PITTSBURG, Kan. —
A group of kids that gathered to test it out Monday afternoon described it with words like “epic” and “sweet.”
The 23rd Street Bike Park, the newest of the city’s 13 parks, now has a new dirt track that the project’s coordinator says is the first of its kind in this area.
Think 7-foot hills crafted by heavy equipment into jumps that allow riders to gain some major air, and a 10-foot berm that enables riders to corner nearly horizontally.
“It gets people together because we can come out here in a group and ride and have a lot of fun now,” said Brandon Gilley, 12, of Pittsburg.
He’s been riding BMX-style for two years and said he was excited to see the track come together. He joined a group of a dozen other youths Monday afternoon in testing out the jumps and cornering, and in using hand tools to smooth sections out or add more dirt.
“It’s pretty sick,” said Nathan Berry, an incoming freshman from Joplin. (That translates to “great,” he said.) “We can get a lot more people involved in biking and being active with something like this.”
That’s the idea, said Roger Lomshek, owner of Tailwind Cyclists and one of the instigators of the park’s creation and development.
READY TO RIDE
Lomshek was onsite Monday to supervise the last of the work to be done, and said likely it would be ready and safe for riders starting today.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a while,” Lomshek said. “When the core group got the OK to do the park, we focused first on the trails. As we got that taken care of and took over the running of the park, the city OK’d us doing this.”
It includes a 1,000-foot long dirt track with two large jumps known as split faces, two berms for cornering, a step jump, a smaller tabletop, a ski jump and something called a “pump track.” Eventually the track will include a half-pipe similar to what skateboarders use.
“Our whole goal of designing it the way it is that any ability level can do it safely, but can also hit full throttle if they want,” Lomshek said
That means new and experienced riders alike can use the track and be safe.
“It can look very intimidating, but once you get on it you realize that an inexperienced rider can just roll over the jumps and maybe get an inch or two of air, whereas a pro can get plenty of air but without risk of wrecking.”
Those involved experimented with different sizes of jumps early on. If a jump is too small, a rider will jump too far, which is dangerous going 25 mph coming off the initial hill drop.
“You’d go 30 to 40 feet east plus five or 10 feet in the air,” Lomshek said.
The closest such riding opportunity is Slaughter Pen Hollow in Bentonville, Ark. — a mecca in the dirt cycling world. Freddy Vans Cycle Land, a dirt motocross track with jumps to the east of Pittsburg, attracted mountain bike enthusiasts for 30 years, but it was closed and sold for development in the mid-1990s.
“I’ve already been getting calls from riders in Kansas City, Lawrence (Kan.), and there are several who are champing at the bit from Columbus and Parsons to get over here,” he said. “Bikers will gladly travel three hours to do something like this.”
The track desperately needs rain in order to be smoothed and packed, the riders said, but for now they’re thrilled they have someplace to ride.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Tyler Nystrom, 15, of Frontenac.
The bike park is located on the site of a former coal mine, so the terrain is rough and rolling, with lots of jumps, tight turns and small hills through a heavily wooded area. Decades ago, kids began riding on what was then just a loose collection of trails known locally as “The Dumps.”
By the mid-1990s, a small group of mountain bike enthusiasts began grooming the trails and met for weekly rides there. In 2009, Lomshek led a local group in obtaining approval from the city to turn the site into a city park. They recruited volunteers and used donated equipment and materials to build additional trails, a bridge and a trail head kiosk.
To get there, go east from North Broadway on 23rd Street, past Michigan Avenue. The trails are located on the north side of 23rd Street, just before the railroad tracks and the overpass. The new dirt track is to the east, at the end of a dirt vehicle road.
FUNDING AND IN-KIND SUPPORT for the project came from a Live Well Crawford County grant, Volvo Rents, Crossland Construction, Tailwind Cyclists and a few anonymous donors.