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Update Wed, May 13 at 5 pm
That was easy. The above map shows the final 7 mile mountain bike leg of the Ski to Sea race. The race organization was easily able to not cut through the Chuckanut Community Forest park by simply routing the race up the Interurban trail. The bikers get nice gnarly trails on the yellow loop end of the leg. The organizers even said the course is the best.
Now lets have a great race. And hope we get a good number of teams registered. And enjoy the best street party in Bellingham at the Fairhaven Festival on Sunday, May 24, where the race ends in Fairhaven.
Original article below posted Thu, May 7 at 4:30 pm
It was quite the “press release” the Ski to Sea corporation selectively sent out on Wednesday. Pete Coy bought the Ski to Sea Race from the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce a few years ago and says the city has “reneged” on its agreement to allow a new mountain bike leg of the race to traverse the new Chuckanut Community Forest Park.
Coy’s press release had no contact person listed so it was more of a plant with the Herald than a press release. The Herald ran with it, along with a headline suggesting Mayor Kelli Linville was responsible for damaging the Ski to Sea race.
This proposed seventh leg of the race is about nine miles long, with about a mile of it through the park. The route can be easily adjusted to not traverse the park.
In truth, Coy didn't get a “special use permit” from the city for use of the trail through the park - and he is experienced enough to know there is no agreement unless you have the written permit. I think he is trying to bully the city into granting the permit.
Coy has been pushing the city to allow the bikes through the most sensitive part of the park because it is the most rugged and muddy - just the sort of trail that mountain bikers like. Riding on established trails - like the Interurban - are not challenging for mountain bikers. They want a sort of hybrid bike leg here with a combination of roads and rugged, woodsy, muddy hills.
I’ve talked today with quite a number of participants in this process. The city was, and is, open to helping establish a second mountain bike leg to help make up for the loss of the two skiing legs at Mount Baker due to the lack of snow this year. But the city is not going to allow the very environmentally sensitive 100 acre wood, as the park is called, to be trashed by hundreds of mountain bike racers.
Coy did not send the press release to NWCitizen - and as of this writing it has been hours since I phoned asking for a copy. No call back. I got a copy from someone else and it is appended at the bottom of this article for you to read. It is a pretty trashy document. Judge for yourself.
Bottom line: The city did not renege. At one point, the city indicated it “was possible” the race might go through the park - but then realized the legal conservation easement with the new metropolitan park district prohibited this sort of use. And the people at the park district wrote the city of their concerns. The final decision rested with the city - that is, the parks department and mayor - and they decided not to let the bikes through that very sensitive natural area. It was a good decision both legally and environmentally.
After no return-call from the race folks, I drove to their office. There I met Curtis Anson, the director of the race, and while he answered some questions, he said “no comment” to key questions. I did learn the so-called press release was “tailored” for the Herald. He would not comment on the use of the word “reneged” in the release. He indicated no second thoughts about the wisdom their actions.
Some further opinion.
There seems no reason for this one-time leg of the race other than to maintain seven legs or achieve the arbitrary length of 100 miles. There is already a mountain bike leg from Hovander Park to Squalicum Harbor. The kayaks race across the bay to Maritime Park to the normal finish line. The race can end there. Everyone knows there is no snow and the Ski to Sea corporation cannot be blamed for that. No one - well, very few - want to trash an environmental jewel like the Chuckanut Community Forest Park. And race participants would probably be embarrassed to realize they are damaging a sensitive natural area. That leg of the race has eight miles that are not in the community park and can easily be routed to avoid it.
It was a sad and idiotic decision by the Chamber of Commerce to sell the race to Pete Coy and his special corporation. The chamber president who made that decision came here from California, decided he did not like the race and sold it. A few years later he quit and went back to California. We lost our signature community event to a private corporation. I was on the Ski to Sea committee for many years and ran the finish line committee for several years, overseeing the move of the finish line to Marine Park in Fairhaven back in about 1983. I later worked at the snow plow sheds with the state patrol enabling the road bikers entry onto the highway. I love that race and all it represents about our community.