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IMPD building mountain bike park to better connect with kids

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – IMPD officers in the north district have been working tirelessly off-the-clock to build a stronger relationship with kids in the neighborhood.

You could say they’re building a bridge to the community or carving out a path towards friendship. Whatever you want to call it, it’s hard work.

“All manual labor,” said Officer John Wall with a big smile on his face.

For a couple hours a day, several days a week over the past few weeks, officers with the IMPD North District Bike Unit have been creating a mountain bike skills park. It’s located where the old Indianapolis Zoo used to be at Washington Park near 30th and North Dearborn Street.

“It’s a dream come true to me,” said Officer Wall. “I’ve been thinking about this project for a couple of years. I exercise in this park after work and I saw this land just not being used.”

He came up with the idea with his bike unit partner Officer Michael Maxwell.

The duo got permission from Indy Parks, but one thing they didn’t get was any funding. All of the work is done on their own time. They also get help from volunteers.

Wall said a Boy Scout troop helped build dirt jumps. He said the wood for the track was donated by Wooley Lumber in Indianapolis.

The park will feature a pump track, drop areas, and soon a two-mile mountain bike track that weaves through a wooded area.

“There’s going to be everything from beginner level obstacles up to advance level. So you’ll be able to progress your skills,” he said.

One of the volunteers helping Monday afternoon was Roger Hasper. He works for Freewheelin’ Community Bikes, a youth development organization nearby that’s centered on cycling. He hopes the park will help keep area kids out of trouble.

“You leave any kid idle and he’ll do what a kid does,” said Hasper. “If you give him something positive to do he’ll enjoy doing that and benefit from it. And this is a spot (where) hopefully that will be happening.”

For Wall, it’s all about using the park as a way to form new relationships with the people he protects.

“It helps build self-esteem, it helps build character and confidence and trust in one another that you have learned something and are able to apply it then out on the trail,” said Wall.

Hasper agrees with Wall, feeling the park should build a better bond between children and police.

“It’s not an everyday connection that a child of this area might be able to interact with a police officer on a very positive scale,” said Hasper.

Kids don’t need to worry if they don’t have a bike. Organizers said they have a least 50 bikes that they’ll keep at the park for children of all ages and sizes. They said the bikes were paid for through donations.

The mountain bike trail is far from finished but organizers hope to have at least half a mile of it done by next month.

There will be a soft opening in early April for a few little league teams, then a grand opening just in time for summer.