Durham’s Solite Park: a Gateway to inner city mountain biking
Problem: Most mountain bike trails are located away from residential areas, making them difficult for carless kids to get to.
Solution: Build mountain bike trails closer to where kids live so they can ride to the trailhead.
Granted, that would seem to fall into the “No ‘duh” category. But because mountain bike trails take up some territory, making urban trails happen isn’t as easy as it sounds. Postage stamp-size urban parks tend to have their turf eaten up pretty quickly with playgrounds, basketball courts and a ball field or two. Often, though, there are scraps of unused parklands that can be put to recreational use. That’s why the International Mountain Bicycling Association started its Gateway Trails program, a program that last week added it’s first Triangle entry, at Durham’s Solite Park.
By big-boy mountain biking standards, the Solite system is small. There’s about a half mile of trail as well as a “pump track” — a series of bumps and berms designed to be ridden on sheer momentum and body movement (hence, the pumping), alleviating the need to pedal. Pump tracks are seen as a good introduction to mountain biking for kids who sometimes don’t have the attention span or stamina for a three-hour ride on a 20-mile trail. What’s particularly genius about the Solite Park network is the park’s location — along the northern section of the American Tobacco Trail. This nearly 7-mile stretch of paved greenway links downtown Durham with NC 55, and ties in several neighborhoods and Hillside High School along the way. Kids, several of whom were at last Thursday’s grand opening, can easily and safely bike to the trail. Adults, too.
The trail came together quickly. It was announced earlier in the year, and was funded with a $7,000 grant from REI and $5,000 from Trips for Kids, an international non-profit with a Triangle branch whose goal is to get at-risk kids on bikes. The Triangle Off Road Cyclists shepherded the project; Durham Parks and Rec. played perhaps the biggest role by turning a blind eye to bureaucracy and letting the system proceed post haste. A good public/private/non-profit/corporate partnership: Bravo to all.
For a better sense of what a pump track is about, check out the video.