ROCKLAND – The wooded swampland and pricker bush patch between the two ball fields and Rockland High School is a no-man’s-land in this coastal town.

But Chris Christie of Rockland and Nathan Woodruff of Fayetteville, Ark., see the 15.8-acres here as something more. The two mountain bikers see it as a future youth destination, a family gathering place and a unique adventure park on the East Coast.

The vision shared by Christie, Woodruff and others in this town would combine a state-of-the-art mountain bike skills park with climbing walls, skate parks, a ropes course, picnic tables and a fitness trail, all within the Rockland Outdoor Adventure Park. And in this vision, many of those offerings would be free.

Christie, the owner of a Rockland bike and coffee shop, Bikesenjava, flew Woodruff from Arkansas to Maine last Monday. A mountain bike park designer and owner of Progressive Trail Design, Woodruff has built bike parks out West, and he helped fine-tune the Rockland Outdoor Adventure Park project proposal.

Locals pushing for the park met with the Rockland City Council that evening to explain the project. They were told to come back with a budget and fundraising plan for the $3.4 million park they proposed, but city officials think the project, which would be financed and funded privately, has great potential.

“It sounded to me as if the city councillors were very excited with the proposed Rockland Outdoor Adventure Park,” Town Manager Rosemary Kulow said. “I think if the board of directors for (the park) are able to pull together a good sound budget estimate and description of the plan for fundraising, I think the city council will approve the concept.”

Some who don’t even mountain bike already believe in the vision.

“The one thing I like about it is there is something for all abilities. There is a fitness trail and a place to play Frisbee,” said Rockland’s recreation director, Rene Dorr.

Woodruff, who has built parks in Utah, Missouri, South Dakota and Colorado, has seen mountain bike parks change the energy and activity in an area.

And he said there are few adventure parks in the country that contain all the elements that the Rockland park would have. The only such park Woodruff knows of is being built in Toronto.

“Projects like this are rare,” he said. “Bentonville, Arkansas, is a city of 25,000. It didn’t have mountain bikes. We put in a 12-mile free riding trail and a bike club developed. Now it’s 100 members strong three years later.”

The same would happen in Rockland, Woodruff said, and the town already caught the mountain-bike bug with the trails next door at Camden’s Ragged Mountain Recreation Area, where youth races are held each summer.

The 15.8-acre parcel behind Rockland High School would give youth a place of their own to ride. And the weathered skate park in front of the school would be replaced with more durable indoor and outdoor parks.

The outdoor complex also would have a community building where youth could meet; a picnic area to encourage families to gather; four mountain bike skills courses; and a fitness trail, ropes course and recreation field.

“I would be shocked if it wasn’t a unanimous vote on it. It’s giving something to kids that they want, and it’s free. The skate park that we build will be five times better than this,” Woodruff said Monday as he watched kids flying through the air at the local skate park.

The vision came to Christie when he saw the town of Rockland pass up the large slice of land as the site for the town’s new recreation buildings. When a new Little League field also was built elsewhere, Christie said he saw the future for the huge parcel behind the high school.

“I thought, I know what to do with it,” he said with an enormous grin.

Christie expects that with more research behind the project, the city of Rockland will embrace the adventure park, and soon others will be referring to the ambitious three-year project as simply “The Park.”

“My goal has always been for it to be a place where parents just don’t drop off their kids and leave, but where the adults come with the kids to play and ride, too,” Christie said.

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]