Point Loma and OB Kids’ Self-Made Bike Park Along Nimitz Bulldozed by City

by on February 13, 2012 · 13 comments

in Culture, Environment, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego

Screen capture from Channel 5 News showing bulldozer leveling kids' bike park.

A bike park that young Point Loma and OB kids used and built by themselves – with some help – over the last several weeks was bulldozed over by the City of San Diego.

A vacant and hilly, undeveloped area along Nimitz Boulevard had been made into a kids’ bike park by the kids themselves – with some help from adults and parents. Some called it a makeshift BMX park. An adult, Keighan Christianson, initiated the idea of building bike ramps on the land.

For some of the kids, this was heaven – a place to coast and jump – a place away from concrete, cars and television.

But the land is owned by the San Diego Housing Commission, and on last Thursday, Feb 9th, bulldozers came in and leveled it. Part of an “annual clean-up” City officials told the media.  They’re concerned about trespassing and have received complaints about homeless in the area.

The kids – however – are ready to take it over again, and have begun rebuilding the park.  Channel 5 News covered it – go here.



{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Shane Finneran February 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm

oh, liability, how you have ruined fun


avatar Judy Swink February 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm

There is absolutely no connection between homeless in the area and this creative outlet for fun and exercise for kids. I live nearby and I have never experienced or been told of a problem caused by a homeless person “living” over there nor have I seen any problems with the kids working on and riding the bike jumps. In either case, they’re back the next day anyway; this is a far better alternative than roaming the streets looking for excitement, or sitting at home in front of the tv or playing computer games.

This “bike park” should be encouraged, not bulldozed. It provides a healthy outdoor experience, both in the building of it and the use of it. I have watched the kids many times and I’m impressed by what they accomplished. There were actually two areas bulldozed – a fairly basic series of ramps and jumps in the angle near Nimitz Blvd. at Famosa for the youngest, least experienced riders, and the major one at the eastern end of the parcel.

This is land that the City could not sell for market rate housing (it used to be part of a much larger piece of undeveloped parkland until voters allowed park dedication to be removed,another long story) so the City sold it to the Housing Commission which figured out they couldn’t build housing on it either, so it has been sitting here passively serving an important role as recipient of runoff from Nimitz, Famosa and the north slopes of Pt. Loma, across Nimitz Blvd. When it rains, there is a veritable river that flows off of Nimitz into this parcel, to be filtered through the “wetlands” and sent on below the surface to Famosa Slough.


avatar Lois February 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Great post, Judy. We love the kids.


avatar Clifford Nelson September 4, 2012 at 11:17 am

Thanks for the post Judy!

It is to bad the park was destroyed, this park really is a great avenue for kids to express their creativity and get out from behind the TV.

On a good note, a few of the builders formed an advocacy group, appropriately named, “Freeride Famosa”. FreerideFamosa has been exploring many avenues to get the park recognized by the city and re-built – the right way.

visit http://www.freeridefamosa.com for updates on this project.

Thanks to all the supporters :)


avatar Frank Gormlie September 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Clifford – thanks for the update. We’ll check out your site and project.


avatar Doug Beacom February 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I’ve seen them having fun on my bike-ride home from work–and I couldn’t believe when I saw it all wiped-out.

I hope they rebuild it with a quickness and get back to being kids–how sad they had to learn this way how important it is to “own” land (not otherwise being utilized).


avatar dave rice February 14, 2012 at 8:09 am

This cat-and-mouse game has been going on at least since the mid-nineties, when I used to ride there a lot.

The site was/is, in my opinion, the best “trails” spot in San Diego – there were a few that rivaled it out in East County, one spot off the 15 that’s now turned into tract homes, and a few other spots up in North County, but for dirt jumping in an urban setting this was pretty much the spot. The slope of the land lends itself well to downhill “rhythm sections,” a series of jumps a rider must navigate one after another. Add in the downhill momentum and the jumps would get progressively bigger – at one point we had a 16 pack (8 jumps, each with a takeoff “lip” and a landing = 16 humps of dirt) that started about two feet tall with about a five foot gap to clear and ended with a jump about six feet high with a gap we measured at 18 feet – big for those days but nothing compared to what kids are doing now.

In any case, during the time I rode there from about ’97 through the early 2000s we’d see the jumps get plowed a couple times a year, and then after the next good rain a pack of teenagers would come out of the woodwork and start building them back up, starting with a handful of smaller trails like the one on repeat in the news video. This is pretty much par for the course everywhere – land owners don’t like the liability (my injury count from Nimitz is pretty low, now that I think about it – broken tailbone, couple broken fingers, and a handful of tweaks that didn’t even require doctor attention), they don’t like the idea of kids leaving trash (even though most are pretty good about picking it up), and Nimitz is so visible from the street that it’s not surprising that it gets more attention than a lot of spots. There also are/were some trails out at Sunset Cliffs at one point.

Good luck to the kids in rebuilding – the weather’s certainly cooperating, with luck the dirt will stay wet enough to work with until the weekend!


avatar jim grant February 14, 2012 at 8:11 am

I think we all grew up ridin our bikes in unauthorized areas. Unfortunately when some 10 year old freckled face kid crashes and has a severed spinal cord and is laying in a hospital bed with family by his side and every news crew in town in the room with cameras in the kids numb face…All the fun will soon be forgotten and some law firm or lawyer will sue the city, the housing commission and anybody else who they can wind into the suit…..
Just curios why can’t the kids ride in the skate park right down the hill ?


avatar Judy Swink February 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Short answer: because it’s a skate park not a bike park. The type of jumps etc. are entirely different between skates/skateboards and BMX bikes. Other than that, I don’t see a huge difference between skate parks and the BMX jumps except that the skate parks have concrete – a far harder surface to land on wrong – and dirt, which is a tad bit more forgiving.

On the question of liability, the City of San Diego has removed supervision from city-built skate parks like the one at Robb Field; they are now used “at one’s own risk”. I’m not aware of any serious accidents that have resulted in expensive litigation; if there had been, the skate parks would probably be closed by now. Just about everything we do can be hazardous. Kids learning to be responsible & self-sufficient (and there are often parents or other adults present) is a far healthier approach than protecting them to the point that they never learn to make good judgements on their own. If we avoid any activities (football, anyone?) in which our young people MIGHT be severely injured, we would have to shut down most sports programs in our elementary & secondary schools as well as other youth team sports programs not directly affiliated with a school.


avatar dave rice February 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Longer answer: park and dirt are two entirely different riding disciplines, with park riding generally having a considerably higher level of difficulty and greater barriers to entry due to the specialized (and often expensive) bikes required to participate. Whereas any kid with any BMX bike and a shovel can build jumps suitable for their style and skill level, dropping into a concrete bowl and launching near-vertical lips, which require landing on similarly steep surfaces, usually requiring midair rotation is much more intimidating, not to mention more dangerous.

I would never use one of my trails or racing bikes to ride park – the 36 spoke wheels would be trashed after one bad hangup (park riders’ wheels have 48 spokes and 14 mm axles), I don’t have pegs for the grinding tricks that are integral to that style of riding (and if I did they’d thrash my 3/8″ axles), my frame and other components aren’t built to withstand the abuse of the much-more-frequent spills these riders take.

That, and parks, especially popular ones like at OB, are pretty crowded during prime riding hours – more intimidating for new riders, again more dangerous, and add to this that you’re competing for time and space with skateboarders who also use the park. I certainly never agreed with the anti-bike stance of the city when they managed the park actively instead of passively, but I don’t believe the skaters should be forced out either.

All that said, you’re pretty much spot-on about the liability thing, which is why any property owner, public or private, would want to discourage kids from hanging out on their property. The risk is a little more pronounced when we’re talking dirt jumps, but it would probably garner a similar reaction today if kids had built an unauthorized baseball or football field. And that’s not even going into the hollowed out ‘chill room’ we had under the trees near Nimitz 15 years ago, complete with benches carved out of dirt where we could get out of the sun to take a break and where no one ever had any pot on them…


avatar Marilyn Steber February 14, 2012 at 11:04 am

One of the lawyers who read these posts might be able to answer this question: if the place is posted and the jumps are rearranged by the City now and then, does that not relieve the city of liability? Could it be argued that the city is trying to discourage unauthorized use of the land by doing this?


avatar Jason Showalter February 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Unauthorized bike sites exist and will continue to be built because our City has refused to acknowledge the needs of the communities they are suppose to serve. For decades, the City has responded to the need for bike parks by bulldozing the unauthorized sites.

The San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) does not condone unauthorized trail building, bike park/jump sites included. The City has no choice but to bulldoze unauthorized sites, but to ignore the evidence of need for these community recreational facilities not only fails to address this issue but actually promotes more unauthorize building.

SDMBA has been actively proposing the need for authorized bike parks for over four years. Cities in California, across the USA, Canada and the world are enjoying the many benefits that community bike parks have to offer. Built using the concept of progression, these bike parks are true community gathering places, where riders of all skill levels and ages, moms and dads too, can recreate together. Cities that have been hit hard by the recession, or have experienced the closure of community-dependent businesses have actually turned their economies around by investing in trails and bike parks.

Liability gets waved around as a hurdle. The fact is the City enjoys immunity with Cal. Gov. Code 831.7. SDMBA has offered to assist in designing, building, maintaining and raising funds to create community bike parks. The protection from liability the City enjoys is not being extended to SDMBA.

The fact that the Pt. Loma-OB bike park was documented by FOX TV pretty much eliminates the ability of our City to ignore this much needed resource. SDMBA would like to extend our assistance to all of the riders that have lost their place to ride, and also to the Pt. Loma and Ocean Beach communities. Having lived in OB for over 20 years, 1980-2000, I would like to help create a community recreational facility in an area that truly means a lot to me. Please contact SDMBA.com and let’s build us a bike park we all can be proud of.


Jason L. Showalter
Board Member, San Diego Mountain Biking Association


avatar jim grant February 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Jason this sounds story worthy can you call me , I do a few things with the local paper and this could be very informative to all involved ….619 9552719

Have you talked to K. Falconer about your ideas ?


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