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Update on the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project


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CheastyOver the course of the last year, my office has received a great deal of correspondence regarding the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project proposed for the Cheasty Greenspace.  This project first came before the Council as part of its approval of a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) grant that would support the construction of a perimeter trail, envisioned by the proponents as the first phase of a larger project involving mountain bike and pedestrian cross trails through the interior of the Greenspace.  The project was initially proposed by The Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mountain View (Friends), in collaboration with a number of community partners.

The Friends are doing a great job of removing invasive plants and restoring the area.  Such volunteer work is essential to reclaiming our Greenspaces, and I deeply appreciate the work of the Friends.Volunteer Work Party

When this proposal came before the Council intense community interest in support and in opposition was expressed.  Some would like to see Cheasty developed with a network of pedestrian and mountain bike trails and others are concerned about the effect of mountain bike trails on the Greenspace.

Since at least 1988 Seattle has had policies relating to our Open Spaces (now referred to as Greenspaces).[1]  Generally the policies on Greenspaces include 5 key goals, to[2]:

  1. Help preserve areas of natural landscape and habitat for wildlife
  2. Provide natural buffers between land uses of different intensity or areas of distinct character or identity
  3. Help mitigate the effects of noise and air pollution
  4. Help reduce the necessity for constructed storm water systems
  5. Help preserve the quality of natural drainage systems and enhance the stability of the land

Those and other City policies were developed over the years through a lengthy public process at a time when there was intense pressure for development and building within the greenbelts.  While the policies for the Greenspaces do not prohibit pedestrian trails or the use of bicycles, it is clear that uses in the Greenspaces are to be “low impact”.  Where such uses are proposed, careful planning consistent with City polices and environmental stewardship must occur.

Those who oppose the Cheasty Mountain Bike/Pedestrian Trail Pilot Project have been characterized as “a small but vocal group”.  However, there is strong support throughout the City for protecting our Greenspaces and strong support for the five key goals in our policies. MUAjmkULtWAvHgg-580x326-noPad

The Seattle Urban Forestry Commission in an April 2, 2014 letter to the Mayor and Councilmember Jean Godden noted the following:

Cheasty Greenspace is part of the approximately 14 percent of park land that falls under the April 2009 Seattle Parks Classification as a “Natural Area/Greenbelt”. That classification notes that “Natural areas are park sites established for the protection and stewardship of habitat and other natural systems support functions.  Some natural areas are accessible for low impact use.  Minimal infrastructure may include access and signage where it will not adversely impact habitat or natural systems functions.” …The Commission is very concerned about any conversion of natural areas and Greenspaces in our urban forest to more active uses which can impact the habitat and wildlife protection in these areas.

When this project was proposed to the Council, it did not appear that public dialogue had been held on how the project was consistent with our longstanding Greenspaces policies. Evidently, the Parks Department (DPR) was aware of the sensitivity of constructing a mountain bike trail in the Greenspace/Natural area because DPR in communication with the City Council refers to the trail as a “1.5 mil perimeter bike loop”.

To be clear, the legislation before the Council was the NMF grant for funding of a perimeter trail only.  Thus Council’s decision to specify that design discussion should focus on a perimeter trail was, in part, an effort to keep discussion focused on the scope of the NMF proposal before the Council.

6731508Meanwhile it was made public by the proposal’s advocates that the long-term desire was to include interior mountain bike trails within the Greenspace, which Council was concerned may not be “low impact”.    We know, for example, that Cheasty Greenspace is an ecologically sensitive area, especially with respect to the slopes and wetlands.  Yet, without sufficient information at the time the Council acted last summer, it was Council’s belief that more study should be done, and that steps should be taken (such as focusing on a perimeter trail) to prevent potential ecological risk to the landscape.   I support that cautious approach.

When proposed actions are potentially inconsistent with longstanding city policies it is appropriate for the Council to respond to public concern.    In this case we asked the Parks Department to conduct a public process on the project, so that more information could be developed and public review could occur.

DPR is in the midst of that Council-requested public process involving a Project Advisory Team (PAT) composed of community members.  The PAT will make a recommendation to the Parks Board of Commissioners on the design of the project.  Following this, DPR is expected to make a final decision on the design consistent with Council direction, and return to the Council for approval.  These requirements are consistent with the City Council’s responsibility to comply with city policy, our responsibility for oversight of City Departments, and our stewardship of our parks and public lands.

I look forward to reviewing the recommendations of the Project Advisory Team, the Parks Board, and ultimately of DPR.  I expect that in-depth study will be completed on the ecological impact of the final design proposal.  And, I anticipate a more comprehensive discussion of how this project correlates to our existing policy on Greenspaces and of whether the policies should change.

The Council has requested the Parks Department to review and report back to the Council on policies relating to use guidelines for natural areas and greenspaces (such as the Cheasty Greenspace) by this summer.  That process has already begun, and I anticipate that there will be ample time to review those policy recommendations within the context of the Cheasty project.

There is a need for more places for active recreation including mountain biking.  I am confident that need can be met without damaging our Greenspaces and undermining the unique benefits they provide to our environment.

[1] Seattle City Council Resolution 27852, adopted September 12th, 1988

[2] Seattle City Council Resolution 28653, adopted February 8th, 1993

 

 

Comments

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Comment from Carson Flora
Time February 5, 2015 at 6:42 am

This is an extremely disappointing response. I live next to Greenbelt and I have lived next to it for nearly 10 years. I have never seen you or your office make any efforts to make improvements to the Greenbelt which is slowly suffocating from the impact of invasive weeds. At my own expense, I have an arborist come out each year and look at the trees in the greenbelt that could fall on my house and advise me on the risk. Now there is a community driven effort to save the space and outsiders who have never lifted a finger to protect the space are appearing out of nowhere. With all due respect, your concern for the Greenbelt is not credible in light of the your past inaction. Please step aside and let the neighbors improve this space. Please focus your energy on areas where it would be helpful to the community and not destructive to this impressive community effort.

Comment from Ruth Williams
Time February 5, 2015 at 9:47 am

Thank you very much for this clear sighted analysis, CM Rasmussen. As you may know, Parks set up a community meeting to get feedback from under-represented communities. The notes are linked here: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/cheasty/files/outreach_meeting_notes_20141203.pdf. There is no evidence that the attendees were given any information about why Seattle’s natural areas exist in the first place or what the existing policies are. This significantly detracts from the value of the input that was gathered in the notes.

We appreciate your concern for Seattle’s last remaining forests.

Ruth
TCA President

THORNTON CREEK ALLIANCE (TCA) is an all-volunteer grassroots, nonprofit organization of 100 members dedicated to preserving and restoring an ecological balance throughout the Thornton Creek watershed. Our goal is to benefit the watershed by encouraging individuals, neighborhoods, schools, groups, businesses, agencies, and government to work together in addressing the environmental restoration of the creek system including: water quality, stabilization of water flow, flood prevention, and habitat improvement through education, collaboration, and community involvement.

Comment from Frank I Backus, MD
Time February 5, 2015 at 11:05 am

Thank you for a very thorough review. It was very helpful to me.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 5, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Carson: Thank you for writing me. I assume you live next to the Cheasty Greenbelt. I appreciate your work to help get rid of the invasive species and the work of others as well. While you and they are doing great work that does not entitle anyone to use the Greenbelt in contravention of City Policy.

Apparantly, we haven’t met nor do you know of my work for Greenbelts and their restoration. I have been to the Greenbelt several times over the last year including to thank the volunteers who are working there. It appears that you missed the part in my article that says that our current policies do not prohibit bicycling or walking in our greenbelts and they do allow low impact uses when appropriate. My concern is that the mountain bike trail may not be a low impact type of use and its construction and use may be in violation of City policy and harmful to the ecology of the greenbelt.

Thanks again for writing.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 5, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Thank you. Please feel free to share the article with others.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 5, 2015 at 12:51 pm

You are welcome. I thought some history would be helpful. Thanks for writing.

Comment from lelan kuhlmann
Time February 5, 2015 at 3:20 pm

this mountain bike thing escapes me – ??? ,, isn’t that for the mountains?? — keep bikes out of these critical areas –

Comment from Rick MacKenzie
Time February 5, 2015 at 8:44 pm

I used to ride my mountain bike in the Interlaken greenbelt in the early 1990s. I don’t know if it was prohibited but I wasn’t the only one doing it. We coexisted with the joggers and dog-walkers. Over the course of years I didn’t notice any degradation in the ecosystem. People who cared about the place they chose to exercise or spend their leisure time were around every day. The environment benefited.
The first home I purchase had its back yard against Maple School Ravine greenbelt. That winter trees fell over by the dozen from the snow that had clung to the english ivy that had taken over in the green space. I contacted Seattle Parks through email; months later I was contacted by someone connected with greenbelt restoration. I found out what I could do. I put sweat and time into clearing out the evasive plants. They were hoping I could get the neighborhood involved. I couldn’t, but I can cut a lot of ivy with a hand saw in one day. Eventual conservation groups came in and the greenbelt was transformed.
I walk the greenbelt occasionally with my kids these days identifying plants and animals but usually just to walk off the pavement for a while. When it was cleared there was trash, bottles, needles, abandoned tents, and… toys. It was an escape for some before it was mine. Now the community that surrounds it appreciates it and is involved.
My advice to the poeple that neighbor Cheasty greenspace is to let it be all that it can be with little management as possible. If bike trails cause erosion deal with it when it happens. But, if you think a greenspace can exist within a city with little to no public benefit then you are giving it back to the english ivy, himalayan blackberry, junkies, and thieves.

Comment from Mark Holland
Time February 7, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Council Member Rasmussen,

Thank you for your balanced analysis of the Cheasty issue.

Here are a few of my concerns.

PARKS DEPT. POLICY WAIVERS

You are correct to point out that the problems associated with the Cheasty debacle is about the Parks Department suspending many policies at once to get the bike park component of the Cheasty trail plan built to their liking.

Policies are put in place so we the people can have reasonable expectations regarding government actions. Good policies build trust in government when they are followed by conscientious public servants.

When a public servant uses the word “pilot project” to chuck multiple long standing policies out the door, the opposite of trust occurs.

CURRENT DESIGN OUT OF COMPLIANCE

The point of the Cheasty PAT was to design a trail plan that was NOT like the infamous Beacon Bike Park plan. The current design is exactly like the original concept plan, except without cross trails – yet. The current plan is not a multi-use trail as described by the city council in council bill 118151.

Here is a link to the council bill.

http://clerk.seattle.gov/~scri

Here is the language of the bill.

Council Bill Number: 118151 Ordinance Number: 124546

“Section 5. Before approving a final plan for the Cheasty Greenspace Trails and Bike Park, which is proposed as a three- year pilot project, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) shall complete a full public process and technical review of the proposed design for the a multi-use bike and pedestrian perimeter trail, including review of engineering, environmental, design, and community factors, make necessary revisions to the proposed design, and report to the City Council’s Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity (PSCLGPE) Committee. The report shall include a summary of the public engagement process and a plan outlining the method and criteria for evaluation of the pilot project.”

A multi use trail is what every member of the PAT signed up for, and what the public expected at the start of the PAT process The Parks Department decided a multi use trail could not be done so they separated the trails and gave the bulk to mountain bikers. Most trails will need “no pedestrian” signage to keep people off
the bike tracks.

The current design is not what anyone signed up for – except mountain bikers.

How about a design for pedestrians only?

The Parks Department refers to their current design as the “one alternative”.

“One alternative” is an oxymoron. The word “alternative” suggests there is at least one other option. Where is it?

That option is a passive use, low impact pedestrian only option that finds a suitable location for the high impact, active recreation bike park component of the Cheasty trail plan.

BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES (BMP)

Regarding policies not followed in Cheasty Greenspace, please read the following document, The Seattle Parks Departments “Best Management Practices” manual for natural areas.

http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/BMP/chapter5.pdf

Check pages 5-27 and 5-28.

On 5-27 you will see that community enthusiasm for restoration activities unfortunately coincides with nesting season for birds and other creatures.

On 5-28 the chart shows best management practices indicates NO restoration should occur during nesting season.

This is a fatal flaw in the volunteer based forest restoration system.

Throughout last years nesting season in Cheasty green space, the Parks department led restoration in Cheasty often with more than 100 volunteers. This is an unusually high number of participants for a restoration project. Is the impact also higher than with a typical number of volunteers?

I assume enthusiasm for mountain biking also coincides with nesting season.

Bike Works and the Evergreen Mountain Biking Alliance (EMBA) already announced they plan to hold classes and work shops in Cheasty.

At Duthie Hill in Issaquah, a bike park often compared to Cheasty by mountain bikers, There are often 500 people a day tearing through the park.

The difference? Duthie is a 135 acre park in a 3000 acre wilderness. If creatures are disturbed by mountain bikers, they can go into other parts of the forest.

Cheasty Greenspace is a 57 acre urban forest surrounded by a dense urban environment.

If creatures are disturbed by mountain bikers in Cheasty, there will be no where else for them to go – but away.

What effect will that intensity of activity have on the ecosystem of the Cheasty forest?

A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL WAIVED POLICIES

Maybe we need a complete list from the Parks Department of exactly how many policies they waived throughout the Cheasty saga.

There is the BMP regarding restoration activities, public involvement policies regarding process, exemption from the bicycle use policy, there may be violations of policies regarding active use in passive use only designated natural areas etc.. the list goes on.

The list of policies waived by the Parks Department for the Cheasty bike park component should then be posted on the Cheasty PAT website along with all the other relevant documents.

http://www.seattle.gov/parks/projects/cheasty/gs_bike_trail.htm

It would be nice to know what we are missing.

DENSITY IS NO EXCUSE FOR DEVELOPING THE LAST 14% OF URBAN FORESTS IN SEATTLE

Mountain bikers insist increasing density means we must open up these few (14% of all park land) remaining natural areas to active sport facilities like mountain biking; and who knows what other active sports interests are waiting in the wings?

I say that increasing density is the very reason we must double down on Seattle’s long standing cultural traditions of putting nature first.

ENVIRONMENTAL REGRESSION is not what Seattle needs right now.

We need an urban forest management agency (Department of Forestry?) to take control of the few remaining natural areas left in Seattle. At 14% ( around 830 acres) Seattle is near the bottom of the list among American cities for percentage of natural spaces to total park acreage.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESSION is what Seattle needs right now, and the bike park component of the Cheasty trail plan is headed in the wrong direction.

Comment from Joel DeJong
Time February 9, 2015 at 10:49 am

CM Rasmussen, thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts on Cheasty and for providing some greenbelt policy history. Having spent many years dedicated to restoring Cheasty, I am very much in favor of a cautious approach to anything impacting the space. I am also keenly aware that many of our greenbelts without significant community engagement in caring for these lands are ridden with invasives and negative behaviors.

In my experience with restoring Cheasty, creating trails is the best way to restore and sustain long-term community involvement and care for this wooded parkland. Cheasty is getting restored because of access and recreation. Within an urban context, I see this as the way forward. The ecological benefit is a net positive and far outweighs the alternative of leaving these forests to fend off the invasives alone. Green Seattle Partnership was formed to solve this very problem.

It’s helpful for everyone to be reminded that The Cheasty project is a PILOT. The Parks Board wants to test the idea of mt. bike trails and evaluate it before making any kind of recommendation for this type of usage in other areas. It’s a TEST. We need to remember that and let it proceed and evolve with the Parks direction. The process of implementing a pilot is not as straight forward as a Seattle Parks capital project, which has a very clear public input process. That being said, per the Council’s direction regarding the perimeter, the public has had ample time and opportunity to voice concerns. Parks has also had the opportunity to hire geotech and environmental experts to get clarity on the space and the impact of trails. Whatever the outcome related to bike trails pilot, the forest will still be restored and thousands of native plants and trees will be in the ground.

Thank you for sharing the original greenspace policy goals. Here is how I see these applying to the Cheasty pilot:

Help preserve areas of natural landscape and habitat for wildlife – Yes, a restored forest is a better habitat for native species and wildlife.
Provide natural buffers between land uses of different intensity or areas of distinct character or identity – No, Cheasty is surrounded by residential homes on all sides.
Help mitigate the effects of noise and air pollution. Noise: not so much as it’s directly under a flight path and is the home to the Parks maintenance yard, which often has heavy machinery running. Air Pollution: absolutely with all of the natives getting planted.
Help reduce the necessity for constructed storm water systems. Yes, removal of ivy an blackberry and replacing them with native plants, especially conifers, which are great for capturing and reducing storm water. Over 3000 natives going into the ground in Cheasty this year.
Help preserve the quality of natural drainage systems and enhance the stability of the land. Native plants are great for natural drainage. Properly built trails can mitigate erosion and increase land stability.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I hope to see you in the Cheasty woods sometime soon. The next work party is on Saturday, February 21 if you are available. http://seattle.cedar.greencitypartnerships.org/event/5543/

-Joel DeJong
Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward
Cheasty Greenspace

Comment from Mark Ahlness
Time February 9, 2015 at 10:54 am

Council Member Rasmussen,
Thanks for sharing your clear understanding of the issues. Here’s the view from Seattle Nature Alliance:

http://seattlenaturealliance.org/2015/02/06/we-are-everyone/

Comment from Mark Ahlness
Time February 9, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Hi Council Member Rasmussen,
Thanks for sharing your clear understanding of the issues. Here’s the view from Seattle Nature Alliance:

http://seattlenaturealliance.org/2015/02/06/we-are-everyone/

Comment from Cuyler Abrams
Time February 9, 2015 at 6:39 pm

@lelan kuhlmann – Mountain bikes do not need mountains. In fact, some of the largest MTB trail systems are in the Midwest, a place not known for having lots of mountains. The Midwest also has the largest number of urban and suburban mountain bike systems in the world. From the Knoxville Urban Wilderness trails to the Duluth Traverse. MTBers, other users and nature can and do co-exist peacefully in these places. MTBers are great lovers of nature, we want to preserve it and enjoy it (from the saddle).

@Tom Rasmussen – You have written a thoughtful piece here. If you really wanted to see and know what urban mountain biking is like and what it could be like in Seattle, I know people who would be glad to to show in person. Instead of relying on guesses, pro or con, on what it would be like, why not take the time to learn from those that have gone before. You have my email address as part of me commenting here, contact me to learn more.

Comment from J London
Time February 10, 2015 at 11:14 am

Have to agree with Carson and Rick. I too live in Beacon Hill, and this is a disappointing response. Cheasty is a great project that does a nice job balancing habitat restoration/preservation with recreational uses.

Keeping law-abiding people out of this area simply makes it more attractive for all manner of bad activity, and it does nothing to further the agenda of habitat restoration.

If the only people in support of this project were mountain bikers, I’d be skeptical of it, but all kinds of people seem to support it, including people you might expect to be against it (e.g., people who work in the field of habitat and wildlife preservation and restoration). Indeed, some of those people appear to be on the project’s PAT.

The story of this project is not a story with easy heroes and villains. Much as the opposition would like to paint it that way, it’s not marauding cyclists against nature lovers. Indeed, plenty of nature lovers favor this project too, because they know that it’s a reasonable and responsible plan for achieving habitat restoration in Cheasty. They also know that it’s a plan that can actually happen.

What is the opposition’s restoration plan? Where is their activated volunteer base? How will they fund restoration? The current plan was born out of actual grassroots activity. It exists, because people on the ground were excited enough to make it happen.

It’s all well and good to say that some sort of alternative restoration plan without the bike paths would be preferable. But where is that plan? There is no alternative plan, because the only thing the opposition is activated about is tearing down the existing plan. They have no alternative that can actually happen, because there is no grassroots groundswell to support their vision. So our choice is between the current plan or the status quo. I would submit that the status quo is a terrible option.

This is why it is so important to move forward with the existing plan. We’ve had decades for somebody to come up with a restoration plan that can happen. But until now, no plan has been forthcoming. Finally, we have a good plan with widespread community support, options for outside funding, etc. What a tragic lost opportunity if we squander all this energy and momentum.

So let’s get that outside loop trail built and let’s do it the right way, with a separate track for bikes and pedestrians. Then, let’s see what happens. Given the current state of Cheasty, what is the worst case scenario for trying the plan out? Can things really get that much worse than they already are?

I would submit that the worst case scenario is probably not that bad. Indeed, this is probably the biggest fear of the opposition: That the trail will have very little impact and that it will be very popular with the citizens of Seattle. At that point, the debate will be over.

I was at the last PAT meeting on this issue, where the environmental and geo-tech people gave their preliminary reports. The environmental consultant indicated that the wildlife species in Cheasty are urban tolerant, which is why they are there in the first place. If they couldn’t handle being around people, they would have left the area long ago. She pointed to no concrete reasons why this project would negatively affect wildlife, provided that trails are properly designed.

The geo-technical expert’s conclusions were similar. Indeed, under questioning from the PAT, he indicated that a properly designed trail system might well improve the geo-technical stability of the area (all the more reason for the Council to clarify that the Parks Department has the latitude to construct separate pedestrian and bike tracks within a loop trail).

At the last PAT meeting, fully 2/3 of the people there were wearing stickers in support of the project, and this is congruent with what I’ve observed from the beginning. Aside from a very vocal minority of people, most Beacon Hill residents think this is a great plan.

If the Council holds up this pilot project (or ties the hands of the Parks department to do it right), it will be doing a great disservice to our neighborhood and to the city as whole.

Comment from Joel DeJong
Time February 10, 2015 at 7:40 pm

CM Rasmussen, thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts on Cheasty and for providing some greenbelt policy history. Having spent many years dedicated to restoring Cheasty, I am very much in favor of a cautious approach to anything impacting the space. I am also keenly aware that many of our greenbelts without significant community engagement in caring for these lands are ridden with invasives and negative behaviors.

In my experience with restoring Cheasty, creating trails is the best way to restore and sustain long-term community involvement and care for this wooded parkland. Cheasty is getting restored because of access and recreation. Within an urban context, I see this as the way forward. The ecological benefit is a net positive and far outweighs the alternative of leaving these forests to fend off the invasives alone. Green Seattle Partnership was formed to solve this very problem.

It’s helpful for everyone to be reminded that The Cheasty project is a PILOT. The Parks Board wants to test the idea of mt. bike trails and evaluate it before making any kind of recommendation for this type of usage in other areas. It’s a TEST. We need to remember that and let it proceed and evolve with the Parks direction. The process of implementing a pilot is not as straight forward as a Seattle Parks capital project, which has a very clear public input process. That being said, per the Council’s direction regarding the perimeter, the public has had ample time and opportunity to voice concerns. Parks has also had the opportunity to hire geotech and environmental experts to get clarity on the space and the impact of trails. Whatever the outcome related to bike trails pilot, the forest will still be restored and thousands of native plants and trees will be in the ground.

Thank you for sharing the original greenspace policy goals. Here is how I see these applying to the Cheasty pilot:

Help preserve areas of natural landscape and habitat for wildlife – Yes, a restored forest is a better habitat for native species and wildlife.
Provide natural buffers between land uses of different intensity or areas of distinct character or identity – No, Cheasty is surrounded by residential homes on all sides.
Help mitigate the effects of noise and air pollution. Noise: not so much as it’s directly under a flight path and is the home to the Parks maintenance yard, which often has heavy machinery running. Air Pollution: absolutely with all of the natives getting planted.
Help reduce the necessity for constructed storm water systems. Yes, removal of ivy and blackberry and replacing them with native plants, especially conifers, which are great for capturing and reducing storm water. Over 3000 natives going into the ground in Cheasty this year.
Help preserve the quality of natural drainage systems and enhance the stability of the land. Native plants are great for natural drainage. Properly built trails can mitigate erosion and increase land stability.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I hope to see you in the Cheasty woods sometime soon. The next work party is on Saturday, February 21 if you are available. http://seattle.cedar.greencitypartnerships.org/event/5543/

-Joel DeJong
Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward
Cheasty Greenspace

Comment from Herb Curl
Time February 11, 2015 at 9:36 am

Thank you CM Rasmussen for a clear explanation of the purpose and functions of Greenspaces in the city. They are basiclly remnant habitat of the type that once covered much of Seattle. They have an ecological function that surpasses the need for casual recreation. The volunteers clearing invasive plants and junk are to be congratulated for undertaking a civic duty and should not be encouraged to think that their efforts should lead to recreational gentrification of natural areas. On the other hand, Seattle Parks & Recreation has shown much more interest in active recreation while ignoring the need for maintenance of existing natural areas. The population of Seattle is increasing and there will be more pressure to turn habitat into active recreational space. I hope you will continue to resist that urge. Thanks.

Comment from A. D. Knox
Time February 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Council Member Rasmussen,

Thank you for seeing the big picture and for advocating the long view of stewardship of the City’s dwindling Natural Areas.

One could hope the Department of Parks and Recreation might adopt more of your perspective and adjust its mission to recognize that preservation of Natural Areas for their intrinsic social and ecological value as components of a healthy community is as essential as providing opportunity for active recreation.

Seattle’s Colonnades Mountain Bike “Park”, located under the elevated portion of I-5 freeway just east of Eastlake Avenue, is testimony both to the City’s well intentioned creativity and also of “being careful of what you ask for because you may get it”.

That “park” installation is a deserted, dilapidated, and dangerous public eyesore. It is and has been the Park Department’s responsibility to maintain for the several years that have elapsed upon expiration of the commitment for maintenance transitioning to the City from the mountain bike association who built the park.

That “park” is now reverted to what it was intended to replace–an embarrassing City owned eyesore; aq homeless encampment fouled with human waste, discarded food waste; abandoned , filthy soiled clothing; and disgusting graffiti.

Colonnades is an “attractive nuisance” in legal parlance; a veritable lawyer’s retirement program. Some 16 year old holy terror on a $5,000 high tech mountain bike is sure to break his neck while attempting to “develop” his Evel Knievel dare devil riding skills as he intentionally rides off into space from an 8 foot “drop” and crashes headlong, with or without helmet, onto the boulders below.

So the question is: why is the Parks Department contemplating for the Cheasty Green Space anything that resembles in any aspect the Colonnades mess?

Councilman, you are dead on the money to take a hard look at how the Cheasty PAT has operated.

To begin with, the PAT membership is stacked predominately with people known to be sympathetic to the program Parks has promoted for over two years.

Add to that the facial expression the Cheasty PAT “facilitator” displays when opponents to the Cheasty Mountain Bike Trails project are speaking. Whether PAT member or ordinary citizen giving public testimony, the look that comes across her face suggests she has just smelled something bad; not exactly a confidence builder as to having an equitable mindset.

Parks brazenly asserts the “pilot” mountain bike proposal is exempt from the requirements of the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), Seattle’s Critical Areas legislation, and a half dozen other City ordinances and Parks Department policies; an invitation to litigation if ever there was one.

Let us hope the new Parks Director designee, Jesus Aguirre, will cause the Cheasty Mountain Bike project to be carried out, as you have mentioned, in tandem with and consistent with the adoption of a new Natural Space preservation policy.

Allow me to quote you from the above:

“I anticipate a more comprehensive discussion of how this project correlates to our existing policy on Greenspaces and of whether the policies should change..”

Thank you for your cautious, steady leadership on this issue.

Comment from A. D. Knox
Time February 11, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Post Script:

“Sadly, as time marches on, the epicenter of our empire, Seattle, gets less and less desirable as a place we would choose…to live.”

…Ron Judd, “A Native Son Explains (and doesn’t care what you think), Seattle Times, page 13 Pacific NW magazine, Sunday, January 2015

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful comments Mark. I urge you to share them with the Parks Department and other Councilmembers.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 11, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Thanks for your comments and recommendations Joel. I appreciate the restoration work that is so important and helpful. Each greenbelt or greenspace serves some but perhaps not all of the goals as you note. What I am seeking to point out is that bike and pedestrian trails are not prohibited but that today’s policies emphasize that they are to be “low impact”.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 11, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Thanks Cuyler for your comments. As you may have seen from my response to other comments and I stated this in the blog: I appreciate the restoration work that is so important and helpful. I have been to Cheasty a number of times to view it and to thank people doing the restoration. What I am seeking to point out is that bike and pedestrian trails are not prohibited but rather that today’s policies emphasize that uses are to be “low impact”. Perhaps the mountain bike trail and use that is to be piloted will be “low impact” and yet very enjoyable.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 11, 2015 at 6:26 pm

Thanks J for your comments. As you may have seen from my response to other comments and I stated this in my blog: I appreciate the restoration work that is so important and helpful. Yes, the current condition of the greenspace is not acceptable and more healthy uses are desirable and needed. What I am seeking to point out is that bike and pedestrian trails are not prohibited but rather that today’s policies emphasize that uses are to be “low impact”. Perhaps the mountain bike trail and use that is to be piloted will be “low impact” and yet very enjoyable. I don’t anticipate that members of the City Council will hold up the pilot project if they are convinced that it will likely be “low impact” and that during the pilot period we will all see if that is the case. Thanks again.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Thanks A.D. I didn’t know that the Colonnades Mountain Bike Park had deteriorated. I was there when it first opened and had a blast! I will have to go back to see what it has become.

Comment from Mark Ahlness
Time February 11, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Council Member Rasmussen,
You urged me to share my thoughts with Parks and other Councilmembers. I have been doing that for over a year on this issue, and I will continue. – Mark

Comment from Denise Dahn
Time February 12, 2015 at 9:26 am

CM Rasmussen, thank you so much for your time and attention to this issue. I know you have worked hard on behalf of greenspaces both in the field, and in the office. The proponents of this bike installation are fond of implying that only those who join their work parties are truly committed to natural areas. They need to realize that in a society, there are many different ways that people contribute, and all are important. I’m glad to have Council Members such as Mr. Rasmussen who work thoughtfully for nature.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Thanks Joel: I appreciate your thoughtfulness about how to approach this. Not abandoning it and allowing people to use it for low impact trails is important to having the “right kind” of human activities in the area. Restoration is important to supporting or bringing back wildlife. A person who has a private greenbelt in West Seattle told a group of us this week that when he restored it even red fox returned! I don’t know if I can be there on the 21st but as I may have mentioned to you I have visited several times. And I helped with restoration of the West Duwamish greenbelt about a month ago. Great turn out there too. Thanks again.

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 13, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Thanks Denise. Nice hearing from you.

Comment from Susan Zeman
Time February 13, 2015 at 10:48 pm

Thank you, Councilmember Rasmussen, for this thoughtful post about Cheasty Greenspace. I live at the Southern tip and have been active restoring the Mountainview section and have been involved in the Trails and Bike Park plan since the very first conversations among neighborhood volunteers. Like you, I initially assumed mountain bike trails would not be ecologically sound but the research supports the positive impacts a well-designed trail system can have on the environment, and that environmental costs of mountain bike trails are comparable to those for walking trails. It surprised me, too, but it turns out a mountain bike park of this size and proposed design is low impact.

Moreover, this greenspace needs human intervention for all the reasons you mention in the five key goals. The restoration work that is the foundational component of this project will improve wildlife habitat, soak up noise, atmospheric carbon, and water run-off, and establish and support native plants with root systems that will help stabilize the soil while removing the ivy that contributes to destabilization and habitat destruction.

Not being a biker, my view on this project is tightly focused on ecological enhancement, in both the short and long term. I applaud our Seattle government for greenspace guidelines that support that and am very happy to have an array of trained biologists, naturalists, and other scientists and engineers contribute their expertise so this project can do the most possible environmental good.

I also spend time regularly in Cheasty Mountianview where I get to see first-hand how the trails there facilitate community engagement that has turned this once-crime, garbage, and invasive-filled hillside into an emerging native Pacific Northwest forest and how this forest is serving to improve both the health and environmental intelligence of surrounding families. Looking forward beyond my own generation, it is this youthful engagement with nature that I count on to continue environmental stewardship into the long term.

Comment from Al Dimond
Time February 16, 2015 at 4:55 pm

The Colonnades park is nothing like what A. D. Knox claims. I go there once or twice a month to ride around on the features I’m capable of handling (maybe half the park). There isn’t a concentrated litter problem, certainly no more than at any other park. Around the edges there are sometimes encampments, but that’s true under any viaduct in Seattle — I’m much more likely to see encampments and litter in a large number of other places, including under I-5 near Harvard and Franklin.

I don’t know that the Colonnade is what we want at Cheasty. None of the features at the Colonnade really require natural surroundings, and there’s a great opportunity for some contemplative space there, somewhat like Schmitz Park, which has distinct trails and forested areas. Maybe using some of the trails for biking makes sense. I think we can strike a balance that encourages a little more local use within the spirit of a natural area without all the exaggerated claims.

Comment from Troy
Time February 18, 2015 at 8:38 am

The Collonade will rise again! http://www.adventure-journal.com/2015/02/the-daily-bike-seattles-innovative-park-aims-for-second-act/

Comment from Troy
Time February 18, 2015 at 9:23 am

The Colonnade is still better than it was before and it shall rise to glory again.
http://www.adventure-journal.com/2015/02/the-daily-bike-seattles-innovative-park-aims-for-second-act/

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time February 20, 2015 at 9:10 am

Thanks for the comment Susan. I look forward to the report of the Parks Department on how or if the mountain bike trail can be built and used and not have an adverse impact upon Cheasty.

Comment from Sara
Time April 4, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Thank you, Councilman Rasmussen, for your comments and your note of caution in proceding with this venture. I’m late to your blog, but I would like you to know that I truly appreciate your concern that such a trail prove to be less environmentally sound than the plan initially assumed (that’s my assesment of your reaction-which may or may not be exactly correct). I have several concerns about how this bike part aspect of the plan will affect the natural environment. I would hope that whatever bike features remain in the plan, they are scaled down to dissuade people from traveling to Cheasty to them. I have few objections to a very simple, quiet bike trail.
I also have another concern that is not addressed by others on this blog. I’ve worked for the City in a host of jobs for over 20 years. I know for a fact that what starts out as a PILOT is very hard to scale back or discontinue. People understandably become attached to a project and have a very hard time recognizing the flaws and especially the failure of an idea they’ve worked on substancially. That and all the re-organizations that Depts. inevitably go through means that many times an idea that didn’t work out keeps on going. It can take many, many times the amount of time projected to review and make structual changes.
I hope the Council and the Parks Dept. uses a less is more approach to whatever bike park features are built. More than that, I hope that we realize that changes to the natural environment by humans doesn’t right itself easily. We assumed years ago that we could ‘manage’ salmon population and it’s been a hard lesson to learn that we have made human driven choices that threaten our “canaries in our coal mines”.
Perhaps woodpeckers and the like aren’t bike park proponents but if we drive out the nature in the forest, can we really call it a forest?

Comment from Tom Rasmussen
Time April 22, 2015 at 9:04 am

Thanks very much for your comments Sara. I appreciate hearing from you. Yes, your comments regarding “pilot” projects are quite well taken. I believe that Pea Patches were once “pilot projects”!

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