Bike park jumps hurdle

Chapman Hill would get used in summertime

In the summer, the ice rink at Chapman Hill defrosts into a track for roller blading.

In the near future, Chapman Hill could undergo more summertime transition with mountain bikers replacing skiers sliding down the slopes.

Chapman Hill’s transition to a year-round sports complex was boosted Monday by the Durango Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve a conceptual plan for a mountain biking park.

Promoters predicted children younger than 12 years old would ride the obstacle-filled courses. Sarah Tescher, director of Durango Devo, a youth bicycle organization, likened the project to creating a new soccer field for kids.

“It’s the same thing,” she said.

Plans are preliminary. The conceptual approval allows the city of Durango’s Department of Parks and Recreation to initiate design and pursue funding for a project estimated to cost more than $300,000.

The project would have to return for further review when the project is closer to construction and details are more definite. One condition of approval was that the skiing area would not be adversely impacted. The bike trails would be kept separate from the ski area and be located above the ice rink.

Dolph Kuss, a former city and county recreation director who developed Chapman Hill into a ski area in the 1950s, wanted to make sure the areas would be clearly delineated because he worried about the potential for ruts in the slope when the trails are created. Prairie mounds already frustrate the groundskeepers, he said.

“You can’t maintain snow on that,” he said. “Those types of things are not compatible with skiing at all.”

Work is not expected to begin until 2013 at the earliest. The conceptual plan includes three downhill trails, an oval track and practice area. Bikers would have to navigate a series of obstacles and jump over ramps.

Because the park construction would occur on slopes of 30 percent or more, the project was required by the Hillside Projection Ordinance to come before the Planning Commission.

Alpine Bike Parks has expressed interest in designing the park. Its previous parks include the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, the Breckenridge Bike Park and Duthie Hill in Seattle.

Alpine estimated the Chapman Hill cost at $340,000, but city staff believes volunteers and some in-kind services can reduce costs. Plus, the project could be built in phases. Grants are intended to help pay for the project.

The project was supported in letters by representatives from Durango Devo, Fort Lewis College cycling teams and bike stores.

Dave Hagen, director of operations for Fort Lewis cycling team, said in a letter that he believes established trails could prevent bikers from creating or “pirating” their own trails.

In other business, the Planning Commission voted 4-0 to allow the conditional-use permit of the Jakway House Bed & Breakfast, 1073 East Third Ave., to pass to new owners so it could stay in business as a bed-and-breakfast. The five-bedroom home and carriage house, at East Third Avenue and 11th Street, is for sale.

Residents protested the encroachment of commercial property into their historic neighborhood, but the owners argued that the building’s status as a bed-and-breakfast made it viable for sale in a down real estate market. Built in 1888, its status as a bed-and-breakfast was thought to ensure better upkeep than as a regular rental.

Because of the unique situation of the property, officials did not think they were opening the door to more bed-and-breakfast operations. Not every house can become a small hotel offering breakfast, as required by the city code for bed-and-breakfast.

“It takes a very specific structure to have a B&B,” said Planning Commissioner Ronald Meier.

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