Hillside pump track offers unique experience
■ The 600-foot-long loop is being built near Cooper Elementary School.
A new bicycle-centric feature is going up next to Cooper Elementary School, filling an otherwise empty space alongside the school.
Erin Rushing with Northwest Arkansas Trailblazers said the single-directional pump track will be a 600-footlong loop, four to five feet wide, with a mix of concrete and wooden surfaces. The track, being built by Progressive Trail Design, is expected to be completed by mid-September, he said, at a cost of a little more than $100,000. The track was funded with leftover money from the Walton Family Foundation grants that paid for the Back 40 Trails’ construction.
This track, he said, is geared toward a higher skill level than the one by Bentonville’s dog park, and it’s very different from the one at Metfield, which is essentially a large concrete bowl people can take different lines through. This, he said, is engineered as a single loop with bumps and jumps. Riders will descend for most of the track with no need to pedal the majority of it, he said, then face a very short climb before descending again.
“We try to make these all kind of different,” Rushing said. “We want different skill sets, different variety, different jumps, techniques … It’s really about diversity and finding something for everyone.”
The track is on school property, he said, and Cooper Elementary School has been great to work with.
Paul Wallace, director of facilities with the Bentonville School District, said he is excited to see this project, and it could prove beneficial to the school’s bike program.
It could also, he said, help to promote more use of the exercise equipment it’s positioned next to.
“I believe this is definitely something that’s going to benefit schoolkids, plus the Bella Vista community,” he said. “We’re not just a school that’s going to educate the kids during the daytime, we want to be good community partners.”
The project started with earthwork led by Hardy Clyatt, foreman with Progressive Trail Design. Workers brought in dirt with high clay content to build up and shape the course, littering it with tabletops and humps and berms, he said.
“We’ve never done one like this,” he said.” I’m excited to see how it turns out.”
Clyatt said that, with the layout’s short climb and quick descent, he expects it to feel like a rollercoaster.
While he was excited to see the next step — the concrete — he said it was nerve-wracking to know the track couldn’t be reshaped and adjusted once it was down. He hoped, he said, that the shapes all work out to plan.
“I’ll be nervous until I put my bike on it,” Clyatt said.
Once he got that chance, he said, he was happy with the result. He had a few critiques, he said, but the track proved fun to ride.
It’s also a great workout, he said, and after an hour of riding most anyone is likely to be worn out. Moreover, he said, this track provides an opportunity to build riding skills that translate tidily to tackling trails.
“It’s fast,” Clyatt said. “You can roll through the whole thing without pedaling.”
The concrete layer capping this loop was handled by Bam Shotcrete, headed up by Jeff Ariza. The firm has done work all over North America, Ariza said, including skate parks, swimming pools and some other pump tracks.
They started by laying a grid of steel reinforcement, he said, before moving to cover it in shotcrete — that is to say they shoot concrete all over it, pumping a steady supply of concrete and propelling it with approximately 1,300 PSI of air.
“It’s basically a concrete, but you shoot it out of a gun,” he said. “It’ll be a skateable, rideable surface — it’s got to flow.”
Clayton Woodruff, vice president of operations with Progressive Trail Design, said this track is wildly different from others in part because it’s built on a hillside, while most are on flat ground.
“We had some elevation, so we kind of wanted to play with that elevation,” he said.
The track is made with concrete, he said, to keep it low maintenance and durable, and it will be given a broom finish to improve traction.
Once the concrete work was finished, he said, the to-do list became fairly short.
“We just have to do finishing work,” Woodruff said, “which is just making it look pretty.”
Hardy Clyatt, foreman with Progressive Trail Design, leaps over a tabletop on a foggy Friday morning, shortly after concrete work was completed on Bella Vista’s new pump track next to Cooper Elementary.
Hardy Clyatt uses a compact backhoe to shape a berm on what will be a pump track next to Cooper Elementary School. Clyatt said concrete will be placed over the dirt and wooden features will also be included in the final product. The final loop, he said, will be 575 feet long and six feet wide, with a descent and a climb. “Kind of like a bicycle roller coaster,” he said.
Hardy Clyatt rolls through a concrete berm while testing out the fresh concrete work on Bella Vista’s new pump track. With the concrete in place, he said, the remaining work was mostly cleanup and beautification.
Ronnie Terran, left, with Bam Shotcrete, sprays shotcrete onto rebar-clad earthwork while Sammy Valenzuela, Marcas Ibara and Sal Trujillo smooth the concrete to create a small tabletop on what will become a pump track next to Cooper Elementary School.
Andrew Bothan uses a bobcat to move dirt to build a pump track near Cooper Elementary School.
Trailbuilder Uriah Nazario takes a trial run on the pump track’s freshly-shaped dirt to help test the shape before concrete is placed over it. "I think a lot of kids will be able to cut their teeth out here," Nazario said.