TURLOCK -- A dirt jumper, his mom and a would-be politician are cruising toward a BMX-style bike park near Walnut Elementary Education Center, but school officials are calling for the brakes.
Turlock High School freshman Dominick Rufo, 15, has been "dirt jumping" for four years. Sort of like motocross without a motor or BMX on a mountain bike, dirt jumpers pick-up speed down an incline then launch themselves into the air -- think ski jumping. Dirt jumper bike parks are simple, short, dirt tracks with a hill to go down on one side and a jump on another.
"Turlock wants kids to find something to do, but they won't give them a place to do it," said Dominick's mother, Kim Rufo. "Instead of jumping off benches and trash cans and getting in trouble, they could be in a bike park."
The Rufos contacted DJ Fransen -- city maintenance man, owner of TurlockCityNews.com, college radio host and one-time mayoral candidate -- who set up meetings with the city almost a year ago. Since then, Fransen said, not much has happened.
"It's a great idea," said Dan Madden, the director of Municipal Services who oversees city parks. "We love the idea."
Working with government, Madden said, takes time. The City Council earlier this year asked the Community Service Commission to look into the idea. The group, which got the dog park approved, will discuss the park at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
But not everyone is so smitten with dirt jumpers. The parcel, near Panorama Avenue and West Springer Drive, where Paseo Del Sol intersects Panorama, is adjacent to a storm basin that has been set aside as a future school site. It also is next to an existing campus at North Walnut Road and West Springer.
"Eventually, with growth, when we need it, we'll have a neighborhood school on the property," Assistant Superintendent Patricia McGuire said. "This bike park would be right next to the neighborhood school. Our concern is not just for today but for the future as well."
The school district is worried that dust, noise and traffic congestion will hamper the school and the district's newest school, Walnut Elementary.
Heavy use, said Michael Fulford, the city landscape architect with Pleasanton who spearheaded that city's bike park, can be expected along with some dust.
"From a park and rec standpoint, this is a very successful use. It's also a very successful amenity considering the amount of investment -- it's mounds of dirt," he said. "If the measure of a park's success is use, by that yardstick, this has been a very, very successful project."
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2391.