(Work gets underway Monday for a new bicycle pump track at Pinto Lake County Park. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — An unused stretch of grass in Pinto Lake County Park's parking lot will soon get a new look, and a new life.
As soon as October, county officials are expected to open the county’s newest pump track, a 10,000-square-foot patch of earth sculpted with banking turns and jumps for off-road bicycling enthusiasts.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend said the track will be a boon for young people in rural Watsonville.
“We can all agree South County does not have enough activities for kids,” he said.
A gaggle of county officials kicked off the Pinto Lake Pump Track Project at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning, tossing shovels full of ceremonial earth even as workers nearby started the work.
Pump tracks are designed to allow riders to navigate a series of off-road features, as they create momentum by "pumping,” or using up-and-down body movements to keep moving.
They are also low-maintenance, requiring touch-ups about once a year, said Santa Cruz County Parks Superintendent Eric Sturm.
“This is an exciting time for the Parks Department,” he said.
With pump tracks in Chanticleer Park and Polo Grounds Park, the track will be the third run by Santa Cruz County. A handful of others are scattered throughout the county, most visibly in Aptos alongside Highway 1.
Work will include grading, installing a concrete ADA ramp and a walkway, and an access staircase and railing. Workers will also install storm drain catch basins, piping and erosion control measures.
The track comes with an estimated $192,000 price tag.
Of that, $172,000 was written into this year’s budget. The remainder will come from a pool of existing funding dedicated to county parks.
Alex Fowler, whose Aptos-based company Action Sports Construction designed the track, said the finished product will benefit young people who would otherwise be out looking for places to ride in the community.
Activities such as riding pump tracks, Fowler said, are part of an ever-evolving catalogue of activities sought after by young people hoping to mix adventure into their lives.
“Action sports are here to stay,” he said. “Places like this are the new playground.”
Santa Cruz County Parks Commissioner Kate Minott said the park draws hundreds of people every week.
“This is a terrific park,” she said. “You can see four generations of people here on the weekend. I predict that, when this pump track is in, it’s going to be heavily used by the community.”