The Chesterfield BMX Racing Club is based at Ringwood Park, between Brimington and Staveley. Libby Hawkins, one of the volunteers who runs the club, said their track was recently vandalised, with safety fences smashed and the tarmac itself being damaged.
“Whether it’s kids or teenagers, they’re coming down and damaging the track and smashing the fences.
“We’re struggling at the minute. We’re coming up to our 40th year as a club, and even though we’ve got around 70 members – with a big boom in demand after the GB BMX team won medals at the Olympics – the skeleton of people who help run the club is minimal.
We’re a community group – the council don’t run the club or maintain the track – so every penny and moment counts for us to keep the doors open.”
Libby said that the vandalism could scupper the club’s opportunity to host a prestigious competition – including a number of international-level riders – in just a few weeks.
“It could cause problems for us as we’re hosting round nine of the Midlands regional series for BMX racing on Sunday, July 24.
“We can have up to 300 racers competing at that, and the track has to be signed off as safe by British Cycling. Part of that is making sure there are safety barriers at places where people could come off the track – which have been damaged.
“A lot of the bikers are international-level, so there’s some very fast and talented riders. To have more stuff go wrong makes things really difficult, and we’ve got a lot of work to do over the next few weeks.”
Chesterfield Borough Council have agreed to help the club with their repairs, in the hope of ensuring that the competition goes ahead. Libby, however, said that the problems at the track go beyond the recent spate of vandalism.
The club is fundraising to fix the drainage at Ringwood and upgrade their facilities. Libby said that, without these upgrades, they may have no choice but to close the track.
“We need to get the drainage sorted. As soon as it rains it creates landslides, which is a nightmare, but if we get the correct drainage system in place, the track won’t get damaged when it rains. We won’t constantly be playing this catch-up game then, but we need a big injection of cash to get on top of that.
“We’re also trying to raise money for a new start gate, which the riders lean against before they start racing. We want to replace to old, cast-iron gate, which is a bit scary for the young kids, so we’re trying to raise £25,000 for a new start gate and start hill to be put in.
“We’re quite a way off with that, so anything else that we need to spend money on is a real spanner in the works. We’re living on the grace of the community, and if we don’t get this stuff sorted soon, we face the possibility of having to close the doors.”
Libby added that, with the facilities at Ringwood Park needing improvement, towns such as Staveley and Chesterfield could lose potential Olympic athletes to the likes of Derby and Nottingham.
“We’re a professional sport, but BMX very much goes under the radar. I’ve got riders that will be competing at the world championships next year, but we’re losing people to tracks in Derby and Nottingham because ours aren’t up to scratch.
“We could have a future Olympian, but lose them to a different club as we can’t facilitate their needs. I’m a qualified coach at that level, but we don’t have the arena to do it currently, which is ridiculous.”
For more information – including details of free summer BMX classes – head to the Chesterfield BMX Racing Club Facebook page.