The carving of off-road biking trails into the Francis Parkman Memorial parkland was an irresponsible act of vandalism. But plainly it was also a labor of love for a valid sport.
The underlying cause is not some wanton criminality. It is the City’s and the state’s long failures to provide public facilities for such activities.
It’s ironic to hear our government complain about such homemade park features when it has already made parks management a heavily DIY affair. Friends group are essentially taken for granted to provide programming, policing and maintenance. Corporations are permitted to stick water fountains and benches in the parks with little to no public review. We can surmise that if a bike-share company had decided to create this bike trail, the City would be nodding obediently and unveiling it with fanfare.
There’s a whiff of classic Boston stick-in-the-mud attitude here as well. Off-road and stunt biking have grown in popularity. Shops around the city sell bikes for them. Yet it has taken 10 years to get close to a groundbreaking on a skateboard and bike park promised as part of the Zakim Bridge downtown.
Even where similar youth-sports DIY efforts are tolerated, such as the mini skate park in the Southwest Corridor Park, it is largely left to its own users to build and fund them.
We seem to have forgotten that government is itself our DIY park improvement plan. Friends of the parks will always lend a hand. But our parks desperately need modern leadership, vision and advocacy.
Rather than simply stamping out DIY bike trails, the City and state should be inviting these youths out of hiding in the forest and into planning meetings for a great public facility.
It’s fair to call the Parkman Memorial trail a crime. But it is more thoughtfully taken as a suggestion and an inspiration.