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Felton Pump Track Proposal Raises Concerns

By Mary Andersen 

Debate is in full swing over a proposed pump track in Felton Covered Bridge Park. The proposal, shepherded by Santa Cruz Mountains Trails Stewardship (SCMTS), Santa Cruz County Parks Department, and County Park Friends, calls for a 13,871 s.f. footprint with an asphalt track 6 to 8 feet wide and several feet tall. 

SCMTS describes the pump track as a paved surface with a series of rollers, jumps, and banked turns that connect in a closed loop. The track would be used for biking, skateboarding, and roller skating by both youth and adults. The proposed track would replace the volleyball court and about a third of the open grassy space in the park.

Site concept map from Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship

In anticipation of an August 9 public meeting hosted by SCMTS at Felton Community Hall, Rebecca Hurley, deputy director of the Santa Cruz County Parks Department, said, “This pump track would be the only resource of its kind in the San Lorenzo Valley. It would bring new value to an underutilized portion of Felton’s Covered Bridge County Park. We look forward to greeting community members to share plans and discuss how we can create an exciting new outdoor recreation opportunity in the Felton area.”

The August 9 meeting was well-attended primarily by supporters of the project. A common theme for this group was the need for more outdoor activities, benefits to kids and teens, and a more full use of the park space. 

Westside Pumptrack on Western Drive in Santa Cruz | Photo from santacruztrails.org

A Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on August 14 saw more opponents in attendance as word of the proposal spread. At that meeting Hurley presented an overview of the project, highlighting anticipated popularity of the track, but indicating that no new parking or new bathrooms would supplement. The determination by parks staff was that since the 1,600 s.f. of the area had been assigned in 1993 for “active use,” such as the volleyball court, then the pump track would fulfill the same purpose and not require any new studies or outreach. 

The Parks and Recreation Commission is an advisory body to the Parks Department and Board of Supervisors. During the Q&A session after the presentation, parks staff reiterated that the 1993 Felton Covered Bridge Master Plan gave them the cover they needed to move forward without park commissioners’ approval or any community input. 

Felton Covered Bridge volleyball court: The park feature was once a popular attraction, but is no longer usable as the net is missing and the court is riddled with gopher holes and mounds. The County is responsible for park maintenance.

According to County Parks Planner Mike Pruitt, the project is only conceptual at this time. The pump track’s price tag is estimated to be $500,000 with $7 to $10k annually in maintenance costs. “There are currently no budgeted County Park funds available for this potential project so fundraising would need to occur,” he said. While County Parks would continue to have authority over the track as it would be part of the park, Pruitt said, “If an agreement is made with SCM Stewardship, it would be for design, fundraising and construction efforts for the pump track.  County staff will provide design oversight and construction inspection, and then maintenance and management of the track in perpetuity.”

Phyll Tveit, Felton resident and one of the original steering committee members of the Friends of Felton Covered Bridge Park, the citizen’s group formed to develop the park in the early 90s, said, ”We are not opposed to a pump track in SLV, we are merely opposed to a pump track at our little gem Felton Covered Bridge Park, which was created with open space as the community wished and in line with the Felton Town Plan. If a more appropriate location could be found, I’d support it and help fundraise for it.” 

Felton resident Brigit Zent has been active in opposing the project and raising concerns about transparency. She said, “County Parks has been working with the SCMTS for 16 months on this project, yet the residents of Felton and SLV are only now learning about it. Until now, there has been no real input from the community, unless people were dialed into the SCMTS network of members. I’d like to see an emphasis on input from the community of Felton and a better effort made to find out what the majority of people in Felton want for this park rather than what supporters of the SCMTS want. I’d also like to see the history of this park respected. That history and the Covered Bridge are the gems of Felton and should be treated as such.”

Looking toward the volleyball court and the area of open grassy space that would encompass the proposed pump track.

Environmental Health Specialist Steve Homan wrote, “That park is 99% within the 100-year floodplain of the San Lorenzo River, and it is directly adjacent to the Felton Grove neighborhood, which is also located within the floodplain. Felton Grove is flooded every few years, and it costs FEMA a lot of money to repair and improve the homes there. This is not a good idea at all. Any pump track, regardless of its surface material, will deflect flood water in a floodplain, and not just the volume of the fill material, but it would be an ongoing redirection of flood water, as the flood water continues to flow by. It would be a disaster for the Felton Grove residential neighborhood during a flood.”

Monica Martinez, Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, who supports a pump track in the right location, noting the need for recreational activities and outdoor spaces, said, “One clear takeaway is the deep commitment of our SLV community to our beloved parks and, especially, the well-being of our children. Considering insights from previous discussions and written feedback, I’m ready to ask the Parks Department to come up with strategies that mitigate concerns and also outline their public engagement process, past and future. It is essential that our community’s voices are heard and considered before any final decision is made.” 

We reached out to SCMTS for a comment about their plans for the track and public outreach but did not receive a response. We’ve offered them a commentary in the next edition of the Post. 

Learn more about Santa Cruz Mountain Trail Stewardship and their Felton Pump Track proposal at santacruztrails.org/feltonpt.

More information:
Santa Cruz County Parks Department scparks.com
Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commission scparks.com/Home/AboutUs/ParksRecreationCommission.aspx
County Park Friends countyparkfriends.org

Next month: A History of the Founding of Felton Covered Bridge Park

Mary Andersen writes about the politics and cultures of the Santa Cruz Mountains. She can be reached at mary@slvpost.com

Aerial map image from santacruztrails.org 

Photos by Thomas Andersen

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