By editorial board • 

Anything’s possible when public, private join forces

A package of Tuesday stories on ambitious pump park plans in Willamina and McMinnville feature two facets of a healthy community coming together, one a driver on the demand side, the other on the supply side.

The demand side driver is fun, healthful outdoor recreational opportunities for youths of all ages, skill levels and modes of participation. The supply side driver in Willamina — and hopefully also in McMinnville, which is at an earlier stage — is the kind of public-private partnership capable of plucking dreams from the clouds then turning them into realities on the ground. 

Circuits at a pump park take bike and skateboard riders through a maze of twists, turns, dips and rises. They are designed to test riders’ ability to use up and down pumping, rather than pedaling or pushing, to generate and maintain momentum on the track — and they are becoming wildly popular among the youth set.

Pump parks were originally aimed mainly at mountain bike and BMX enthusiasts, but have caught fire with the skateboarding community as well, and can even be navigated by wheelchair users. They are designed with different skill levels in mind, from beginning to expert, allowing a wide range of users to benefit.

Typically, the impetus for this kind of project would come from local interest groups. They would approach local government in search of the not-inconsiderable means — $610,000 in the case of Willamina, whose Oaken Hills Memorial Park master plan calls for beginning and advanced tracks with walking paths, benches, lighting, parking and other amenities. But in Willamina, it came from David Hampton, co-owner of Portland-based Hampton Lumber with his sister Elizabeth and brother Jamey.

On a business trip in Central Oregon, he stumbled on Redmond’s Homestead Pump Track, which was crawling with kids who might otherwise be home playing video games. And he thought, “We need to put this in Willamina,” the town where his grandfather founded the company in 1942.

Hampton, who has ridden bikes and motorcycles all his life, and even raced motorcycles, quickly found a fellow champion in City Manager Kenna West. To help grease the skids, he agreed to cover the design costs, pledge $50,000 in personal funds and $100,000 in company funds, provide all the lumber and see about lining up other local companies to assist as well. 

Hampton Lumber owns 250,000 acres of timber, manages another 300,000 acres, owns and operates 10 mills and employs 1,600 workers. But it doesn’t take a company as big as that to contribute in meaningful ways to a beneficial community project that might not prove possible otherwise.

There is magic in public-private partnerships for a local community, just as there is magic in outdoor recreational opportunities for a community’s youth segment. It’s a beautiful thing to behold when they come together the way they have in Willamina.

Jeff Knapp of Visit McMinnville is spearheading McMinnville’s version. He has his eye on the city’s undeveloped Quarry Park, off of West Second Street.

The next stop will be the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, headed by Susan Muir. Here’s hoping the idea will take root here as well, and Mac can capture some of the same magic.


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