One of my goals this year is to get more involved with the advocacy side of BBTC, as it relates to mountain bike trail access on public lands here in Washington. One project that has been in the works since well before 2002 and is finally almost ready to come to fruition is a mountain bike trail near Mount Washington at Olallie State Park in North Bend. This trail would only be 6 miles in length, but will ultimately connect with more than 20 miles of trails on Forest Service land. Those 20+ miles of trails currently don't exist but a multi-agency push is underway to remove existing forest roads from the FS database and convert them to mountain bike trails (i.e. multi-user trails with a design focus on mountain biking).
The trail and road-to-trail conversion will take place within biking distance from my house and will help fill a gaping void in nearby high-altitude, backcountry-style singletrack. This system, once done, has the potential to be unlike anything else on the western slope of the Cascades, along the I-90 corridor. Naturally, I became immediately interested and wanted to get involved. I met with the Advocacy Team back in October and met with Mountains to Sound representatives in November, but it wasn't until yesterday that I really started to get a grasp, albeit a tenuous one, on the many agencies and faces involved.
Yesterday, former BBTC Executive Director Justin Vander Pol, Volunteer Director Jon Kennedy, and myself drove to Olympia for a much-anticipated meeting with the Director of Washington State Parks, as well as the Puget Sound Region Manager and the parks planner who serves as our primary contact. We were there to express the importance of this project within the mountain biking community and to assess the status of the project and the security of the funding. In short, the meeting was a success. The funding for the project is secured, and although certain delays do exist that must be worked through, the tentative schedule is to have it designed and bidded out by the end of 2008 so construction can begin in the spring of 2009.
The meeting also provided us with a great opportunity to educate the Director on what singletrack is and what mountain bikers are looking for in a singletrack trail experience. Director Derr appeared genuinely interested, asked many questions, and is committed to making this trail a reality. It's not everyday we get to sit down with State Parks leadership and I must say that we tried to make the most of it. We came away not only happy to see State Parks dedication to creating the Mt. Washington trail, but also hopeful that this meeting could be the beginning of a healthy relationship between BBTC and Washington State Parks.
As for me, Justin and Jon are helping me transition into the role of point-person for the Olallie/South Fork projects. It's clear from listening to Justin talk yesterday and in previous meetings that I have a lot to learn about the various agencies and advocacy groups at play here in Washington, not to mention the regulations and protocols, but so long as they promise to be my training wheels, I'm up for learning. The next step, for me, is to get to work with Justin on a grant proposal to help fund the road-to-trail conversion. With any luck, the road decommisioning will begin this spring and by next year or 2010 sometime, we'll have one heck of an epic backcountry trail system right outside of North Bend.
You can read more about the Olallie State Park and South Fork of the Snoqualmie projects by following those links to the ever-impressive Trail Wiki (which I'm finally going to start contributing to, by the way).