Joel DeJong is an enthusiastic advocate for mountain biking. He runs a commuter bike-building company in Fremont, takes his kids out on wooded trails outside of the city on weekends and for the past seven years has marshaled hundreds of volunteers to help clean up and restore the overgrown woods near his home.
But his vision for a mountain-bike trail around the 27-acre Cheasty Greenspace on the east slope of Seattle’s Beacon Hill is dividing residents and drawing protests from nature lovers who don’t want one of the city’s few undeveloped parks turned over to active recreation.
The controversy is reminiscent of the fight two years ago when the Seattle Parks Department proposed allowing a private company to operate a zip line in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park, a plan that was shelved after a public outcry.
“Our concern is this will set a precedent, that Parks will take away a natural area of which there are very few left,” said Mark Ahlness, a retired teacher who led the fight against the zip line and is now one of the directors of the Seattle Nature Alliance, which advocates for preserving and protecting the city’s natural areas.
DeJong and other supporters say the mountain-bike trail, which would be the first in a Seattle park, would give youths who aren’t able to get out of the city an opportunity to experience the joy of riding their bikes in the woods. And in the process, they argue, the kids would gain an appreciation of nature and a sense of ownership for the green space.