PUTNEY -- A growing mountain bike program, a very generous sale of fill from Bazin Brothers, a little extra money in the budget, and some community support have all led to a new pump track at Putney Central School.
A pump track is a series of small hills, arranged in a circle that allow bicyclists to ride up and down without pedaling their bikes.
Riding a pump track gives the rider a full body workout as he or she has to push down and pull up on the handlebars to gather momentum and keep the bike mobile over the berms and rollers.
Over the past few years Putney Central School has had a growing after-school, mountain bike program, and when the weather is good up to 30 students show up to ride through the nearby woods.
Last year West Hill Bike Shop co-owner Jim Sweitzer was talking with Putney Central Principal Herve Pelletier about the popularity of the biking program.
Pelletier was looking for a way to have the students do more riding during the school day; Sweitzer saw an empty space toward the back of the parking lot behind the soccer field, and the concept of building the pump track was born.
"The idea was to have something on school grounds where the kids can ride their mountain bikes on the dirt with very little supervision," Sweitzer said.
Working through the Vermont Mountain Biking Association, Sweitzer was able to track down Brooke Scatchard, of Sinuosity Flowing Trails.
Scatchard designs and builds mountain bike, running, hiking and cross country ski trails, and he traveled to the school earlier this year to check out the proposed space.
He thought the flat field was a perfect place for a pump track and this past weekend he returned to build the track.
The school got a good deal on the 120 cubic yards of dirt and Scatchard spent most of Saturday and Sunday moving the dirt around and pounding it into a series of hills.
A handful of volunteers worked with him, raking the areas in between the hills.
By Sunday night an enthusiastic crowd of bikers aged seven to 57 were trying it out.
Pelletier, the Putney Central Principal, said the new pump track fits in with the school's emphasis on physical education.
Volunteers Pip Bannister and Tony Coven have been leading the Wednesday mountain bike club.
He said many members of the community volunteer to make extra curricular activities happen, and the pump track was one more example of people outside the school helping the students to be healthier.
"This is one piece of our overall approach to wellness, fitness and nutrition," he said. "There are many groups working on many aspects and we look at this as part of a a comprehensive approach."
Pelletier said the school likes to offer non-competitive activities, like mountain biking, along with competitive sports like baseball and soccer.
"We want our kids to be fit and healthy. That is a big part of what we do," he said. "Whether we're in the school garden growing fresh fruit and vegetables, or getting a kid who maybe doesn't like sports to try something new, it all fits in. It's a big umbrella."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.