The Beginning

In February of 1993, a presentation was made at a special Torrington town meeting to discuss the feasibility of providing more activities for local youths. The presentation included a video shown by the state BMX commissioner, Don Olson, and comments from BMX people including Roger Plaskett, Tom Johnson, Joe Doherty, Greg Plaskett and the Wesolowski family. Joe Doherty and Tom Johnson had spearheaded the idea months earlier by approaching Rick DallaValle, the chairperson for the Torrington’s Mayor’s committee on youth, with the idea of BMX racing in Torrington.

This meeting was quite poorly attended by local people and was made up primarily of people who were already involved with BMX racing in other towns.

Nonetheless, in April of the same year, a plan was approved by the Torrington City Council to lease city owned property at Toro Field off Palmer Bridge Road to the newly formed Litchfield County BMX Association. Not long after this meeting, it was discovered that wetlands existed in the area where the proposed track would be built. Had this setback not occurred, it was anticipated that racing in Torrington could have started in May of 1993 as the land was all cleared and little site preparation would be required prior to building the actual track.

The next site proposed by the city was up in Alvord Park, which is the current site. A number of obstacles had to be overcome. There needed to be a site plan developed. We acquired a copy of the site plans for the track in Mullica Hill New Jersey. It was a track that had been recently built and we all liked it. We approached Streeter Engineering in Burlington and they agreed to draw up a similar site plan with the general layout of Mullica hill adapted to the terrain of Alvord Park.

Finally the plan was completed and approved but only after many minor setbacks with the wetlands commission and the city council. It would be April of 1994 before the first trees were finally cut.

The initial lease agreement was signed on May 13, 1994. This was a five-year agreement and probably the only multi-year agreement between any track and their host city in the state. The Park and Recreation Director at the time was John Timm and he was very instrumental in working with the city to find us a suitable piece of land. Rick DallaValle was our “key to the city”. His leadership and influence on the inner sanctum of city politics was probably the only reason we even had a shot at getting the whole program set up.

We soon needed to start raising some funds. The early fundraisers were in the form of spaghetti dinners held at the Riverside Restaurant about once a month. Each one of these raised about $200.

Our most successful fundraiser ever was an auction that was held at the Coe Park Civic Center in March of 1994. A number of people went to area businesses and asked for items that they might want to donate for our cause. An unbelievable amount of items were donated and the ultimate profit was in excess of $3,000. A windfall that far exceeded expectations. This allowed us to start purchasing material from O & G Industries, renting brush chippers etc.

All through 1994, the cutting of trees and grading of land took place. Because BMX was new to the area there was no established core group of volunteer parents. The original core group was small and made up of young people that were already involved with BMX as racers but only one local adult familiar with a BMX organization.

Meanwhile it was a long summer and fall in 1994 as we worked very hard to get ready for the 1995 season opener.

There is no doubt that the single biggest contribution to the existence of Foothills BMX came from Mr. Herman Castelli. He donated countless hours and numerous machines to create the initial facility. No matter what transpires in the future, the track simply would not be there had it not been for Herman Castelli.

Roger Plaskett was the track Director at the Bristol track when it closed in 1991. He had stored a number of items in his garage. These items included a sound system with speaker horns, a gate starting system, a back board, orange cones, corner marshall flags and other miscellaneous items. These items all became part of Foothills BMX and some are still around today. Even the large wooden NBL letters in turn one came from the Bristol Track. The gate starting system was the oldest in the area. Bristol had purchased it from South Windsor when they closed in the late 1980’s. The NBL had not yet developed the electronic system with the push-pull cylinder. This system was an electromagnet using gravity to drop it. It was very heavy and also very slow.

There was no live electricity in Alvord Park. This presented a couple of immediate problems. How would we run the gate and how would we power up the sound system. The answer was generators. We set up one generator behind the starting hill. Two sections of Cape Cod fencing was used to hide it and attempt to block the sound. A second generator was used and located outside the last straightaway to power the sound system located in the infield.

The track featured a set of obstacles on the third straight-away called the “Devils Backbone”, an area that had eight large rollers that were very deep. The fourth straight-away came to the finish line from the third turn. (It would be three years before the fourth and fifth turns were added). All the other jumps were very large compared to what the normal in the state was and the track was only 885 feet long.

That first day we had no idea of what to expect. When the gate finally dropped, the rider count was 124 with 36 motos. Unfortunately, this rider count would be our largest for the entire season of regular races.

In retrospect, the experienced riders liked the highly technical challenges of the new track but the lesser experienced riders and potential new riders shied away from it, as did the parents who came to the early races to check out the new sport in town.

Today, the track has found the right combination of a challenging course but easily ride-able for everyone. In 2002, after only eight years of racing, Foothills BMX received it’s first of nine consecutive awards from the National Bicycle League for having the highest average rider count per race of any track in the United States.

Now we are operating under the sanctioning banner of USABMX and have been since the 2011 season.

We thank all present and former volunteers and supporting businesses for helping make the programs at Foothills BMX such a rousing success.