By Pierre LaBossiere
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Prep sports may not be returning to the North Olympic Peninsula for another couple of months, but in the meantime kids in the area have found an outdoors outlet to break a sweat — and catch some air.
While preps are preparing for a hopeful late December return, kids big and small have been enjoying the Lincoln Park BMX Park for the past couple of weeks.
With a variety of safety precautions in place to avoid any possible spread of COVID-19, the park reopened for competition in late September and, according to track operator Sean Coleman, it’s the only operating outdoor BMX track in western Washington (an indoor track is available in Gig Harbor). As a testament to the uniqueness of the venue, races last week had young competitors coming from as far away as Bellingham and Portland, Ore.
“I think 45 percent of our kids were from off the Peninsula last Sunday,” Coleman said.
Everyone on the grounds must wear masks and people are asked to social distance. Spectators are limited to a parent or helper of a rider. People are asked at the gate if they’ve had a fever or been exposed to people under quarantine, etc. It could be a precursor to how prep sports is going to work in a few weeks.
In addition to finally being able to reopen, the Lincoln Park BMX Track added lighting this spring so kids can ride into the evening. Coleman said plans and funding were already in place to add the lighting this spring, but the track couldn’t really take advantage of the lights because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting virtually everything down for months.
“We wouldn’t be racing tonight without it,” Coleman said Thursday evening of the lighting. Coleman said the track will remain open to competition through the fall until the weather gets too cold.
“We’ll go as long as we can,” Coleman said.
To help the track stay dry during the rain, part of the track has been rebuilt with five layers of sand and polymer glue.
During the shutdown, the track was able to host some practices, but full competitions didn’t begin until late September. During that time, Lincoln Park BMX was able to work on its procedures, working with other tracks around the state, to keep kids and parents safe.
“It was very limited,” Coleman said. “There was a good learning curve on our part.”
The track must still keep its groups limited. On Thursday night, roughly 50 kids were racing. Registrations are taken exclusively online at www.lincolnparkbmx.square.site.
The track is giving kids who had grown antsy during the long, drawn-out shutdown a chance to get back outdoors and compete on their bikes. In addition to the COVID-19 issues, the track also had to shut down a couple of practice nights during the heavy smoke in September.
“We’ve dealt with smoke before. This COVID stuff was new,” Coleman said.
“We’re seeing new kids. Some of these kids haven’t been doing anything [during the pandemic],” he said.
Cash Coleman, 14, and Colby Groves, 16, are a couple of the mainstays at the track and have been riding there ever since it opened. They spent some time on the lockdown riding out on trails.
“It means riding longer and when it’s hot out, you get a cold night to ride,” Groves said.
”Being able to do something and get out of the house. It’s fun to be around friends and ride with them,” Groves said.
“It’s nice to be able to see people again,” Cash Coleman said.
Keyah Elofson-Cross, who turns 8 this week, was able to get out riding on her family’s property during the summer, but was waiting all day to get the chance to ride at the Lincoln Park BMX track to compete against other kids.
“We get to race and get to exercise,” she said.