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Group fundraising to bring bike facility to Groton

Groton — A Groton bike advocacy group is proposing to build the first pump track in the local area, as the recreational biking facility grows in popularity.

Bike Groton, a nonprofit cyclist and pedestrian advocacy organization, has started a fundraising campaign for a proposed pump track facility in the Poquonnock Bridge area of town. 

A pump track "is a continuous circuit of banked turns interspaced by rollers and other features that can be ridden on a bike without pedaling," according to the cycling lifestyle website bermstyle.com. Such facilities are prevalent in Europe and are becoming more common in cities in the United States as municipalities see their value as a community recreational resource, Bike Groton President Brian Kent said. The nearest one is in Madison.

Both youths and adults would be able to use the proposed facility, and the activity is a full-body workout that builds skills, which kids in particular easily pick up, he said.

“These are skills that will serve you for all your life when you’re on a bicycle and for other activities,” Kent said. “They hone your balance and your coordination.” 

Bike Groton, an outgrowth of Mystic Community Bikes, works to improve bicycle conditions in town, he said. The organization set goals at the beginning of this year and felt it would be helpful and benefit the town to take on a project to build a cycling facility. After brainstorming different ideas, the organization decided to work toward a pump track.

The organization looked for public property to locate the facility and narrowed down the proposed location to the centrally located Poquonnock Bridge area, which is home to town facilities, Poquonnock Plains Park and about 1,000 dwellings, Kent said.

The proposed pump track would be located at a town park at the south end of Depot Road, which is easily accessible to children in the neighborhood. The facility would be in a corner area of the park, which has an existing playground, benches, parking and sidewalks, he said. The facility, including additional area around the perimeter, will cover about ¼ acre, so the rest of the park would remain open for other uses.

The location is just before the entrance to Bluff Point, a popular area with trails for hiking and mountain biking, and also at the nexus of the existing G&S Trolley Trail and the proposed Eastern Shoreline Path and Tri-Town Trail. Separately, the town of Groton recently was awarded a grant to extend the G&S Trolley Trail and provide for safer biking in Poquonnock Bridge.

Bike Groton, New England Mountain Bike Association and the Groton Parks and Recreation Department are partnering on the project.

Jessica Patterson, community outreach coordinator for Groton Parks and Recreation, said the project aligns with the department’s strategic plan to further its commitment to improving quality of life of the community through programs and activities that promote health and wellness to all ages, contributing to economic development, ensuring social equity and protecting parks and open space.

She said the project would add a new recreational activity in town that isn’t currently offered locally or even regionally. “It would definitely be a unique qualifier to bring to this area and just one more reason why to go to Groton, why to celebrate living here, working here, playing here,” she said. “The more healthy recreational activities we can get out to the community, we think the better.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission and the Town Council endorsed the proposal, Kent said. The plans will need to go through planning and zoning for review and also the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for a Coastal Area Management review.

To build the facility, Bike Groton is seeking grants and has started a fundraising campaign at gofund.me/74b68f68. The Southeastern Connecticut chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association is helping with the fundraising.

Kent estimates the dirt pump track facility will cost $55,000 but fundraising may continue beyond that figure for amenities, such as a shade pavilion and benches. The group also would like to create a bike skills training course that would be open year-round at the corner of the site, which would require additional fundraising, he said. The course would allow riders to practice riding on narrow balance beams, a teeter totter and small jumps, among other features.

The track ultimately would become the property of the town and be operated and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department, he said. Volunteers under the auspices of Bike Groton and the New England Mountain Bike Association would help maintain the facility, which will be open as weather permits. The Parks and Recreation Department could then run classes to teach youths and adults how to use the track.

Kent said the experience of using a pump track is unlike anything he has experienced before.

“It really is just exhilarating, so it’s something that we know will be enthusiastically embraced by many people in the community once they get to know it,” he said.

Updates about the project will be posted on Bike Groton's Facebook page, facebook.com/BikeGroton.

k.drelich@theday.com

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