'Heroes' movie rooted in Catty
The BMX cycling movie that opened recently might never have come about if not for the cooperation of the Catasauqua Borough Council several years ago. The trails, dubbed Catty Woods, were featured in the new movie, "Heroes of Dirt."
In 2012, Larry Krauter, assistant director of the Lehigh Valley International Airport, informally approached officials in Catasauqua with a problem. The BMX course that local riders had built on borough property owned by the airport was in danger of being bulldozed. The course, off 12th Street, had been built in a wooded area by volunteers and avid BMX racers, but without permission from the airport.
Catty Woods Trail is considered to be one of the premier tracks in the country and is internationally recognized. When Eric Bugbee, who participated with council to save the course, premiered his film in Allentown, he moved the recognition of the BMX sport up a notch. Catasauqua played a role in keeping the sport active by taking on the responsibility for legalizing one of the dirt bike's most recognized tracks.
The airport's problem was with potential liability, should someone become injured on the trails, and the airport's executives said they did not want to get involved.
According to Councilman Vincent Smith, who was president of council at the time, there were a couple of options. One was to secure liability protection from a national bicycling association.
The airport tried to get an agreement with Donna Smith, American Bicycle Association's national contact.
"Krauter said [the airport] could not work with the association," Smith said. "They [the association] didn't understand the FAA bureaucracy."
The BMX racers were told in no uncertain terms that a third-party representative like the national association was not going to get approval from the airport.
The only other formal organization the racers had was its local chapter, the Lehigh Valley Bicycle Association, cast more as an informal entity so the group could conduct business.
"The airport came to own the property quite unexpectedly," said Smith. "The area was originally intended for apartments, but the builder got caught in the housing bubble and the bank foreclosed. The airport bought it out of foreclosure.
"The airport claimed that they didn't know what was going on in the woods. That might be believable because this area is a bit remote from the main part of the airport's land."
"In our many discussions with Catty Riders and the airport, the only option boiled down to the borough taking the land on a lease from the airport. The borough would lease the land back to the Catty Riders and include the airport as an additional insured," said Smith.
No one on council was opposed to the action, but Smith, Public Works Director Jeff MacHose, and Councilman Brian Bartholomew were passionate about seeing that this unique facility would remain a part of Catasauqua and the Lehigh Valley. They worked behind the scenes to get a consensus with other council members and to bring the solicitor into the fold.
"We worked with Flash [Jay Crosson] who represented the Riders and they were willing to cooperate with the borough," said Smith.
Borough Solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich was leery of taking on the task.
"His concern was more about the consequences of the racers not paying the insurance premium than the risk of a lawsuit," Smith said.
Finding affordable insurance was not an easy assignment.
"Mish Gansle, an agent for Philadelphia Insurance stepped forward with a custom product," he said.
Bringing in the solicitor to construct a lease and review the documents was not without cost to the borough. Some members of council and more than a few residents balked at paying the legal fees.
"We broke the fees down to a monthly figure and prorated it over the months," Smith said. "Catty Riders made every payment on time and now have reimbursed the borough's legal expense.