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Molehills to Mountains

The positive power of local Pump Parks

Photo: Team i4, Michele Schwartz

Imagine floating on wheels through compressed mounds of dirt, spiraling down and around, navigating over egg-carton-type rollers and carving through a veritable maze, all the while accelerating by pushing and pumping with your body and machine as a team. It feels effortless and is definitely something you want to do again, and again, and again.

In a flash of wheels, dirt and smiles, you find yourself standing over your bike at the start area of the Ketchum Pump Park. The other kids of all ages standing next to you offer words of encouragement as you ease out to begin your next run.

Photo: Team i4, Joey CardellaMore than likely, the guy you see in the background is Brendan Coyle. He’s a humble leader who captures the pulse of the Ketchum Pump Park, located one block south of the Hemingway school. Brendan is employed by the City of Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department to oversee the quarter-acre patch of dirt and thinks, ‘‘It’s amazing how much goes on in this relatively small space.’’

Brendan and many other passionate local cyclists have strong visions for the park. One is to create a stronger connection to the Hailey Pump Park, located near the Blaine County Recreation District’s (BCRD) pool, and operated by Eric Rector. Both Brendan and Eric are supportive of a summer race series which hopes to intertwine riders from both grids. “The parks differ in character so it’s important to expose the kids to both,” suggested Eric. The setting seems ripe for some friendly competition.

Along with maintaining the park, Brendan coaches and mentors kids who show up to pump-it-up on their own, or as part of Atkinson Park Summer Youth Camps. With his engaging yet low-key personality, Brendan offers kids tips and tactics. There’s a progression to learning how to ride this dirt and Brendan takes them through it. As the skills develop, the confidence skyrockets and the smiles extend.

In Hailey, there are signs that illustrate how to best pump your bike around the park. More importantly, there are lots of riders at the very popular park to help you figure it out. Eric believes that “the skills they develop at the parks become useful in other riding.” Once they master the art of pumping, the challenging single-track and flow trail riding (like Forbidden Fruit and Punchline)that covers the Valley, comes with greater ease.

There’s a band of local kids that Brendan proudly calls “ridiculous riders,” who cannot get enough of the park and are the personalities behind these adventuresome molehills.

Photo: Team i4, Michele SchwartzLocal sixth-grader Alex Lafleur is one such rider and he likes the “challenge that it produces for everyone.” He, like many pump park riders, enjoys testing both the physical and mental being. As Alex contested, “balance is key to making it through the course, but having a positive mental outlook is really the most important. If you believe that you can make it through, then you will.”

When I asked sevength grader Brody Buchwalter (who Brendan calls “the quiet rocker”) what he liked best about the park, I expected him to say riding with his friends or competing in the summer contest (where Brendan states that he stomps on everyone, including the pros), but instead he answered, “the whole middle section where there are four main rollers in a row.” Brody has a map of this maze deeply engrained in his head and thinks about it even in the off-season.

The sister act, Libby (12) and Marit (9) Kaiser, live within a stone’s throw of the Ketchum Pump Park. I asked Libby if she’s improved since her first ride and she nodded and said, “Yes, like anything, it takes practice, practice, practice.” Marit lights up when talking about the park and added that “it really helps with my strength and focus for ski racing,” her real passion.

Brendan noted that kids are gaining ownership of the park and work alongside him in the dirt. “There’s some amazing mentoring going on here at the Hailey Park.” Eric exuded. Both men are obviouslty very proud of the local pump park movement and the positive benefits it brings to the community.

The upbeat and inclusive atmosphere of the parks seems to draw people in … literally off the bike path or from the swimming pools. “It’s riding a bike. It’s fun and that’s the bottom line. Oh yeah, and it’s free,” Brendan reminded us.

Stop by the Ketchum or Hailey Pump Park, make a friend, mess around and have some fun. You can show up with your own bike, or in Ketchum, test out one of several bikes donated by Scott USA. Now go out there and get pumped! 

 

 

 

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