Fitness

Health and Fitness: Watsonville’s New Pump Track is Worth a Ride

Fitness has a fun new form. 

At Ramsay Park Pump Track in Watsonville, that form is not just fluid but curvy, speedy, lumpy, life-affirming and self-perpetuating all at the same time. 

And that’s by design. 

“Pump track” represents a new term for many. It describes a carefully sculpted circuit of hills, straights, loops and turns built for riders of all shapes, sizes and wheeled vehicles, whether BMX bicycles, mountain bikes, skateboards, scooters, roller skates or even wheelchairs. 

The way the track lays out encourages riders to maintain enough momentum to fly around its interwoven loops with up-and-down body movements—aka “pumping”—and not much pedaling or pushing.

The concept debuted in Boulder, Colorado, in 2004 as a counterpoint to more challenging and subsequently dangerous skateparks. Watsonville’s own opened in 2021 and can claim the largest, and only paved, example of such a track in Santa Cruz County, with almost 20,000 square feet of flowing rollers, berms and jumps.

Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship rallied funding for the project and helped structure and construct the park, with big-time support from 51 volunteers logging 194 hours and sponsors Bell Helmets, Shelton Inc., Sierra Azul Nursery and Delta Bluegrass Co. A video on SCMTS’s website reveals a satisfying timelapse tracking how blank dirt transformed into a rollicking symphony of shapely rises, dips and banked hairpin turns.

SCMTS spokesperson Katy Poniatowski and her colleagues love how it’s been received. 

“When I visit, it is always swarming with kids and adults who want to improve their cycling skills,” she says. “It clearly filled a gap.” 

Hydrologists, general contractors and outside advisors all collaborated on the layout, surrounded by 8,000 square feet of drip-irrigated native plant landscaping. 

“Riding out there is like being dropped in the ocean—the possibilities are endless as far as what directions you can ride, opportunities to explore and skills to build,” Poniatowski says. 

The city of Watsonville partnered on the endeavor, and its staff couldn’t be happier with the resident response, per Parks and Community Services assistant administrative analyst Jeremy Sanders.

“From kids taking the training wheels off to the adults with their mountain bikes to guys with their longboards, it’s widely loved by a range of ages,” Sanders says. “It [achieves] one of the things we look for when we’re putting our parks together: physical activity that’s fun and challenging at the same time.”

On two visits, Good Times observed a broad spectrum of users, with ecstatic young peddlers sharing space with enthusiastic 40 somethings unable to contain their joy, squealing “Yeeeee” along the way.

Six-year-old Mays Lawrence Fowler of Seaside was among those who traveled outside the county to try out the pump park.

After a tentative acclamation period—figuring out the best ways to seize enough speed for the taller mounds and requisite courage to zip through cupped embankments—he was hooked. 

“I really liked it as I got really good at the turns,” he says. “I was like, ‘Woah, now I get it.’ It was more and more fun. I really do like all those turns.”

Young Fowler’s rising enjoyment is an apt metaphor for the park’s increasing popularity. 

As city staffer Sanders says, “Its momentum is really picking up.”

The Ramsay Park Pump Track is free and open from sunrise to 8pm daily at 32 Harkins Slough Road, Watsonville, santacruztrails.org/projects/ramsay-park-pumptrack

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