Kahlil Zaloom is an avid cyclist, trail builder and project manager for the Maple Street Park in Essex Junction. Here he waxes on jumps, pumps and what it takes to fund a first-class bike park.
Kahlil in Action. Photo: Andrew Cimonetti
How did you get involved with the Maple Street Park?
I volunteer on the Advisory Council of the Essex Junction Recreation and Parks Department and about a year ago the topic of building a pump track came up so I said â€œHow about some dirt jumps too?” Since then Iâ€™ve been leading the committee and working to make the park a reality. We settled on Maple Street Park since there was a great location just behind the skatepark. Plus itâ€™s about a half mile from my house so I have personal interest in seeing this happen.
What is your background in biking?
I raced BMX for five years when I was a teenager, then got into cars for awhile. At 19 I bought my first mountain bike and fell in love with biking again. I raced cross country in college and after graduation I got a job at designing front suspension. During my time there I got semi-serious about racing XC but also spent a lot of time commuting by bike and riding downhill on the weekends. I don’t really race anymore, but have switched my focus to riding singletrack, building trails with Fellowship of The Wheel and learning to ride dirt jumps and skateparks.
How did the community react to the idea of the dirt jumps?
A few neighbors were initially concerned about the project and didn’t really understand what a bike park was. But our committee has worked really hard to be inclusive, communicative and respectful of everyone’s input and concerns. We worked with the neighbors to illustrate where we wanted to build and why and came up with some design elements that will add a unique experience to the park while ensuring weâ€™re good neighbors in the process.
How does the park benefit the community?
We will have the only dirt jump park in the area that is fully integrated into a public park that has baseball fields, a skatepark, public swimming pools, basketball, etc. This will open up opportunities for local families by providing a unique recreation opportunity in a safe, free, and easily accessible park. With the opportunity to offer camps and clinics we can also serve the growing population of riders by offering high quality learning opportunities. There will also be a positive impact for local businesses by bringing more people into the community to ride and shop.
Advice for others wanting to start a jump park?
I have to be honest that this is a lot more work than I expected. I work full time and between family, work, getting in my own recreation and trying to get this built it is a tough balance at times. There are some great volunteers helping out, but when you go through the proper channels and work at sponsorship, grant writing, public meetings, running fundraising events, etc. it adds up to a lot of time. I think that all in all we have had it easier than some because of the interest and support from the community at large, but I would say finding the time to do it right is the biggest challenge.
After Maple Street Park, whereâ€™s your 2nd favorite place to ride?
I love riding the Johnson dirt jumps. The hard work and dedication that Ron Murray has put into that spot is incredible and you won’t find a better crew to ride with. The vibe is always positive and everyone is there to have fun and learn from one another. When in the woods I love riding both Hinesburg Town Forest and Perry Hill in Waterbury.
Peeps you would like to thank?
My wife Lisa for helping me keep perspective on things and always giving great advice and support. Plus Andrew Cimonetti and Luke Krantz, two local high school students who have stuck with this project from the beginning and done all the raffle sales, auctions, etc with a great attitude and enthusiasm.. The staff at EJRP, Essex CHIPS, Essex Junction Prudential Committee, Essex Junction Village Trustees, and of course all of the local riders who have shown support and been engaged in the process. Patrick Kell of VMBA, Meghan Giroux at Girls Move Mountains, Brooke Scatchard, and Chapin Spencer for giving their expert advice. And of course all of the sponsors who have stepped up to help move this project along: Royal Cycles, Earl’s Cyclery, NBT Bank, Local Motion, GT Bicycles, The Ski Rack.
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Please help MTBVT support Kahlil and the MSBP crew. Buy tickets to their upcoming raffle or simply make a donation. For more info contact Kahlil or Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802 878 1375