Fitness has a fun new shape.
At Watsonville’s Ramsay Park Pump Track, this form is not only fluid, but curvy, fast, chunky, life-affirming and self-sustaining at the same time.
And that’s intentional.
“Pump track” is a new term for many. It describes a carefully sculpted racetrack of hills, straights, loops and curves, built for riders of all shapes, sizes and wheeled vehicles, whether BMX bikes, mountain bikes, skateboards, scooters, roller skates or even wheelchairs.
The way the track is laid out encourages riders to maintain enough momentum to fly around the interwoven loops with up-and-down body movements — aka “pumping” — without pedaling or too much push.
The concept debuted in 2004 in Boulder, Colorado as a counterpoint to more challenging and later dangerous skate parks. Watsonville’s own opened in 2021 and, with nearly 20,000 square feet of flowing rolls, berms and jumps, it claims to be the largest and only paved example of such a track in Santa Cruz County.
Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship raised funding for the project and helped structure and build the park, with strong support from 51 volunteers who worked 194 hours and sponsors Bell Helmets, Shelton Inc., Sierra Azul Nursery and Delta Bluegrass Co. A video via SCMTS The website features a satisfying time-lapse showing how bare dirt turns into a rollicking symphony of shapely climbs, dips and banked hairpins.
SCMTS spokeswoman Katy Poniatowski and her colleagues are thrilled with how it was received.
“When I visit, it’s always full of kids and adults who want to improve their driving skills,” she says. “It definitely filled a void.”
Hydrologists, general contractors and outside consultants all collaborated on the design, surrounded by 8,000 square feet of drip-irrigated landscaping with native plants.
“Riding out there is like being dropped into the ocean — the possibilities are endless in terms of directions to ride, ways to explore, and skills to build,” says Poniatowski.
The City of Watsonville was a part of the effort, and its employees couldn’t be happier with the response from residents, according to Jeremy Sanders, assistant management analyst for Parks and Community Services.
“From kids taking off their training wheels, to adults on their mountain bikes, to guys on their longboards, it’s very popular with all ages,” says Sanders. “It [achieves] One of the things we look for when we put together our parks: physical activity that is fun and challenging at the same time.”
On two visits Good times observed a wide spectrum of users, with ecstatic young peddlers sharing the space with ecstatic fortysomethings who couldn’t contain their delight while screeching “yeeeee”.
Seaside’s six-year-old Mays Lawrence Fowler was among those who traveled outside of the county to try out the pump park.
After a tentative period of acclamation – during which he figured out the best way to find the speed to climb the higher hills and the courage to dart through hollow embankments – he was hooked.
“I really liked it because I got really good in the corners,” he says. “I was like, ‘Woah, now I get it.’ It was getting more and more fun. I really like all those twists.”
Young Fowler’s growing joy is an apt metaphor for the park’s increasing popularity.
As city official Sanders says, “Its momentum is really picking up.”
The Ramsay Park Pump Track is free and open daily from sunrise to 8pm at 32 Harkins Slough Road, Watsonville. santacruztrails.org/projects/ramsay-park-pumptrack
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