When Barry Smith was tasked with determining the popularity of BMX racing in Columbia County, he wasn’t sure what he’d discover.
When he found out that most Augusta BMX members live in the county and travel to downtown Augusta to race, he started to realize the level of interest.
“I was kind of surprised at the numbers,” the county’s director of Community and Leisure Services noted. “When they said that 80 to 85 percent of Augusta BMX riders live in Columbia County, that tells you something right there.”
Up for debate at Tuesday’s Columbia County Commission meeting will be a proposal to spend $4,800 on a conceptual design for the addition of a BMX track to Blanchard Woods Park.
If approved, the design would be completed by Johnson, Laschober and Associates P.C., Smith said.
Blanchard Woods’ original master plan included a BMX park, Smith said, but that it wasn’t made a priority.
“This BMX idea came up,” he said. “We looked into it and shared it with the commissioners, and they liked that idea.”
Smith said a BMX park would require about 2 acres and would not substantially interfere with any of the park’s amenities.
While it could force a small segment of the park’s signature cross country course to be re-routed, Smith said that it would be a flat section. It would not alter the hilly portions that give the course its unique difficulty.
Mitch Moon, track director at Augusta BMX, said the response he received from county officials has been “unbelievable.”
“We were expecting more of a fight than we got,” he said.
Moon said that there are numerous aspects to consider. BMX events feature loudspeakers with music and announcers, so one aspect will be ensuring that noise ordinances are met.
A location such as Blanchard Woods, he said, would be much safer than Augusta BMX’s current location near Lake Olmstead Stadium.
Moon said that BMX offers benefits when compared to sports.
“This is an individual sport,” he said. “Nobody sits on the bench, so everyone gets to participate. There’s a 4-year-old who rides our track, and it goes to over 60 years old.”
Smith estimated the cost of building a BMX park at $200,000. Considering many of the necessary elements – parking, locker rooms, restrooms, transportable bleachers and concession areas – are already in place, the cost would be considerably less.
Smith said that such a facility would benefit both BMX enthusiasts in the area and those who would travel here for events.
“We can bring in some regional tournaments,” he said. “It would mean an influx of people and an economic impact for the area.”