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A Bike Park for Santa Cruz

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by Andrew Juiliano

Sept. 13, 2013—Featuring 40 acres of progressive terrain for any kind of dirt-worthy bicycle, Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, Colorado is the country’s largest public mountain bike park. The multiple pump tracks, dirt jumps and wooden features, coupled with the network of flowing single track, are a surreal mecca for a mountain biking pilgrimage. A July trip there left me longing for a similar facility in Santa Cruz.

So I nearly spat out my beer when Nate Pfefferkorn stood up at the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz monthly meeting in August and announced, “We’re building a bike park right here in Santa Cruz County.” Pfefferkorn, the director of adventure and recreation programs at Mount Hermon Conference Center, explained that the outdoor Christian retreat just outside Felton recently acquired 15 acres of new land next door to the Felton Faire shopping center. These 15 acres are set aside as the future home of Coastal California’s first mountain bike park.

The master plan calls for the construction of two pump tracks, dirt jumps, a jump bag (an inflatable landing for learning tricks) and four downhill flow trails. A magic carpet—a low-profile lift that resembles a moving walkway at the airport—will ferry riders 400 vertical feet to the top of the hill. The size and features provide an intermediate-level venue between a compact municipal pump track and the lift-serviced technical riding in the Sierras.

Instead of dedicated shovel-wielding volunteers, Mount Hermon plans to bring in Alpine Bike Parks of British Columbia. The company that built Valmont will oversee construction for the Santa Cruz County project.

Pfefferkorn explained that Mount Hermon plans to sell season passes for locals and also offer rentals and lessons for visiting and beginner riders. “We want a robust season pass program that allows locals to enjoy the new bike park,” he said, adding that this may include a discounted pass for locals to ride in the afternoon and evenings (part of the site plan involves lights for night riding).

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Pfefferkorn outlined the remainder of the project to the 20 giddy adults outside Seabright Brewery. “Everything is financed and the money is in the bank to complete the entire project. All we need is the approval from the county. Once we get the permits sorted out, the construction will only take a few months.”

Pfefferkorn expects the turnaround to take six to nine months on the paperwork. With professional builders Alpine Bike Parks at the helm, the total construction time will only be two to three months once the city approves the plan. This translates to a planned opening date of summer 2014.

If the trajectory of this and other trail projects hold steady, Santa Cruz County will boast five pump tracks, a jump park, and the first flow trail built on public land in the Bay Area by next summer.

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