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A bike skills park is proposed for Springside Park.

Parks Commission Approves Concept for Bike Skills Park

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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The track is proposed to be to the north of the playground.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Parks Commission has approved the concept of a bike skills park in Springside Park subject to the commission conducting a walkthrough of the site before its next meeting in December.

This motion was made after Alison McGee, president for the Berkshire Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association and program lead for the Little Bellas Berkshire Program gave a presentation on the project proposal to the commission.

Little Bellas is a five-year-old program that mentors young girls through mountain biking.

McGee has been working with Garrett Pulley of the Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Series and Kevin Delaney of the Shire Shredders youth cycling program to put this project together.

They are proposing the construction of a bike skills park in the Berkshires that includes a "pump track" and other features. Specifically, they want the location to be Springside Park. They believe this skills park will be a significant and well-designed attraction that will play a crucial role in further developing outdoor recreation in the Berkshires.

They also believe it will be a healthy, safe, inclusive, and fun attraction for people of all ages.

A pump track is a continuous loop of thoughtfully contoured and groomed riding surfaces called rollers and berms. Riding on a pump track involves less pedaling, instead, riders propel themselves through the track by shifting their body weight or "pumping" in conjunction with the track's contours.

A pump track creates an experience where a rider can work on their bike handling skills while having an excellent workout. It can be designed in different sizes and rider abilities or as a generic layout that is still usable and fun for all ages of riders.

"It's a really versatile feature to have," McGee said.

The main purpose of a track is to provide a community gathering place where those that enjoy off-road bicycles can "play." McGee said these facilities are important to biking because they help develop strong skills.

Pump tracks can be made of a variety of materials including dirt and payment, can be specifically tailored to the surrounding environment of the track.

McGee and the team have been working with Powder Horn Trail Co. and specifically with the owner/builder of the company Will Conroy.  Conroy has recent experience working on a similar project in Keene, N.H., and specializes in "finish work," which includes planting specific plant and tree species to match natural surroundings.

"This was really important as I was in discussion with the Springside Park Conservancy Group," McGee said. "because they had pointed out that the natural surroundings are really important and that something that looks like a heap of dirt would not really fit in."

She noted that Conroy's company also possesses electrical, woodworking, stonework, and driveway formation skills, which could benefit other goals in the park.

The bike skills park would cover approximately one acre of Springside Park's property. The desired components would include a young kids area, a beginner to intermediate pump track, an advanced area, and a tabletop/jump line area, and a cross-country skills arena.

"Some of these types of features were built in Springside Park in an unauthorized way so they do already exist and there are people who would want to use them," McGee said. "By bringing them to a professionally built bike skills area it would not only be safer but it would be able to be monitored and just be more official all around."

The desired location for the bike skills park is northeast of the North Playground. Since it is in close proximity to Reid Middle School and Morningside neighborhood, McGee believes that it will make important steps in preventing barriers to entry in outdoor recreation.

This location has also housed successful pre-existing youth cycling programs such as Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Series, Little Bellas, and the Shire Shredders.

McGee said the park would add to what is becoming a true learning environment for mountain bikers.

This location was chosen because it is centrally located within the county, allowing it to become an accessible attraction. Springside Park was also chosen as a location because it abuts multiple neighborhoods including at-risk communities.

The team believes a pump track will provide unique and unprecedented access to desirable activities for youth and adults in a positive healthy and safe manner, giving at-risk communities the same access to healthy recreational activities as other communities.

McGee said this project addresses multiple points of the Springside Park Master Plan as well as concerns related to the unauthorized dirt jumps and features. This project would be an epicenter for youth involvement, is in proximity to pre-existing trails and community events and races, and involves open spaces with a focus on outdoor recreation, she said.

This project is aimed to provide facilities for one of Berkshire County's most popular recreation activities.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission recently completed a lengthy study of outdoor recreation in the Berkshires and mountain biking was highlighted as one of the top recreation activities in the area as well as cycling.

To fund this project, Berkshire NEMBA with the Berkshire Mountain Bike Training Series and Shire Shredders would pursue funding on their own, independent of the park or city.  

McGee said they have already fundraised enough to cover the cost of an initial concept plan by Powder Horn from a community bike race event in March 2020 at Bosquet in Pittsfield.

They would also pursue grants, local funding from interested agencies, crowdsourcing, and fundraising to aid the project.

Commissioner Cliff Nilan said he would like to visit all of the sites that were discussed before formally approving the proposal. He said it is something the commission would have to look at closer and take some time and think about, suggesting that it should be discussed further in future meetings.

The commission agreed that doing a walk-through of the proposed sites would be a good idea and that they needed more time to digest the proposal and make sure everyone is comfortable with it.

"Certainly I like the idea of where it is," said Commissioner Simon Muil. "It is highly visible because it encourages kids to go use it and because it is more likely to be used for desirable purposes rather than undesirable purposes."

Chairman Anthony DeMartino concluded there were no red flags in this proposal, but it pends additional discussion since it is quite an elaborate project and big addition to the park.

Tags: biking,   Springside Park,   

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