Dream venue in Marin County offers community support for riders of all ages and abilities
Story and photos by Mark Davidson
It began with a dream in legendary mountain bike racer Mark Weir’s backyard in Marin County – an area that, despite being “the birthplace of mountain biking,” is not known to be mountain bike friendly. The WTB/Cannondale athlete felt that mountain biking is too important to the history of Marin County to be marginalized, and in support of his fellow local riders built one of the first pump tracks in North America in his backyard. This pump track quickly became a defacto gathering place for the local mountain biking community; a sanctuary of shred in a sea of mountain bike hostility. Weir recently reminisced about his pump track’s early days, noting “And right there I knew, what we were building was something not out of dirt, it was a community.”
Acknowledging that the community needed a public riding venue worthy of Marin’s legacy in the history of mountain biking, a 17-acre bike park was dreamed up by a number of cycling enthusiasts including Weir, former county parks commissioner Al Baumann, environmentalist and cycling competitor Julia Violich, and Giant Bike & Bean elite racer Ryan Gibson, among others. In such a venue, riders of all ages and abilities would have a world-class place to test and develop their skills. After years of planning, campaigning and building Phase 1 of the Stafford Lake Bike Park in Novato, California opened to the public on Saturday August 22 to great fanfare.
The opening of the North Bay’s first public bike park including live music, celebratory speeches, and refreshments. BMX racer and announcer Al Roybal made the trip up to Novato from Aptos with his son Julian. Roybal enthused, “I’ve traveled the world racing bikes and still nothing beats a local park with local kids getting rad. Stoked on this place!” After the champagne bottle was emptied, hundreds of ecstatic riders lined up to rip through the berms and rollers and experience the steep pitches of the dirt jumps that launched them into the Marin airspace.
The Stafford Lake Bike Park is a project of Marin County Parks and Friends of Stafford Lake Bike Park located at the 139-acre Stafford Lake Park, and made possible through a public-private partnership. Phase 1 utilized eight of the 17 acres designated for the park and cost approximately $1 million with the county providing about $200 thousand for design, construction and staff. The nonprofit group Friends of Stafford Lake Bike Park drummed up volunteer support and raised $732,000 in private donations, foundation grants and sponsorships from mountain bike industry giants such as FOX, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Mikes Bikes and WTB. Phase 2 – being built over the next couple of years – will have similar financial needs, so Friends of Stafford Lake Bike Park continues to accept donations and sponsorships.
The park’s bike specific features include a progressive (beginner, intermediate and advanced) set of dirt jumps with full table tops (also known as “the gravity zone”), a skills perimeter trail with the feel of a mini flow trail, a dual slalom course, and a couple of kid-friendly pump tracks. Access to the top of the dual slalom and gravity zone can be ridden from the perimeter trail or through a gravel path in the middle of the Phase 1 area. Phase 2 will add a terrain park, downhill run, flow trail, and two more pump tracks (intermediate and advanced).
As if the primo riding features weren’t enough, the bike park boasts top notch facilities with all the amenities expected from a quality project for public recreation, including picnic tables, benches, water fountains, restrooms, plenty of bike racks, a tool kiosk for repairs and adjustments, excellent signage, and more.
This is a park that is not going to go away. And the permanence of the bike park means that mountain bikers finally have a large scale gathering spot worthy of Marin County’s mountain biking roots and the passion inherent in their community.
To learn more, visit staffordlakebikepark.com.
Mark Davidson is an avid mountain biker and passionately advocates for mountain biking in Santa Cruz and beyond. Mark served for the past 12 years the president of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC) and believes that cycling is a solution to most of the worlds problems: mitigating climate change, increasing public health and happiness, reducing childhood obesity, reducing transportation gridlock and creating livable communities.