Municipal staff cut through the red tape to allow the Spreckels Park BMX track to reopen Thursday with the Strider track intact.
“Public Works Director Mark Houghton deserves a gold star for this one,” noted Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford.
Houghton was not included in the original decision to lock the track’s access gate after the city was informed by risk management personnel that the city’s insurance coverage for the track would be null and void due to the Strider track that was installed without going through proper channels.
That meant engineer-style drawings had to be signed off by the American Bicycle Association, the city, and the risk management authority the city pools with other municipalities to obtain liability insurance.
The Strider track - that consists of six dirt bumps not more than two feet in height - was installed without the city’s knowledge as required by the agreement Manteca has with 209 Anderson BMX to operate the track. The reason for that clause is to make sure the insurance company the city uses is onboard for coverage. Also, the facility is a city park.
Youth between the ages of 2 and 5 race on the track using 4.5-pound bicycles that do not have pedals. Instead they stay astride the bicycles and walk or stride over the course wearing helmets.
The BMX group put the track in because they were concerned about the safety of the younger kids using the main track where many of the bumps are six feet.
The city padlocked the gates Monday with a basic order issued that the Strider track as well as several trees planted without approval had to be removed before it could reopen. Concerned riders and their parents spoke about the locked track during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Although it wasn’t on the agenda therefore the council could not give a directive legally to staff, each council member made independent comments that they’d like to see the BMX park reopened as soon as possible.
McLaughlin said that is what city staff set out to do the next day. They found that the risk management group would be satisfied if engineer-style drawings were supplied. Anderson 209 BMX had rough drawing but not ones that met the insurance requirements.
That’s where Houghton and his staff stepped in. They measured the bumps, provided exact dimensions and created a schematic of where they were located in relation to improvements already in place.
The 209 BMX group agreed to language that made it clear Strider races would not take place concurrently with a race on the main BMX course.
Once that was done and two trees removed, the insurance authority was satisfied with the situation and gave the course improvements its blessing. No dirt had to be removed.
The city took close to a year to secure insurance for the BMX track before it opened.
To keep the insurance, the city has to comply with what they had the insurance policy underwrite. In other words, they could not deviate from the plans the ABA and the risk authority approved. If they do, it essentially nullifies liability coverage.
The mayor appointed council members Debby Moorhead and Steve DeBrum to meet on regular basis with the BMX group so problems could be addressed before they got to a crisis point.