Down and dirty: New BMX pump track in Philipsburg delivers another option for fun

Noah Ballenger, 9, pedals through the new BMX pump track in Philipsburg on Thursday
Noah Ballenger, 9, pedals through the new BMX pump track in Philipsburg on Thursday CDT photo

The new Slabtown BMX pump track in Philipsburg is still in need of a little bit of landscaping — but that’s not likely to bother its target demographic.

First of all, it’s difficult to imagine that the average biker has time to admire the cut of the grass while bouncing between massive mounds of earth.

The track was designed to allow cyclists to coast on their own momentum, like surfers riding waves of dirt that never quite reach the shore.

It’s an acquired skill set, but in the month since the track’s completion, Aaron Harris has become adept at navigating the ups and downs of the terrain, maneuvering his body to accommodate the rapid succession of peaks and valleys his tires encounter.

“You have to pump down with your legs and your arms,” Harris said.

The 14-year-old resident of West Decatur has spent the better part of the past few weekends at the pump track, testing how far he can push his speed.

It’s literally new terrain for Harris, who had never ridden on a dirt track before.

“After the first few times you get used to it, and after that you get better and better,” Harris said.

On one recent evening, Harris was joined by a collection of bikers ranging in age and size, but all appearing similarly determined to break some kind of two-wheeled speed record.

“The kids are going to ride anyway and it keeps all of the bicycles off of the streets,” Joel Watson, Philipsburg borough manager, said.

The borough had been working with volunteers to help rehabilitate the skate park adjacent to Philipsburg’s Slabtown Baseball Fields, but officials got more than they bargained for with Tracy and Jodie Potter.

Parents to three kids who enjoy riding BMX bikes, the Potters pitched the idea to take the area next to the skate park and turn it into a pump track similar to the kind that they had seen in South Carolina.

Watson quickly got on board. To help fund the project, the borough secured a Field of Interest grant from the Centre Foundation.

The Potters had zeroed in on Dirt Sculpt to shape the ramps, jumps and corners that would supply the required thrills and chills, the same company that crafted the track for the X Games in Texas.

Dirt and other raw materials were donated to the project by local companies like Wrye Landscape and Junior Coal.

The finished track opened almost a month ago, and Jodie Potter said that it has quickly become a summer hotspot.

“It’s been a really good hangout for a lot of kids this summer, kids from 5 to 55,” Jodie Potter said.

Hailey Evanskey was at the pump track on Thursday night with her daughters Madison and Shelby. She watched as they rode up and down the hills, helmets strapped firmly to their heads.

“I am glad this is here. It’s amazing for the kids. It keeps them out of trouble, it gives them something to do other than sitting in front of the iPad,” Evanskey said.

The family journeyed to the track from Houtzdale, where Evanskey said that her girls have to ride on the pavement, mostly in circles.

“This gives them more exercise,” Evanskey said