Pumped for the new track
Harrietstown Pump Track was packed on opening night Tuesday
SARANAC LAKE — Rubber wheels whirred, kicking up dry dirt. And then … silence, as Will Miemis soared through the air. After a second of stillness, the commotion continued as his tires slammed back into the earth. It was another successful lap around the Harrietstown Bike Park and Pump Track, which opened with a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday.
Lukas Miemis, 14, said local bikers have dreamed of having a pump track in town for a long time. After the Saranac Lake Innovative Cycling Kids grassroots group launched an effort to make that a reality in 2021, only a year later, they celebrated the fruits of their labor by whizzing around the bumpy dirt track on John Munn Road.
Katie Stoddard is the mother to SLICK kids Mason and Liam. She was excited when they created this group.
“The kids would always talk about how they wanted to see things happen in the community, like ‘Oh they should do this! Oh they should do that!'” Stoddard said. “At one point we were like, ‘Who’s they? You guys are they. You need to do this yourselves.'”
The parents have played a supporting role, she said, but the kids led the project with their vision. On Tuesday, she was proud knowing they saw it through to fruition.
Ezra Schwartzberg, who is involved with SLICK, said the organization got permission from Harrietstown to use town land, got funding from the Saranac Lake Rotary Foundation, got donations from local businesses and private donors, and got grants from the Cloudsplitter Foundation and Adirondack Community Recreation Alliance.
In total, they raised $34,000 to build the track and all its surrounding trails.
Schwartzberg said the woods where the pump track is now was a spot where young people used to come to drink. He felt having a thrilling sport to do, and occupying the area, kills two birds with one stone.
“This land, really, we haven’t done much with it,” Harrietstown Supervisor Jordanna Mallach said. “At one point there was discussion about selling it. I think it’s great that we’re utilizing it.”
As a town leader, she said she doesn’t want to obstruct residents’ ideas for development, she wants to assist them.
“I feel like my job as local government is just to support the community,” Mallach said.
She has more plans for that area of town land. There used to be playground equipment near the Elk’s ball field that the town removed because of insurance concerns. Mallach said she’s now looking at grants for new playground equipment. There are also plans spearheaded by town resident and former Saranac Lake trustee Melinda Little to build a dog park in the woods there, too.
The pump track is connected to the state’s new rail-trail, which runs through town, so young bikers can get there mostly by avoiding roads with vehicles on them. Schwartzberg said with the bike trails at the Saranac Lake High School and Dewey Mountain, there is a long list of places to go on two wheels in Saranac Lake — most of which are connected by trails.
A pump track is a unique way to ride a bike. If it’s done properly, it doesn’t require pedaling to ride the series of humps and turns. Once a bike’s in motion, its rider pushes down on the downhills to gain speed and pulls up on the uphills to create lift. It’s a workout, Will said, and his arms get tired fast, but it feels natural and smooth.
“It’s just like ‘BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM’ the whole way. It’s just like a rhythm. It’s so fun,” Will said.
He said there’s a bit of a learning curve, but that it’s a lot of fun to master.
SLICK rider Paul Fogarty, 14, said he only learned to ride a bike four years ago, when he was 10 years old. A year later, a couple of his friends were getting into mountain biking; he went and “had a blast.” On Tuesday, he was taking big air off the dirt ramps and cranking around the pump track as fast as he could.
Fogarty likes speed and physical challenges. He skis in the winter and bikes in the summer. He loves the bike community being built here.
Will said he’s seen a lot more people on bikes than he ever had before. He’s been biking for as long as he can remember. His parents mountain biked when they lived out West.
Karen Miemis said when her family moved to Saranac Lake there were not many bike trails. Then, the Barkeater Trails Alliance came along and the scene exploded.
There’s a pump track in Wilmington, where many local bikers were introduced to the concept. This track was also spearheaded by local kids in that town. But being a 30-minute drive away, bikers here couldn’t get there every day they wanted to.
“We thought, ‘Maybe we’ll build one in our yard,’ But we want one that everyone can enjoy,” Will said.
He’s spent a lot of time building trails in his backyard, but this is the biggest project he’s undertaken. It was hard work, building the track with Backslope Trail Building — forming the earth, watering and packing it — but enjoyable work.
“Moving dirt is just so fun,” Will said. “Watching it transform.”
The pump track is a fun way to exercise and a social place to hang out in the outdoors, Stoddard said.
And the track itself?
“It’s wicked fun,” Stoddard said.
Will said the joy of riding a pump track is “not falling off your bike.” Riders have to sign a waiver to use the course. Though the course can be ridden at any speed and be fun, it’s a sport that seems to attract thrill-seekers. The exit trail to the track has become a “jump line,” where bikers can get big air. On Tuesday, a group was trying to see how far they could fly.
After a quick interview with the Enterprise, Will hit the pump track again, taking another lap, digging into the curves harder and jumping even higher.