Some growing pains at popular new PHR pump track

At last month’s meeting of the newly formed Pacific Highlands Ranch Park Recreation Advisory Group, residents shared concerns about security at the new park and the pump track, the first of its kind in the city.

The pump track, which includes rolling concrete features for bikes, skateboards and scooters, has been packed since the park opened on April 10 and most everyone is enjoying the ride. However, issues that have popped up include the mix of younger and older users on the track, use being skateboarder-heavy, bullying of younger riders, and the sheer volume of people on the course with as many as 50 people observed one weekend.

There have also been issues with people getting into the park to use the pump track after hours, sometimes as late as midnight, bringing their own lights and playing music.

Over a year before the park even opened, neighboring resident Vlad Kroutik expressed safety concerns about the pump track as skateboarders were regularly getting into the park to use it while it was under construction. Due to noise and safety concerns, he advocated that the concrete surface of the track be replaced with dirt which would limit the types of use as well as reduce the noise impacts on nearby homes.

Plans for the pump track back in 2015 did originally involve dirt, however, the city had expressed concerns about the ability to maintain a dirt track and the plans shifted to a concrete surface. According to Tim Graham, public information officer for the city’s parks and recreation department, the original designation of the track was just for bicycle use, however, the hardscape surface allows for expanded recreational opportunities and uses for the community.

“This expanded use is common with pump tracks that have hardscape surfaces,” Graham said noting that bicycles, skateboards and scooters are now allowed on the track.

“They designed it in a way that any kind of wheels can go in,” Kroutik said,.He is worried that three-year-olds on scooters are now sharing the space with 20-year-old skateboarders. During a ride one day, he got into an altercation with a skateboarder when he got stuck on a hill with his bike. “You have just a mess, any given afternoon you can go see what a zoo it is out there.”

Kroutik, who now serves as a member on the PHR Park Recreation Advisory Group, said more supervision is needed due to the mix of users and age groups—he said he has already seen people taken away by ambulance from accidents on the track. He said it appears now that the city is taking a “wait and see” approach and potentially won’t act until they are sued but he would rather the city be proactive about the problem.

“Our pools have lifeguards, why not have supervision in high-risk areas where adults and kids are mixed?” Kroutik said. “We don’t want to wait until something bad happens…How many kids are going to get hurt before we do something about it?”

According to Graham, the pump track is not directly supervised, operating similarly to other city skate parks and plazas where patrons use the facilities at their own risk. No motorized equipment of any kind is allowed on the track and helmets are required for anyone under the age of 18 when riding a bicycle, scooter or skateboard as per California Law.

PHR Park has a separate skate plaza on the other side of the rec center.

While there will be no direct supervision at the pump track there will be cameras.

“Security cameras are currently being installed at Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park and Recreation Center out of an abundance of caution and to improve security at the facility,” Graham said. “Staff will be able to review activities captured by the camera throughout the park, including the pump track.”

Kroutik said outside of changing the track’s surface, he believes increased security could be a solution. He has also proposed building a taller fence around the track to help with trespassing issues.

“I’m happy for the park, a lot of kids are enjoying it,” Kroutik said. “I wish it was safe and friendly to the neighbors.”

The PHR Recreation Advisory Group will meet on May 22 at 7 p.m. at the recreation center. Pump track enforcement, security and hours of operation are on the action agenda.

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