'Pump track' set to open in park

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BENNINGTON — A planned revitalization of Stark Street Park is making headway with the completion of a pump track.

The goal is to open the 90-foot-long track later this month, said Jared Newell, a member of the board of directors of the Bennington Area Trail System (BATS).

"Should be in the coming weeks," he said. "We're letting it settle a little bit, with all the rain that we had."

BATS will hold a kickoff party for the track, which will be announced in its Facebook page and website, Newell said.

Building work was completed in two days in April by Tom Lepesqueur of Lepesqueur & Daughters, LLC. Volunteers did finishing work.

"Get the signage up, and we're ready to roll," Newell said.

The track cost about $6,000 in total; the entire cost was paid by donations, BATS funds and a $1,600 grant from the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, Newell said.

"No taxpayer money was used for it," Newell said of the track, which is made of a mixture of gravel and a clay substrate.

"It gets kids outside, and it gets kids familiar with biking on trails," Newell said. "It's a great learning environment."

Pump tracks have been popping up across the state in recent years, he said.

"... A lot of folks said, `hey we should get one in Bennington,'" he said. "We've been talking about it for a couple years and decided to make it happen."

BATS will maintain the track through volunteer work, which will probably be needed once or twice a year. "It shouldn't require much upkeep," Newell said.

The town will take care of the surrounding landscaping.

A pump track is a short, circular riding track that includes dirt mounds (rollers) and raised turns (berms), where a rider cycles not by pedaling but by carefully timed body motions ("pumping"), while creating and maintaining inertia. "Pumping" for a mountain biker riders allows them to maintain flow and momentum throughout the trail without having to pedal.

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These tracks are suited for any type of bike, and anyone age 3 and up can use the track. According to information from BATS, children typically begin using these trails riding normally, but as they improve their skills they develop the ability to ride without pedaling.

There are approximately two dozen other pump tracks throughout the state.

Other revitalization work

The track is one of five core projects developed for Stark Street Park along with restroom restoration, adding a walking loop, a nature playground and finding a solution for water drainage issues at the site.Officials are also working on other elements of the park, said Shannon Barsotti, community development director for the town.

The vision for the playground would turn it into a "nature playground," forgoing traditional playground equipment and building the components of the playground into the landscape, Barsotti said.

"Not just a typical big plastic playset," she said. A designer is currently working on the site plan, and work will be done this summer on putting that together, she said.

The playground plan is supported by a $30,000 grant from the Health Department.

For the walking loop, plans are less defined. Barsotti said she applied for an $18,000 grant from AARP for that element of the project, but has "no idea" if it will be awarded.

"We hope to install a walking loop," she said. "That's part of the plan. It's just figuring out the best way to do that."

The loop would go around the whole perimeter of the park. Barsotti said the organizers would like to get that done this summer.

Once the park is active, the town will put up a portable toilet, as restoration of restrooms would take place sometime next fiscal year — not this summer, Barsotti said.

There is also a grant for that of about $74,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Barsotti said.

Revitalization of Stark Street Park kicked off in fall 2017 and involved local organizations like the nearby Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Catamount Connections, BATS, the Department of Health and the town of Bennington.

Feedback in public meetings regarding the park revealed there was a high demand to restore the public restrooms at the park, add a walking loop, develop a pump track, add more access to the nearby trail system, and add a nature playground, the Banner previously reported.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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