Mountain Bike Trails in Seattle’s Natural Areas?

DSCN3506Seattle Parks is drafting standards for mountain bike trails in the natural areas.  One would expect them be similar to Portland, Oregon’s standards, which are here, on page 31.  This would mean ripping out plantings to create a minimum 40’ line of sight and trail widths of six to twelve feet when you factor in the one foot margin on either side.  The impetus for this is a grant request from the stewards at Cheasty/Mt View on east side of Beacon Hill.  They view it as a way to reduce crime in the natural area and accelerate restoration.  Their trail plan is here.

In addition to drafting these standards Parks is planning to ask for a change in the code for Seattle’s natural areas.  Right now, only passive uses are permitted.  In order to allow mountain biking Parks will ask for a code change to allow active uses.

We feel that the primary focus of the urban natural areas should be forestry and habitat development.  Since urban mountain bike trials are so heavily used, many, or even most, of Seattle’s natural areas cannot function as intended under the burden of this new use.  The Thornton Creek Natural Areas in particular tend to be small and closely follow the creek.  We are working to get at least these exempted from consideration.

We are pleased to report that we have been in communication with Seattle Neighborhood Greenways;  they understand and are sympathetic to our concerns.  After all, we do have some common goals!  The conversation is continuing.  We hope that together with some of the bicycle groups we can develop standards that will help protect our fragile, urban natural resources.

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission is beginning to look at the issue.  The Seattle Parks Board had an interview with Parks’ trail planner at their Nov. 14th meeting.  Only one commissioner fully grasped what is at stake here.  The majority seems to be leaning toward asking for the policy change and allowing one trail for a couple of years as a pilot project.  The commission will issue a recommendation in January.

If you would like to send in comments here’s how:

Parks Board:  rachel.acosta@seattle.gov

Parks Trail Planner:  David.Graves@seattle.gov

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