Cope Park is getting a new bike track; some neighbors wonder why they didn’t know about it

The view from inside the trees at Cope Park where construction will begin soon on the new pump track. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

Construction on a new bike track in Cope Park will begin as soon as the weather allows. 

Many local bike enthusiasts are excited about the project. But some neighbors raised concerns recently, saying they weren’t informed beforehand. 

Cope Park is a well-loved getaway tucked behind downtown. It was once home to mining prospects, later an outdoor swimming pool and soon — a pump track. 

Reid Harris is vice president of the Juneau Mountain Bike Alliance. The group worked with the city Parks and Recreation department on the design for the new track. 

“It will work great for new riders and it will work really well for advanced riders too,” Harris said. “Furthermore, it will be useful not just (to) the mountain bikes but BMX bikes, kid bikes, strider bikes … So really, if it rolls it goes on the pump track.” 

So what is a pump track? There’s no pedaling involved — riders build and control their speed by moving their bodies up and down to get enough momentum to carry them over a series of small hills. 

“It’s also a heck of a cardio workout. Like, you do two laps around this pump track and people will be tired. I guarantee it,” Harris said. 

It’s the first phase of a bike skills park expected to cost around $5,000. Other features will include jumps and a single track in other parts of the park. 

The mountain bike alliance helped fundraise and will provide volunteers to help the COVID-19 Conservation Corps with construction.

The track loop will be built in a stand of spruce trees. Deputy Director for Parks and Rec Michele Elfers said one small tree will be removed. Otherwise, they designed the track to integrate into the landscape. 

She said they plan to add some fencing and barriers between bikes and foot traffic. Con

“So as that’s been happening, I think the conversation has gotten going with the city and with users of, you know, how can we make this safe and how can we, you know, allow more people to be able to use these trails and features?” Elfers said. 

Not everyone is excited about the project. 

Some residents in the nearby Flats neighborhood said on social media that they felt blindsided by the new project. 

Cope Park Master Plan
The Cope Park Master Plan completed in 2013 shows proposed improvements to the park. (Image courtesy City and Borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation Department.)

One neighbor who didn’t want to be interviewed said they were disappointed in part because a pump track was not talked about in the Cope Park Master Plan

Park users worked with Parks and Rec to develop the plan several years ago. Elfers said the plan, like those for other parks around Juneau, is conceptual. Some of the proposed improvements — like moving the tennis courts to improve visibility — were made, while others still need funding or have been reimagined.

At a recent Juneau Assembly meeting, member Loren Jones also raised the issue of public noticing. 

“Given that I pride myself on knowing what’s going on, and when I read the report about all the things that went on with Cope Park — and I didn’t know about any of them — I was very, very surprised,” Jones said. 

The department held a public meeting at the end of January to talk about the project and get feedback. That meeting was noticed in the paper and on social media and flyers were posted around town. They also put up signs at the park.

Elfers said it’s possible that the project was later overshadowed by the pandemic. For a while, pretty much all city staff were focused on COVID-19 response. 

“So I think, to some extent, just continuing that outreach like we would normally do, even though the bulk of that was done in January, just didn’t happen,” Elfers said. “And then a lot of our normal work just went radio silent for months.”

They expect the track to be popular. The pandemic is inspiring people to explore more outdoor hobbies. Harris said the number of bikers was already growing in Juneau before this year. 

New mountain bike tracks are also under construction at Eaglecrest Ski Area. 

As the popularity of the sport grows, Harris said JMBA is very aware of the need to encourage bikers to share the trails. 

“We are working with people who are new to biking or those that have been biking for a while just to be aware when you’re on these trails, there are other user groups, namely hikers, but to be careful and to show them some respect and slow down,” he said. 

Once the weather is dry enough for construction to begin, the track should take about two weeks to complete.

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