Robert Wilson is totally stoked.
After seven years of trying, the former owner of Sonoma Old School skateboard shop on Broadway has finally secured a promise to bring a bike-riding “pump track” to town.
The Maxwell Farms Regional Park Master Plan, an ambitious, multi-phase upgrade of the existing 85-acre park, was recently released by Sonoma County Regional Parks after years of community input and planning and includes, among other things, Wilson’s dream of a pump track.
Located outside city limits on unincorporated county land owned by Regional Parks, Maxwell Park features soccer and baseball fields, tennis and volleyball courts, a playground and picnic sites, Macdougald Skateboard Park and the Sonoma Valley Boys and Girls Club, and approximately 2.5 miles of nature trails along Sonoma creek.
The new master plan, formed over the past four years with regular community input and released in November, includes a baseball plaza and upgraded ball fields — including one with lights — seating terraces that are ADA compliant, an off-leash dog area, sand volleyball courts, new soccer fields and concession stands, a “destination play area,” pickleball courts and upgraded court lighting, expanded parking, bio-swales for stormwater treatment, riparian restoration and a photovoltaic array.
And, to Wilson’s delight, recently added to the plan: a “pump track,” with viewing area.
“All of a sudden, hey! It was written into the master plan,” Wilson said.
A pump track is a type of off-road terrain for bikes consisting of a circuit of banked turns and “whoopdees,” as Wilson calls them. The features are designed to be ridden by riders “pumping,” not pedaling, creating momentum with up and down body movements.
The entire Maxwell Park project is expected to cost at least $10 million, according to Regional Parks Planning Manager Steve Ehret. Funds will be sourced from department money, state and federal grants, donations from local fundraising efforts, and the Measure M one-eighth cent sales tax, which won voter approval in the Nov. 6 election and over the next 10 years is expected to generate $115 million for public parks improvements countywide.
Wilson’s efforts to add a pump track to Maxwell Park began in 2011.
“I started pushing for a pump track years ago,” said Wilson. “I opened a dialogue with the city. They were open to it, they liked the idea, but nobody wanted the liability.”
A lifelong fan of all wheeled things — boards, blades and bikes — Wilson has long embraced his inner child. He adopted Macdougald skate park soon after its opening, volunteering to open and close the facility every day and keep it free of trash and graffitti. He kept a half-pipe skateboard ramp behind his skate shop for years, and can still manage a tidy kickflip himself. But Wilson knew there were a lot of kids who rode BMX bikes in town, and that they had nowhere legitimate to practice their sport.
“Bottom line: I knew kids were creating their own jumps behind the Boys and Girls Club,” Wilson said. “The kids make ‘em, and the county knocks ‘em down. Plus, that’s where all the homeless drink and smoke weed.”
It wasn’t an ideal situation for local children, and Wilson was determined to address it.
He made phone calls and wrote emails and held meetings, lots of meetings. He discovered why municipal governance is not known for alacrity. But Wilson stuck with it for years and years, and finally, his tenacity paid off.
Pump Vocabulary A-Z
Alligator pit: a very difficult gap that could pose a serious threat if not done properly
Barspin: a trick of throwing the handlebars in complete rotation
Biff: to wipe out or mess up
Dead sailor: a jump that goes wrong where the rider goes stiff and lands without performing a trick
Dubs: 20-inch bicycle wheels, the most common size for BMX
Gnar: anything disgusting or abhorrent
Half-pipe: a ramp resembling a half cross-section of a complete cylinder
Huck: to throw oneself haphazardly into a maneuver
OTB: over the bars
Resi: a semi-soft rubber padding put down for particularly dangerous or intricate tricks
Scorpion: a particularly nasty fall where the rider flips over the handlebars and lands on their face/chest
Shred: to ride intensely
Tailwhip: kicking the back of one’s bicycle in a complete rotation around the handlebars
Tweaked: perfect, to the fullest extent
Vert: riding on a single half-pipe where the transitions are vertical