Aaron Crutchfield spent some of his childhood down by the railroad tracks and Ace Hardware in Berthoud, sending his dirt bike, and himself, off ramps made by the neighborhood kids. So he admits to feeling a little jealous that his two boys, Carson, 11, and Cooper, 9, have the Berthoud Bike Park just down the street from their home.

“Some kids made some pretty good jumps, but what we had really wasn’t a bike park,” says Crutchfield, 37. “I tell them all the time how lucky they are.”

The rest of Northern Colorado seems to share Crutchfield’s envy for the 20-acre park, and with good reason: It features two extensive jump lines, a quarter-mile slalom track, a mile of mountain bike trails, a bike playground and a 20,000-square-foot Velosolutions pump track. A pump track is a series of bumps over a long path meant to help bikers improve their trail skills as well as rhythmic pedaling and riding.

Sean Murphy, who sits on Berthoud’s board of trustees, can’t help but smile at the way other cities have reacted to the park. Bike groups in Fort Collins, for example, are especially fired up about it, even as they’re happy for Berthoud and are grateful to have somewhere to go.

“There’s a lot of jealousy that this little town of Berthoud got this great bike project,” Murphy says. “We really wanted to create a regional attraction for our town, and it’s gone way better than I could have hoped. The biking community up and down has really embraced it. We’ve seen people as far as Denver. I think it’s having its achieved effect.”

Crutchfield and his boys spend their time together mountain biking—they just spent their spring break riding in Grand Junction—and they all appreciate that the course is challenging enough to keep them coming back.

“My oldest is having a blast with it. He’s so fearless,” Crutchfield says. “He keeps telling me, ‘Come on, Dad,’ but I’m not doing what he does. I’ll try it out a bit, but I’ve had my fair share of broken ribs and surgeries.”

Pump track at the Berthoud Bike Park.

A regional attraction

Just how big the Berthoud Bike Park should be was a point of contention for the town, though Murphy says he supported the largest price tag, $2.25 million, from the start, because of the desire to build a regional attraction.

Neighbors were concerned about the size of the park in the spring of 2022 and the traffic it could bring, Murphy says. Most of their worries were soothed after a redesign, mostly for better parking, and the council rallied around the idea of building a big park. It helps that Berthoud residents approved a sales tax for recreation-focused projects in 2018, Murphy says. The park officially opened in September 2023.

Berthoud got advice early on from biking advocates to go big, including some from Fort Collins who had tried for years to get a bike park built in their city.

“I think they said, ‘If you’re gonna do it, then do it,” says Keith Knoll, public works operational manager for the city’s parks department. “No one in this region really had anything.”

Knoll, who served on a committee involved in the initial planning stages, also says the idea of offering a park serving all skill levels was important.

“We’re not the mountains, but having a place resemble some of that terrain [was the goal],” Knoll says. “The word was ‘progression,’ so from the beginning up to advanced levels. They could learn it there and take it elsewhere. Having that aspect was important.”

Now the only major headache for bikers remains Colorado’s unpredictable weather. The park is open year-round, but rain and snow will close it. Snow leads to more shutdowns than rain, says Paul Furnas, the town forester who oversees the park’s maintenance.

North hub gate with riders

“By the time the snow fully melts, all of that water has gone directly into the soil below it, so there is a lot of water in the dirt,” Furnas says, “and short, cold days don’t help dry it out any quicker.”

Riding in deep mud is not only dangerous, but it also leaves ruts that make riding tough when it dries out, Furnas says.

“That could deteriorate our landings out there faster than we hope,” he says, “which would lead to more maintenance days throughout the season and more closures for the park.”

Fort Collins takes note

The City of Fort Collins has talked about building a bike park since 2010. Years ago, the city council toured the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, says Kenny Bearden, executive director of the Overland Mountain Bike Association, an organization that advocates for better mountain biking experiences in the region.

“Valmont was very well received,” Bearden says, “and Fort Collins just didn’t happen. There’s still nothing.”

In response, the Fort Collins Bike Park Collective formed a year ago to push for a new bike park. They’ve spoken at council meetings, including one where they crowded the room with kids, and they’ve lobbied for it through social avenues like Facebook.

“We’re hoping to get more organized,” says Kevin Krause, lead organizer of the collective. “It’s not going to happen with just the city saying it’s a good idea.”

Both Krause and Bearden say the Berthoud Bike Park is the region’s best. Nothing really comes close, they say.

“They did a good job of putting desirable amenities in the space they have,” Bearden says. “It’s a world-class pump track. It’s probably as good as any in the state.”

The Shred Shed, a signature feature of the park.

But it also makes Fort Collins’ shortcomings sting a bit more. Fort Collins has a small bike park at Spring Canyon Park that was built by volunteers and can hold fewer than a dozen riders at once. There’s another small bike park in Lory State Park, the Corral Center Mountain Bike Park, which opened in 2006, but it’s far enough away that families need to drive to it, Krause says, and you have to pay the state park entrance fee to get to it. Twin Silo Community Park also has a small pump track geared toward BMX racing.

Krause sees a bigger bike park as an important amenity in a city that values outdoor recreation. Fort Collins was recently recognized as a platinum-level biking community.

“It fits Fort Collins’ values,” he says.

Fort Collins’ city council is supportive of a bike park, according to Bearden and Krause, and that makes them both hopeful and excited it will happen. Both want to see a park at least twice the size of Berthoud’s. The problem is finding a location.

There’s a possible space by the old Hughes Stadium location. Both Krause and Bearden say it would be a good spot for a 60- to 80-acre bike park, but others want Hughes to be named a natural area. Some question why such a large, valuable piece of land should be dedicated to bikers. Krause says the collective is not opposed to opening it to other groups, including trail runners and hikers.

“It’s not like we solely want a bike park,” Krause says. “We favor collaboration.”

Possible improvements on the way

Berthoud couldn’t be more pleased with the way the region has responded to the bike park. It’s hard to say how much economic benefit there’s been, Murphy says, but there’s no doubt it has attracted a lot of out-of-towners.

“Certainly the bars and restaurants have been impacted,” Murphy says. “People come back and want to hang out a bit.”

Even though the park was just built, the town is already talking about adding some elements, including a separate pump track for kids and an expanded bike playground.

Bearden would like to see similar bike parks crop up all over the region. It’s already happened with skateboard parks: Greeley added three big ones after the community asked for them. He says bike parks are crucial to help the sport of mountain biking grow.

“Anyone, any age and any ability, they can have a whole lot of fun,” Bearden says. “[Bike parks] are extremely popular now. The majority of towns the size of Fort Collins have one now. It’s a great community building tool.”

That’s what Crutchfield loves most about the bike park. He’s enjoyed watching his two boys ride with others, even if they aren’t their age.

“There are older guys too, and my kids are having fun hanging out with them,” Crutchfield says. “You go to a dirt bike race, it’s competitive, they don’t like to talk. But everybody at the bike park is cheering each other on.”