A look at San Diego’s first BMX park

Mountain bike and BMX riders try out the Sweetwater Bike Park, the first of its kind for the County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation, during the grand opening on Saturday in Bonita.
(Hayne Palmour IV/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The County of San Diego opened Sweetwater Bike Park Saturday, the first of its kind in the county’s park system


Professional BMX rider Joey Cordova launched his bike off a jump, did a backflip with it in mid-air, landed and burst through a red paper ribbon stretched out like a finish line.

With that, the $1.9-million Sweetwater Bike Park was officially open.

Several hundred people — including mountain and BMX cyclists young and old, famous professional riders and people from the bike industry — joined County Supervisor Greg Cox, parks and recreation officials and local bike groups Saturday morning for the grand opening of the 4.2-acre park at 6057 San Miguel Road in Bonita. The bike skills park is the first of its kind in the county’s park system, officials said.

Half an hour before the event, all the parking lots were full and parked vehicles lined the street curbs for blocks.

“Look at the turnout here,” Cox, who represents the area, said in an interview before the ceremony. “This is obviously an indication of the interest not just in the Bonita community, but throughout San Diego County.”

The dirt-based course has lines of jumps in three sizes to serve riders of different skill levels, various types of tracks and an assortment of installations. There is even a separate area for small children to practice on a scaled-down version of a “pump track,” with gentle, smooth mounds that make it possible to ride without peddling.

Part of what makes the bike park so special and exciting for riders is that it was designed by Deven Schneider, of Schneider Grading & Excavating in San Diego, who is widely regarded as a master of his craft and the best in the business, Cox said.

“He’s done bike parks across the country and he said this is the most awesome one he’s ever done,” Cox said.

Susie Murphy, executive director of San Diego Mountain Biking Association, said the park in its current layout is the biggest of its kind in Southern California, and it has the only legal bicycle jumps in San Diego County.

The 1,400-member group is hugely excited, Murphy said, not just because the park is so cool, but also because it is the fruit of more than a decade of their labor hunting for public officials and jurisdictions willing to build it.

Finally, she said, they found a champion for their cause in Cox.

Cordova, the professional BMX rider who broke through the ceremonial ribbon, said he was part of a four-person team Schneider put together to help create and test-ride the course.

“The hardest thing about building something like this is making it work correctly — flow right — and look good and stay together, like maintenance,” he said. “And that’s what Deven Schneider is known for.”

Features such as the course’s pump track, a loop of track with berms and a series of smooth mounds that one can ride without peddling by shifting one’s body weight, can be fun and useful for everyone, even pros, Cordova said.

Gary Young, a professional BMX rider from San Diego who has earned four medals in the X-Games, said he planned to bring his children, 4 and 7, to ride the course — something he wished for when he was growing up in San Diego.

It was a long time coming, he said, but “we have a nice place where the kids can come ride, they’re safe and maintained and everything, and they’ve done a really good job building it.”

The park is free and open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to sunset. Users are encouraged to read the posted bike park rules.