Words by: Judy-Lynn McGrath
Photos by: Chris Svirklys
The Sunnyside Bike Park was unofficially launched on Monday June 30th, during the community build day. The original day was rained out. An alternate day chosen however sketchy because it fell between a weekend and Canada Day. But you know that old saying “build it and they will come” couldn’t have been more true.
Chris and I arrived an hour early and toured the site which was manned by the friendly Hoots work crew. The site was an amazing transformation compared to when we were there last. An artistic network of wooden structures pieced together, and beautifully sculpted jumps were transformed from lumber and mountains of dumptruck dirt. The clay-base dirt and considered undesirable came from construction sites in the city. Hoots crew worked feverishly over 5 weeks to develop the raw material and the early results are astounding.
As we entered the site my eye spotted the skinny features that wove around trees and incorporated rocks and bridges. To our right was a dirt pump track, as well as an all weather pump track. We kept walking towards a massive vertical wooden wall ride structure. Perched on top securing a section was extraordinaire builder Paul Stuart. We gave a wave and proceeded to the hill with ominous wooden launch pads of varying degree of height. On the other side of the hill were table top jumps, again all progressive. From this high vantage point, I looked around, thinking that this park was like a biking oasis playground nestled between the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard
After our first exploratory we were set to work where help was needed. We assisted at the kids pump track, separating clumps of hard clay from the features , raking and shovelling the stuff into wheel barrows. Soon, more volunteers began to arrive, by vehicle, foot and bike. Parents and their kids, young boys and men, girls and women. Within an hour or so we were 35 strong. The vibe was electric. Jay Hoots. the creator and director circulated and touched base with everyone while overseeing and lending a hand to all the work projects. Members of city of Toronto delivered more tools, chatted up ideas and aspirations with all volunteers. City councillor Sarah Doucette who strongly supports Sunnyside Bike Park also made an effort to chat and listen with everyone. Donated snacks and cold drinks that were personally delivered by Nelson of Cycle Solutions were wholeheartedly appreciated.
As the time went on, and our tasks were rapping up, we gravitated to the big hill, watching from below as Jay and a work crew struggled to position a rock to anchor a jump. Thanks to Kelly’s common sense, the job was completed, (snicker). We then watched as Jay unofficially tested the jump. Soon a few more riders followed, and we “hooted” our jubilance. The Sunnyside Bike Park had it’s unofficial launch. Chris and I (and the 30 or so other volunteers) grabbed our bikes (which ranged from DJ park bikes, all-mountain, BMX and one cyclocross!). Initially, we observed as eveyone rode within their abilities… from the humongous jumps (in my humble opinion), hitting the series of gappers and wall ride, to the small, medium and large tabletops, both pump tracks and skinnies. The park was buzzing with excitement and smiling faces.
Maybe it was my imagination but it seemed like the traffic on the Gardner magically slowed down as the riders hit their marks and sailed high over the mounds. All I thought was that there are some people in those vehicles who probably have never seem anything like this. I wondered what they thought? I heard cars beeping and I hoped they were sounding their approval. Along the Lakeshore, people drove up, rolled down their car windows and asked us questions about the park. The positive energy from the park seemed to spill out and grab the attention of the surrounding community.
For about an hour, I tirelessly rode the skinnies and the pump track….and I was so stoked and I can’t wait to return, maybe with a DJ bike. I felt my full suspension bike was just a bit sluggish however it was doable.
Before we left we said our goodbyes and we wanted to personally thank Jay and let him know that this agonizing wait for this showcase park was worth every second and that the possibilities for growth are infinite. This “unofficial launch” will not diminish, any future launches because everyone’s impression will be unique. I truly believe this bike park will be a community hub for riders of all ages and abilities… and there’s more to come.