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Pump track good for kids and adults

PRESCHOOLER LUCY BOWDISH and her bike crest a hillock on the new Middlebury Pump Track on the day it opened, Wednesday, May 31. Bowdish and scads of other bikers are taking advantage of a new amenity that supports healthy, outdoor recreation and could be an attraction to draw more families to town. Independent photos/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — It’s fun, it’s free and it’s kid friendly.

It’s the Middlebury Bike Pump Track, which opened last week at the Middlebury Recreation Park.

“I had a chance to see the finished pump track yesterday for the first time, and it was awesome!” said Middlebury parent Dave Nulsen. “I spent about two hours (on and off) there with my daughters, aged 2 and 6, and we had a blast!”

Scores of children — preschoolers and up — brought their bikes to a May 31 ribbon cutting at the track near the town pool. Like pump tracks elsewhere, it has a dirt surfaces and features little hills and banked turns that are challenging and fun.

HENRY LUSSIER, Brody Tolas, Ellie Butler and Jay Mulligan wait with anticipation as Middlebury Pump Track group leader Erik Remsen cuts
the red ribbon signifying the official opening of the track in the town rec park last Wednesday.
Independent photo/Steve James

Erik Remsen, Middlebury Bike Pump Track Group Leader, said that a pump track was a missing piece of free and accessible outdoor recreation in Middlebury. 

“This, and the proposed skatepark, provide community gathering spaces for healthy recreation, and both enhance the town, especially in the eyes of young families,” Remsen said. “I think that coming out of the worst of the COVID pandemic, there was a recognition that these places, like the (Trail Around Middlebury) or the outdoor ice rink that was constructed in Rec Park in previous winters, where people can recreate for free, are important and essential elements of a thriving community.”

At a pump track, younger or more inexperienced riders can build bike skills, like balance and turning. Experienced bikers, including adults, will find a challenge in knitting together different possible routes around the track by pumping, not pedaling, Remsen explained.

There are already pump tracks in Bristol and in the Moosalamoo Campground in Goshen.

CREATING THE NEW pump track in the Middlebury Recreation Park was the work of many. Some key supporters and organizers, shown on opening day, were, from left, Vermont Mountain Bike Association Executive Director Nick Bennette, Middlebury Pump Track group leader Erik Remsen, Middlebury Parks Superintendent Dustin Hunt, Addison County Bike Club President George Lawrence, Parks Department Program Coordinator Scott Bourne, pump track designer Brooke Scatchard and ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows.
Independent photo/Steve James

The idea of building a pump track here has been kicking around with both the Addison County Bike Club and the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department for a while. The effort kicked into high gear in the winter of 2022, when advocates started working toward an Agency of Commerce and Community Development grant through the Better Places program.

While Remsen was crucial in bringing all the pieces of planning and fundraising together, he credited a long list of others who he said were also essential:

• George Lawrence, president of Addison County Bike Club, who with the club secured a Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBS) naming grant from Cabot.

• Dustin Hunt and Scott Bourne of Middlebury Parks and Rec, who helped to select the location and garner support from the town’s Parks and Recreation Committee.

• Bill Kernan and Emmalee Cherington of the Department of Public Works, who helped negotiate the permitting process.

OSKAR MURPHY IS developing important mountain bike skills such as cornering, jumping and
positioning on the bike during a run through the Middlebury pump track last week.
Independent photo/Steve James

• Richard Amore and Camryn Greer, from the Better Places grant program, who helped organizers get through the grant process and helped build and launch an online crowdfunding campaign.

• Brooke Scratchard from Sinuosity Flowing Trails, who designed and built the pump track,

• Claire Tebbs and Karen Duguay, who gave helpful guidance and advice about leading this sort of project.

Remsen also credited the town selectboard and Addison Central School District Board for writing letters of support for the grant, and, of course, to everyone who donated to the crowdfunding campaign.

Building the pump track cost a little more than $20,000. Remsen explained that the pump track group exceeded its goal of raising $6,000 through a crowdfunding site, and as a result received a 2-for-1 match from the state ($12,000). The bike club received a $5,000 VMBA naming grant that connects outdoor-minded businesses with projects in their area. 

The pump track has seen daily use since it opened. Remsen understands that a few more kids are biking to Mary Hogan Elementary School in the morning so they can use the pump track after school. 

HATTIE CLARK and Jay Mulligan lead a group of preschoolers up a hillock on the Middlebury pump track on opening day. Coming right along are Maddux Barnes, Ellie Butler and Faeryn Lathrop.
Independent photo/Steve James

“I think it demonstrates the appetite in town for healthy and free recreation opportunities that can be accessed any time either with a group or on your own,” Remsen said. “I’m hopeful this can be a proof on concept for the skatepark and that the pump track can give a boost to that project.”

Nulsen said that the importance of this addition to the recreation park can’t be understated. 

“Although we love the traditional recreation opportunities (playground, sports fields, etc.), my daughters also love riding their bikes and scooters,” he said. “In the past, we’ve had to drive to Bristol or the Moosalamoo Campground to ride a pump track, but now I can pick my oldest daughter up from Mary Hogan and go straight to this pump track and have a great time.”

Nulsen sees a thirst among the youth of our community to have this type of recreation opportunity. And he hope to have more options, particularly in the form of a skatepark, which is currently being developed.

The support this pump track project has seen showed how Middlebury supports the community’s youth, Nulsen said.

“As recreation interests have changed, our community really stepped up and responded by supporting a project like this,” he said.

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