Inside Earth Ramp Dirt Park Construction
A few months ago, I got an e-mail from one of my Internet acquaintances, Chester Jones, with nothing more than a link. The link directed me to the Earth Ramp Bike Parks Web site; a dedicated Bicycle Dirt Park construction company in its early stages. Based out of Vancouver, British Columbia and run by Luke Fulgham, Chester Jones, and Dylan King, Earth Ramp just got their first contract to design and build a park near the beach of Vancouver. With the Vancouver contract now legitimizing them, it only seemed appropriate to see what was going on with this new BMX based company.
Okay, so what's Earth Ramp Bike Parks and who runs it?
Earth Ramp Bike Parks is a bicycle dirt jump building company run by Luke Fulgham of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Chester Jones has taken the reigns of design and marketing and Dylan King slays the spade along with us. There has been a mandate for community dirt and wood bike parks in British Columbia for some time now. We have stepped to the plate to fill this need while taking a more trails-based approach, incorporating flow, tech and big lines while also setting an industry standard for other communities to follow.
How many jobs has Earth Ramps done so far?
We are currently working on our first municipal project with the city of Vancouver. This will be our inaugural project as a company introducing our trail ethic and etiquette into a public park. Previous projects have been privately based and we are happy to be able to bring legitimate design and technique to such a fitting setting that the city has allotted us. Right by the beach!
And cities just contract you out? That's what is happening with the Vancouver project right?
There are already several of these types of parks in British Columbia. However, they are gravel with mountain bike obstacles, and are called "skills parks." In this case, a group of bikers have started a coalition and have gone to the city asking for funding and defending the need for such a space. After a year or three of meetings, they decided where the park would be and what specific details would have to be taken into account. At this point the city will put a project out to be bid on. So in order to receive such a contract, we must first address all of the issues discussed in the prior meetings and conjure up ideas we have as well as pricing for materials, labor, etc. in the form of a proposal. The city then chooses the best or most fitted candidate for the job.
And is this your actual jobs now? What were you guys doing before this?
Not at this point, but we will see how things go. A couple decent-sized contracts a year could make this full-time.
Nice. How hard is it to convince a city, especially in a recession, that a park full of dirt mounds is a viable recreation area?
As mentioned above a lot of these parks are in the works with their local biking community far before we catch wind of the project, so the money has already been allocated, or fundraised much like a skatepark. In this instance, the Vancouver Dirt Jump Coalition has worn the suits and we are wearing the boots.
It seems to me that a lot of trail riders get on some "only build big jumps" attitudes sometimes and one thing I've noticed from some photos is that there seems to be something for everyone at these parks. Is that something you do because you guys like to ride everything or is it mandated through a city?
We grew up riding trails, skateparks, street and racetracks throughout Canada, and the Northwest of the States and we enjoy incorporating all these elements into what we build. When building trails for ourselves, there are no limits on what we build, but on a municipal project we have to create obstacles for all skill levels. Some of what we have built recently is partially for evidence of an ability to tone it down for the beginner lines. Although, different municipalities have different specifications as to height and length of jumps. Luckily, with the Vancouver project we will be able to incorporate an "expert" line with substantial consequences while also facilitating intermediate and beginner lines.
How would you handle the issue of building dirt parks in areas that established trail builders already live?
People with DIY trails will not be the ones going through the motions of convincing a city council to approve or fund a park. There are however people in every town who want trails or just jumps and would rather go the "proper" or "legal" route and have the trails built for them after years of meetings instead of digging. Some people just support it for their children, some just plain do not want to dig, others do not realize that jumps are just moved earth and creativity. I guess there would also be places where they don't have suitable soil as well. When all these people come together the need for one of our parks comes in.
Good point. What trail projects are you guys known for and how long have you guys been slinging dirt for?
Kush trails are our current spot, we had an infamous spot under a bridge that has been plowed twice, I had a spot in my old town known as Milestones, and there have been many others some quite short lived. I have been digging for about 15 years now, Dylan has had numerous spots throughout the lower mainland of BC for the last ten years and Chester has been stacking gold for who knows how long.
Do you guys use power equipment? I know some trail purists would scoff at the idea but it seems almost necessary with what you guys are doing? Or not?
On this particular project we will have to and probably usually will, but in future instances it will definitely depend on the spot at hand. The project in Vancouver is on a plot of land that has a meter of fill covering the area, and potential concrete foundations below that. If we were given a forest to work in, then I would go on a more trails style approach, and seek to minimize damage to the surrounding area and dig purely with shovels. I would never dig at our trails with a tractor but in this instance we are digging with efficiency in mind.
Are you guys trucking in dirt or using locally grown soil?
We are trucking in dirt to the site because of the ground being covered in fill. It also has drainage issues, the trucked-in loam (soil composed of sand, clay and silt) will tactically facilitate gravity, therefore eliminating puddles. We have a good friend, Ross Roseingrave, who works as a soil engineer for a geotechnical company, and he is supplying us with free dirt. We will see if his schooling in soil helps the jumps.
What's some of the inspiration for what you guys do? Does it come from only riding trails or from, say, just seeing something on the Web?
Other trail spots are a huge inspiration; there is nothing like going on a trail trip and taking all forms and feelings of other trails and incorporating them into your own. It's also nice to see how other digging techniques and styles of dialing are used. The Web doesn't compare to the actual tactile experience a set of trails gives you but helps in the winter months. Another source of inspiration is seeing the other parks that have been developed around Canada. These previous parks lack creativity and appropriate materials for both BMX and MTB riders. There is some sort of self-entitlement to a set of jumps that is unparalleled to any other platform of riding that also keeps us motivated to outdo even ourselves.
Well thanks Luke, Good luck with everything. Does ERBP have any thanks, anything else you'd like to add or maybe requests? I would imagine a shovel sponsor would be quite fitting?
I would certainly like to thank those who have been helpful and or supportive of the lengthy process to get this off the ground, especially Rob Venables from Dunbar Cycles, my girlfriend Kim, Chester's folks and anyone else who actually supported us from the beginning. A lot of people doubted us and assumed there was no way we would pull it together on time to do this, including ourselves at some points. To them I laugh. Drop off a resume and we will try and work you into our schedule. A shout out to Jason Vawter, Chad Jones and Cameron Hunter for dropping by to document our spot too. All of us at Earth Ramps would like to have Vigoro on our side as a shovel sponsor as we are avid users of their glorious mid-priced high quality dirt manipulating tools!