At the beginning of the month on October 7, the Sisters Bike Park 242 in Sisters, Oregon reopened to an excited community. The event brought out local partnering businesses and organizations and many local riders eager to ride the new jump lines.
Recently, we have seen an influx of “bike parks” built into the heartbeat of cities and communities where mountain biking is popular. These bike parks offer more than traditional singletrack, often incorporating jump lines and ladder drops into their footprint. A few have popped up in Boise, Idaho, Truckee, California, and Bentonville, Arkansas.
Now, Sisters, Oregon, can rejoin that list. Technically, the bike park existed, but the area fell into disrepair in recent years. New faces and vision have rejuvenated the project, and the bike park is running again.
Located about 20-miles northwest of Bend, Oregon, the small community of Sisters was more known for its western-themed downtown and iconic quilt show than mountain biking.
Peterson Ridge is the closest trail system to the town. While phenomenal views of the Cascade Mountain Range exist, the system consists primarily of connecting, non-technical, green XC trails. But, the exhilaration of pedaling fast on flat trails wains and some riders are left wanting more tech, steeps, and gravity in general.
There is great potential for more technical trails in the surrounding area. More trails are what the people behind the reinvention of Sisters Bike Park 242 hope for. The rebuilt bike park represents a different style of riding uncommon to Sisters and is a starting point for more trails in the area, some already being proposed.
The original Bike Park 242
Joel Palanuk was Central Oregon Trail Alliance’s (COTA) first Chapter Representative for Sisters and one person behind the original Sisters Bike Park 242 back in 2015. He has since moved on from the position but attended the grand reopening.
The Sisters chapter of COTA initially envisioned a 20-year buildout plan to create a singletrack network, working with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). “Through our experience with the Forest Service, we realized it would be a longer-term plan. So we wanted to look for lower-hanging fruit,” Palanuk said.
That “lower-hanging fruit” came from the Bike Park 242 proposal. Palanuk teamed up with Casey Meudt, owner of the local bike shop in Sisters, Blazin Saddles. The pair worked with Sisters Park and Recreation District (SPRD), which permitted them to use the land the bike park is on.
Donations and funds began to come together to get the project off the ground. People gave materials and dirt for the project.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” said Palaunk. “We used our money from our businesses… like the Sisters Stampede bought that storage container.”
Palanuk referred to a tool storage container doubling as the park’s take-off platform. The Sisters Stampede is a popular XC race in the area that Palanuk founded.
Over the years, however, the park began to fall into disrepair. Palanuk said volunteer numbers dwindled.
“It was never my heart and passion,” Palanuk said, “so I was so happy to see a team of people spearheading revamping things. Coming out here has been an emotional experience.”
A Bike Park Rejuvenated
The torch passed, in a way, from Palanuk to Steve Smith and Mark Miskowiec.
Smith relocated to Sisters in 2020, where he quickly jumped into community involvement, including the mountain bike community. He became a volunteer with SPRD and Sisters’ chapter of COTA.
Shortly after moving to the area, Smith was in Sisters’ local bike shop, Blazin Saddles, where he first learned of the original Bike Park 242. “I didn’t know we had a bike park here,” Smith said. He soon found out why.
“They basically got it going, and it was riding for a small amount of time, then it got taken back by the earth,” Smith said. He grew up building dirt jumps in Southern California, so rather than seeing overgrown weeds and mounds of dirt, Smith saw what could be.
Also in 2020, Miskowiec volunteered to take over as Chapter Rep of COTA in Sisters. COTA and Miskowiec hoped to see more trails come to the area. The rejuvenation of Bike Park 242 was the first step in that process.
Miskowiec and Smith first met at a work day for Bike Park 242. The park was so neglected that by the time Miskowiec took over as Chapter Rep, he was all but unaware of it. “I knew it was here, but I didn’t know we had anything to do with it.”
Fast forward to 2022, COTA received a grant from the Central Oregon Visitors Association for bike parks. “We got this grant for $15,000, and we hired Blacksage,” Miskowiec said. “We couldn’t think of a park that needed more help than Sisters.”
SPRD matched the funds, and COTA hired Kyle Jameson and his trail-building company, Blacksage Dirtworks. New jumps were soon underway.
Miskowiec and Smith sang praises based on their experience working with SPRD. “It was really easy; really awesome to work with them,” Miskowiec said, thinking of the potential ease of getting more work, such as asphalt on some of the pump tracks in the future.
After securing the funds and contracting with Blacksage, Miskowiec, Smith, and COTA needed to wait for the spring thaw. Once the ground thawed and dried up enough (Central Oregon has a nasty freeze-thaw cycle), the rebuild of Sisters Bike Park 242 kicked off. Jameson and Blacksage first (re)broke ground back in May 2023.
Not without support and future plans
Miskowiec can’t talk about Bike Park 242 without discussing support from the community, like SPRD and Meudt at Blazin’ Saddles. Smith talks about Palanuk, who first pioneered the bike park project. Miskowiec then mentions Michelle Smith, who “was up past midnight last night, sending out emails to ensure everything for this event is taken care of.”
Bike Park 242 means something to the community of Sisters, Oregon. It brings potential tourism to the city—Sisters is a main gateway to the east side of the state and mountain biking destinations such as Bend and Mt. Bachelor—and it gives mountain bikers in Sisters more options of ridable terrain.
“So few people in the city of Sisters are jumping their mountain bikes. Everything here is very cross-country oriented,” Smith said. “All of these kids—most of the people here are from Bend, Redmond, and Prineville,” he added, gesturing to the masses of kids riding the jumps, most of whom came from surrounding cities to attend the grand opening.
The hope is to provide local riders with an opportunity to try different terrain and riding styles, allowing for growth beyond the current XC trails.
“Hopefully, here in the next few years, we’re looking to have a trail built that is more flow-oriented and shuttle-able,” Smith said. The proposed area is just southwest of Sisters, getting into the foothills of the Cascades. Smith had plans to begin flagging the area with the USFS the following week.
The mountain bike community in Sisters is certainly nothing new. But by offering more riding options, perhaps more mountain bikers in Sisters will see their riding style represented in their community.