Town Board Denies Pump Track Proposal for Katonah Memorial Park

An example of a pump track Credits:

BEDFORD, N.Y. – A community-led proposal to construct a bike pump track in Katonah Memorial Park was voted down earlier this month by the Bedford Town Board.

The proposal from the Family Bike Area–Pump Track Committee has been in review for more than a year by various town agencies and consultants, nearly all of which advised against its construction in the park.

A pump track, according to the committee, is a “landscape design that uses terrain features, such as berms and undulations, to help propel a cyclist. They are typically designed as directional dirt pathways in loops with small rollers and banked turns.”

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“What we are advocating for is nothing more and nothing less than dirt on dirt in the woods,” said committee member David Klagsbrun.

Still, neighbors and consultants weren’t convinced it was that simple, calling it a safety and environmental risk that didn’t fit the “character” of Katonah Memorial Park.

“Creating a pump track in a hilly, wooded area such as this presents hazards to riders and constant upkeep and maintenance of the track will be necessary to control liability,” wrote Steve Curlen, a risk control specialist, in a memo to the town.

Jeffrey Motelson, who lives on Wildwood Road, said pump tracks made of dirt can erode, especially ones built in the Northeast. Ultimately, he said, it may end up needing to be paved.

“This would be the first pump track anywhere in the county of Westchester, and we don’t need it,” Motelson said at the May 1 Town Board meeting.

In addition to exploring Katonah Memorial Park, the town also vetted a location in the adjoining 9.5-acre Zema property, which was acquired by the town in 2006. Because of environmental and cost concerns, this was considered an unpopular location even by proponents of the nearly 1-acre pump track.

Klagsbrun said any suggestion that his committee asked for this property to be explored as a viable location for the pump track is “patently false.”

“This entire Zema review has been a misguided, mismanaged waste of time and money,” Klagsbrun said. “It has only served to take us further from our goal than we already were. In all honesty, it’s infuriating.”

After the Town Board motioned to not proceed with a pump track in any portion of Katonah Memorial Park, Klagsbrun introduced a smaller plan on the grass field beside the paddleball courts. With this plan, Klagsbrun said, no trees would be removed and hikers would not be disturbed.

“The pump track will cost the town nothing,” he said. “It may not be perfect and it may not have the support of every member of this community, but it deserves an honest and fair consideration on its merit.”

Niall Washburn, who lives on Croton Lake Road, said the Town Board shouldn’t give up on the pump track idea. He said Katonah Memorial Park is much less environmentally sensitive than the Zema property.

“I don’t think it’s time to put this to bed,” Washburn said.

Lee Presser, who lives on Meadow Lane, urged the Town Board to stop delaying the inevitable.

“It sounds like there have been quite a few studies done here and quite a bit of money spent,” Presser said. “As a fiscal conservative, I think we need to stop spending money on this issue and move forward with a resolution that just says no.”

Indeed, the Town Board members did not consider the new proposal, voting unanimously against placing a pump track anywhere in Katonah Memorial Park. Supervisor Chris Burdick, responding to a resident’s question, said he doesn’t anticipate other Bedford parks will be explored as an alternative location.

“I don’t know of any interest on the part of the board to pursue the other parks,” Burdick said. “There hasn’t been any request on the part of the bike park proponents to look at the other parks. To be candid with you, I don’t think the board has the appetite to look at the other parks...We’re done, as far as I’m concerned.”

Klagsbrun told The Katonah-Lewisboro Times that he was disappointed at the process by which the town vets new projects in its parks. He said he would like to see the town become “more forward-thinking” when it comes to its parks.

“I think it’s notable that with very few exceptions I can think of, there is just about nothing in any of our parks that you wouldn’t find in a park 50 years ago,” Klagsbrun said.

He said he expected the May 1 meeting was only going to be a discussion on the Zema property, and not the pump track project as a whole. Because of that, he said, he told hundreds of supporters to not attend the meeting. Klagsbrun said the committee is considering its options about exploring other town parks, but said it “seems clear” that Bedford is not interested in approving this project anytime soon.

“Whether we like it or not, the world is changing and we need to do things to position our town as being ahead of the curve and not behind the curve,” Klagsbrun said.

At the meeting, Burdick apologized to “those who feel misled this evening concerning what was being voted on.”

Councilwoman Kate Galligan reflected on the “maybe imperfect” process of reviewing the pump track.

“When I first heard about the pump track a long time ago now, I thought that seems like a great idea, how simple,” Galligan said. “I think we can all agree that simple is the last word we can apply to this process.”

Galligan said the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, composed of volunteers, did the best job it could.

“I abide by the decision of the [Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee] that Katonah Memorial Park is not the right site for this park, but I still hope that this is the beginning of a discussion about different kinds of recreation throughout the town,” she said.

The board also voted, 3-2, asking for a recommendation from the Recreation Department and the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee regarding passive recreation uses consistent with the master plan of Katonah Memorial Park/Zema property. This would be done in conjunction with the Wetlands Committee, the Conservation Committee and neighbors.

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