BMX Riders Pump it up for a New Track

As dance music thumps through the cozy bike shop at the corner of Welburn Avenue and Church Street, proprietor of Shifty Cycles, Kevin Griffin, points to a hanging aluminum sign with an illustration of a kid doing a turn on his bike and the words “NBL Gilroy BMX.”
“This sign that you are looking at right now has been around since the good ole days,” said Griffin, 46, referring to the 1980s when the only place a local kid with a tuned up BMX could catch air was on a dirt track in a walnut orchard on New Avenue.
By the late 1980s that track was long gone and soon after so was a track on Buena Vista, a site that was found to be on improperly zoned property and knocked through.
Gilroy’s Odysseus-like quest for its own BMX track continued on its twisted way. When the Gilroy Sports Park was being developed more than 10 years ago, a bicycle study recommended it add a bike track.
But then came the recession, which wiped out the city funding that would match any donated funds that a registered nonprofit could raise to build the track. All discussions stopped when the recession continued on its destructive path and the remaining capital fund went to buy Gilroy Gardens for $12-13 million in 2008-9.
The Gilroy Sports Park, which has a playground, softball, baseball and soccer fields, has a BMX park included in its phased development plan – as of this month, only two of the nine phases–15-20 percent of the 79-acre park– have been completed.
“The spot where the track could be is being farmed,” said Mary Garcia, who with husband, Jim, presented the idea for Gilroy’s own BMX track to the Gilroy city council more than a decade ago.
Both of Garcia’s sons, Jimmy and Joey, are local biking legends. After getting their start at the walnut orchard track, a benevolent endeavour by the people who lived there, the brothers would eek out fame and adventure, traveling the professional racing circuit, getting sponsored and competing in the first ever X-Games.
“People get hooked on it,” said Jimmy Garcia, 44. Now living in Prunedale, Jimmy Garcia, sponsored by TNT Bikes raced professionally from 1999-2008 and was named Number One in the NBL state series for a number of years during his career.
Competing was also something he could share with his younger brother Joey, 38, who would follow him to the walnut orchard track when they were kids. Joey would later travel the world as a member of the Schwinn racing team and bring home three gold medals from the X-Games.
Now, a new generation of local riders, including Jimmy’s 9-year-old daughter, Isabella, who has been racing competitively for the last couple years, are looking to make their mark. And so, the dream of a local BMX track, long deferred, has resurfaced.
“We’ve restarted the effort,” said Mary Garcia. “We met with (previous Mayor) Woodward and recently with Gabe Gonzalez [the city administrator].” The Garcias have formed a nonprofit, Garlic City BMX, to back the project. The group will share their ideas for a local BMX park at the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission on March 28.
Mary and husband Jim have lived the BMX life, supporting both their sons as they grew up in the sport and putting on their own BMX racing series for young riders – the 4-Star Series.
“Even though we have the expertise and the contacts we can’t do it all ourselves,” said Mary Garcia. “We need some commitment from the city. We know how good this sport is for the kids. Students need something more than school to put their energies to and BMX is a really positive sport; it teaches good sportsmanship and camaraderie.”
Griffin agrees. In addition to owning the bike shop he also manages a youth racing team that competes all over the US. Both his sons 10-year old Troy and 6-year old Reese race.
“This is a sport that should be in our community,” he said. “Kids on diapers are getting on bikes, from 18 months they are on Striders [bikes without pedals]. Even if they don’t continue with it, before they can start baseball –for their first three years they can be in a competitive family fun sport.”
This weekend Griffin will take the group of 25 riders, the majority from Gilroy, to a competition in Bakersfield.
“When we have some of the baddest riders in this community coming from Gilroy, many of them second and third generations,” said Griffin. “We have needed a park for a long time. Once we get this track we will see how much talent has been missed – kids that will say, ‘hey my older brother would have been into this.’
The nearest BMX tracks to Gilroy are in San Jose and Prunedale.
While his competition days are over, Joey Garcia said to this day you can still find him on a street or mountain bike.
“It’s a very healthy sport and inspires healthy living,” he said. “You get exercise and are pushed to progress.”
The father of two 6-month old twins, Joey Garcia said he expects they will be picking up the family tradition soon.
“They’ll be on a bike as soon as they can,” he said.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission meets the 4th Tuesday of the month, the next is on March 28, starting at 6 p.m at City Council Chambers. The public is strongly encouraged to attend.

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