BMX park beckons biking enthusiasts to catch some air

Chris Prebula, 18, of Petersburg, Mich., hits a jump at the Jermain bike park in West Toledo. Prebula has been on a bike since he was three years old, though he just began jumping BMX bikes two years ago.
Chris Prebula, 18, of Petersburg, Mich., hits a jump at the Jermain bike park in West Toledo. Prebula has been on a bike since he was three years old, though he just began jumping BMX bikes two years ago.

His orange helmet slightly askew, Garrison Veselich was tooling around the dirt on his neon blue and green bike. After clearing a 5-foot rolling mound of dirt without training wheels, the 7-year-old turned and smiled at his father, Tom, who waved back. It was Garrison’s introduction to jumping his bike.

An hour later, he was ready to tackle something larger.

Garrison was one of more than a dozen riders, most in their teens and twenties, who turned out on a recent weekday to hit the jumps in West Toledo’s new Jermain BMX Bike Park.

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The recently opened park has more than 20 crafted dirt mounds with varying degrees of difficulty. Small rolling hills work for beginners like Garrison, while more experienced riders take on jumps high enough to launch them a dozen feet in the air. City officials estimate about 210 people will use the bike park each week.

Chris Sours, of South Toledo, has spent weeks volunteering with other riders to craft mounds of donated dirt into usable jumps. He says he’s proud of the variety and depth of the jumps as well as other elements in the park.

“We were shooting for the best trails around,” Mr. Sours said, adding, “they say this is the best thing in a couple hundred miles.”

The existence of the bike park is the result of the dedication of local biking enthusiasts, including Timothy Burns, manager with the City of Toledo Division Parks and Forestry. About two and a half years ago, Mr. Burns and a group of his friends decided to pursue building a mountain bike trail in the city. Since then, they’ve added nearly seven miles of trail to Jermain Park. The jump park grew out of that project.

“The idea [was] of keeping this essentially at no cost to the city,” Mr. Burns said. “The volunteers are what made this possible. Having the city’s blessing is one thing, but it’s really the volunteers that made this happen.”

He approached some local contractors, asking if they would donate, grade, and shape a few piles of dirt. He looked into jump parks in other cities, and requested schematics from a park in Illinois to get a rough idea for the Toledo park. Once the space and materials were secure, word of the new park began spreading. Mr. Burns said dozens of local riders turned out to help craft the facility.

“It’s hard to get people this dedicated who get paid,” Mr. Burns said. “It’s tremendous and it’s so awesome to be a part of.”

Mr. Burns estimated the city has less than $8,000 invested between the mountain bike trail and jump park. The forestry division helps out once in a while with big trees on the trail and all the signage was done by the division of transportation, but most of the manpower needed to shape the trail and bike jumps came from volunteers. Mr. Burns said he and a few friends created the Facebook group Toledo Free Ride, to help organize and keep in touch with the dozens of volunteers.

Nakyi Hayes, of West Toledo, is one of the local kids who volunteered to help. The 14-year-old doesn’t ride BMX bikes, but turned out to help shape some of the jumps. He said he’d like to take up the sport. In the future, Mr. Burns said he hopes to institute programs to help outfit kids with bikes and teach them to ride safely.

“Of course, there’s always a risk involved, but there’s a safe way to test a jump out,” Mr. Burns said. “There’s a safe way to learn tricks. All of that can be taught to kids.”

A core group of dedicated riders continues to work their jumps at Jermain Park. Several maintain trails and jumps at their own homes but continue to support the park through volunteer efforts. Mr. Burns said it’s volunteers like Chris Sours who make the difference.

“He’s been out there every day for three weeks,” Mr. Burns said. “He’s out there volunteering his time because he believes this is something that will be good for Toledo.”

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