the adoring 10- to 12-year-olds who saw no problem in getting a $500 or $600 frame. Perhaps the parents are going to pop for them.
The youngest rider was Christian Hampton, who at three years old, is actually too young for the facility: minimum age is six. But he got to cut the ribbon with Mayor Carl Zehr, Galloway and nine-year-old rider Samantha Summers.
While officials and parents walked up to the "summit" of Mount Trashmore, the cyclists did what they do best. The clear favourites? The intermediate and advanced level jump tracks. A whole lot of air was being caught this morning, and although I am a roadie, and do not have the equipment to run these courses, I can clearly see the appeal.