Bond issue passage would allow San Juan College to build $500k mountain bike park

Project touted as significant boost to local outdoor recreation economy

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The project would be built on part of a 133-acre parcel of land at the northwest corner of East 30th Street and College Avenue in Farmington.
  • That site already has several mountain bike features that have been constructed with the college's blessing by a nonprofit organization called Farmington Area Single Track.
  • College officials say the mountain bike park would be available for public use.

FARMINGTON — A package of capital improvements that San Juan College officials hope to implement if a local bond issue is approved by voters in November includes $500,000 for a mountain bike park south of the school's main campus.

The project would be built on part of a 133-acre parcel of land at the northwest corner of East 30th Street and College Avenue in Farmington that already has several mountain bike features that have been constructed with the college's blessing by a nonprofit organization called Farmington Area Single Track.

A local general obligation bond issue on the November ballot would fund $7 million in capital improvements across the college campus, including the mountain bike park, infrastructure improvements at the Henderson Fine Arts Center Performance Hall and Connie Gotsch Theatre, the installation of retractable bleachers at the college's Health and Human Performance Center, and the renovation and relocation of the college's physical plant.

College officials say the idea of building the mountain bike park, which would be available for public use, already has generated significant support throughout the county.

"It would allow us to provide an amenity that might make our budding tourism industry have a little more traction," Ed DesPlas, the college's executive vice president, said, noting that the project already has drawn the support of Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett and San Juan County Manager Mike Stark.

San Juan College officials hope to build a $500,000 mountain biking park on a 133-acre parcel owned by the school south of the main campus in Farmington.

The $500,000 would cover the design and construction of the park beyond the areas that already have been developed informally by FAST, DesPlas said. The plan calls for developing a pump track — essentially, a track that runs through a series of contoured bowls — as well as additional features that would include large stairsteps, drop-downs, rollers, berms and a tunnel made from a CONEX box, a large shipping container that would be covered in earth and open at both ends, allowing cyclists to ride through it.

"The people who do mountain bike racing are quite excited by this project, of having this skills park," DesPlas said.

Some of the money allocated to the project also would be devoted to picnic tables, shade structures and signage, he said.

The mountain bike park being proposed by San Juan College officials would be divided into four phases, with work on the first phase beginning as early as next spring.

DesPlas said the project is a good way for the college to give something back to folks in the community who may not derive a direct benefit from the school.

"There are a lot of people who support this institution, but not all of them are students or send their kids here," he said. "This would be an amenity for the whole community that basically improves Farmington."

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DesPlas said the mostly undeveloped site that would house the park is ideal for such a facility because it already has a number of natural features such as rolling terrain and elevation changes that can be put to good use by designers.

The Farmington Area Single Track nonprofit organization already has created several mountain biking features on the land that San Juan College hopes to develop into a full-fledged bike park.

"We're not starting with flat land," he said. "The topography is very inviting and lends itself to mountain biking."

DesPlas emphasized that by supporting the bond issue, local voters would not be approving an increase in their property taxes. Passage of the bond issue simply would keep the property tax rate at its current level while allowing the college to implement the planned improvements, he said.

Chris Harrison, the physical plant director at the college, said he visits the site on a regular basis and sees it already being used by a variety of residents, not just cyclists.

"Every time I'm there, somebody comes up to me and says, 'Boy I really like this space and thank you for what you've done," he said, adding that developing the spot into a full mountain biking park would solidify the site.

The planned mountain biking park that San Juan College officials hope to build south of the main campus is one part of a $7 million local general obligation bond issue that voters will see on the November ballot.

There are numerous other mountain biking opportunities in the area, including the East Glade Trailhead Skills Park the county opened in partnership with the federal Bureau of Land Management north of Farmington nearly a year ago. But Harrison pointed out that most of those sites are located beyond the city limits in areas that may not be easily accessible to younger Farmington residents or people with limited transportation options.

"(The fact that this) is located in a central space really, really helps, especially kids that can't get that far," he said.

DesPlas said the local mountain biking community has adherents that range in age from 7 or 8 to adults in their seventies.

"Having them here is safer than them being on the street, although Farmington does accommodate its bicyclists well," he said, noting the extensive network of bike lanes that city officials have established.

San Juan College officials hope that a new mountain biking park they are planning on building south of the school's main campus would be ranked as one of the top such facilities in the country.

The $500,000 won't be enough to develop the full 133 acres, DesPlas said, but it will get the project off to a good start. College officials envision breaking the bike park into four phases, with this project representing only the first phase.

"There would be two, three or four smaller phases after that, and we would continue to improve the facility, even though step one will be a perfectly workable facility," he said.

If the bond issue is approved, DesPlas said construction on the project could begin as early as spring of 2023. He believes the park quickly could find itself ranked as one of the top facilities of its kind in the country, giving the local outdoor recreation economy a significant boost.

"We would love to see something like that for Farmington," he said.

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College officials have not discussed a name for the park yet, but DesPlas floated the possibility of the school soliciting a donation in exchange for the naming rights to the facility. That funding then could be used to pay for further improvements during a subsequent phase, he said.

In addition to the $500,000 for the bike park, the bond issue includes $500,000 for the theaters, $400,000 for the bleachers and $5.5 million for the new physical plant. Harrison said the building housing the current plant dates to 1978 and essentially has reached the end of its life span. It would cost more to repair the current building than to build a new one, he said.

Another $100,000 included in the bond issue would be set aside for potential cost overruns on the various projects.

DesPlas said it was his understanding that the bond issue question will be located near the bottom of the ballot in bold letters. Voters who support the initiative should mark the "Yes" box on their ballot, he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.