BMX riders have a home
Behind a barbed-wire fence and underneath signs that read “Keep Out,” BMX riders slip onto a privately owned plot of land near the intersection of Al Tahoe Boulevard and Pioneer Trail. Trespassing is a crime they must commit to pursue their sport in South Shore.
“(The police) kick us out but we keep coming back because it’s the only place to ride,” said 20-year-old BMX competitor Chris Hernandez. “(Riding) keeps kids out of trouble because it gives them something to do after school.”
Hec Hernandez, Chris’ father and owner of South Shore Bike Shop, said The Whoops have been there as long as he’s been in town, at least nine years, and that the area has gained recognition with BMX riders from as far away as Los Angeles.
“On any given day there can be 35 to 40 people out there,” Hec said.
Hec said he’s been working for three years to get a BMX park built at South Shore so that riders wouldn’t have to break the law to participate in their sport. He said that the potential park, like baseball and soccer, is a community interest.
“We’re really missing out on this,” he said. “It’s a family-kids sport and (a park) would bring recognition to the Lake Tahoe Basin as a place for summer activities.
“But it’s been a hard battle in this town. Everything for the park would be funded by donations. What we really need is the land and the permits to move the dirt.”
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the governmental body that regulates land use in the Tahoe Basin, said permits are a site-specific issue.
“It would all depend on the proposed location,” said Pam Drum, TRPA spokeswoman. “There’s some homework they need to do, and we can help them with that.”
Marjorie Springmeyer, owner of the undeveloped parcel where the Whoops are located, said she’s aware of the riders on her property and that she’s worried about lawsuits stemming from the park.
“One time we had someone step off of a bus, trip over a fence on our land and sue us,” she said. “We posted (no trespassing signs at the Whoops) and had the police out there but they just keep coming back. Really, I’d like to have the city lease the land from us for the bikes to ride on.”
But if the riders can hold out, there may be another alternative.
Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort has submitted a proposal to the Forest Service for construction of a new BMX and skate park at the base area of the resort.
“We’ve done a lot of research and it’s something that the community has really been asking for,” said John Rice, general manager for Sierra-at-Tahoe. “We haven’t heard back from the Forest Service and we may have to wait until next next summer.”
He said that the approval must come by June if the project is to get under way this summer and that there is no guarantee that the whole project will be passed.
“It could be just the skate park or just the bike park,” he said.
Building and maintaining the BMX and skate park would cost more than $100,000 and Rice said he expects the fees for using the park to cost between $5 to $8 for a day pass.
But Hernandez said he believes that the Sierra-at-Tahoe park wouldn’t solve the problem of trespassing at The Whoops.
“It’s great that they would have it but a lot of parents don’t want their kids driving over the hill,” he said.
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