Image via Friends of Cheasty Greenspace.

Opponents of a proposal to build a series of trails for mountain bikes in Beacon Hill and Columbia City's Cheasty Greenspace lost the first round in their battle yesterday, when the city council's neighborhoods committee voted to move forward a bunch of neighborhood matching fund proposals that included $100,000 in city dollars for the mountain-bike plan. (The vote was 1-0-1—ties move legislation forward—with Sally Bagshaw in favor, and Harrell abstaining.) 

Some neighbors of the park, which spans 43 acres in Southeast Seattle, oppose the 10-acre trail project (of which about 2 acres would consist of actual trail space) because, they argue, it would result in loss of wildlife habitat and urban tree cover; it will compromise the safety of park users (including cyclists); it will increase parking pressure in the area; and because, in the words of the group Save Cheasty Greenspace, "Passive use park lands should not be converted to active use park lands."

Additionally, opponents argue that the council is moving forward with funding for the plan (which has a total price tag of $750,000) before proponents have raised their own half-million-dollar contribution and presented a formal plan to the council. "And by that point it is unlikely that there is any turning back," an email from the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition put it earlier this month."I’ve seen some videos of these mountain bikes—these kids are doing these twists and all this stuff. I asked the question on this project ... [what about] safety concerns and insurance concerns?"—Council Member Bruce Harrell

(Parks director Christopher Williams said today, "We recognize that some of the input and concerns that the community has need to be reflected in the design and the proposal going forward. It’s our hope that we can still get there.")

Proponents, meanwhile, argue that a series of bike and pedestrian paths will provide "enjoyment, recreation, and education" to residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, and will create a new pedestrian connection between Beacon Hill and Columbia City. 

Parks director Williams told the committee today that "As a park and recreation agency, we have a responsibility to allow new uses, or at least to experiment with the possibility that a new use might be compatible with existing uses." As examples, he cited the repurposing of city parks space for rugby, bike polo, lacrosse, and ultimate frisbee, among other alternative uses for parks.

That's exactly the kind of thing he's worried about, Harrell said. "I’ve seen some videos of these mountain bikes—these kids are doing these twists and all this stuff. I asked the question on this project ... [what about] safety concerns and insurance concerns?"

City staffers assured Harrell that although the city would be liable for any injury that was due to the city's own negligence, as long as the city doesn't create dangerous conditions in its parks, a mountain bike trail system would be much like city skate parks, where the city isn't liable for injuries caused by users' own foolhardy actions. 

The parks department is asking the mountain bike trail proponents to submit a formal, detailed proposal to the department by August or September.

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