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Parks officials to hear concerns about race proposal tonight
Birds and bikes. Can’t they all just get along?
Some are worried they won’t. So South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District commissioners will talk tonight about recently raised concerns that allowing a mountain bike race at Trustland Trails will disturb birds and damage wildlife habitat.
Robert Frey approached the parks district earlier this year with his hope that the Mudder race, held annually in May, could be moved to the Trustland Trails property next year.
Parks director Terri Arnold said parks officials were interested, but are waiting for a firm plan before giving the green light.
“My board is open to the idea, it certainly fits our mission,” Arnold said, adding that the parks district focuses on recreation, and noting the Mudder is a one-day-only event.
“It’s not a motorized event; it’s a mountain biking event that lasts one day,” she said.
Parks officials recently learned that some are worried a bike race through the woods wouldn’t be a good thing for birds and other wildlife.
Susan Bennett, chairwoman of the Whidbey Audubon Conservation Committee, has asked the board to rethink having bike races at Trustland Trails.
“As a birder who uses the trails for hiking and depends on the park for habitat conservation, I urge you not to allow bicycle races within the park,” she wrote. “I really don’t think that active recreation like that, which destroys habitat and disturbs wildlife, was meant to be included in the original plan for the park.”
Arnold said the management plan for the public property seeks to balance different uses for the land.
The parks district has to protect wildlife habitat, but it also has to let the public play on the property they have paid for.
While some think “passive recreation” is the standard, that’s not the case, Arnold said, with public park properties. Bike riders are welcome on lands such as Saratoga Woods, Putney Woods and the Kettles Trail, as are folks on foot or horseback.
Arnold said Frey would have to submit a plan this year to get approval for a 2012 race.
There were early talks about new trails that could accommodate the race, but the routes aren’t there and neither is the funding to build them.
“A, there is no plan, and B, there is no money,” Arnold said.
The parks district has already inked two conceptual trails, based on topographical maps, in its plan for the property. One is called the Challenge Loop and the other, the Discovery Loop. Neither is slated for construction, Arnold said.
She said Frey was interested in leading the effort to complete one or both of the trails, with the ability to use one trail for one day of the year for the Mudder.
The parks district board will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at the parks headquarters at 5475 Maxwelton Road.