A community plan to build sustainable mountain bike and hiking trails in Cheasty Greenspace has barely cleared a key City Council committee vote, bringing it one step closer to winning the Neighborhood Matching Funds it needs to become reality, Publicola reports.
The full City Council is scheduled to vote on the NMF list Monday, though more hurdles for the bike park project are likely.
“I anticipate that there will be an amendment by next Monday about how people want to proceed,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw during the committee meeting. You can watch the meeting and listen to testimony on the project via Seattle Channel.
The list of NMF projects was approved with only Bagshaw’s vote. Councilmember Bruce Harrell, the only other councilmember there, abstained due to concerns about the Cheasty process.
“With Cheasty, I think we could have gone about it a little better,” Harrell said. “For me, this was less than a perfect process.”
Specifically, he said he wished more of the concerns were spelled out in a proviso, and that some of the ideas suggested for handling difficult decisions had been codified in the plan for the pilot project. For example, one idea was to create a community committee with people for and against the project to help guide project design decisions.
To recap, project proponents have been organizing and developing this plan for years. Following the example set by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance in other parks around the region, the mountain bike trail will come with a commitment to activate volunteers to help restore the Cheasty Greenspace. The area has been overrun by invasive plants, and much of the space is not very accessible by neighbors.
Since there are so few forested parks in Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill, many neighbors see this as an opportunity to provide recreation opportunities for residents who can’t just drive out to a regional park like Duthie Hill or go for a day hike in the mountains. Project proponents envision the trails as a way to help the park, not hurt it.
But the core argument from opponents is that a mountain bike trail would be an “exclusive use” of the park. The group Save Cheasty Greenspace does not have an issue with restoration of park lands and building walking trails. They just don’t like the bike trails:
SAVE CHEASTY GREENSPACE supports responsible forest restoration, providing the entire community walking paths to access this designated beautiful natural open space for generations.
We oppose the installation of a mountain bike park and all forms of bike trails in Cheasty Greenspace.
We advocate for protection and expansion of quality habitat, trees, wildlife and healthy native plant communities in all of the Cheasty Greenspace forest, and all Seattle Greenspaces and natural areas for the benefit of all people.
While Evergreen has been able to demonstrate that mountain bike trails can be built sustainably, they can also be done poorly. Many opponents are clearly not convinced this trail will be built in a way that does not harm the greenspace even though that is a core piece of the Beacon Bike Park plan.
There are almost no examples of official mountain bike trails in urban forests (the I-5 Colonnade Park is in an urban area, but it is under an elevated freeway). In many ways, the Beacon Bike Park is in uncharted territory. Instead of bringing people to the trail, this project would bring the trail to the people. It would even have easy light rail access, and not many high capacity transit systems can say they have a mountain bike trail access.
We hope that the City Council does not crush the community energy the Beacon Bike Park folks have built and could continue building around this innovative idea. However, it could also be smart to make sure there will be community input on design details so people who fear environmental damage can be at the table as it is developed.
Because nobody wants to harm a rare urban forest in south Seattle. But if we can increase the recreation opportunities in the area without harming the natural space, Cheasty could be one more reason why Seattle is a great place to live.