Improvements made to Popkum Motor Park

The track now has starting gates for up to 40 motorbikes

Cole Bamford of Port Coquitlam takes a blast around the new junior track at Popkum Motor Park

With a log home manufacturer and sawmill to the west, Mount Cheam to the south, and a freeway and railway to the north, the newly-renovated Popkum Motor Park is ideally situated for its “not-in-my-backyard” activities.

Motocross tracks were first developed in 2009 on the land — owned by the Popkum First Nation — but the effort and capital expended this spring and summer have made significant improvements to the facility. While driving back to Hope, you may have noticed the excavators, off-road articulating trucks, compactors, front-end loaders and farm tractors at work on the property east of the Indian Hardwoods sawmill in Popkum.

The motor park’s general manager, Mike Muller, is a civic contractor in Maple Ridge and happened to have the heavy machinery and operators at his disposal, ready to help mold the park into the vision he had mapped out.

“We started in April and now it’s been five months to get it close to where we want it,” said Muller, a long-time motocross rider.

“We’ve also brought in a soil screener, so all the rocks above 3/4 inch have been removed from the track,” said Muller.

Screened rocks have been repurposed for road bed material on the main access road and the ring road that encircles the beginner and advanced courses.

In their first month of full opening, they’ve been attracting riders from as far away as Campbell River, Kamloops, Kelowna and Washington state.

Though no races have been scheduled yet, the track now has starting gates for up to 40 motorbikes. The gates are aimed toward the advanced track but a sharp left turn could direct riders down to the junior course, explained track manager Dan Philps of Abbotsford.

You can make your own motorized fun for free in the backwoods — but the only organized tracks available in the Lower Mainland are at Pemberton, Whistler, Mission, Agassiz and now Popkum. Darcy Lebedynski of Surrey trucked his Kawasaki K250F up to Popkum for a Friday afternoon of riding.

“It’s $30 for  the annual membership and a $30 entry fee for a day,” said Lebedynski.

“It costs me about $4.75 in fuel for my bike — and that fits my budget.”

Lebedynski noted the track improvements, with more jumps and fast berms.

“The berms are so smooth, it’s almost like driving a car through them. It’s definitely safer to be on a track than out in the bush,” he added. “Everyone is going in one direction.”

Philps said safety is a key concern for the park. Should there ever be a need for an ambulance, it would have access to all areas of the track via the perimeter road.

“We have a first aid room at the office and two staff members with level one first aid and one with level three,” added Philps.

He said they have a plan for dealing with crowds when the park starts to draw more riders.

“We don’t like to have more than 20 guys out there at one time, so if we have more, we’ll break it into 20-minute motos. We’ve got our big track at about 1.2 kilometres now and we’re shooting for about a two-minute lap time for pros, to keep it spread out.”

The park requires a minimum of helmet, goggles, gloves, long pants and long-sleeved shirts — and boots that come at least six inches above the ankle, said Philps. “Chest, knee and elbow pads and neck braces are recommended but not required.”

There’s a generous supply of spring water flowing off Mount Cheam and it takes about 20 minutes to fill up the water truck, which makes up to three rounds each day to keep the dust down, explained Philps.

Park operators are open to feedback from the riders and have the machinery to make adjustments where needed. They even got some suggestions from internationally-renowned MX rider Dusty Klatt, who was at the track last weekend to give two days of instruction to advanced riders. Philps said there were about 24 riders, aged 19 to 47.

The track is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but is currently open from noon to 8 p.m. on all other days. Hours will be adjusted with the shortening daylight but Philps says they plan to stay open as long as they can into the fall, subject to weather conditions.

Future plans include motorbike and equipment rentals, for those who want to try the sport before they get heavily invested. There are also plans for an enduro-cross track and inclusion of quad vehicles.

Visit www.popkummotorpark.com to find out further details — or drop by for a visit.

There’s no charge for spectators at present but you need to check in at the office.