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BMX park nears goal

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For just under three years, donations have been trickling in to the Tanner Olson Memorial BMX Park fund. Local businesses and nonprofits have hosted nearly a dozen fundraisers ranging from rail jams and slopestyle competitions to Missoula Bicycle Works' Helmet Project, which last month raised an estimated $6,100.

Kathy Jackson, Olson's mother, is optimistic that within the next few weeks, donations will finally hit the organization's original fundraising goal.

"We're waiting on some donations that have been promised to us, and once those donations arrive we should be at or very near $100,000," Jackson says, adding that sales of "I Ride for Tanner" merchandise account for about a quarter of the money raised so far.

Jackson's push to build a BMX park began shortly after Olson's death in a car accident outside Arlee in July 2011. Olson was 14; his cousin, 19-year-old Trevor Olson, was also killed. Jackson and other family members won a subsequent lawsuit against Hyundai this month, with a Lake County jury ruling that the car manufacturer owes the family $248 million. Hyundai promptly announced its intent to appeal.

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Nearing her fundraising goal isn't the only big news on Jackson's horizon. She and others have been meeting more frequently with Missoula Parks and Recreation in recent months in an attempt to select a site for the BMX park. Jackson says the list of options has been narrowed to three "promising" locations, and the final choice could be made within the next few months.

"Optimistically, we'd like to have a location nailed down by the end of summer so we could break ground this fall," she says.

Alex Gallego, owner of Missoula Bicycle Works and an active voice in the park discussion, says once the final site selection is made the design process can officially begin. Much of that work will fall to professionals, he adds, but those behind the park effort will be reaching out to local cyclists for input on what they'd like to see. Based on what Gallego's heard, an easily accessible city bike park geared toward all ages and skill levels has been a long time coming.

"Working at the bike shop, we have folks coming in regularly wondering about this park—where's it going to be, when's it going to get built, what can they do to help," Gallego says. "We're super motivated to make that happen because they've been waiting for a long time."

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