New-style bicycle track comes to Hazelwood park

Find out here what a ‘Pumptrack’ is, and where they plan to build it. It seems like a good idea, but neighbors do have some small concerns, it appears …

Portland Parks & Recreation’s Sarah Coates Huggins shows of plans for the “Pumptracks” proposed for Ventura Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
To some, it’s a new bicycling adventure and skills area. Others say they’re a little concerned that  it might look like “dirt piles” in the park.

But, the consensus is that adding two “Pumptracks” to the Hazelwood neighborhood’s Ventura Park, just north of SE Stark St. is worth trying.

“We’re seeing what people think about adding bike skill areas, called Pumptracks, here in the park,” said the smiling Sarah Coates Huggins, a planner with Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), at an introductory event on April 9.

Victoria Pinzon tries riding on a raised wooden sections that simulate a Pumptrack, as neighbors comment about the idea behind her.

In simple terms, a Pumptrack is a dirt course. “It kind of looks like ski moguls or rounded dirt mounds that cyclists can use to practice their bicycle skills,” Coates Huggins explained. “They can ride the course without even pedaling.”

A bicyclist uses the momentum gained by going down moguls to coast up the next one, she said. “The moguls propel you through the course. You practice it by balancing on your bike. You’re pumping with your legs by doing a push off rather than pedaling. It’s a great form of exercise, and a good way to practice the bike skills.”

The upper Pumptrack, just south of Ventura Elementary School, is for young bikers; the lower track will be dedicated to more skilled bicyclists.

Coates Huggins said this is a new concept for PP&R. “So, we’re excited to see what people think about the idea. Northwest Trail Alliance is our partner with us on this project. They brought to our Bureau’s attention the real need to try something of this nature in the Portland area. There actually volunteering to build and maintain the bike skill area for Portland Parks & Recreation.”

Because they were looking for a site in outer East Portland where there haven’t been a lot of park amenities, they chose Ventura Park, at SE 115th Avenue & Stark Street, for the test site. “This is a lovely seven-acre park, next to an elementary school, with great transit access, including bus and the MAX light rail line,” Coates Huggins observed. “We thought it would be a very appropriate site.”

Track builds bicycling skills
“A Pumptrack is really good for learning balance, and for basic bike-handling skills like cornering, speed control, braking, and all the things you would use either on a road bike, or when you’re out in the woods riding,” pointed out Tom Archer, President of the Northwest Trail Alliance, the local chapter of international Mountain Bicycling Association.

Tom Archer, President of the Northwest Trail Alliance, demonstrates “how it’s done” at the Pumptrack event in Ventura Park.

“It’s also good for building your physical conditioning,” Archer continued. “And, it helps bicyclists ride more safely. A lot of people say they feel intimidated when riding on the road, because they don’t have a high degree of confidence in riding their bicycle. This will give them the chance to build those skills without having to mix it up with cars. Hopefully they can take those skills and be more comfortable riding around in their own neighborhood.”

We asked Archer if an adult could feel foolish riding on the track.

“No, not at all,” he replied. “There is a place for ‘kids of all ages’ – the park will feature two separate tracks. The one on the upper area will be oriented for kids, and the lower one will be for more intermediate and advanced riders of all ages.”

Hazelwood Neighborhood Association’s president, Arlene Kimura, says that neighbors generally accept the idea of building the tracks here – but did express a couple of concerns.

Says concept is accepted by neighbors

Arlene Kimura, president of Hazelwood Neighborhood Association was also on hand soliciting feedback. “I actually feel that it will be a very positive thing for the park.”

Some concerns that have been expressed, Kimura said. “One of these concerns regards the landscaping: how the tracks will look in relationship to the rest of the park. Others have said they hope it doesn’t look like ‘big dirt piles’. We’ve had some discussions about the design, and the placement of where it would fit into the park.”

Because two tracks are proposed, Kimura added that some residents question how the tracks will be positioned – in relation to the whole park. “And, if you have little kids, it’s not a good idea to have them on the track with older, more skill riders. But neighbors here would be supportive if the Parks Department takes their concerns into consideration.”

If all issues can be worked out, Coates Huggins said they hope to build the tracks, and to have them ready for use by June or July.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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