By Michael Boriero
Local Journalism Initiative
It took nine months, nearly 40 volunteers, more than 400 hours of work, and countless donations from the community, but earlier this month Sutton Elementary School was finally able to unveil its new pump track for beginner mountain bikers.
Principal Don Kerr gathered all of the students outside to showcase the latest addition to the school grounds. Three experienced bikers ripped around the track, showing off impressive jumps, and looping around the small patch of asphalt meant to mimic mountain terrain.
“This track is built for beginners, regardless of what you are seeing from these professional riders, the track is meant to always have two wheels on the track at all times, so there’s no way a beginner can wheelie up and jump and stuff like that,” Kerr told The Record.
Last year, the school obtained a significant bicycle donation from Turkey Hill Farm and Pleins Rayons in Cowansville. According to Kerr, they wanted to provide students with a physical activity fit for the pandemic — one that met all of Quebec’s health and safety measures.
“We were looking for things to do around here because there were no activities that we could go out and do, so biking was a nice individual activity, a sport that they could do. We completed the set with bikes we purchased from sports experts,” said Kerr.
There are about 50 bikes in total. The track is not large, but it features several bumps and turns to help students adapt to the uneven terrain found in mountains across Quebec. There is also a short gravel path that connects through the woods and back to the track.
Kerr has always lived by the philosophy that children need to learn more than one sport. If you specialize in just one sport at a young age, and then grow tired of it in high school, then you won’t be as competent in other sports or activities, he explained.
“My background is in physical education. I was a high school [physical education teacher] and my goal there was to always promote physical literacy, to be able to practice a multitude of sports, so that you’re not always stuck in one sport,” said Kerr.
Only three per cent of athletes make it professionally, he added, so it’s important to diversify a child’s abilities and motor skills; biking is easy, accessible, and suitable for all ages. He was also able to construct the pump track at a fraction of the cost thanks to donations.
“Well basically what happened was we had a lot of volunteers working, so all the costs that usually go into paying contractors and stuff like that, we were able to save there,” said Kerr, adding that the school also used portions of grants to fund the project.
Nathalie Frizzle and Martin Demers were instrumental in putting the pump track together. It’s even named after them in honour of the blood, sweat and tears the couple put in to complete the project before the school year kicked off in September.
According to Demers, the school called them about the pump track. They are avid mountain bikers, travelling all over Canada to find the best paths. He told The Record that the track at the elementary school is set up perfectly for kids looking to learn the ropes.
“The pump track is just perfect, kids always stay clean, they don’t ride in dirt, so it’s just a perfect set up, and for the learning curve for mountain biking, this is the best thing you can do,” said Demers, explaining that the school originally wanted to create a path in the forest.
Demers, who builds camper vans for a living, supplied most of the equipment for the project, even though he has never personally worked with asphalt. It was a challenge, Demers admitted, but he wanted to give back to the community.
Frizzle, Demers’ wife, was there every step of the way. She said that they have always spoken about how Sutton needs to develop playgrounds to promote biking in the Eastern Townships. There are already more advanced pump tracks in Waterloo and Bromont.
They live about a kilometre away from the school. Frizzle said they spent many evenings there, working on the track from 5 to 9 p.m., and eating dinner outside as a family with their son Arnaud. They were actually able to get it done faster than going through a contractor.
“If you hire a business that does pump tracks it’s a three-year plan with schools, we did it in nine months. And it’s not our business, it’s not our job, we had to learn everything,” Frizzle said, adding that she and her husband are honoured to have the track named after them.