Recreation opportunities expanding in Darrington

DARRINGTON — Two projects, one downtown and one on North Mountain, are underway to make this town a destination for mountain bikers and a starting point for anyone ready to try and master the sport.

Volunteers are putting in a pump track this month at Old School Park on the corner of Givens and Main streets. Work began Saturday.

Meanwhile, planning has started for a new mountain bike park with 20 miles of trails on North Mountain.

The pump track was one of the last projects added to a list of new features for Old School Park, which is getting an overhaul. The list also includes a skate park and basketball court. The pump track is the first piece to be built and a grand opening is planned the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

A pump track is an oval-shaped bike route with bumps, curves and jumps designed to challenge riders’ control of their bikes. Riders rely on momentum and balance to carry them around the track rather than pedaling. Pump tracks are a great introduction to mountain biking for people who want to hone skills that are useful on any trail, said Jeb Bolton, an avid mountain biker and volunteer organizer for the project.

The track is replacing dirt BMX obstacles that were on the north edge of the park for years. They’d become overgrown and hazardous for anyone but advanced riders.

The new pump track is designed with two loops, one moderate and one advanced. The town has rallied to build the track this month, Bolton said. People donated supplies, loaned equipment and volunteered their time and expertise.

The Glacier Peak Institute, a hands-on, outdoor-focused learning program in Darrington, is using the pump track as a lesson by looking at how the design of the track — angles, inclines, declines and curves — and a rider’s momentum can keep them moving without pedaling. Students also are designing a logo for the track and flyers to pass out with more information, Director Oak Rankin said.

A pump track is the perfect tool for kids and teens to learn how to handle a bike so they can get out in the mountains and forests around them, he said. It’s central location in town makes it an easy place to get to after school and adds a new activity for young people.

“It’s the whole community coming together to make a healthy town,” he said. “That’s kind of the beauty of what’s going on in Darrington.”

Kurt Helling is coordinating the Skate Darrington project that spiraled into the Old School Park overhaul. The skate park is planned at the south end of the park and the pump track is at the north end. They’ll work well together, he said. He’s also excited for the new basketball court and updates to the playground and tennis courts.

“The way I look at it, this is our one chance to get this right,” he said. “And since this park is in the center of town, it’s our one chance to really make it a showpiece.”

Volunteers working on Old School Park see important links to other, larger-scale recreation efforts around Darrington. The Whitehorse Trail between Arlington and Darrington is being finished, providing a bicycling and walking route alongside Highway 530. The North Mountain biking trails are going to fuel a sport that is growing in popularity in Western Washington, Bolton said. Darrington can be the hub for both.

The mountain bike park on North Mountain is a partnership between the town of Darrington, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and the state Department of Natural Resources. The goal is to have some trails open by spring 2016, according to DNR. The park may also include hiking or multi-use trails to access scenic viewpoints.

State officials are asking for public comment on the North Mountain park. Complete a survey online at dnr.wa.gov/DarringtonMTB, email DarringtonMTB@dnr.wa.gov or attend an open house at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Stillaguamish Conference Room at 154 Cox Ave. in Arlington.

Standing in Old School Park earlier this month, mountains dusted with the first snow of the season as a backdrop, Bolton could picture a park packed with local kids and new visitors, maybe stopping by on their way to North Mountain or the Whitehorse Trail.

“I hope it’s a stepping stone for Darrington recreation-wise,” he said. “If you come up to Darrington just for the pump track and then you see all this, I hope you’ll want to come back.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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