LAFAYETTE -- BMX enthusiasts will have to keep waiting to catch air at a Lafayette bike park, following a decision last week by city leaders to get more information before moving forward with development approvals and construction.
The unanimous decision followed a lengthy public hearing April 8 where bike park supporters and opponents argued about the 1.8-acre park proposed for a hill inside the Lafayette Community Park. City leaders agreed to sponsor the BMX park in 2008, but have not formally approved its construction.
The debate dominated a discussion of the city Parks, Trails and Recreation department's capital improvement plan, a list of annual priorities which includes the bike park and the $1.85 million replacement of the Lafayette Community Center's Manzanita Room.
Parks staff had requested the city council approve the multiyear plan. But after hearing public testimony that included growing concerns about negative impacts on neighbors, other park users and wildlife habitat, city leaders decided they needed more answers before proceeding with the BMX park. Council members asked city staff about park usage, safety and maintenance and other costs, and appointed council liaisons to work with park commissioners and city staff.
Once the data is compiled, the council will decide whether to go ahead with the BMX park. City leaders could consider the issue as soon as May 13.
The delay is the first major setback for the disputed project, which has received continuous support from city leaders despite its growing cost. Officials estimated in February that the park will cost about $341,617, and about $4,000 to $5,000 per year to maintain.
"In the four years since it was conceived, the BMX bike park that is proposed for the Lafayette Community Park has been greenlighted at every checkpoint. Until last Monday night," City Manager Steve Falk wrote in a weekly e-mail blast.
Supporter Forrest Arakawa said he thought the city council was "on board" with the bike park, but noticed more opposition at the April 8 meeting than in years past. And while he acknowledged the setback, he remains optimistic the council will consider another possible venue for a park despite the lack of available space in Lafayette.
"I wouldn't say (the last meeting) was the nail in the coffin," he said.
No other sites are currently being considered, parks, trails and recreation director Jennifer Russell wrote in an e-mail.
Officials also held off on making a decision about the Manzanita Room, which park staff says is in need of replacement.
"Both of the current projects -- bike park and Manzanita Building -- have been put on hold until after the subcommittee reports back to the council," Russell wrote. The council will then vote on the revised capital improvement plant.
Russell also said some city leaders would like the commission to include a downtown community center in the plan, and a change in a city ordinance that would allow park funds to be spent on non-city property. "This would open up projects at school sites," she said.