Seventeen-year-old Nikita Ducarroz is arguably the best female freestyle BMX rider in California, maybe even the nation. She’s rumored to be the only girl doing back flips, and the Sonoma teen has even come in second while competing with the boys, which she says is her biggest accomplishment to date.
Where does a teen like Nikita go to ride? Anywhere but Sonoma.
“There is no bike park in Sonoma, so basically we have to drive out of town to be able to ride,” Nikita said, adding she is thankful her mom, Nicole Abate Ducarroz, is willing to drive her, the closest park being in Santa Rosa.
But Nicole, who is a trustee of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board, and Nikita have joined forces with local Sonoma bike enthusiasts to change that.
Two years ago, Nicole Ducarroz, Sonoma Old School owner Robert Wilson, businessman and avid cyclist Jim Van Sickle and Sonoma Valley Cyclery owner Pat Sahs, formed a committee dedicated to seeing a bike park built at Maxwell Farms Regional Park.
The idea for the bike park came after Sonoma police told Wilson, who has taken on the responsibility of monitoring and maintaining Mcdougald Skate Park, there were issues with gangs and people abusing drugs and alcohol in and around the site.
One of the biggest issues, according to Sgt. Dave Thompson, who regularly patrols the area, is visibility. Thompson says police respond to Maxwell Park for a variety of different reasons, including “smoking and drinking and other nefarious activities.” Thompson says the existing earthen berm blocks the view of the skate park, but knocking it down may cause other issues like distracting traffic with a clear view of skaters. Still, said Thompson, “Regardless of what that dirt gets used for, it would be nice to get (the berm) knocked down to increase our visibility.”
In December 2011, the group proposed the removal of the berm, that sits just east of the skate park, with the dirt from it to be used to build a bike park situated between the existing tennis courts and skate park. In the plans, the group outlined everything from how a bike park would expand the scope of the park to include the currently prohibited BMX riders, to increasing park usage and safety.
Nikita Ducarroz and Wilson are both quick to point out that the proposed park isn’t exclusive to BMX riders. “The park is (and will be designed) for riders just starting to those who are more experienced and doing back flips,” Nikita said. The group has plans to build a common area with covered seating and solar panels to fuel a few electrical outlets for charging a phone or plugging in a laptop.
“You are only a kid for so long and (Sonoma) is now a family city,” said Wilson. “So, let’s get real about it and give the kids and families a safe place to hang out.”
Since their initial proposal, the group has been corresponding with officials from the county parks department, police department and the county. The committee has found private and corporate sponsors (like Volkswagen) to secure funding for the estimated $20,000 project; the group found a well-known bike park builder to donate his time to the project and gained a lot of support amongst local bicyclists and BMX families who are ready to volunteer in both construction and upkeep of the park.