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City should cover general public’s use of BMX track

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POSTED April 4, 2010 1:47 a.m.
A BMX course isn’t a typical venture for a municipality.

The course at Spreckels Recreation Park due to open this spring also isn’t simply a public undertaking. It is the result of cooperation between the city, AKF Development, and volunteers involved with the Anderson 209 BMX Team.

Progress on the course has been slow - and sometimes deliberate - for a wide variety of reasons. First, it was new territory for the city and others involved. Then there was the issue of completing the storm drainage that was tied up while the Industrial Park Drive extension project was underway. Proper design was critical. Those involved wanted to do it right the first time, have a facility that would stand the test of time, as well as not put anything in place that would expose any of the parties involved to unwarranted liability.

Finally, the most critical element for work that the city could never afford to do or has the expertise to do fell upon the volunteer group - Anderson 209 - that stepped forward to help make the track a reality.

When everything is said and done, the community will have obtained a $600,000 plus recreation park and BMX track with minimum cost to the city - primarily park fees paid for growth - while the burden of upkeep of the track is on the shoulders of Anderson 209 BMX.

That said, it was recommended by staff in September that the city provide Anderson 209 with $7,500 to cover additional insurance when the general public uses it and help offset the costs they incur in maintaining and operating the track which will be available for the general public.

Anderson 209 already has insurance for its riders and for any American Bicycle Association events such as races as well as the day leading up to the event and the day after. Having Anderson 209 secure insurance for the times when the general public uses the track was a bizarre move.

Even so, Anderson 209 agreed to do so.

In retrospect someone in September should have stopped the process and asked the question: Why should a non-profit that uses a city facility that has insurance to cover its own sanctioned activities have to provide insurance covering the general public’s use of the facility when the non-profit group isn’t using it?

Manteca Little League has insurance for their program when they use Lincoln Park ball diamonds - a number of which were built by community volunteers - but they aren’t required to provide insurance to cover the general public’s use of those same fields.

Critics over a decade ago argued the skate park was too high of a liability for the city. To satisfy concerns of insurance providers, Manteca posted the course noting that helmets were required and followed it up by ticketing those who didn’t comply.

The same can and should be done with the BMX track.

In terms of exposure for more accidents, certainly landing on dirt is better than concrete which was one of the original municipal concerns when kids were using the skate park as a BMX course. When the city chased kids on BMX bikes away, they crossed the railroad tracks to use mounds of dirt in a nearby field.

When all is said and down, a BMX track designed right and properly maintained is much better than impromptu courses that kids may come up with in Manteca.

For those who think the BMX track was created for the exclusive use of the Anderson 209 BMX team it wasn’t. It is no different that the lighten ball field at Lincoln Park that is used primarily by Manteca Little League and Manteca Babe Ruth.

Anderson 209 is another recreation organization that involves both youths and adults. Its membership is open just like other sports leagues organizations.

Manteca will be able to have a solid course that is maintained at minimal cost to the city.

The city should pay for insurance that covers the times when the general public uses the facility. That was their intent in part when they advanced Anderson 209 the $7,500. The other reason was staff determined it would cost the city about $33,000 a year to maintain the track if they were responsible for the work.

At this point the council should reduce the annual “payment” to Anderson 209 from $7,500 down to $5,000 and then the city provide insurance coverage for the general public. The remaining $5,000 is definitely a fair amount given the fact the youth of this community will have a BMX track they can use when there aren’t organized events just as they can use Lincoln Park ball fields when there are no organized events taking place on them.

But unlike Lincoln Park, the city doesn’t have to perform any maintenance.

The whole snafu over the insurance is regrettable but then again it is new territory for all involved. And in the end Manteca gets a top-flight recreational amenity that provides a healthy diversion for young and old alike.
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