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Thursday, July 30, 2015 | Last updated: 10:58am

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Bicycle pump track unites community

By Anthony Odoardi / The State News

LuAnn Maisner, director of the Meridian Township Parks & Recreation Department, enjoyed the Eastgate Bicycle Pump Track Grand Opening. She explains what makes the track unique and she even participates in the time trial competition put on by Bikeworks, 13169 Schavey Road, in Dewitt. The course is in Okemos at Eastgate Park, 4023 S. Meridian Road, and was created by the Michigan Mountain Biking Association, which recommends the track for people of all ages.

For Haslett resident John Strickler, creating a bicycle pump track was all about connecting parents with their children.

“My son used to ride with me a lot and through a series of things we found other interests,” Strickler said. “This has brought my son and I back to riding together. For me, it was more about getting fathers and sons together.”

The track — an enclosed dirt track with rollers and berms that require using momentum rather than pedaling — was created in September 2009.

After months of waiting, the Meridian Township Parks & Recreation Department was joined by the Michigan Mountain Biking Association, or MMBA, BikeWorks, Denny’s Central Park Bicycles and the Meridian Township Police Department to officially open the course to the public Wednesday. The Eastgate Bicycle Pump Track Grand Opening is located at Eastgate Park, 4023 S. Meridian Road, in Okemos.

Strickler worked closely with Steve Brunner, a member of the MMBA, and the Meridian Township Park Commission to develop Eastgate Park’s newest attraction.

By Kat Petersen / The State News
Okemos resident Tommy Brunner, 9, left, rides his bicycle on the new pump track that was unveiled during its grand opening ceremony Wednesday at Eastgate Park, 4023 S. Meridian Road, in Okemos. After the ribbon-cutting kids were given the chance to get familiar with the track before timed races started, dividing riders according to experience level.

Brunner, who spearheaded the project, said the original idea was to create bike trails in the park, but after that plan was confronted with heavy opposition, he wanted something unique.

“We decided to put in something that was mountain bike-related, but wasn’t being offered anywhere else in Mid-Michigan or any of its parks,” Brunner said.

Teri Banas, the chair of the park commission, said she was an advocate from the moment she was approached by Brunner.

“It’s a great development,” Banas said. “We’re very much looking forward to the fact that it’s going to provide kids and adults a new activity. It’s a new way to get outdoors and have fun with your friends.”

Brunner got permission and began constructing the track with help from 12 volunteers. The challenging part of building the track was not gathering funds for equipment — which were donated from local businesses — but building the track itself, Brunner said.

“It’s not until you ride it that you realize what you have to do differently, and that’s why we’ve made some revisions,” Brunner said. “As we built the thing, we had our kids on mountain bikes and BMX bikes riding portions of it trying to determine what we need to do differently.”

Watching children use the finished product is the most fulfilling part of the experience, Brunner said.

“There’s been times when we’ve been out there and there will be a 9-year-old or 10-year-old little girl on a pink bike riding this pump track,” he said. “That’s really the most gratifying thing, to see a kid doing something they probably would’ve never done had it not been there for them.”

Brunner said bonding with his children was the inspiration for developing the track.

“I’ve always loved bikes, so certainly it makes me feel like a kid again when I’m riding this thing, but I would’ve never built it if I didn’t have children.”

Banas said the members of the community deserve the credit for making Brunner and the MMBA’s vision possible.

“The only way we can really push forth some new developments will be in partnerships like this, where people are able to either to do a portion of the work or help with some of the cost,” she said. “It’s a win for the community all around. We’re just glad we have citizens like that.”

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