Fast Digs Update: Bonelli Park

Fast Digs originally started out as a look at some of the venues in the greater Los Angeles area that have been used for racing, past and present. Some of those venues have been structures, specifically velodromes, while others have been open spaces and multi-use areas, prominently parks. Lately the original "mission" has expanded with a greater focus on people and races, rather than venue. That is alright, the more all-encompassing view, the more complete picture is what I am really after anyway. That said, I want to step back for this update, to consider a venue that has been increasingly significant to the bicycle racing scene over the past few decades - Bonelli Park.

Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park, named for the Los Angeles County Supervisor who, in 1959, led the drive to bring the park lands operations under the management of the county Department of Parks and Recreation. In practice, though, the Department (and its predecessor agency) had been involved with the park for many years previous.

The dam, and lake (Puddingstone Reservoir) around which the park has grown, was completed in 1928 as a flood control and groundwater replenishment facility at the site of, what was known as Mud Springs. There, at the north side of the dam (on Puddingstone Drive), an adobe house has stood since the mid-1800s - la Casa de Carrion was one of a number of adobes built on the Rancho Santa Fe. A plaque recognizing its historic significance notes that the adobe was built in 1868 by Satumino Carrion. The house was restored in 1951 and is today a private residence. By 1931 the public was using the reservoir for fishing and swimming. From that point through early 1970s, when a swim park (now Raging Waters) was opened, the park saw numerous facility upgrades and recreational improvements, including opportunities for boating, picnicking, and other activities along the north shore. By 1976, when the RV campground opened, the south shore had also been developed with picnic and fishing areas, a sailboat launch, renovations to the Mountain Meadows Golf Course, and construction of the Equestrian Center. A final piece to the puzzle, the locally famous Hot Tubs, opened in 1986.

Today, Bonelli Park spreads out over about 2220 acres of rolling hills and canyons with a 5-mile shoreline around the 250 acre reservoir. Dirt roads and trails wend across the hills covered with chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitat, and into hollows shaded by pines, willows and California walnut.

Frank G. Bonelli Regional County Park has played host to mountain bike races, road races, cyclocross races and, giving credit to the fact that triathlons include a cycling component, triathlons as well. I am not sure when the first race at Bonelli Park took place, the earliest I can confirm at this point is one that I raced on Sunday 10 March 1996, the Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water Road Race, though some three months earlier, a New Years Day cyclocross race took place at Bonelli as well.

Most recently, cyclocross races have been held at Bonelli in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 as part of the Southern California Prestige Series, with those in 2007 and 2010 being UCI sanctioned events. None have been held in the park since then, though a group of local riders has held a weekly cyclocross practice there through the summer months in preparation for the race season.

These years the park may be best known as the site of the second stage road race of the annual San Dimas Stage Race, and for the multiple mountain bike races held there each year. Those races include the six-hour Turn and Burn, a new early-season eight-hour race, a stop of the southern California Triple Crown series, and the Kenda Cup West, and US Cup series races, each of which attract top national and even international racers to their early season competitive courses. National and World Champions including Katerina Nash, Georgia Gould, Emily Batty, Catharine Pendrel, Lea Davison, Erin Huck, Tinker Juarez, Todd Wells, Jeff Kabush, and many others have made Bonelli a challenging stop for both the Kenda and US Cup series.

Finally, lest we forget, before you race, you must train - few are the local groups that do not include a run through Bonelli as part of their regular routes; perhaps most notable among them, the long running, weekly Bud's Ride.

As you may know Los Angeles has put forth a proposal to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2024, and included in that proposal is the use of Bonelli Park as site for the mountain bike races. Whether or not that comes about remains to be seen at some point in the future. While such an event may very well be the crowning glory for racing at Bonelli, it is a crown crafted from a great amount of precedent.