Following the last post on the future mountain bike park at Cheasty, Columbia City Source was contacted by Mary DeJong (Co-founder & Co-chair, Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mt.View) looking to get some more information out about the project and what they are doing to reclaim the site for public use:
Neighbors and Community members,
I want to respectfully address some of the misunderstandings and misperceptions around this current conversation about mountain biking in Seattle’s greenspaces. The Cheasty Greenspace Trails and Mountain Bike Park (aka Beacon Bike Park) has been a very public project that was first submitted via the 2013 Levy Opportunities Fund. The Friends of Cheasty Mt. View reached out for support, opposition, and public input through flyers, web based information, and numerous public meetings in 2012 when it was applying for the Levy Opportunity Fund grant.
Based on an out-dated bike use policy, the project wasn’t funded. However, due to the tremendous interest and support this project has garnered, Seattle Parks entered into a very public process to consider amending the bike-use-policy. In response to concerns of potentially seeing bikes in all natural areas, the Seattle Parks Board of Commissioners and Seattle Parks (via the public meeting/comment process) requested a pilot/demonstration project in Cheasty Greenspace. For the following reasons, Cheasty Greenspace has been identified by Seattle Parks as the best location for this pilot project, which was unanimously voted in favor at the January 9 Seattle Parks Board of Commissioners public hearing.
Please, do come out for the public information meeting on Tuesday, March 25, from 6:30-8:00pm at Jefferson Community Center. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in response to the proposed design for a multi-use trail system that will see this land informing the health and wellness of our community.
RECLAIM: Cheasty Greenspace was an original feature in the Olmstead Legacy design for Seattle. This design intended that residents would have access to nature within a quarter mile walk from all doorways in our city. Cheasty Greenspace is the Rainier Valley’s largest contiguous forest, an inaccessible and unsafe open space much of which is surrounded by chain-link fence and filled with nefarious behaviors. In addition to a high number of homeless encampments in Cheasty, there is evidence of drug and sex trafficking, and SPD has come out with K-9 cadaver units looking for deceased bodies, and search and rescue teams looking for weapons involved in fatal shootings, in the last few years. This land has become one that is feared, avoided and forgotten and yet this forestscape is immediately adjacent to New Rainier Vista, one of Seattle’s densest urban neighborhoods, and falls within Sound Transit’s Light Rail corridor.
Rainier Valley residents have a life expectancy 10% shorter than their neighbors in affluent Northeast Seattle. Valley residents experience higher rates of poverty and teenage pregnancy, and three times more likely to die from heart disease or diabetes. This project isn’t just about social trails; this is about social justice. This is an opportunity to transform the health and wellness of lives in our community! By reclaiming this land for its original intended purpose of recreational access, we are removing barriers of outdated preservation models and privilege that keep the community from the inherent physical and psychological benefits that are available from immediate and daily access to Nature.
RESTORE*: We need to restore Cheasty Greenspace to ensure that it can provide great habitat, retain storm water, and provide healthy benefits to the citizens of the Rainier Valley. Because of its high percentage of invasive cover, this park is considered at high risk of losing its tree canopy and native plant understory in the very near future. By restoring this greenspace we will recreate a healthy and sustainable native habitat, increase biodiversity, and maintain the much-needed physical benefits that forests provide to communities. To date, the restoration efforts that have transpired in Cheasty Greenspace “North” not to be confused with the community led restoration efforts of Cheasty Greenspace/Mt.View-the southern most 10 acres of the greenspace) have been led by EarthCorps with little neighborhood involvement. The community WILL restore this land if there is something in it for them; we have proven that safe and welcoming access to the woods with various ways to enjoy and recreate within is what compels the community to action with our work in Cheasty’s southern 10 acres.
By broadening the recreational scope that this landscape can offer increases our chances of attracting more interest and commitment to this land. We need to pay attention and leverage the community and neighborhood interest that is focused on transforming Cheasty into a place that contributes to the health of the forest and also to the wellness of individuals and families. Exposure and experience to Nature (through various modes of recreation, which includes single track mountain biking in this park) for urban children and youth is critical to the raising up of future stewards and conservationists. The notion that urban youth will spontaneously passively recreate in this forest (if it was even safe and accessible in the first place), is wishful thinking. There are too many barriers that stand in the way of this kind of usage, privileged exposure and experience to that kind of passive use being primary. We want to remove the barriers of privilege from both daily, safe access to Nature, as well as to a sport that requires a fair degree of privilege in which to participate. Across the world, social justice groups are seeing the far-reaching positive social effects on communities when bikes/biking opportunities are offered and provided. With the partners who have come around this project, there is the potential to involve our neighborhood youth in trail/leadership building in exchange for a bike. While a simple plan, there is the potential long term positive effects in our community, reducing chronic crime, violence, and health issues top among them.All photos included are of the current state of affairs within Cheasty Greenspace/”North”RE-IMAGINE: Place-making Cheasty Greenspace: This greenspace holds much potential in providing the residents of New Rainier Vista, Columbia City and Beacon Hill with access to nature, pedestrian/commuter options, and recreational pursuits. That this land is nestled in between the dynamic going-ons of Jefferson Community Center, Rainier Community Center, and Lake Washington makes this an exciting addition to the recreational offerings in our community. Seattleites beyond the Rainier Valley will also benefit from the park and easily access it via light rail, bus, or bike. So much good could be done here to ensure the ecological integrity of the land, while making it SAFE for our neighborhood and a GREAT asset to our community and all of Seattle.
The identity surrounding Cheasty has changed significantly in the last ten years since the explicit efforts to implement policies and practices to keep people out of these woods. The Rainier Valley is now a transit thoroughfare committed to sustainable high-density living. Sound Transit is investing in the ideas of the Place-Making movement to evolve the neighborhoods surrounding their Light Rail stations into GREAT PLACES to where people are drawn, move and stay. This community will be healthy and whole to the degree that variable offerings are provided, safe and welcoming access to nature being a priority. Cheasty Greenspace falls within a trifecta of Light Rail stations (Columbia City, Mt.Baker and Beacon Hill) making this landscape singularly the most unique greenbelt in the city in the way it could be conceived as a PLACE that informs the sustainable living ideals of urban design and planning. By creating a space where there hasn’t been one before (in that Cheasty North currently isn’t a safe space for the community), we will see a huge return in public investment and subsequent economic growth. Furthermore, the optimization of this place is central to the retention of our youth, young talents and young families. This project has the potential to decrease the propensity towards “suburban flight”-the trend of young families leaving the Valley when they have children for the desire to have more access to nature and to get away from the violence.
What makes a place great? Sociability (welcoming, cooperative, neighborly), uses and activities (fun, active, vital, special and real), access and linkages (connected, walkable, convenient, accessible), comfort and image (safe, charm, clean, attractive, historic). What is the quality of this space? We know that intuitively, a good place nurtures, fosters and develops healthy individuals and communities. Cheasty Greenspace has the power and the potential to contribute to the social fabric of our neighborhoods and transform our negative social and health related trends. Cheasty Greenspace can be transformed into a GREAT place that informs and elevates the great features and characteristics of SE Seattle and the city as a whole.The vision for a multi-use trail system in Cheasty Greenspace is our collective response to our community demanding something new and different for this land. No longer will this forest prevent interconnection between neighborhoods and access to a transit thoroughfare. People will be able to walk THROUGH these woods in safety to school and to public transportation. We can activate this space with recreational trails, which will naturally tie in to the dynamic park developments at Jefferson Community Center. By creating trail systems that invite the public into the forest, they become engaged and invested in the land, committing to steward it. Invested usage will also enhance the life and landscape of Cheasty Greenspace and the sustainability of living within urban density.
We now need to become the stakeholders of this dynamic demonstration project and identify the experts (Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, IMBA, Bike Works and REI) to elevate this asset and implement the idea of urban mountain biking that has garnered unprecedented support. To date we have the equivalent of $500,000.00 in pledged volunteer match hours (24,500 volunteer hours) over the next five years for this pilot project! This doesn’t include the institutional support (Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University) and organizational/business support, which spans the spectrum from Union Gospel Mission to Patagonia. Let us move forward with designing a PLACE that is a gathering place for our community within a natural context in our city’s primary transit corridor.
Let us believe that by re-imagining this place, this land, we will be transforming the lives-the very health and wellness-of this community!
With love and passion for the woods,
Co-founder & Co-chair, Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mt.View
2013 Denny Award Recipient for Conservation and Environmental Stewardship
**For a collection of statements of volunteer support and pledged hours, click here:
**For a GREAT compelling document for WHY Cheasty is THE spot for this project (as well as broad-stroke policy change perspectives), please read: