Concerned about increased bicycling in a natural area, the city set up a short-term recreational cycling spot near the local dog park.
The City Council voted Dec. 14 to approve an agreement with residents maintaining the Bark Park of Alamo Heights to use a piece of land immediately north of the site as a temporary bike park through Feb. 8.
The dog park is located along Alamo Heights Boulevard near Viesca Street.
Councilman Lawson Jessee said it’s important for the city to settle on a permanent bike park location soon.
“As you can see, there’s an overflow of demand,” he added.
Local leaders and some residents support efforts to reserve a safe public place for recreational cycling, which many children and teenagers use as a break from quarantining and restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The temporary bike park is open sunrise to sunset. Users cannot enter the vegetated areas north and west of the bike park. Several residents, including teenagers and children, attended the council meeting to show support for the bike park, or phoned in similar comments.
Resident Bobby Jones told the council since students resorted to virtual learning following the virus’ emergence and the closure of schools last year, coming up with healthy ways to reduce youngsters’ time online has been a challenge.
“Biking is an outlet that my children, and as a parent, I fully support it as exercise and a form of social interaction among children,” Jones said.
Over the spring and summer, a group of residents had expressed concerns about children and teenagers riding their bicycles on the Hondondo Creek trails and even setting up jump ramps along the paths. Wheeled vehicles are not allowed there.
The city worked with the Friends of Hondondo Creek, a volunteer group, to remove the bike jumps and discourage cyclists.
But parents voiced worries their children had no safe place in town to cycle, especially with more people in quarantine, working or studying at home, and trying to find recreational outlets.
Parent Brooke Leddy said some children who bicycled around Hondondo Creek found themselves competing with walkers and hikers, but had no other place to go after being forced out of the natural area.
The nonprofit Alamo Heights Bike Park emerged from community discussions and worked with city staff to designate a public spot for local cyclists.
City officials said the parking area near the Bark Park was a temporary solution and a safe place for youngsters to ride their bicycles, particularly with jump ramps.
“We look forward to working with you to make this short-term destination a a long-term gift and a win for our children,” Leddy said.
Weston Cox, an Alamo Heights High School sophomore, said he rides his bicycle everywhere.
“Having a safe place to ride, like a temporary bike park, would help tremendously to keep kids off their devices and to get outside and be more active,” Cox said.
Laurie Saunders, who started the Bark Park, asked whether the temporary bike park’s location would have an impact on overflow parking for visitors to the dog park or Alamo Heights Little League activities in the spring.
Mayor Bobby Rosenthal said there are buffers to prevent interference between cyclists and dog park visitors. He also promised the bike park would not be open at that locale past Feb. 8.
Aside from her initial concerns, Saunders showed support for the short-term bike park: “I’m all for it. I think kids need to be outside. I encourage my grandson a lot to be outside.”
City officials and AHBP members had considered other locations for the bike park, such as the northwestern port of the Hondondo trails area, and the corner of Morse Street and Ogden Lane.
Rosenthal said the city continues to explore a viable long-term solution to keep local youngsters safe while they ride their bikes.
“I just think it’s a good way for them to socialize and to learn,” Councilwoman Lynda Billa Burke said.
Look for updates on this story both online and in an upcoming print edition of LOCAL Community News.