Eden Prairie resident Reid Johnson serves as an impromptu tour guide as he walks the grounds of the city’s new bike park playground he helped shepherd into reality.
Located seasonally from May to October in one of the Round Lake Park hockey rinks, the bike skills course has nine features for riders of all ages and levels to explore, including ramps, beams, and rumble strips.
“There’s so much activity at Round Lake with swimming, the splash pad, the park, you always see families walking or biking around,” Johnson said. “This should be another stopping point.”
Johnson, an avid biker who pedals around town running errands or for exercise, first suggested to Eden Prairie park officials the idea of adding the new amenity, which opened in May.
While living in Minneapolis, he and his family frequented a similar bike park at Lake Nokomis. After moving to Eden Prairie in 2019, he thought such a bike park would be welcomed by residents here.
“The target is for kids of all ages to come here and play around on their bike and do it however they see fit, and at the same time build some skills,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s three young children – ages 7, 5 and 2 – each enjoy the bike playground in their own way.
“The oldest is on a bike; the middle child is using a kick bike if you will,” he said. “The youngest is not on a bike yet. He’s just running around.”
How it started
Johnson got the idea when he and his family frequented one of the Minneapolis Bike Parks near Lake Nokomis while living in that city.
“There was always a ton of activity there,” he said. “And the more I observed what was happening there, the more I thought something similar would be valuable to the community in Eden Prairie once we moved here.”
He reached out to Devin Olson, the founder of Minneapolis Bike Parks, to “pick his brain” on how he got started.
Formed in 2017, the grassroots organization focuses on bringing off-street biking options to Minneapolis parks for people of all ages to learn and play without being concerned with traffic.
According to its website, the organization advocates for adding bike parks to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board master plans. That city has three bike skills parks (that includes the one at Lake Nokomis) and 12 bike parks in the master plans.
“He kind of gave me his blueprint,” he said. “And then I just took it and ran with it.”
Johnson pitched his proposal to Jay Lotthammer, the city’s parks and recreation director, and Matthew Bourne, the city’s parks and natural resources manager.
Both liked the idea, eventually building the ramps and features in-house and locating the park in one of the Round Lake Park hockey rinks. During the winter, the park features will be taken down and stored, and the hockey rink will revert to its original use.
Bike parks, according to the city, are dedicated spaces for new and advanced bikers to develop and sharpen their off-road cycling skills, including bike handling, balancing, jumping and turning.
“There are different ramps and bumps that give kids different experiences, whether balancing or making tighter turns or getting up a little higher than they normally would,” Lotthammer said. “It’s an opportunity for them to work on those skills and have fun.”
He added that it’s not a skate park for bikers.
“We’re still going to see the older kids on bikes at the skate park but we’ll see 4, 5, 6, 7 year olds wanting to go around and up and down over ramps, do tight turns and those kinds of things,” he said. “It’s a skill-building scenario.”
Lotthammer said there might be an opportunity to build more features in the future. “We will see how the feedback comes back from the people who are using it,” he said.
Getting the word out
Johnson is happy with how the Eden Prairie bike park features turned out.
“It’s a relatively low investment park feature that provides more and diverse opportunities really for anyone,” he said. “It’s for all families, any kind of bike, be it a little kids’ beginner bike to someone who has something a bit more advanced.”
Johnson is now focused on building awareness on social media and by word of mouth that the park is up and running. Since it’s “hidden behind the hockey rink, and there’s no signage” directing people to it, he said many might not know it’s in Round Lake Park.
“If it causes one more kid to enjoy biking because it’s something different than just riding on a sidewalk, then that’s a win,” he said.
The bike park playground is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily from May through October (weather dependent).