Santa Cruz mountain bikers fulfill their needs
Despite estimated thousands of mountain bikers living in Santa Cruz County, there are only around a dozen legal multi-use trails (MUT) for the sport.
One such legal MUT is the recently built Emma McCrary Trail, which was funded and carried out by the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC), a local nonprofit that advocates for MUTs. But with demand for bicycling outlets high, and the unraveling of bureaucratic red tape known to take years, the community has gotten together to fill that need in the form of new pump tracks.
A cousin to mountain biking, and similar to a BMX course, a pump track is “a flat bike track built out of dirt with rolling and curved features,” according to Scott Veach, the ring leader of a new pump track at Chanticleer Park and employee of Santa Cruz Bicycles.
“The object is to use your body weight to ‘pump’ through the terrain rather than pedal through,” he says. “The track is built with this in mind so that you could essentially get through the whole track without [pedaling].”
Santa Cruz is home to some of the best mountain bikers in the world. Locals like Andrew Taylor, Ryan Howard and brothers Cam and Tyler McCaul are known for their style, and therefore, for pushing the sport. But these athletes wouldn’t be internationally known if it weren’t for local opportunities that allowed them to hone their skills. This is where folks like Jesse Nickell, senior vice president of construction and development at Barry Swenson Builder, come in. He allowed dirt jumps to be built on the Barry Swenson Builder property across from the Aptos Post Office back in 2001. Barry Swenson Builder then leased the property to the Santa Cruz County Parks Department in 2006. These jumps are one of three throughout Santa Cruz County. The Polo Grounds Park in Aptos—which has a pump track as well—and Depot Park are the other two.
However, the community is anticipating the loss of the Aptos jumps and pump track. (It’s a “dying dog” in the words of Cam McCaul.) The pump track, which is near the entrance of The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, will be destroyed as new development plans get under way in the Aptos Village. Nickell says the jumps will be demolished next spring and the pump track may remain for a few more years.
But the community is preparing for the inevitable razing—whenever it may occur.
There are currently three different pump tracks being built across Santa Cruz County, which would bring the total to five. On July 26, the Chanticleer Park Neighbors Association broke ground at a park in Live Oak. Paid for by the Chanticleer Park Neighbors, the pump track is an addition to a family-friendly playground that also includes a dog park and a community garden.
Also on the horizon is a pump track that will be built at 100 Western Drive. The Santa Cruz City Council gave the green light to William Ow of Ow Properties, which owns the site, on June 25.
“As avid mountain bikers, we have seen a proliferation of pump tracks throughout the Western United States, enjoyed some backyard ones with friends, and ridden the Aptos pump track numerous times,” says Chris Wagner-Jauregg, owner of Another Bicycle Shop, which will build the Westside bicycle park. “However, while the Aptos pump track is great, it’s too far away from the Westside of Santa Cruz.”
He says the track, which is being funded by “private, local, bicycle industry donors,” should be open this September or October.
Then there’s the track coming to fruition thanks to the Scotts Valley City Council, which is listening to its constituents, says Nick Thelen, Scotts Valley Parks & Recreation Commissioner. The impetus for the pump track, for which a temporary usage permit was approved on Aug. 21, was “community demand,” he says.
“Scotts Valley is home to many mountain bikers and mountain bike businesses, yet there isn’t anywhere in [the] city limits to enjoy mountain biking,” Thelen says. “A pump track utilizes a relatively small parcel of land for public use that is A, inexpensive, B, quick to build and C, fun for families and riders of all ages and abilities.”
Local mountain bike businesses and a donation from MBOSC are funding the project. The temporary park is slated to be built in Sky Park, completed by the end of the year, and used for three to five years.
The benefits of having these different pump tracks in Santa Cruz County will be wide-ranging, says Wagner-Jauregg.
“We look at the benefits for the youth of the community,” he says. “Sure, there will be older, happy mountain bikers getting a great workout and off-road bicycle skills training, but getting kids on bikes is by far the biggest benefit to the Santa Cruz community. Now even a non-bike-riding single parent can bring their child to a park and safely develop the child’s bicycle-riding skills in a controlled environment, without having to travel far or take them out on the trails themselves.”