Scheduled to close February 17, the Aptos Pump Track and Post Office jumps launched freeride careers and enduring friendships
By Michele Lamelin
Kids had been sculpting and riding dirt jumps in the the vacant lot across the street from the Aptos post office for about a decade when Barry Swenson Builder, the real estate company that owns the property, recognized the community need for an official bike park suitable for all ages and skill levels. While plans for a residential/commercial development project (Aptos Village) for the property were in the works, Barry Swenson Builder leased the lot for $1 (yes, $1—that’s not a typo) to the Santa Cruz County Parks Department in 2007 on a temporary basis for such a purpose, taking the Post Office jumps to a new level.
In 2010, the area adjacent to the Post Office jumps—and, incidentally, Epicenter Cycling’s Aptos store—was also made available. Epicenter’s owner Shawn Wilson rallied employees and volunteers to quickly transform the shop’s weed-choked backyard into a playground of jumps, rollers and berms, giving birth to the family-friendly Aptos Pump Track—a huge hit in the community.
A New Era for Bike Parks
The development of the Aptos Pump Track and Post Office jumps heralded a surge of bike park construction in Santa Cruz county. The spirit of cooperation in which the grounds were developed influenced other bike parks near and far.
In Santa Cruz County alone, these parks paved the way for the Aptos Polo Grounds dirt jumps and several pump tracks including Chanticleer, Westside, Scotts Valley and Capitola, with Velocity Bike Park—a full service bike park currently in the planning stages—following suit.
Barry Swenson Builder Senior Vice President Jesse Nickell III reflects, “Many good things have come out of these temporary model parks. We now are seeing bicycle pump track parks being built throughout Santa Cruz County. This method of developing public parks on private land and with community stewardship has become a role model and many grassroots bicycle parks have been built using this as a model nationwide. We are proud to have demonstrated the social/community need and been a catalyst for generating world-class freestyle dirt jumpers from our area.”
The Aptos Post Office jumps have been the training ground for some of dirt jumping’s most extraordinary talent including Cam McCaul, Tyler McCaul, Greg Watts, Ryan Howard, Kyle Jameson, Ray George, Jack Fogelquist, Jamie Goldman, Alex Reveles and Jeff Herbertson, as well as notable up and comers Simon Silver, Connor Gallart and Owen Marks.
Slopestyle champ Greg Watts sums up his journey, saying “It’s hard to put in words what Post Office has meant to me over the course of the last several years. It started out as a fun place to ride with friends, with only a few jumps that seemed to grow with us in size and quantity as our riding progressed. When we started to get international recognition for our riding abilities as well as the riding scene Post Office created, it served as a great training ground for contests and the highlight of media surrounding the Aptos riding epicenter. I owe my entire career to those jumps, as well as my longest friendships.”
Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival
The Aptos dirt jump community’s famed talent has turned out year after year for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival—the Pro Jump Jam being a wildly popular spectator draw. The Barry Swenson Builder property has been home to this beloved community event for the past four years, and Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBoSC) President Mark Davidson has fond memories of scouting the premises and working with the Aptos pump track and dirt jump communities to prep the sites for the festival. “Both the pump track and the jumps were a huge draw for the festival and I’ll never forget all the joy and wonder the competitors and spectators had at these special places.” Davidson continues, “MBoSC thanks Jesse Nickel and Barry Swenson Builder for their generosity in providing the community with these spectacular places to ride. A big thank you to the Aptos pump track and dirt jumping community for pushing the boundaries of the sport and for having a ‘no dig, no ride’ ethos of stewardship and cooperation. We XC/AM riders can learn a lot from you folks.”
After a few years of false alarms, the Aptos Pump Track and Post Office jumps are scheduled to close once and for all on Tuesday February 17, 2015 to make way for the new Aptos Village development.
Although plans for the development project allocate space for an “active recreation area” which may be used for a community pump track, a concerted effort is being made to secure a new venue for the jumps as soon as possible. Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz formed a Bike Parks Committee tasked with finding a new locale and has raised $16,000 earmarked for the relocation. Barry Swenson Builder has offered to move the hallowed dirt if a new spot is secured by the time they break ground with the Aptos Village development. The bike parks committee and local dirt jump community recently collaborated to launch postofficejumps.org to rally community support and facilitate relocation. The ideal area would be zoned for recreation, have a slight slope to the land, offer easy access via bicycle, and consist of one or two acres. One acre would accommodate expert jump lines; with up to two acres, much needed beginner and intermediate jump lines, as well as a pump track could be included.
The local business community realizes the value in having a world class dirt jump park, and are helping to facilitate Post Office’s relocation. People have come from all over the world to ride, photograph, film, and spectate at the Post Office jumps, and the Aptos Chamber of Commerce reports that visitors from as far away as Germany have come by to ask directions to the revered spot. MBoSC Bike Parks Committee Chair Brian Peterson adds, “Aptos has become an international tourist destination because of the jumps. It’s not uncommon to hear several different accents during a session at the jumps.” Local dirt jump riders have been asked to present at an upcoming Aptos Chamber meeting, and the Chamber even plans to create a small addition spotlighting the celebrated jumps at the Aptos History Museum.
Farewell, but not goodbye
As the sun sets on the jumps that launched his career, legendary freerider Cam McCaul reflects, “Obviously it will be a sad day once the heavy machinery arrives to break ground on the Aptos Village project, but with the right perspective on the whole story, it takes a different tone. Like building sand castles at the beach, you know the tide will eventually rise. Like an old dog, you know he’s around for a good time, not a long time. I started riding and digging at the corner of Granite and Cathedral about 17 years ago and I thought this day would come much sooner. We are all so grateful to Barry Swenson Builder for allowing our sand castles to stand for so long. It would have been much easier for them to tear down the jumps as soon as they acquired the land, but through an appreciation for culture, recreation, and community, they allowed us many bonus years with our old beloved dog.”
Watts shares the sentiments of his friend, adding, “Coming very near to the end, I can’t help but feel sad. I feel like I’m speaking at a dear friend’s funeral as I’m reflecting on all the good times we had together. What Post Office has built, though, is something way bigger than a half an acre lot with jumps on it. It has created this monster of talent in such a concentrated little area —talent that has reached the entire world, shaped a new sport, and inspired a new generation of riders. What Post Office has built won’t die anytime soon.”
Epicenter Cycling and Aptos Street BBQ are hosting a send-off bash on Saturday February 14, 2015, preceding a final jam by the local dirt jumpers who made this hallowed ground famous worldwide. More information about the RIP Post Office BBQ at epicentercycling.com.
This segment from Strength in Numbers really captures the spirit of Post Office:
And THIS aerial footage of the 2013 Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival jump jam courtesy Richard Masoner / Aerography!
Send me a postcard // You KNOW you want this shirt designed by Jeff Herbertson (modeled by Brad Williamson). Shirts will be available for sale at the RIP Post Office BBQ hosted by Epicenter Cycling and Aptos Street BBQ on Saturday, February 14, 2015. (Click here for more information.) Or, contact postofficejumps.org to order on-line. Proceeds benefit the relocation effort!