Local BMXers in search of facility | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local BMXers in search of facility

Greg Risling

Kids are shoveling snow to clear a path. They build ramps deep in the woods far away from a supervising adult eye. Any patch of land is game for these spoke-aholics.

The resurgence of a popular 1970s sport, BMX bike racing, has grown over the last several years in the high desert and Sierra regions. Enthusiasts, young and old, are picking up helmets and hitting the course. Reno and Carson City are hosts to top events, but Lake Tahoe doesn’t have a facility to welcome the nation’s best racers or support a budding group of bikers.

There is an effort underway by a band of local competitors who are looking for a parcel of land to construct a racetrack. Past searches have been unsuccessful but according to Lauren Thomaselli, who represents the racing group, several sites have been identified.

“Things were starting to develop a couple of months ago but they fell through,” she said. “We are putting together a proposal to submit to interested land owners.”

Thomaselli said private donations will cover the construction costs and if an interested property owner steps forward, the track could be ready as early as May or June.

The group is seeking several acres to build a 100-foot wide by 200-foot long track that would be in a “snakelike pattern.”

What stands in their way are the guidelines set forth by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Their biggest expense will be the approximate $20,000 in mitigation fees the group would have to pay for the track. Thomaselli mentioned the racers might go outside the TRPA’s basin boundaries to escape the costs.

One potential location is Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort. The resort doesn’t fall in the TRPA’s jurisdiction and representatives have expressed interest for added summertime events.

“We are interested in pursuing summer activities to maximize our operations,” said Casey Bland, the resort’s director of operations.

But the group does want a nearby location, instead of the over-the-summit travel routine Tahoe bikers must endure. The TRPA’s stringent environmental policies may be too much to bear for the group. They did find a site earlier this year in Tahoe Paradise but the track would have affected sensitive wetlands.

The Thomasellis are two-wheel terrors who take apart the track. One of Lauren’s sons is actually nicknamed “Tony the Terminator” because of his attacking approach to the sport. The family, including dad and mom, have won awards in their respective age categories. Lauren said the Tahoe contingent grown to around two dozen in the last two years because of BMX’s popularity.

“I think with the outdoor lifestyle we have in Tahoe, a BMX tracks would compliment all the other activities we have,” she said.

Without a facility licensed by the American Bike Association, riders will continue to look for alternatives and possibly risk their safety. One of Tahoe’s more popular spots is the “Whoops,” off of Al Tahoe Boulevard. A privately-owned parcel, the Whoops was used by bikers often until the owner realized her land was semi-converted to a racecourse. There are signs posted now warning trespassers of the consequences.

Thomaselli said if a course is constructed, any liability will rest with an ABA-purchased insurance policy.

Hector Hernandez, owner of South Shore Bike Shop, said that the benefits of a new track will seep into other sections of the community.

“I think the city would only benefit from it,” Hernandez said. “The nationals held in Reno fill the hotels and pack the restaurants. We have a premiere destination here in Tahoe and it would be a great place to host a racing event.

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