Red Rock free-ride to be first in Front Range

       When built, the free-ride bicycle area at Red Rock Canyon Open Space will not only be unique to the site, it will be the first of its kind in a Front Range park.
       The schedule had originally called for at least one of the stunts to be ready for demonstration at the Red Rock dedication Saturday, July 16; however, minor engineering issues have pushed back construction slightly.
       “I hope we can be full-fledged building stuff by the end of the month,” said Tony Orr, one of the project's volunteer organizers, in a recent interview at the site.
       The free-ride area, which is part of the Red Rock master plan approved by the city last year, will cover three acres and be built in three phases on a gradual hillside just east of the Greenlee Trail.
       “Some ski resorts have stunts like these, but they're integrated into trails, not part of the park setup,” said Orr, who is helping manage the effort through Medicine Wheel, a volunteer bicycling group that does maintenance on trails in the Pikes Peak region. “It's very ground breaking for Colorado Springs to do this,” he added. “From the response we've gotten so far, it's going to be huge.”
       According to Terry Putman, who was City Parks development director during the master plan process, space was found for the free-riding area because “it's a very up and coming sport, very popular.” In fact, one of the reasons for finding the space at Red Rock was that free-riders were building their own stunts (unauthorized and not always safe) at different regional parks, said Putman, who retired earlier this year.
       Orr initially thought the Red Rock site was the first of its kind in a Colorado park, but Putman said he knows of another on the Western Slope.
       Intended for beginners and families, Phase 1 at Red Rock Canyon will be laid out in a flat space at the bottom of the designated free-ride area, a short distance from Red Rock's main parking lot. It will have 15 to 18 stunts, including a series of wood posts, drop-off jumps, teeter-totters and bridges. Three large rocks, to be used in stunts, have already been positioned, some preliminary land clearing has been done and a split-rail fence has been built around the perimeter.
       “There will be different things to help someone learn to control the bike and move it through different features,” Orr said. “It's not about being high above the ground and being dangerous. It's about introducing new riding and giving people a chance to learn.”
       In Phases 2 and 3, which are still being designed, the stunts will get increasingly more challenging so as to attract more experienced riders, he noted.
       The liability is being handled through the city. Putman said that as long as the structure is built to appropriate standards and well- maintained, there should be no legal issues. As an example, he said he knows of only two lawsuits in the country against city skateboard parks, and both lost.
       Orr estimated that about 100 volunteers in all have been involved in some capacity or another in the Red Rock free-ride development effort, including mountain bike racers, engineers and professional project managers. “It's an interesting conglomeration of people, all of whom have a love of mountain biking,” Orr said.
       While the city is reviewing the designs and providing some construction support, it is not paying for the stunts. Medicine Wheel is fund-raising to cover that $40,000 cost, Orr said.
       The idea of free-riding originated from British Columbia, where technical features were originally built on trails to protect wetland areas, Orr explained, adding: “It's progressed to where you can develop skills and they're a lot of fun to ride.”
       Red Rock's free-ride area is located within the 44-acre upper-northern part of the 788.1-acre Westside property. Unlike the remainder, which was bought as open space, the 44-acre portion has fewer development restrictions, thus allowing a construction project such as the free-ride.

Westside Pioneer article