NWTA Kids Oak Street Summer Camps Recap

Aug. 14-17, 2023 at Laurelhurst Park

Portland’s coolest new bike camp for kids took place during the hottest week of the year! 

By Elaine Bothe, Coach

The week’s weather forecast was in the low 100s but the deep shade on SE Oak Street between SE 37th Ave. and Cesar Chavez Blvd. was refreshingly cool as Coaches Elaine, Deidre and Amanda met the very first campers ever to attend the NWTA’s “Neo Newts” camp for kiddos ages 4-6. From this meeting point we rode through Laurelhurst Park past the new pickleball courts and skateboard halfpipes into the bike park which is literally on Oak Street. 

We practiced braking, turning, looking ahead, standing on our pedals and much more. Some kids hot lapped the wood and steel features while others kept to the street level for the first day. By the end, one kid was catching air on the features, two were riding them confidently and the others had enough courage to at least try riding the features and pump track, even if they were “spotted” by a coach or their parent. 

On bikes, we played rousing versions of “drop the bean bag into the bucket” and “squeaky monster dog toy hunt,” chasing each other in the pump track (some were riding it, too!) and trading bikes to ride. We also explored the paths in Laurelhurst Park as well as held some fast and slow races, riding circles around trees and taking turns being “first” behind the leader!

Parents got to participate as well, riding, making new friends amongst themselves, cheering on the kids and sharing information about the best bikes and helmets to get. All the participants had fun and progressed so much, challenged themselves as they were comfortable one step at a time. 

The highlight of the entire week was on the last day when we got to hang out with the Engine 9 firefighters as they pulled up in their big ol’ FIRE TRUCK so they could play pickleball! The kids all got stickers, and we got cool photos. 

This entire week was full of firsts, too. This was the very first kids camp at the newest bike park in Portland, and the first camp the Northwest Trail Alliance hosted for kids under the age of 7. Oak Street’s central location and on-street parking made it possible to host younger kids who might have problems riding into Gateway Green. And the variety of rideable features and the pump track was entertaining and inviting enough for campers to run on, walk a bike over and eventually attempt to ride!

Let’s give a HUGE thank-you for the support of the City of Portland Parks & Recreation, project^, Trek Bicycles, REI and Fred Meyer for making NWTA’s youth programming possible!

Photos by Sean Benesh, Elaine Bothe and Christine Pond.