The gate to the only Santa Fe, N.M., sanctioned motocross track is locked, and city leaders aren’t sure when they will open it.
The problem, said city Risk Management Director Barbara Boltrek, is that the city lacks appropriate liability insurance for the track west of N.M. 599. Adjusters from Travelers Insurance visited the park this week, however, and are expected to report back about how much the additional coverage will cost the city and whether the firm that carries the city’s other liability insurance will even agree to include the dirt track.
The 55-acre Buckman Track started to show up on official maps of the city’s La Tierra Trails network last year, and a grand opening took place in October. But the bumps, jumps and ramps for motorcycles and ATVs on the city land had been developing with volunteer and public labor for decades.
It’s not clear why officials didn’t plan to secure additional insurance coverage when they spent more than $450,000 from a 2008 voter-approved bond issue on a road, parking lot and perimeter fence to create better access to the track. Boltrek said she first became aware of potential liability issues there in November, when she was contacted by Parks Division Director Ben Gurule.
Track users aren’t happy with the way the city has handled the situation. In January, the Public Information Office announced the track would be “closed for the remainder of the winter season, due to ice and snow,” but didn’t provide a reopening date. Boltrek said this week that she won’t recommend restoring public access to the site until insurance issues have been addressed.
“I think we will have a much better idea within a month,” she said. “It is so unfamiliar, and it is so new to the city that I just would feel more comfortable if we got advice from people that are more knowledgeable than we are.”
Jason Perdue, who owns Southwest Motorsports Resource on Calle La Resolana, said he gets daily telephone inquiries about the track. After spending a significant amount of his own time and money working on track improvements in the last year, seeing the locked gate is hard to take, he said.
“I was very upset,” he said. “These are all the questions we asked before we volunteered our time and spent our money out there – ‘What about the liabilities?’ They said everything is a go just like it would be for a normal park, so I went ahead with it.”
Perdue says he’s also miffed that signs at the track entrance blame the closure on weather.
“I think they should be honest with everybody and tell them that it is liability, it is not just closed for the winter,” he said. “I don’t think that is very cool because I know why, and I tell everybody why it is actually closed.”
Daniel Coriz is one of the go-to guys at the track, advocating for the rights of those who use motorized vehicles on public open spaces when others opposed universal access for all users. He’s part of a loose organization called “I Ride NM,” and serves on the city’s Parks and Open Space Advisory Commission, which this week met with Boltrek and a city attorney to discuss the situation.
“I’d like to see an open track, open all year round. It was sad to see that we lost a lot of riding space out there,” Coriz said. “A large percentage of the hiking and biking trails (at La Tierra) were made by motorcycles and ATVs. Now we can’t use them. But we settled for the track, and now it is shut down.”
Bette Booth, commission chairwoman, said the group is likely to ask the mayor to take action regarding the insurance situation.
“The key thing is that the city has spent more than a half-million dollars for a facility that no one can currently use,” she said, “and (the commission) will continue to push hard to look for ways that people can.”
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