In January, the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners voted in favor of building a 29-acre mountain bike park in Beacon Hill’s Cheasty Greenspace that would include two and a half miles of trails and be rideable by June 2015. Seems reasonable in spokes-and-chains-friendly Seattle, but it’s actually come up against heated resistance. Opponents like vocal local wildlife artist Ed Newbold worry that the Wilson’s warbler and other native birds will lose habitat and that noise from the bike park will affect other animals.
At times the debate has taken turns for the absurd (in a neighborhood forum, resident George Robertson said he informally polled woodland creatures and that they were not impressed), but the resistance is real: Another resident, Bridget Mills, has launched a petition to stop the trails from being built altogether.
Joel DeJong, a member of the group behind the bike park, says there isn’t actually much untouched habitat to contend with. The park was logged and has for years been overrun by nonnative vegetation and animals—namely rats and raccoons—and by homeless encampments. He says that by building trails they’ll turn the park into a native-species-friendly, usable green space.
DeJong thinks detractors have preconceived, Red Bull–ified notions of what mountain biking is like. “I definitely think that they’re overplaying it,” he says “I don’t think they’re putting it in the context of an urban forest.” The bike trails will be narrower than city-approved walking trails, and noise will be minimal. Plus, the park sits between light rail tracks and major roads; it’s not particularly quiet to begin with. And then there’s this: In the 10 acres that DeJong’s group has restored, they’re already seeing raccoons leave and raptors come back.
But the bird lovers will still have chances to air their grievances. Although the Parks Department approved the park and changed city ordinances to allow bike trails, it’s still a pilot program and will have to be reviewed every quarter as it’s built. “What is relevant,” says bird-polling Robertson, “is the question of just how much of everything humans have a right to appropriate for their use.”