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By Don Stefanovich
Gravity Logic 

Could Southern California Soon See More Lift-Served Downhill Mountain Biking?

Health, Home & Garden

 

April 26, 2014

Tehachapi, CA – One-hundred miles north of Los Angeles, rumors of lift-serviced mountain biking are swirling in the tiny town of Tehachapi, Calif. Nestled along Highway 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield, the 14,000-person town is already well-known among Southern California skaters and BMXers as being home to the Woodward West action-sports park, but downhillers may soon want to drop a pin here as well.

Gravity Logic and Tehachapi Locals Gather to Discuss Bike Park Possibility

The Gravity Logic crew walks the proposed bike park site with Tehachapi city council members.

This past November, the city contracted the services of famed Whistler Bike Park builder, Gravity Logic, to perform a feasibility study on 10,000 acres of land in the Tehachapi Mountains. The result? According to the initial assessment, Tehachapi was deemed "ideal.

"After a two day feasibility visit and a month crunching data and map-making things are looking good for this small SoCal city," Gravity Logic wrote on its site.

Gravity Logic became a well-known name in the Southland last year when it was contracted by Snow Summit Adventure Park to design a bike park that operated for the first time this past summer. Unlike Snow Summit, Tehachapi would likely be open year round – a distinction it would hold as the first among North American lift-served bike parks, though the crowd-funded Coast Gravity Bike Park in British Columbia may be on schedule to take the honor first.

Tehachapi itself is known for having four distinct seasons, and with an elevation ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level in the surrounding peaks, snow is not unusual, but Gravity Logic's initial assessment states that about 1,500 feet of vertical with great flow could be open a minimum of eight months of the year, potentially year round given Mother Nature's cooperation.

The Gravity Logic feasibility study, completed and returned to city hall in January, provides an estimated cost of $10 million to construct over 50 miles of trail, a layout of where the trails might go, cost to purchase a lift, cost to operate a lift versus shuttles, and a retail village to include a dining center, bike shop and rentals. Ultimately, the city would like to seek partnership with a private investor or resort management firm to construct a fully operated mountain bike resort with all the amenities of a ski-resort town; the estimated $10-million-dollar endeavor is not one the city can shoulder alone. If things go as planned, the park will offer a variety of trails ranging from cross-country to pro-level downhill runs with the hope of making it the first premiere year-round mountain-bike park in the country.

Looking up toward Lehigh Southwest Cement land from Highway 58

Tehachapi's historic downtown is a mile and a half away from the proposed site, and a new hospital is currently under construction down the street. All of this combined with its relatively close proximity to Los Angeles and Orange County, and one of California's busiest freeways make the location a viable candidate for a thriving mountain bike destination. And if Gravity Logic's involvement is any indication, the park could do especially well if it's on par with major lift-served resorts, considering many Southern California riders already travel over 300 miles and nearly six hours to ride Mammoth Mountain's bike park in the Eastern Sierra on a regular basis during the summer months. By comparison, the 100-mile, two-hour drive to Tehachapi doesn't seem very unrealistic for a long weekend of riding, especially if it's accessible when Mammoth and Snow Summit are covered in snow. Tehachapi would also likely be on the radar of many gravity riders in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Community Outreach Coordinator at the City of Tehachapi, Michelle Vance, led the bike park initiative through a recent community wide branding campaign that included the recent inception of the inaugural Tehachapi Gran Fondo road race. "Many visitors identify us with our mountains, but we have very little access to our mountains and the conversation started from there," Vance said.

One reason for limited access to the surrounding mountains was that the majority of the land was privately owned. That is, until the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company, led by its environmental and public affairs manager, Craig Mifflin, stepped up to the plate when news of such an endeavor arose and opened up about 10,000 acres of virgin mountain sides for a new trail network for the future mountain bike park.

The proposed site of the bike park towers above downtown Tehachapi.

"We make a considerable effort to be a part of our community through financial contributions and public service," Craig Mifflin, manager of environmental and public affairs for Lehigh. "When the idea surfaced regarding a mountain bike park, I became very interested from both personal and business aspects. I know how difficult it is to find good single-track trails. With careful planning and stewardship, I knew that a great partnership could be developed wherein we granted access to our land to the Tehachapi Mountain Trails Association who would in turn build a trail network with almost endless possibilities."

Trent Theriault, president of the Tehachapi Mountain Trails Association (TMTA), describes the "ideal" land as, "...scrubby oaks and grass lands with granite boulders strewn about."

TMTA, along with a dedicated local group of riders, have also been very vocal in their support for the park. One such local, Anthony Tintelnot, has been an especially outspoken advocate of the proposed park.

"Local mountain bikers have been gnawing at the bit to try and access some of these lands sitting in their backyards, seemingly grinning down at them, untouched," said Tintelnot. A local CAT1 cross-country racer who originally moved to Tehachapi to train at altitude, he's found himself heavily involved in the local cycling community. He even helped start a high-school mountain bike team.

Even though Tintelnot specializes in long-distance suffering, he thinks that a lift-served gravity park is one of the best things that could possibly happen to the tiny community of Tehachapi. "It is perfect timing in so many ways with so many possibilities for future events and attractions to bring recognition to a community that is still relatively unheard of," Tintelnot told MTBparks.

Bryan Rails, head coach for the Tehachapi High School Mountain Bike Team, is behind the idea as well. "I'm really excited to have all these people on the same page for getting this venue started," Rails said. "With the onset of a new Tehachapi High School Mountain Biking Team and the first ever Tehachapi Gran Fondo all set for 2014, the creation of a mountain bike park within the same area is the perfect icing on the cake. Tehachapi has come so far in such a short period of time with such a bright future within the cycling industry."

 
 

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