By David Rogers. BLOWING ROCK, N.C. — What is essentially a corner quagmire in Blowing Rock will soon get a facelift — and become a “pump track” adjacent to Davant Field.
The cycling attraction is the brainchild of local resident Evan Cutlip as a community project that will help him earn his Eagle Scout accreditation. Cutlip appeared before Blowing Rock Town Council on March 14, presented his plan, deftly answered the council members’ questions and, in the end, gained their unanimous approval.
The project site is located between the Davant Field baseball diamond and Clark Street, currently overgrown with rhododendron and other bushes, as well as home to fallen dead trees, leaves and branches.
In young Cutlip’s plan, much of the overgrown conditions will be eliminated and dead limbs and branches removed. Added will be a 5-10 feet wide pump track complex of what extreme sports enthusiasts call “berms,” “rollers,” and various “obstacles.” Small bridges are planned for the riders to traverse over a small creek and existing stormwater drainage areas.
Very little of the rhododendron bushes will need to be removed. “Just enough to make a path for the track,” he said.
The track itself will be comprised of fine, crushed stone that will be compacted so that even heavy rainfall should have little impact, Cutlip told High Country Sports in a March 26 interview.
The young Boy Scout estimates that it will require as few as three weekends for him and his crew of scouts and community volunteers to complete the project. Since Boy Scouts is in large part about developing leadership skills, it was not lost on Cutlip what one of his biggest challenges will be.
“One of my biggest challenges will be getting everyone to listen to my instructions and executing those instructions,” he said.
Going before the Blowing Rock Town Council was fairly intimidating, Cutlip admitted.
“At first it was pretty scary,” he said. “It looked like the courtroom from a movie. It was big and the people there looked very professional. In one sense, it felt like I was in court for doing something bad! But then I realized that you can also go to court for some good things, too. I was able to power through it with maybe only a little bit of a shaky voice.”
Cutlip recalled that the commissioners asked a lot of questions about how the track would be built, the supplies used, funding, as well as safety concerns.
When grilled by members of the board of commissioners at the March 14 town council meeting, Commissioner Pete Gherini raised the question of town liability in the event of a rider’s injury.
“No more than anyone using other parts of the town’s recreation facilties,” he said in answer to a similar question from High Country Sports in the March 26 interview. “It would be the same as a kid who might jump off of a high structure in the playground and break his leg. And it would be similar to any county liability at Rocky Knob Bike Park.
It is my eagle scout project dream.
now i am actually doing it.
“It was difficult at my age and experience thinking about stuff like insurance,” Cutlip added, “but they were important questions to be asked and for me to consider. Basically, I told them it would be like someone riding their bike in the park or playing baseball here. People bike everywhere and many do stupid stuff, everywhere they go.
“I think this pump track could actually result in a decreased number of injuries from biking. You look around Davant Field and there are potential biking dangers all around, from hills to gates and loose gravel. This actually gives people a place to ride where they wouldn’t have to break any rules,” said Cutlip, “and where they can feel like they don’t have to do something dumb to have fun.”
Pump tracks are popular among young generations of bicycle enthusiasts and Cutlip indicated that the nearest one to Blowing Rock is 30 minutes’ drive away and made with concrete. He used Boone’s Rocky Knob Bike Park, which was funded in large part by Watauga County and its Tourism Development Authority as a comparative example.
With pump tracks, the rider may use his pedals to get started but then gathers speed without the pedals, using upward and downward pressure as he or she goes over the rollers. The berms are banked turns in the track, similar to what you might see on a NASCAR track, only on a much smaller scale, Cutlip said.
When asked about maintenance of the track, Cutlip said that his Boy Scout troop, which is based in Boone since COVID-19 forced the merger of the Blowing Rock and Boone units, are “… always looking for ways to complete service hours. We’ll need to do maintenance on the track about twice a year.”
Blowing Rock Recreation Director Jennifer Brown spoke at the town council meeting and was very much in favor of the feature’s addition to the park by Cutlip, as well as for its cleaning up the area adjacent to Davant Field.
At its longest section closest to Clark Steet, Cutlip estimated the track would be about 80 feet long. He said it should be one-way, so that riders are not as likely to collide with one another. He also estimated that at any one time up to 10 riders could be using the track safely
In the town council meeting, Commissioner David Harwood asked about policing the use of the track.
Cutlip replied that while it would be ideal for a clear line of sight from Clark Street and other potential vantage points so that policemen passing by could view the activities, most tracks are self-policing. He also stated that signage about rules about such things as hours of being open to use is important.
In answer to a question from Commissioner Doug Matheson at the town council meeting, Cutlip emphasized that barriers in certain sections between the track and, for example, the walkway and bleachers next to the baseball field would be important to protect both the rider and any bystanders.
Cutlip said that he envisioned the pump track’s creation for his Eagle Scout project about three years ago, when he really started getting into scouting. He is tapping into the skills and knowledge of his father, Ron Cutlip, who is a professional landscape architect as well as one of his scout leader.
“Becoming an Eagle scout requires much more than just a community service project but it is an important part. Usually, it involves bigger things, such as rebuilding something or helping out with the fire department, that sort of thing. This is what I have chosen to do to practice my leadership, which is mainly what an Eagle Scout project is for. Boy Scouts is all about leadership,” Cutlip explained to High Country Sports on March 26. “I’ve had bikes on my mind and specifically doing a pump track for over three years. It is my Eagle project dream. Now I am actually doing it.”