The folks behind the Cheasty Trails and Bike Park project have been working for years to receive city permission and win grants to restore and activate the hilly Cheasty Greenspace between Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill.
The idea gained a lot of steam and community support, but it also encountered some pretty serious opposition. The ensuing debate was often difficult, but it also shifted the plans and helped develop a more complete set of goals.
For example, the original name for the project was the Beacon Bike Park, but through working with community members it became clear that some of the best and most-needed improvements the project could provide are walking paths connecting Rainier Vista homes to schools, businesses and nature. Now those walking trails are a central part of the plan, providing routes from Rainier Vista to Jefferson Park and Kimball Elementary that avoid some otherwise unavoidable busy streets. The name of the project has since changed to the Cheasty Trails and Bike Park.
The bike park element also got clarification. It’s not just for privileged Seattle residents to have a place closer to home to go mountain biking. It’s about providing this hugely popular recreation opportunity to people who don’t have access to the excellent mountain bike parks around the region, most of which are hard to reach without a car and — especially if you’re a young person — a parent with the time to drive you there.
Just as I am not a bike racer, I am also not a mountain biker (in fact, I’ve never been mountain biking, something I may have to change once these trails open). As such, I have sort of been covering this story from a distance. It’s just not what I know and not what this blog focuses on. So from my somewhat zoomed-out point of view, the most exciting parts of this project came from community building efforts that took a nugget of a good idea and grew it into a more complete vision for a space that could be such a wonderful community resource.
City Council and Dept. of Parks and Recreation staff also made the case that a growing Seattle and Rainier Valley creates an increased need for access to green spaces. But the city only has very vague guidelines about what kinds of activities are considered “low impact,” the language currently on record for Cheasty and similar green spaces. So the Cheasty pilot project will be a carefully-analyzed case study that could change the way the city looks at activity in these spaces, which can easily fall into neglect without an engaged base of volunteers.
From the Council staff memo (PDF):
Seattle is a growing City, with about 120,000 new residents expected by 2030. To meet the increased pressure for recreation opportunities in the built environment, novel uses of existing properties deserve consideration. Not all proposals will or should succeed and DPR understands they are breaking new ground, hence development of a pilot project and a 15-month evaluation period. The Project fits with the Council’s desire to provide healthy recreational choices, connect neighborhoods and encourage habitat restoration.
The City Council approved the grant funding for the project in 2014 on the condition that certain community engagement and environmental assessments took place and were successful. The recent vote to award the $100,000 grant is a sign that Council believes the project has done that work and earned it.
So congratulations to Joel and Mary DeJong and the rest of the crew working hard to make this park happen. But, of course, it ain’t done yet! Here’s an announcement from the group with some ways you can get involved:
On Monday, September 28, Seattle City Council approved a $100,000 grant for the Cheasty Greenspace Trails and Bike Park. The Friends of Cheasty Greenspace Mt. View (FCGMV) thank City Council for accepting the results of the Department of Parks and Recreation’s thorough public design process and the Board of Park Commissioners second approval of the project. FCGMV welcomes this grant as the first major step in its fund-raising process to restore and reclaim Cheasty Greenspace while engaging with the community to reimagine and reconnect the park for everyone.
Please help us match this grant by visiting our fiscal sponsor, The Seattle Parks Foundation. The Seattle Parks Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works with volunteers, donors, and community leaders to build and sustain a thriving, accessible, and connected system of public spaces for all people.
Friends of Cheasty Greenspace Mt. View is a community-led volunteer organization in SE Seattle dedicated to reclaiming, restoring, reimagining, and reconnecting Cheasty Greenspace, the largest contiguous forest in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. With the help of the entire community, FCGMV is working to provide safe, equitable access to nature and responsible recreation.