BMX rider to revive London track

A bicycle racing enthusiast is poised to bring London’s dormant BMX track back to life.

The track, located on city property in Merri-Mac Park, was built five years ago through a grant from the American Bicycle Association, one of two bodies that sanction BMX racing in the United States.

Since then, the track has hosted only two seasons of racing, one in 2005 and another in 2006. Ryan Ladd, London’s Parks and Recreation director, said of the individuals who participated, only six were from Madison County.

“The track has gone unused due to lack of staffing in the Parks and Recreation Department, lack of funding, and a lack of interest in the community,” Ladd said.

“It just wasn’t fiscally responsible for the city to put money and energy into that when we’ve seen so much more interest in other activities we offer.”

Hilliard resident Chris Dunn, 36, hopes to drum up that interest. The City of London plans to lease the track to Dunn for $1 a year for the next two years. In return, Dunn has full responsibility for running the facility, including maintenance, staffing, event promotion, liability coverage, and funding.

The agreement is similar to the $1 annual leases the city has with the Madison Area Youth Center for use of the Armory and the London Area Baseball Council for use of Burr-Wheeler Park. Dunn and the city are due to sign the papers by the end of November.

“The lease puts the ball in the court of someone with lots of energy in the BMX world, which we don’t have on staff now,” Ladd said. “I hope it is successful. Getting the track open is a positive. It will be something for the community without using tax money.”

Dunn has been a bicycle rider since childhood and a BMX racer for the last five years. The plight of the London track has been common knowledge on the regional BMX racing circuit, he said. Despite the trouble the City of London had in making a go of it, Dunn is very optimistic.

“It’s a nice facility with a lot to offer,” he said. “It’s in a good area, near other cities to draw from, like Circleville and Chillicothe… I hate to see such a facility go to waste.”

While the lease won’t go into effect until Jan. 31, Dunn has already completed an application for membership in the National Bicycle League and started to assemble a group of volunteers to run the track.

His selling point is the idea that BMX is a family sport. Children and adults alike can ride and race or volunteer for a variety of positions, from corner marshals and scorers to office and concession workers.

“If a track is run right and smoothly, you will have people who want to be involved,” said Dunn, who plans to hold volunteer information meetings and training sessions prior to the start of the racing season, which starts in March.

Funding for the upkeep of the volunteer-run track will come from race registration fees, sponsorships and fundraisers, Dunn said. To facilitate fundraising, Dunn is applying for non-profit status.

As for how he will attract riders, he said he already has a built-in base, thanks to his connections on the BMX circuit. He will concentrate on bringing in riders from within a 30-mile radius of London. He hopes the experienced riders who use the track will inspire onlookers to give it a try.

Dunn also will promote the ease of getting into the sport financially.

“I know this economy is making it hard for everybody, but BMX is a pretty low-cost sport. All you need is a good bike that’s safe, a pair of jeans, tennisshoes, a long-sleeve shirt and a full-face helmet,” he said.

To learn more about the National Bicycle League, visit the organization’s Web site at www.nbl.org.

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