The Lewiston-Auburn area is on the verge of having its first pump track open to the public.
Pump tracks are a continuous series of rollers and banked turns that appeal to all levels of bicycle riders. But, more importantly, pump tracks have become gathering spots that are hugely popular with kids that are new to the sport of biking.
Christopher Wilcox of Lewiston rides the pump track in Gorham about every other weekend with his 6-year-old son, Decklin, and 4-year-old daughter Stella. “It’s a great place to burn off some toddler energy and for Decklin to learn some technical skills for the more advanced trails,” he said.
Auburn’s pump track will not be as large and will not have as many features as the track in Gorham — at least not yet.
Phase one will be ready to ride in the spring, Wil Libby of Turner, land steward for center, said.
Libby has donated his time and labor to the project.
“It’s important for us to gift to the YMCA during these challenging times,” he said. “I wanted to help on a project that has long-term impact.”
Pump tracks have gained traction over the years as adult riders have discovered that a way to engage younger riders is to offer a place for them to get their feet wet. Pump tracks are just as popular with adults as they are with young children on balance bicycles, bikes for those too young to pedal just yet.
Libby is the father of three children, ages 2, 9 and 14.
“All four of us can come down here and get our charge on this track at all levels,” he said.
A pump track at the Camden Snow Bowl, a track next to Bath Middle School and the track next to Gorham Middle School have all had high levels of success.
The pump track in Gorham “was like heaven on earth for Blake,” Terri Levesque of Greene said after taking her 7-year-old son there to ride his bike. “He rode until he was completely exhausted,” she said.
While phase one of Auburn’s pump track has smaller riders in mind, more features for advanced riders will be added with phase two and three.
“My goal is when the other bike trails begin to open in the spring, we will be ready,” Libby said. “Phases two and three will come later next summer.”
The pump track sits on the 97 acres at 151 Stetson Road that the YMCA has owned since 2011. “We have been very meticulous with planning,” Libby said. “We did not rush into this.”
Libby met five years ago with a group of local mountain bikers to toss around ideas about how to get the next generation of bikers riding on dirt. At that time, he thought bike trails would be the way to expose the YMCA land to the public and he talked about building single-track mountain bike trails on the property.
The more Libby thought, the longer bike trails would need to wait. Walking trails to accommodate groups of seniors, a wheelchair accessible path and activities to benefit the YMCA summer camp programs would come first.
Sports’ fields, a basketball court, an outdoor pool, an archery range and access to Bobbin Brook took priority at the education and learning center.
Now, it’s time to build for bikes, Libby said.
Libby has been involved in various trail projects over the past couple of years at Mt. Apatite in Auburn.
“We have noticed the benefit of more trails at Mt. Apatite,” he said. With the cancellation of many youth sports program because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are using the time to hike and play outside. Planning is underway to increase the amount of parking to accommodate the increase in traffic at Mount Apatite.
The YMCA pump track will be open to the public, Libby said. Biking lessons and bike safety classes during the YMCA summer program will take priority, but otherwise the track will be “open from sunup to sundown.”
Libby has been working on phase one this fall with some design and financial help from Busytown Bikes owners Frank Jalbert and Dominic Giampaolo.
Libby visited the Lewiston bike shop looking for track design advice from the former BMX racers. The owners were happy to help with the project and purchased loads of stone dust, which will be the final layer of the track.
“We are so willing to help out with this,” Jalbert said. “Every town wants a pump track,” he said about their growing popularity.
“Having a pump track in Auburn will not only help join the community but it will also get more people into the cycling community,” Wilcox said.
“For most kids, something like a pump track is much more appealing than riding on mountain bike trails,” Levesque said.
“We have such great kids in our community,” Libby said. “To have something like this will allow kids to feel some connection and pride in their community.”
Libby does not expect he will need to build phase two and three by himself. The children will be picking up a shovel, he said.
“Those are the stewards of the future,” he said. “Those are the champions. Those are the ones that will help with future projects.”
“I have a feeling that we will probably be there all the time,” Levesque said.