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Bike Skills Park Opens in Niverville

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Skills Park Crop
The first phase of the new skills park is open. Brenda Sawatzky

A new feature in Hespeler Park should help keep the restless youth of Niverville busy and active this summer. On June 12, thanks to a collaborative effort, a bike skills park was installed on the berm next to the picnic shelter.

Designed by local avid bike riders, phase one of the three-part plan includes a staging area at the top of the hill where riders can access the entrance to the track. The track loops around the hill and features banked turns and a return route which takes the rider back up to the staging area.

The eventual additions of phases two and three will introduce bumps—or “rollers,” in bike track terms—helping riders keep their momentum around the banked turns. As well, jumps will be added to provide skill-building opportunities. The end concept is to have a track that allows riders to build up enough speed to carry them through the entire course without peddling.

The final phase is expected to appeal to mountain bikers. A variety of rocks and logs will be installed, creating an obstacle course for the advanced biker.

The inspiration for the bike skills park began with 13-year-old Owen Poettcker of Niverville.

“He is the type of child that is more into individual sports and not a team sports kind of guy,” says Owen’s mom, Denise. “He thought that a bike track would be a great activity for kids of all ages and something to do in the summer months. We were riding our bikes through Hespeler Park and thought that it would be an amazing space for this type of activity.”

The Poettcker family has been keeping their kids active for a few years now through a program in Winnipeg called Kids of Mud. With the help of coaches, kids learn the fundamentals of cycling etiquette and safety while navigating a variety of terrains.

Thanks to the program and their connection to the Manitoba Cycling Association, the family has been able to experience a variety of bike paths and special riding tracks in many Manitoba communities.

“Morden put in a bike track that became so popular, they expanded it,” Poettcker says. “Steinbach has also put in a bike feature, as well as Altona. Bike parks have one of the widest socioeconomic demographics of any park facility. They appeal to kids up to seniors and from beginners to professional cyclists.”

Poettcker says that the Town of Niverville has been very supportive since the idea was introduced about four years ago. They immediately put the Poettckers in touch with Darren Sakwi, a Niverville resident and former competitive mountain biker.

Together they developed a formal proposal and worked together with the town’s recreation department to apply for grants. While grant money hasn’t yet been secured, a number of locals responded to the idea with enthusiasm.

This month, Grant Dyck of Artel Farms and Bryan Trottier of Trotco Electric pooled their resources, equipment, and time to assist in the construction of phase one.

“We were limited with what resources we could use, so we utilized the dirt that had been piled at the base of the large berm,” Poettcker says. “Funding is a limiting factor here… but we have to start somewhere. Progression is the key to the design of a bike skills park to allow kids to learn safely, advance their skills, and be able to move onto more advanced features or to be able to confidently ride in other locations… It also keeps kids returning to the park since there is always something new to work on.”

So far, she says, the response to the feature has been amazing. The heavy equipment had barely vacated the site before kids were arriving from every direction to try out their skills.

“According to the 2016 Stats Canada census, there are 1,575 children between the ages of zero and 19 currently residing in Niverville,” says Poettcker. “That is 34 percent of the Town of Niverville’s growing population. So any kid that owns a bike [can utilize it], but the skills park would be accessible to riders of all ages and genders and increase the use of Hespeler Park.”

She adds that helmets are mandatory to the track’s use and other protective gear is highly recommended. Parents should check the site for debris or hazards before allowing their children to ride it.

“Know your limits and ride safely,” she concludes. “More experienced riders, please help out the new riders. Use of the park in wet conditions increases your risk of injury and will damage the track.”

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