Track Cycling

New bike parks in Eureka and St. Charles County promise to ramp up the free fun – STLtoday.com


New bike parks in Eureka and St. Charles County promise to ramp up the free fun

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Ssssssswwwwwhh.

It’s barely a sound — more like a feeling.

It’s not too difficult to describe or achieve while riding at the newest bike park in St. Charles County, the largest asphalt pump track in the country.

“It feels like you’re floating, and, like, when you clear it, and you clear it good, it just feels like a ssswwwwwhh,” says Richard Hoggan, 8, who gave the track a whirl with his dad, Matthew, 38, last month on its first official day open.

Two large bicycle attractions opened in June in the St. Louis area: the asphalt pump track at the St. Charles County Youth Activity Park, open for bicycles, scooters and skateboards, and dirt tracks at the Eureka Mountain Bike Park, for mountain bikes.

Both attractions are free, and both have something for amateurs and professionals, smaller kids and adults.

The bike park in St. Charles County is 30,000 square feet. It’s a pump track, which means riders conceivably can ride powered by their own momentum, without pedaling. It cost $650,000 and was paid for with a dedicated use tax that established the parks system in the late 1990s.

The track is next to a 33,000-square-foot concrete skate park, which opened in 2003 and is also open to bicycles, scooters and skateboards. The activity park is also home to an indoor climbing wall, a sand volleyball court, a half-size basketball court, and video games, foosball, air hockey and other indoor activities.

Parks director Ryan Graham says St. Charles County had been looking for something to add to the park, and the cycling community raised the idea several years ago about putting in a track.

The next-largest pump track is in Bentonville, Arkansas, and attracts riders from all across the country. Mountain bike parks in and near Springfield, Missouri, also lure locals.

Graham and other county leaders wanted to bring those people to St. Charles County to spend their tax dollars. “We thought, ‘If we build it, they will come,’” he says. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it big, and let’s do it right.”

The county approached Velosolutions to construct the asphalt track. The company is a sponsor of the Red Bull UCI Pump Track World Championships, and the county hopes to host a prequalifying race next year.

It’s already attracted families like the Hoggans, who recently moved to Lake Saint Louis from Denver, partly because of the track. Matthew Hoggan had lost his job and put the St. Louis area on his short list when a friend who works for Velosolutions told him about plans for the track. The friend had helped build and test the track.

“I would not have moved here if it wasn’t for this,” Hoggan says, standing astride the new BMX bike he bought to ride at the track. “I love it. I’m so happy.”

‘Another slice of heaven’

The Eureka Mountain Bike Park opened in early June next to the Timbers of Eureka, the city’s recreation center. When the center was built, fill was added to the south side of the property, and it became unusable for a structure. So officials thought it would work as a mountain bike park.

“It turned out that this was really perfect for something like this,” says Julie Wood, the city’s director of economic development.

The location alone makes it stand out: It’s already close to shops and restaurants, and families can swim or work out if they aren’t on the track. A walking trail around the track is also great for non-bikers or parents who want to stay active while keeping an eye on the kids.

“When you get up there, it’s like another slice of heaven,” Wood says. “You can see Eureka from the top of it, but it feels really secluded.”

The city contracted with Nomad Trails Development of Kansas City to build the park on about 8 acres of land for just under $200,000.

The track has a dual slalom course, which lets riders race one another, a dirt pump track, technical features like berms, drops rollers and tabletops, and a Strider playground for younger kids just learning to ride their bikes. Some trails are progressive, meaning riders can attempt easier and more difficult options.

Jay Thomas runs Roots Mountain Biking and plans to conduct clinics at the park.

“The Eureka park gives us the opportunity to progress riders really fast in a really safe, controlled environment,” he says. “We have a ton of great trails available, but to have 5 miles between jumps or a feature isn’t practical time-wise. Now they can dramatically change their skill set in a short amount of time just by getting a bunch of reps in.”

Adam Wood, who owns the Mountain Bike Shed bicycle shop in Eureka, worked with the city and volunteer group Gateway Off Road Cyclists to get the park built and find an appropriate location. For a sport that’s often dominated by middle-age men, the park has already attracted lots of families, women and people of all ages, he says.

His store and the nearby Camila’s Tex-Mex restaurant organize a weekly Taco Tuesday, where they encourage families to meet at the park and then at the restaurant to eat. The event attracts a few hundred people, Wood says.

His buddies spend every other weekend in Bentonville, so he hopes people will find a reason to come to the St. Louis area, explore its biking options and perhaps camp in Eureka or visit nearby Six Flags St. Louis. He hopes the bike park will serve as a hub and will inspire leaders to connect neighboring trails.

“The more we can get municipalities to do stuff, the more reason people have to come back,” Wood says.

Where St. Charles County Youth Activity Park, 7801 Town Square Avenue, Dardenne Prairie • How much Free • More info 636-561-4964; sccmo.org/741/Youth-Activity-Park • Hours Noon-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday 

Where Eureka Mountain Bike Park, 1 Coffey Park Lane, Eureka • Hours Dawn to dusk • How much Free • More info 636-938-6775; eureka.mo.us/facilities/facility/details/eureka-mountain-bike-park-17 

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