Friday, July 27, 2012

Making The Case For Royal Oaks

Royal Oaks Park already features turf trails left behind by Park & Rec lawnmowers.
With cyclocross season now just six weeks away, finding a place to practice cyclocross skills is very much on my mind.  At the end of last summer the My Wife Inc. guys held practices at Kletzsch Park in Glendale … not too far away, but not convenient either.  This year MWI has moved its practices to Mitchell Park in Milwaukee.  That’s a little farther away but I still might be willing to make the drive sometime.

Of course, what I would prefer is to practice here in West Bend.  In an earlier blog post I argued in favor of Park Site “O” as a possible candidate for cyclocross—and it could be a good location if I had a small army of volunteers to help me beat it into shape.  I was dreaming then of a venue for cyclocross racing; today the more realistic side of my character just wants a place suitable for practice.  Within the city, there’s probably no better choice than Royal Oaks Park.

Located immediately east of Lac Lawrann Conservancy, Royal Oaks Park covers 24 acres, 10 of which are wide-open prairie around a tall sledding hill.  By itself the hill could be an interesting and challenging practice course feature, but with some creative routing it also would give riders a chance to hone their off-camber handling skills.  The 14 wooded acres include trails, but they’re covered with wood chips.  There’s no sand or water feature and no natural run-up … though you could simulate one without much trouble.  Royal Oaks gets very few visitors at this time of year—it’s actually more popular in the winter as people come out to go sledding or cross-country skiing—and a practice course that stays away from the playground should provoke no complaints.  There is a bathroom.  There is no parking lot, but parking near the Auburn Road entrance is never a problem.  And local guys probably would ride their bikes to the park anyway.

I don’t think you can beat Royal Oaks for features or convenience.  It would be nice if we could include the neighboring Pine Plantation Trail or the Stodola Prairie—each of which would make a perfect addition to a ’cross course—but those are parts of Lac Lawrann and we need to respect the Conservancy’s prohibition against bicycles on its trails.  As a city park, Royal Oaks is well-maintained.  There would be no grass for us to cut, no earth to move.  Break out a few cones to weave around, place a couple of PVC barriers to hop over, and call it a cyclocross course.

Who wants to give it a shot?  If this works out we could schedule a series of practice sessions before and even during the racing season—Tuesdays, perhaps, even though that’s the same day MWI will do its thing in Milwaukee.  We’re probably far enough apart that we’re not competing for the same pool of riders.  Within Washington and Ozaukee counties we easily have enough cyclocross racers to make this work.

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