The Examiner

Report: Mountain Bike Jumps in County Park Too Dangerous

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A portion of the short track jumping trail at Graham Hills in Mount Pleasant that was illegally developed over the years needs to be brought up to the proper safety standards.

A consultant who inspected an illegally built short track jumping trail in a Westchester County park concluded the site is too dangerous as currently constructed but it could be transformed into a properly functioning attraction.

The consultant, Jim Dellavalle, principal of Dellavale Designs of East Stroudsberg, Pa., reported to the county last month that the popular trail among many area mountain bikers within an area of Graham Hills Park in Mount Pleasant needs to be revamped. It contains rollers, tabletops and berms, some of which is made with wood that fell to the forest floor and embedded into the structures to add mass, which is not a proper way of constructing bases to make mass and height, he stated.

“These Short Track Trails are spiderwebbed and criss-cross each other several times,” Dellavale’s report stated. “The intersections within the short track trails that do criss-cross here are very dangerous because the riders travel at a high rate of speed at the point of these crossings.”

Other shortcomings include a lack of signage, which fails to inform users of the course’s difficulty or progression, multiple locations where bikers could have head-on collisions and the trail doesn’t circle back to the start. Dellavalle also cited encroachment into a wetland preservation area where sediment runs off into the wetlands in several locations.

Furthermore, access to the area, which is in the woods closest to the intersection of the Saw Mill Parkway and Marble Avenue, is too perilous for many pedestrians and bikers to navigate, and with no parking lot, anyone arriving by car would have to park in the grassy area off the parkway.

County Attorney John Nonna said the trail has been deemed too risky to use in its current condition and directed the Parks Department to post signs and tape off the area.

The county, along with Dellavale and the advocates for the mountain bikers, who recommended the consultant, will try to determine whether the area could be salvaged and made safer or a trail should be constructed in another portion of the park, Nonna said. He said some county officials, such as Director of Park Facilities David DeLucia, have suggested an area close to Route 117 where there’s parking nearby should be considered.

“I think what they’re trying to determine is whether they can make changes to the area where the jumps currently are or whether they should create a new area, which Dave DeLucia mentioned he was in favor of where the old Mount Pleasant pool was,” Nonna said.

The short track jumping trail caught the attention of the county in May despite it having been built piecemeal over 30 to 40 years. In March, at about the time that the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bikers with apparently extra time on their hands added to the jumps.

One of the proponents of the site, Jaymeson Leo, said despite the concerns, the current location is the best place.

“I don’t know that in Graham Hills (Park) whether there are really any other ideal locations,” Leo said. “The thing about that area is that it has a natural slope that you would pick for that kind of a skills park, where it’s not a mountainside like the rest of Graham Hills and it’s not completely flat. It has a natural slope that allows for a good flow and a good momentum for the jumps.”

Dellavale noted that its natural setting, grade and tree canopy is “perfect” for the trail.

“The amount of hours that went into creating this area must be enormous,” his report stated. “With better trail building experience and leadership from a Land Manager this could be reclaimed and restored. If the area can be adjusted to satisfy the Land Manager it would be a great place to ride bikes and enjoy the outdoors.”

Bob Dillon, head coach of the Pleasantville mountain bike team, said he’s hopeful something can be worked out with the county. If the suggested changes can be made, including moving the portion that encroaches on wetlands along with improved signage and making certain jumps safer, that would be best.

“You’re talking about thousands of man hours to put that in and I don’t know how many more to correct it to improve the forest management standpoint,” Dillon said. “But to completely destroy it? In my mind at this point in time, the pandemic, the kids can’t do much but ride a bicycle. If you take that away, it’s just the wrong time.”

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