Howard County residents who visit the newest attraction at Elkridge's Rockburn Branch Park are in for a bumpy ride.
Up and down, up and down — the bikers repeated that carousel-like motion Sunday, Oct. 2 as they rode over the small hills on the 4,900-square-foot pump track during the opening day of a new mountain bike skills course at Rockburn.
"It's smooth bumps and turns that teach you easy turning skills," Jonathan Posner explained.
The pump track, added Karen Druffel, is "a series of tight rolling small hills and berms, which are tight-banked turns … and you ride on this dirt track without ever pedaling."
Posner and Druffel are volunteers with the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts, a nonprofit that helps build, maintain and enhance trail systems in public parks throughout Maryland, Washington and Virginia. MORE is raising the $60,000 it will take to complete the skills course; the nonprofit has raised nearly $40,000 to date.
"This is going to be great because there aren't a lot of tracks out here on the East Coast that are anything like this," Druffel said. "It's going to be a family-oriented skills park."
But not everyone thought the park would be a good addition to the community. When the project went before the county's Recreation and Parks Advisory Board for approval, some residents testified against it. They cited concerns about increased traffic and illegal activity. On opening day, there was no traffic congestion.
In addition to the pump track, the course, which is scheduled to be completed this spring, will include a skills park area with four trails — beginner, intermediate and advanced, all downhill, and "one fairly easy trail to climb you back up to the starting spot," Posner said.
"The trails aren't super long," he added. "From top to bottom, they're about a minute."
Once complete, the skills course will be donated to the county's Department of Recreation and Parks but maintained by MORE volunteers.
"We expect this to get a ton of use/abuse," Posner said.
Recreation and Parks Director John Byrd said the MORE volunteers providing maintenance of the track and the park is a great benefit to the county "when we are short of staff and budgets are down."
He also lauded the skills course as a great addition to Rockburn and the county park system.
"We think it's going to be a good benefit to the mountain biking community because it's going to establish a place for people to train, for young riders to train and be more safe in their sport," Byrd said.
'Safe, controlled environment'
Most mountain bikers learn skills in parking lots or by test-riding trail systems, the volunteers said, which in this area are often not suited for beginners.
"This (course) will give them the opportunity to come over here in a safe, controlled environment to work on their skills," Druffel said. "You're going over the same trees, the same rocks over and over, so you master those skills."
Druffel's 11-year-old son Ryan, who helped build the pump track, said his biking experience before the course opened included riding around his Elkridge neighborhood and mountain biking on park trails with his family.
"This is my first time riding a pump track, and I really liked it," he said at the opening event. "It's a lot of fun."
Glenelg resident Nick Griesser, 17, said he loves mountain biking, but "there's not much of this stuff around here."