City Council OKs cycling course, railroad for two Santa Rosa parks

The long-range plans for two Santa Rosa parks were updated by the City Council Tuesday to recognize an existing miniature railroad in one park and a future pump track for bicycles in another.

Redwood Empire Steamers has operated a miniature steam railroad in the 72-acre Youth Community Park since 2010.

The city's Board of Community Services backed the first phase of the 7.25-inch wide railroad, which was built by volunteer rail enthusiasts who give free rides to residents on summer weekends.

But former staff in the city's Parks and Recreation Department never sought the approval of the City Council for the feature. That put the council in the uncomfortable position of being asked to approve a park attraction after it had already been installed.

"The decision's basically already been made," Councilman Jake Ours said. "I would hope this wouldn't happen in the future."

Parks superintendent Lisa Grant said the "clean up" of the master plan has added a figure-eight loop that reflects the location of the existing loop plus a future expansion area through an adjacent wooded area.

The council also approved a change to the master plan for 26-acre Northwest Community Park to allow the construction of a small pump track, a dirt obstacle course for bicyclists.

The track would be built using community donations and volunteer labor on the unirrigated site of a former playground. Supporters said they have raised the money necessary the build the track, which cyclists try to navigate using momentum instead of pedaling. Costs to the city, if any, would be minimal, Grant said.

Douglas McKenzie, a bicycle mechanic who spearheaded the effort, told the council that "volunteers are coming out of the woodwork" to support the project.

"It we could have it open before kids get out of school, that would be awesome," McKenzie said.

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