Nixon Turner's face said it all.
Smiling from ear to ear and letting out the occasional 'whoop' of joy, the 6 year old showed his approval of the new Salt Ash BMX track when he took his bike for a spin on it on Thursday afternoon, immediately after its official opening.
Nixon was not the only young bike rider that hit the track on Thursday, which Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said was "wonderful" to see.
"I am proud to deliver this for the youth of Port Stephens," he said. "This has been on council's projects list for a long time. I know the community has been waiting a long time for this, so it’s wonderful to be able to officially open the track ahead of schedule.
“We’re committed to investing in our community and this is something I know many have advocated for over a long period, including former Mayor Bruce MacKenzie. His passion for this project has been a driving force to achieve this wonderful outcome for the community."
The mini pump track, located in Lee Thompson Park next to the Salt Ash Community Hall, is the first of its kind in Port Stephens.
It has an asphalt seal rather than a traditional dirt track making it suitable for scooters, skateboards and bikes.
Its construction comes five years after Mr MacKenzie first floated the idea of a BMX track for Salt Ash and a year-long battle involving the NSW Environment Protection Authority, past councillors and members of the community that objected to the originally proposed location and method in which the track was being constructed.
The council resolved to build the BMX track in October 2015. But months earlier, in March 2015, Port Stephens Council transported and deposited approximately 20 tonnes of soil generated through construction activities at Salt Ash hall to the complex.
A further 3000 tonnes of excavated soil from the Peppertree Road development in Medowie was transported to the complex in July 2015.
The soil dump was done without a DA and support from the 355C committee, which kicked off a battle to have the proposed track moved to a site that was deemed more suitable, the matter investigated and soil tested.
Then councillor Geoff Dingle and Salt Ash Pony Club president Lisa Gregory were among those who raised concerns about the soil stockpile at the riding complex.
The EPA responded with an investigation that confirmed the presence of acid sulfate soils.
In 2016, the EPA fined Port Stephens Council $45,000 for the unlawful transport of waste and use of land as a waste facility.
The EPA also ordered the council to remove the soil from the riding complex. The council complied with the directive and removed the soil.
In August 2017 the council voted to build the BMX track in Michael Drive, next to the Salt Ash Hall.
The track's location was cemented following a community consultation process in June 2018 and work began on constructing it in February 2019.
While the construction period was due to take six weeks, to be finished in April 2019, it was done within four weeks and officially opened on March 14.
Port Stephens Council staff, councillors, hall committee representatives and members of the community turned out to the track on Thursday for its official opening.
Mr MacKenzie also attended the opening. He said he was "delighted to see it come to fruition".
"After all this time and many hassles it's great to see it done," he said. "It's great to see it already in use."
Among those that attended the track's official opening was national BMX champion Kale Warner.
The 18 year old from Sydney, who won the under-16 national championship in BMX, tested out the surface and put on an impressive display for onlookers.
Mr Warner's father, Scott, was part of the team from Dirtz Track that designed and built the Salt Ash track.
Kale rated the Salt Ash BMX track "10 out of 10".
"It looks good, it's in a good area, there's a lot of space around, it's an easy and fun track," he said. "It's going to be really enjoyable for everyone.
"Tracks like these are great for meeting people. You rock up and immediately have something in common with everyone else here."
James Andrews, chairman of the Salt Ash Community Hall and Park Committee, said the installation of the track was a "nice addition to the community".
"There's not much for kids to do out here. Once they outgrow the playground that's it. Having a track is much better than kids riding on the roads," he said.
The road to Salt Ash BMX track's construction:
- October 2015: Criticism bouncing off Mayor MacKenzie
- November 2015: Contamination fears prompt Port Stephens Council to fence off dirt piles
- December 2015: Questions raised over Salt Ash soil dump for BMX track
- February 2016: Salt Ash soil not contaminated says Port Stephens Council
- June 2016: Watchdog insists waste pile at the Salt Ash Pony Club must go
- September 2016: EPA fines Port Stephens Council, Cardno Pty Ltd for Salt Ash earthworks
- October 2016: Macka vows to build BMX track despite NSW EPA fine
- April 2017: Mackenzie's Salt Ash BMX track plan has ended with a deadline
- August 2017: Council changes tact on Salt Ash BMX track
- August 2018: MacKenzie asks 'where's the Salt Ash BMX bike track?'