New Island 22 Bike Park appeals to riders of all levels

Facility was designed and built with $200,000 in funding from the City of Chilliwack

Garry Race of Chilliwack hammers a jump at the new $200

X-Game wannabes and saner cyclists wanting to build their off-road skills should check out the new bike park at Island 22, near the north end of Young Road in Chilliwack.

It opened on April 20 and has already earned a five-star rating from Trailforks.com. The facility was designed and built by North Vancouver’s Jay Hoots and crew, with $200,000 in funding from the City of Chilliwack. Island 22 is owned by the city but operated by the Fraser Valley Regional District, which will be maintaining the site.

“Everyone came together to make the bike park great. We received input from the local riding community and Hoots Inc. was invaluable in designing a park that would appeal to riders of all levels,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, who is also FVRD board chair. “Island 22 Bike Park shows what incredible things we can accomplish for the entire Fraser Valley when we work together. [This] is a destination park and we are pleased that it is heavily used by people throughout the region.”

Being a community-sponsored bike park — unlike a back yard or bush site — safety concerns are at the forefront. It’s still a “use at your own risk” area, with helmets mandatory and chest and leg protection recommended… but it’s designed to be as safe as possible.

In addition, riders are not permitted to make alterations to the site.

“Designing, building and maintaining a bike park to specific standards addresses legal and liability concerns,” explained Gaetz. “All the trails are clearly marked, from green circles for beginners to black diamonds for expert riders, and we encourage all riders to ride within their limit and wear a helmet.”

For beginners, there are basic trails and a wide, slightly-raised board walk that most riders should be able to handle. Balance skills can be practiced on raised logs that have been flat-topped and grooved for grip. There are also progression jumps and flow return jumps with bermed turns.

And then there are the big-air jumps, with half-pipe launchers.

If you’ve got the confidence — and hopefully some skill — you can go a little crazy here, because the landing slope is made of soft sand.

Bike mechanic Will Miller, of Pedal Sport on Young Road said, “The sand jump is probably the most popular, because it doesn’t hurt as much.”

From customer feedback and his own observations, Miller said, “There are a lot of kids using the park — and sometimes you’ll see whole families. It’s a progressional park, so there’s something for everyone in the family.”

Chilliwack resident Garry Race and his Mission-based friend Rory Girard were at the park for their first time on Canada Day. Both were riding full-suspension downhill bikes, which aren’t ideal for this location, as there’s not a lot of gravity drop before the jumps. They really had to work the pedals, losing a lot of their effort into the rear suspension.

They were still able to sky the jumps — but they were gassed after a handful of passes, so they spent some time on their balance skills. BMX or hard-tail mountain bikes are recommended for this park.

“That was my first time to bike park. It was great,” said Race. “Any time you have jumps and stunts to learn on in a beautiful setting like Island 22, you can’t complain. My overall experience was great and I would definitely go back.”

Well, there was a little complaint about the location. Race had an SUV to get there but he sympathized with kids — especially from the Sardis side of Chillliwack — who have to pedal all the way out there.

Miller agreed, saying, “The only thing that could be better is the location,” his main concern being the high water seepage from the Fraser River that can shut down the park during the spring freshet.

But hey… unlike the former Sardis jumps at Sheffield Way and Webb Ave., this is land that cannot be otherwise developed because of its proximity to the river, so it has a permanent home, as long as riders make use of it — and being under the supervision of FVRD staff, the park will be maintained to its design specifications.

Cost for riders? It’s free.

If you want to park nearby, there’s a $5 day use fee for your vehicle, or a $25 season’s pass.

“The Fraser Valley Regional District has seasonal pay parking in effect for all park users,” explained Mayor Gaetz. “This is a cost recovery system for security to observe the safety of the vehicles in the lot. It helps prevent theft and vandalism.

“If you want to park for free, you don’t have to go beyond the gates. You can park along the dyke at no cost.”