The bike pump track that opened in Yauger Park in west Olympia last week might seem small, but it’s the start of something big.
Located near the skate court and the Safeway on Cooper Point Road, the park offers South Sound residents a free urban setting to practice their biking skills. It is the first phase of the Yauger Park Bike Skills Area, a project stemming from a city partnership with South Sound Bike Park Alliance, a nonprofit aiming to build and maintain bike parks in Thurston County.
The track — a closed loop requiring only a bike and a helmet — is designed so bicyclists can maneuver through the ups, downs and curves without pedaling.
The Bike Park Alliance originally approached the city of Olympia with the idea to create a large recreational bike skills park west of Watershed Park in February of 2014.
But Dave Okerlund said the city was looking to take the space in Yauger Park — a previously troublesome area with homeless camping, drug use and trash — and use it for something positive. The Bike Park Alliance’s idea seemed like a solution that was a “match made in heaven.”
“It’s just been a wonderful partnership experience,” said Okerlund, the planning and program supervisor for the city’s Parks, Arts and Recreation Department. “To me, it’s just like the perfect project.”
The project is partially funded by grants from REI, the Nisqually Tribe and Macy’s, but the Bike Park Alliance also has many volunteers working on this project, along with volunteers from REI, the Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Foundation, and the city’s Park Stewardship Program.
“This project is pretty much 100 percent volunteer labor,” Bike Park Alliance president Morgan Misek said.
Misek, a lifelong mountain biker, said his group was lucky Yauger Park had a pre-existing improvement project that they were able to join.
Christina Lamour, a program specialist with the city Parks, Arts and Recreation Department, said the project has provided wetland mitigation, planted native plants, taken out invasive plant species, and built a split-rail fence to serve as a barrier between the wetlands and the recreation site. The Bike Park Alliance constructed the track.
“The most important part, in my perspective, is being able to bring the positive energy and recreation to the park, being able to bring people in there to have fun and bring positive energy to the area,” Lamour said.
Olympia Park Ranger Sylvana Niehuser said, “The track was possible because of the partnerships with the community and with the volunteers. The SSBPA has been a big driver in getting this implemented and getting the work going.”
Niehuser said the park will keep growing and changing. “That way it stays exciting and doesn’t get boring for people,” she said.
Jump lines and skinnies — narrow boards to ride across — are among future features planned.
Jeff Cook, the Bike Park Alliance’s vice president, said the group wanted to bring family friendly mountain biking into town. There are no other such parks nearby, and they hope to provide a space for people of all ages and abilities to practice their bike-handling skills.
“Biking gives me the feeling like I had when I was a kid, a sense of freedom,” he said.
He said riding the pump track uses a motion similar to riding a swing. The name comes from the pumping motion used to maintain speed as a cyclist rides over the smooth dirt berms and rollers.
“With this bike park we hope to introduce kids to the joys of mountain biking. It will have something for entry-cyclists, something for intermediate cyclists and some advanced features,” Cook said. “We hope to promote cycling to a broader audience of both kids and adults.”
The Bike Park Alliance and the city are still welcoming volunteers to help with the remainder of the project.
To learn more, visit ssbpa.org.
Natalie DeFord: 360-754-5444