From a distance, the new bicycle pump track at Ventura Park looks like some dope drove into the park, did a few doughnuts, then drove off. However, upon closer inspection, you see the carefully carved banks, rolling bumps and banked corners in this first of its kind feature in a Portland park.

The new amenity at the park on Southeast 117th Avenue and Stark Street is part of the E205 Initiative bringing minor improvements to parks east of I-205 as a prelude to a parks bond measure.

Kids try out the new pump track at Ventura Park.

Last month, at the grand opening ceremony, Tom Archer, president of the Northwest Trail Alliance, said his group, collaborating with the city, built the track and signage kiosk for eight thousand dollars in direct costs, and they put in more than 500 volunteer hours. He said the NWTA permit to maintain the track expires in September, but said expects it to be renewed for another year as part of the pilot project for PP&R.

Archer was grateful to many for their help, but especially Portland Design Works who contributed five thousand dollars to the project. “We believe that this project provides a good value to parks and our citizens,” Archer said. “It’ll bring a fun, healthy activity in an area that’s currently underserved by outdoor spaces. We also believe it is a model we can use going forward to build more bike parks and trails throughout the region.”

According to Archer, other than requiring the new track to be built in a park east of 82nd Avenue PP&R had no other criteria. “Parks provided the dirt, NWTA supplied the design and workers to build it,” he said.

Fish, the PP&R commissioner, was also at the opening.  He referenced a recent Oregonian editorial highlighting the need for strong public and private partnerships in difficult economic times. “This is a great example [of it],” he said. “The Northwest Trail Alliance built and operates this pump track. Without them, this track wouldn’t exist.”

Hazelwood resident Mikhail Baranov tries out the new pump track at his neighborhood park.

Acknowledging the need for more park facilities in Mid-county, Fish said they took “a ton of money” from the last parks bond measure to add a state-of-the-art swimming pool to the East Portland Community Center, to make it Portland’s best. “It’s going to take a bond measure for us to build out the system that we want,” he said, “but, along the way, using general fund money and partners, we’re going to build small improvements with big impact; and this is an example.” He added, “We’ll take a big chunk of the next bond measure and build-out of couple of these parks.”

Saddled with predecessors’ legacy of inattention to the area, Fish understands he faces an uphill battle convincing east Portland property owners to further tax themselves through a bond measure to build any of the four parks PP&R has master plans for in east and outer east Portland. “As parks commissioner, I’ll do a parks bond measure,” he said. “The reality is, it’ll probably be voted down in east Portland. But I’ve said at a leadership level it’s important that every child, wherever they live, have access to a park, so I’m going to do it.”

Illustrating the novice nature of this first of its kind bicycle amenity, twenty-one-year-old Mikhail Baranov, who lives near Ventura Park, said he is used to “a lot bigger jumps of 10 feet or more,” on homemade tracks, but was glad to see it built in his neighborhood park.

Built in an enclosed loop, pump tracks are a series of designed rollers (rolling bumps) and berms (banked corners) and can be built in small spaces. Designed for riding without needing to pedal, bicycles maintain momentum when riders “pump” the bike through rollers. Riding on a pump track builds skills and techniques like balance, cornering, speed maintenance and stamina. The Ventura Park Pump Track is for entry-level bikers with jumps no higher than a few feet.