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Stevens Creek bike area demolished

Original post made by Jeral Poskey on Aug 22, 2009

Friday was a sad day for me. As I rode my bike to work along the Stevens Creek trail, I witnessed bulldozers flattening the dirt bike recreation area.

This area was always inspiring to me. I don't know the full history, but it appeared to be homemade by determined kids. It was a place where I could occasionally take a detour on my way home. I could have talk a bit with the kids there, despite being more than double their ages. Most importantly, it was a place where kids seemed to enjoy having fun.

At a time when Mountain View is debating spending money to build a teen center, I am amazed we are spending money to tear down a perfectly good place for recreation.

What could have led to this decision? Danger? Is it any more dangerous than a playground? I'd like to hear what the city and fellow residents think about this decision.

Comments (30)

Posted by SG, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Ask the CA. Liability. SJ was sued and lost on a similar homemade bike area on public property

Posted by judielaine, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:42 am

Also, the city and the water district have a federally mandated responsibility to keep the creek in good condition for the endangered steelhead in the creek. I know there has been concern about the environmental impact of those jumps in the riparian ecosystem. I don't know if the water district is what brought in the 'dozers, though.

I had heard at one time (could have been pure gossip) the city was thinking about using the area between the levee and the northernmost SGI building out at Shoreline for a bike park. It's a dirt parking lot currently used for overflow from Shoreline Amphitheater, accessible down Crittenden.

Posted by Caroline, a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 9:57 am

Hopefully the bikers will build it anew; we live right down the street and our kids liked running up and down the hills :-). One of the consequences of an over litigous society...

Posted by Margaret, a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Wow -how sad. We ride bikes to school every day and often stop there and 'ride the humps.' My 3 year old runs up and down. My 6 year old was just getting able to get to the top of the big hump.

I hope someone builds it again.
Sad, sad, sad.

Posted by shelly, a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:18 pm

unbelievable! so, where should kids go to ride & jump now? what should they do to keep themselves busy? and we wonder why video game sales are so high.... give me a break!

Posted by Madi, a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:20 pm

If it was built illegally on public property the outcome is OK. Why should my tax increase, if MV is sued?

Posted by AC, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:52 pm

AC is a registered user.


I think the suing is the entire issue, really. I think kids should be free to play, get a boo-boo when they fall, heal, and play some more.

I don't think that MV should be sued for kids being kids. What is sad, I think, is that it is a concern in the first place.

Posted by Bernie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Kids really have nowhere to have fun. When I was a kid we played in the creek behind our house, followed the creek under the road thru the tunnel, hiked in the wooded park which was in the middle of the city (Milwaukee), had all kinds of imaginary places. Now the druggies and lawyers have taken over. Very sad. My boys played on those bike bumps in the early 90's. The end of an era.

Posted by Barry Jones, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 24, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I don't mind since many who used the area were inconsiderate to others trying to use the trail. They often parked themselves on Steven Creek Trail, blocking the way and sometimes even creating a hazard for those turning from the bridge that is just north of it.

Posted by Michael Martello, City Attorney, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 24, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Boy, this is one of the times I hate being an adult. I am an old skateboarder and surfer at heart and have owned more bikes than I care to admit. Nevertheless, it was I who asked that our recreation folks level the impromptu bike jumps. The comments in this blog to date are a great reflection on Mountain View as they evidence a community of thought and opinion on this subject. As one who has watched kids enjoying themselves at a birthday pary at San Jose's Calabassas facility, I know how much fun they can have. As one concerned for safety, what some kids are able to do on the jumps is sometimes frightening. As your city attorney, and charged with an important role in ensuring proper risk management, the call is simple. Make no mistake, we act first out of concern for safety and secondly out of concern for liability exposure. On both counts, we had but one decision to make.
I would be happy to talk to or meet with anyone who would like to on this subject. my office number is (650) 903-6303.

Posted by Debbie L., a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm

"Devils Island" as some of the kids have called that place - has been here in one form or another for 20 years. It is a shame that another fun place for the kids (outdoors and away from the TV and Video games) has to go.
The city promised a BMX Park a while back - what's up with that? Wouldn't it have been nice if the new park was ready now that this place is gone?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Whisman Station
on Aug 24, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Well Mr. Michael Martello, do you even care what the citizens of the city want? Rather than just take away one of the things that keeps my son out of trouble, maybe you should have looked at alternatives to make it better, or safer. They will just re-build it. They always do. And personally, I would be right there beside them helping. Yes they can get hurt, but they can also get hur riding their bike down El Camino but that is not outlawed.... yet. These kids.. and ADULTS.. absolutely loved having those jusps there and it was great exercise. Better than video games.

Posted by Wildlife conservationist, a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Folks, you are missing a very important issue with this bike playground. It is right on the banks of Stevens Creek; it obliterates all riparian vegetation which supports the much diminished and in some cases, endangered wildlife that require streamside habitat to survive. The exposed dirt is washed into the creek. Siltation kills fish and all aquatic life. Steelhead trout are a federally threatened species. The human disturbance of this recreational pursuit has a negative impact on wildlife's ability to use adjacent plant communities for feeding, shelter, nesting, etc. It is unconscionable that such an area has been allowed to exist all these years! We have lost over 90% of the riparian and associated upland habitat in this valley to massive development, including recreational trails. Species have been completely extirpated (locally extinct) and many of those that remain are declining. Every square foot counts! We should be restoring and expanding riparian habitat, not destroying more of it. It astonishes me that Mtn. View has not insisted that this area be replanted and remain undisturbed, and that none of the comments thus far, except for judielaine, have even mentioned the impacts on wildlife. It's not all about us!

Posted by Bruce Karney, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm

I'm disappointed in the action. I'm also pleased that City Attorney Mike Martello took responsibility and explained his reasoning.

Now, what's next? How do we recreate a new BMX facility?

I think the City of MV should create a new, official, and sanctioned BMX park. My preferred location is midway between Graham and Crittenden Middle Schools in the loop formed when northbound Shoreline wraps into westbound Central. This little parcel connects to a bike path and is already hilly. It wouldn't take much effort to add bollards around the perimeter to keep it safe from cars and landscape it as a BMX park.

Kids could ride their bikes to this location. If we were to put a BMX park near the Shoreline dog park, as has been suggested in the past, it would be too far from where most kids live and parents would have to drive their children there.

I really hope we can create some sort of BMX track -- soon!

Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I too am saddened by this news. These little bike hills were as hard as concrete. I don't think they posed much of an erosion danger as "Wildlife Conservationist" suggest. In fact, much greater erosion will occur from the impromptu rebuilding of a new bike track. Unless it is policed 24/7, it will be rebuilt. Look at how many suicides are still getting past the round-the-clock police vigils. I'll bet Palo Alto gets sued for not catching the 13-year old last Friday.

My fondest memories were riding all over my hometown jumping dirt hills on my BMX bike as a kid. I respect the City attorney's decision, but I wish such actions weren't necessary. It again feels a little less like the America I grew up in.

Posted by Jeral Poskey, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Mr. Martello, thank you for being so forthcoming. I guess the only question that remains for me is how an official park would be any less dangerous than this one. It would have some official signs saying, "Don't try a flip and land on your head." It would probably have restrictions. But it would probably be made of something about as hard if not harder than this packed dirt. What would prevent the city from making an official bike park right back in this spot?

As for the concerns about the creek, I hear you, but I don't think there's evidence of that. The first winter I lived here I woke up the morning of the first rain and went to see what had happened to these hills. I thought they'd washed away. They weren't. In fact, in the 3 years I've been around, there has been no apparent runoff from the hills. If there had, the hills would be getting smaller or gullies would have formed where the dirt was washed away. So this is a pretty small concern to me, especially compared to the presence of heavy equipment when they were removed.

Posted by wildlife conservationist, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:28 am

People's lack of knowledge about ecology is the biggest barrier in trying to preserve habitat. People think – oh what difference does this or that little parcel make? I see lots of birds, I see little fish. You conservationists are fanatics. – Most of the impacts of human disturbance, recreational trails, development in general, are unnoticed by the general public. But ecological research does reveal that species populations and biodiversity suffer from these impacts. Together with toxic pollutants in the water (Stevens Creek does have toxins), siltation due to lack of bank vegetation, non-native plant and animal invasives, climatic warming (at an unnaturally fast rate), all of these impacts combine to form a lethal blow to our native wildlife. Our children should be involved in native plant restoration projects along the creek, not destroying it. These projects do exist as an opportunity for learning, being outdoors, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping, not harming the environment. Bicycle recreation doesn't need to be located in the most sensitive, degraded, and reduced wildlife habitat in the valley!

Studies also show that creeks should have a 100-300 foot buffer from human activity to minimize negative impacts on the riparian habitat.

Join one of the local organizations that work to improve our local creek environments (see below). Organize a school study project in creek exploration, including a field trip sponsored by one of the local nature centers or organizations. Learn about the lifecycle of the steelhead trout that still make their way along the creek, greatly reduced from historic numbers. Many people are working very hard to bring steelhead and other creek species back. I hope that a native plant restoration project is planned for this area.

Stevens and Permanente Creeks Watershed Council
Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society

Posted by Surfer Chick, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Does anyone who has ever seen Mr. Martello believe that he ever surfed or rode a skateboard? I think not.

Posted by Margaret, a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I don't really live in Jackson Park - I live off of Stevens Creek Trail.

I've been looking at this web site for other reasons, but it occurs to me that we could use the leveled place for some creative fun for the kids. I;m going to have to do something because my six year old son wouldn't stop crying last night after I told him that the humps were gone. He;s going to be upset every day when we ride past there on the trail to school. Check out this web site - creating impromptu "wild zones".

Web Link

Still sad and disappointed,

Posted by Bruno, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:47 pm

And Mountain View takes yet another step closer to becoming Palo Alto.

wildlife conservationist,

I would love to see you try and convince young teenage BMX riders to put down their bikes in exchange for native plant restoration. Why can't you just let the kids be kids? At the very least have some kind of realistic approach to their needs, not a eco-lecture in waiting.

Posted by bikes2work, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Here is a bird's eye view of the site from Google Maps:

Web Link

The former BMX track was no closer to the creek than the houses on the other side of it.

Posted by dirt dance floor, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 25, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I bet the kids could figure a way to get hurt at the jumps site still!!

Posted by Inot, a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:44 pm

So one kid got hurt on some bike area like this in San Jose, and now they tear this one down. Three kids got killed at the same railway crossing, but we don't see them digging a car tunnel there and putting up a permanent barrier.

Posted by dfb, a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:47 pm

The city should not be forced to take on the costs and liability to provide and police the bmx track, which is considered an inherently dangerous activity in tort law. Like it or not, the city could be subject to severe liability if it let the track remain and someone were to get injured (i.e. break an arm, neck, etc.). It isn't a problem with lawyers as much as it is with people in our society to expect compensation of some sort when they (or their kids) incur some sort of injury, regardless of who was truly at fault. In this case, the bmx track would likely be considered an attractive nuisance that appealed to minors and the city in a position to pay (it can tax if the coffers run dry). In that regard, the city reacted to protect us from ourselves and neighbors.

There has always been and will remain plenty of things for kids and teens to do after school and during summers without the unauthorized bmx track. If you think the city should operate a bmx or skate park, lobby the city council to create one, or put it on the ballot. Or if you think there is a market, feel free to open up and operate a bmx bike park.

Posted by Another Mom, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:01 pm

In response to Bruno's post:

"I would love to see you try and convince young teenage BMX riders to put down their bikes in exchange for native plant restoration. Why can't you just let the kids be kids? At the very least have some kind of realistic approach to their needs, not a eco-lecture in waiting"

I could not agree with you more. If you want to push your eco ideas, this is not the way to get people to listen. All you are doing is pushing them away. If you take away the thing that they looked forward to doing every day, and then push all of these eco ideas on them the last thing they are going to do is embrace it. They will only end up resenting the ideas that you are trying to push on them.

I have a lot of thoughts about this and I definately think that the city went about it all wrong. If you are going to take away such a popular recreation area, you should have an alternative to it ready to give in return. My son was a regular rider there. I liked to go watch them ride from time to time and I also believe that this kept these kids in shape and out of trouble. I hope that they do rebuild it, and like the post by "MOM" above, I just might lend a hand in the rebuilding efforts. These kids never asked anything of the city, they built it themselves, and they maintained it themselves. If the city cannot provide them with someplace to ride, they should allow them to keep what they worked so hard to build. I plan on contacting Mr. Martello and finding out if the city has ever had a suit brought against them related to this. For all the years that it has been there, it seems to have been very low risk to the city. Let the kids be kids. There is so much worse they could be doing.

Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:14 pm


The City already runs a skate park at Rengstorff Park. I haven't been there, but I doubt they make the kids sign a waiver. Seems like a skate park exposes the City to more liability than a BMX track that wasn't even built by the City.

Since our City provides a skate park, it should also consider providing a BMX park. We have plenty of space at Shoreline Park for one. They could probably even let the bikers build the obstacles. They just need to provide some loose dirt and shovels.

Posted by Molly, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

To: wildlife conservationist

I get the feeling that you don't even approve of the Stevens Creek trail being built.

Posted by DAD, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 26, 2009 at 11:28 am

Matt Raschke makes a very good point. The skatepark at Rengstorff does seem to be a much higher risk than the dirt jumps at the trail. The skatepark was built by the city and it is seldom supervised or policed. There are many obstacles there that can cause injury and there are no waivers being signed. I think the city attorneys reasons for demolishing the dirt jumps hold no water. I too would be interested to see exactly how many legal issues have come up in the 20 years or so since these jumps have been there. My guess would be "NONE"

Posted by AC, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

AC is a registered user.

I was re-reading the post about fish and birds along the trail.

I must admit, I too care very much about the extinction of fish and fowl, and ecosystems which allow them to flourish and multiply.

But mostly, that's because I eat them.

Posted by Brenda, a resident of North Whisman
on Aug 27, 2009 at 2:00 am

I don't even know how to break this news to my boy. He was just getting the hang of some of the jumps. Having grown up in the country in another state, I am just amazed at how unreasonable city folks can be. Kids are meant to play outside, in the dirt and on their bikes. No wonder kids end up staying in their safe sterile home environments playing video games and losing their imaginations.

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