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Dave Olson, Published September 26 2012

Red flag for BMX track: Longtime West Fargo racetrack to become ballfield

WEST FARGO – A BMX bike racing track that has operated in West Fargo’s South Elmwood Park for many years will soon be no more.

This past weekend, the West Fargo BMX Association held its last race of the season at the park, and likely its last race ever.

Now the group, whose riders range in age from about 3 to 63, has until mid-October to remove equipment and other items from the site.

The change, however, has been a long time coming, according to park district Executive Director Barb Erbstoesser, who said BMX activity at the park began decades ago.

The program was initially run by the park district, but later a parent-driven volunteer organization was formed to operate the BMX track, according to Erbstoesser, who said races and other events have been held at the track on a regular basis since the 1990s.

About five years ago, BMX organizers came to the city with a request: Because the sport had grown so large, local BMX backers wanted a larger complex that would include room for camping, more parking and improved lighting and fencing.

The dream, Erbstoesser said, was to host larger events at the track.

At the same time, she said, park needs were growing, too.

Erbstoesser said the park district’s summer youth baseball program now has about 950 participants.

Also, she said, more than 50 adult softball teams play at South Elmwood’s four ball diamonds during the summer.

In addition, the district has about 400 flag-football players in its fall program who are in need of field space, and Erbstoesser said the area occupied by the BMX track is scheduled to become a new ball diamond that will double as a field for flag football.

Erbstoesser said the park district has worked to help BMX enthusiasts find an alternative site for a track, but in 2009, park officials informed the association that the BMX track could stay at South Elmwood three more years.

“We’ve stood by our plan,” she said, referring to the additional ballfield.

Finding a new spot for a large bike racing complex hasn’t been easy, according to Wayne Larson, president of the West Fargo BMX Association.

The challenge has been the price of land and the state of the association’s coffers; they aren’t full enough, Larson said.

“There’s really nothing in the budget as far as making land payments or anything like that,” he said. “People are really reluctant to lease you land that has a high value to it.”

Larson said the association has about 120 BMX riders who used the track on a weekly basis throughout the summer.

“When there are bigger events, we draw a few hundred from all over the tri-state area,” Larson said.

As things stand, Larson said, association members will keep looking for land to build a track on, but until they do, “we’re pretty much done.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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