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Local News

Lompoc’s New Bike Park Dedicated in Memory of Community Volunteer Al Walker

Hundreds of bicyclists roll through sprawling River Bend Bike Park, with some even flipping in celebration of grassroots achievement

Riders of all ages and skill levels make use of the River Bend Bike Park in Lompoc on Sunday. Click to view larger
Riders of all ages and skill levels make use of the River Bend Bike Park in Lompoc on Sunday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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After the speeches, recognition, dedication and ribbon-cutting, Dave Baker on Sunday proclaimed the long-awaited words — “Let’s ride” — before dozens of cyclists rolled through the gate at the new River Bend Bike Park in Lompoc.

Approximately 200 people, including kids sporting helmets and city officials, gathered for the grand-opening celebration of the park built through the efforts of volunteers.

“We are super excited to have you here today,” said Baker, a Carpinteria fire captain who lives in Lompoc and led efforts to build the park, working most weekends at the site along with multiple other volunteers to create the features.

Since the project began in 2011, Baker and his wife, Teresa Martinez-Baker, have seen their family add two more children, speakers noted.

Riders who entered the park spanned all ages and skills. Some youngsters had training wheels, while, across the park, adults on bikes were sailing over large hills and performing flips.

The state-of-the-art, free-to-ride park on 5 acres is at the east end of McLaughlin Road near River Bend Park. It was built under the umbrella of the Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation and spearheaded by the River Bend Bike Park Committee.

This park will be open sunrise to sunset seven days a week. Riders are required to wear helmets.

Two of the biggest financial donors to build the park were the Lompoc Rotary, which gave $40,000, and the Santa Barbara Foundation, which provided another $25,000.

During the ceremony, the new park was dedicated to the late Al Walker, a longtime Rotarian and Lompoc CPA who volunteered in various aspects of the community, including helping the bike park committee file its nonprofit paperwork. He died in 2012.

Walker embodied the spirit of Rotary’s motto of Service Before Self, added Lompoc Rotarian Rob Klug.

“He loved his community, he loved children and he loved riding bikes,” Klug said of Walker.

Walker’s widow, Cecilia, and brothers John and Ken, plus their wives, attended Sunday's ceremony.

To design the park, the committee worked with Hilride Progression Development Group, which has built similar facilities around the world.

“I’m super-stoked to be involved in his project,” park designer Nat Lopes, Hilride co-founder, said, noting his opportunity to work in all 50 states, 19 provinces 15 countries across the globe. “I just want to say this is one of the most hardworking and incredible bike park committees and volunteer groups we’ve had the pleasure to work with. So, nice job, you guys!”

Baker read a lengthy list of businesses, organizations and individuals who donated funds, supplies and more to the effort.

The project drew support from small donors and fundraisers, including an early one in which riders rode over jumps created in a grocery store parking lot.

“I’m trying to make this quick because I want to move on and go ride some bikes,” Baker said at one point during Sunday’s ceremony.

Teresa Gallavan, assistant city administrator and economic development director, said the new park is a great example of a public-private partnership.

“This is the largest public-private partnership project that the City of Lompoc has ever done,” she said. “It’s a shining example of what can be done when we all work together for the same common goals.”

In addition to serving local residents, the park will attract visitors to ride, with the expectation that they will dine at local restaurants, fill up gas tanks and stay at local hotels.

“It’s truly a unique amenity,” Gallavan added.

“I’ve been told, and I believe it is the best bicycle park on the Central Coast, and I believe maybe even the state of California,” Mayor Bob Lingl said.

Lingl presented a plaque to Baker for his efforts in building the park.

“This has my name on it, but it should have everyone’s name on it — especially this group behind me,” Baker said, referring to the current and former committee members.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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