The Gilroy City Council got its first look Aug. 5 at a major expansion proposed for Gilroy Gardens that would add bike trails, zip lines and other recreational activities on a 350-acre hillside behind the park.
The park’s board of directors hired Canada-based Select Contracts in 2017 to study the feasibility of an “adventure park” located on the 350 acres of mountainside adjacent to Gilroy Gardens, said General Manager Barb Granter.
The project’s timeline is unknown at this point, as Granter said it is currently in the “idea stage.” Select Contracts CEO Chris Sutton said the firm will negotiate with the city on a lease agreement, and if those efforts are successful, Select Contracts will raise capital for planning and construction.
The proposal would construct a number of hiking and biking trails throughout the mountainside at various skill levels. A chair lift, located at the base of Gilroy Gardens, would take guests up to the summit, where they could experience four zip lines down the mountain. A restaurant is also proposed for the summit, with a smaller café planned for the base of the mountain.
A ropes course is also in the proposal.
Select Contracts, founded in 1978, builds and operates a variety of recreational parks throughout the world, according to Sutton.
“We’ve become really renowned for creating active-based projects where we get kids off the sofa and away from their phones and get them out into the natural environment,” he said. “We believe we are adding some great value to the city with what we are proposing.”
Sutton said the study found that of the 6.5 million people who reside within a two-hour drive of Gilroy Gardens, about 3 percent are active mountain bikers.
“There are very, very good demographics for this,” he said. “Biking is certainly a huge part of this local area. We are very enthused by what we’ve seen.”
In 2008, the City of Gilroy purchased the 536 acres of land that includes the park and hillside for $13 million. The hillside is located at the southwestern edge of city limits.
About two-thirds of those acres are undeveloped, according to city officials.
In 2016, Gilroy Gardens embarked on a 10-year master plan, which, among other things, aims to grow annual attendance from 450,000 to 500,000 by 2022 and attract a larger percentage of children in the 11-to 12-year-old range, according to Granter.
As a result, the park opened the $4.5 million expansion of its Water Oasis area in 2018, featuring larger water slides for older children, as well as cabanas and “splash pads.”
The adventure park proposal is another step in the master plan.
“I’m very proud of the board,” Granter said. “They are now looking at the property holistically. They are looking at it as 536 acres, and not just the small Gilroy Gardens.”
In a statement, the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission applauded the proposal.
“One of our commission goals is to actively embrace, advance ideas and projects that promote the concept of free-range people in the City of Gilroy,” the statement read. “This adventure park reflects what we are teaching the youth in our community through Safe Routes to School, and along with the planned Garlic City BMX dirt pump track, this will provide another place for them to use cycling as a tool to achieve academic, health and social success.”