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Wednesday, Dec 04 2013 06:00 AM

City staff cultivating local development possibilities

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Officials from the City of Tehachapi and Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District, who are exploring the possibility of creating a local mountain bike park, toured the top of Lehigh Southwest's property north of Highway 58 with members from Gravity Logic Inc., who paid Tehachapi a visit on Nov. 20 through Nov 21. Photo courtesy of Michelle Vance, City of Tehachapi

Several city development project ideas are undergoing planning and research stages.

Projects being considered include transforming portions of the Tehachapi Municipal Airport's north side into a vineyard and motocross track and offering flight lessons for a reduced rate to Tehachapi residents.

The City of Tehachapi has also partnered with the Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Parks District to explore the prospects of creating a mountain bike park somewhere between Capital Hills (north of Highway 58) and the Lehigh Southwest Cement plant.

Gravity Logic Inc., a company based in Whistler, British Columbia, that specializes in the design, development and construction of mountain bike parks throughout the world, has been hired by the city to carry out a feasibility study, which will take into account returns on investment, projected costs, demographics, expected ridership, environmental impact, and a number of other variables indicating the plausability of such a project.

The study will also determine whether the park will utilize shuttles or lifts to transport customers to the top of the park. If the park is lift-assisted, it will be only one of two such mountain bike parks in the United States that is open virtually year-round.

The City of Tehachapi allocated $16,500 for the study.

Representatives of Gravity Logic, which has overseen the development of parks in Sweden, Australia, Finland, Italy, and the Czech Republic, visited Tehachapi on Nov. 20 and 21 to consult with community members and city leaders, and survey potential locations for the park.

"We need to promote Tehachapi as a mountain town," Assistant City Manager Chris Kirk said. "We wouldn't be spending this much money to hire this company if we were not serious about this project."

Kirk said the average cost of each trail would be between $40,000 and $50,000 per mile.

According to Community Outreach Coordinator Michelle Vance, the idea for the park has gotten a positive reception from the community, especially from groups like the Tehachapi Mountain Trails Association.

"There's a very large biking population in Tehachapi and it's growing," she said. "Downhill mountain biking is one of the fastest growing trends in recreation."

Residents currently have very limited access to surrounding mountains because the majority of the land is privately owned.

According to Vance, Lehigh Southwest Cement Company, which owns 10,000 acres nearby, has already pledged their support for the park, and is willing to lease a large portion of their land to the city.

Vance also said there is a definite economic incentive to the park, which has the potential to attract a large number of locals and tourists alike.

"About 20,000 people pass by Highway 58 each day," she said. "Just think of the potential tourists. When someone spends money here, 50 percent of it stays in the community. Also, we have such a mild climate here that the park could be open eight months out of the year."

Vance also said she is looking into the possibility of planting a vineyard along Highway 58, on the airport's north side. Progress is slow since she first revealed the idea at the City Council's Nov. 4 meeting, she reported Nov. 27. But she said she is looking to tap into resources from California State University Fresno's viticulture program.

At the airport, Tom Glasgow, airport manager, will meet with local pilot instructors after the holidays to discuss a way to make flight lessons more affordable and accessible to city residents.

"We've got to figure something out to get more people -- young people -- interested in flying," Glasgow said.

Dirt has been placed on the airport's north side in anticipation of a contract with a company to manage a motocross track. The dirt was hauled from the Tractor Supply construction site on North Mill Street.

Glasgow said no contract is in place, but an agreement with at least one company is being considered. The city issued a request for proposals several months ago and received at least one response.

If both parties reach an agreement, it will go to the City Council for approval he said.

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