Bike Parks and Pump Tracks: Management and Maintenance Advice
Rich Edwards, IMBA Trail Solutions Manager; Ben Blitch, Owner, B4 Consulting and Construction; Michael Vitti, President, C.L.I.M.B; Jon Kennedy, Marketing Manager for Diamondback Bikes and former Executive Director for the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
Planning and constructing a bike park or pump track is only half the challenge. Once built, you still must deal with a never-ending stream of management, maintenance and operation issues. The speakers in this session will include experienced bike park contractors, managers and clubs who have learned these lessons at existing bike parks and will teach you the keys to avoiding problems and common mistakes.
The concepts of bike parks and pump tracks are still new in the biking world. While the trend has been gaining momentum over the past five years, there are still few resources on building and maintenance techniques.
With this in mind, panelists answered questions on bike park maintenance and management. Key issues included managing volunteers, budgeting for long-term maintenance and using good-quality build materials.
Working with Volunteers
Most parks are managed and maintained by volunteers. While helpful, and often financially necessary, relying on volunteer maintenance can be problematic as bike parks require constant upkeep. The ideal solution is to hire a full-time project manager. Consider this option in advance so you can write it into grant proposals.
Expect turnover. The BMX kids who help build your park will lose interest or move away. Try to constantly attract and train new volunteers. If you are planning and building a park from scratch, expect the same scenario with your build team. Volunteer fatigue is inevitable.
Plan for Maintenance
Bike parks and pump tracks are used constantly, necessitating regular maintenance. Volunteers can do ongoing work, but it’s best to call in a professional to help with seasonal maintenance (especially after freeze/thaw). One weekend is usually all that’s needed.
With regards to budget, expect to spend five to ten percent of the initial build cost each year (this will depend on usage, whether you have paid staff, structure materials). To keep volunteers and riders engaged, plan for park modifications and progression changes about every three years. If the park follows a three-year cycle for refreshing its stunts, budget an additional 25 percent every third year for these changes.
When applying for a grant, build the lifecycle cost into the project. Budget for at least five years.
Dirt features will require frequent maintenance in the first year, while wooden structures will last about seven years before they will need to be replaced.
Tips for Selecting Build Supplies:
- Pay for high-quality dirt and clay—it will be worth it in the long run.
- Built structures and technical trail features need to be extremely overbuilt to stand up to riders, the elements and time.
- Timber needs to be commercial and rated for ground contact.
- Remember that people may burn and vandalize wooden features.
- Know the wood that you’re working with: some types of wood last longer than others.
Working with Land Managers
Keep in mind that Parks and Rec departments are used to building and maintaining baseball fields; the bike park concept is new to them. Do your research and provide them with written information on maintenance tasks. Also, know that there are guidelines for building and managing bike parks, but no standards exist.
Be patient. Working with bureaucracy can be very slow. There is plenty of red-tape when it comes to requesting funding, delivering materials, forming partnerships and MOUs, but stick with it and stay on their good side. Many people unfamiliar with bike parks envision only aggressive riding, so emphasize (and re-emphasize) how the bike park can be used by kids and families.
Don’t give up the club’s legal rights, or assume legal liability to get a park built. Cities will try and do this because it’s in their best interest, but it’s definitely not in the best interest of your club.
Download PDF Presentation (if available)