In 1998, when Robbie Canter was 12, he was introduced to an area in the woods that would become his second home: a set of BMX trails behind Kopachuck Middle School.
The approximately half-acre plot of land features more than 30 jumps and a series of tightly packed dirt tracks leading up to the ramps — built with shovels and care over the many years by BMX riders who know exactly which trajectories they desire to sharpen their skills.
Now 29, Canter still takes time to ride there. That is until recently, when the area was cordoned off and closed due to concerns from the Peninsula School District. Canter, a Raft Island resident, and other riders are hoping there is a solution to save the track where they made so many memories.
“What’s cool about the place is it’s honestly — for me and a couple of guys — where boys became men,” Canter said.
Last week, Canter and other riders, the school district and PenMet Parks met to discuss the future of the hand-built jumps. PenMet has had interest in a BMX park for awhile, and is interested in working with Canter and the other riders.
“We’re looking at a variety of options,” Superintendent Chuck Cuzzetto said.
Cuzzetto will speak to the school board at its regular meeting on Thursday; no action will be taken.
The meeting with the riders and PenMet is the beginning of a very early stage of discussion, the superintendent said. The district needs further dialog with neighbors and community meetings. PenMet director Terry Lee believes there are unsubstantiated fears surrounding the track.
The site could be leased to the parks district, something that has happened with land in the past, Lee said.
Todd Iverson, a parks board member, said a bike park was something the late Vernon Young, an influential volunteer, believed in. It was discussed during the building of Sehmel Homestead Park, but never came to fruition.
“I feel like we’ve never really fulfilled our promise to Verne,” Iverson said.
Before visiting the track, Iverson believed it would be a rough trail. He was stunned by the carefully crafted clay jumps.
“It is an amazing work of human engineering,” he said. “It would be kind of a shame to go and bulldoze it over.”
The area behind Kopachuck gained notoriety in the world of BMX. It was featured in three BMX films, where some of the best riders in the world visited. The parks district is interested in BMX because it presents an alternative form of recreation — something different than the usual sports.
“We recognize that not everyone plays on a square field with a round ball,” Iverson said.
That’s something that Canter knows firsthand. He was a young baseball prospect who even drew attention from the Seattle Mariners. But his heart wasn’t in baseball; he wanted to ride his bike. He liked the feeling of a community as well as the independence it offered.
“You could still be a team with your friends, with no coaches.” he said. “You saw what you could do for your own personal self.”
Canter continues to ride with his friends. The Kopachuck crew of old has become a group of men in their later-20s and 30s. Canter has an 8-year-old son, and he wants him to experience the thrill of riding.
“It’s where we go to forget about everything and have fun,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I grew up there. It made me a man.”