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Study calls for bike park in Highlands | Task force recommendations with Park Board

Jeff Tanka walks along the Lake Tradition Plateau trail, in the area the Issaquah Mountain Bike Task Force recommends building a new mountain bike trail. - CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter
Jeff Tanka walks along the Lake Tradition Plateau trail, in the area the Issaquah Mountain Bike Task Force recommends building a new mountain bike trail.
— image credit: CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter

First hitting the trails in Arizona in the 1980s, Jeff Tanka is an original mountain biker.

He lived through battles with Issaquah in the mid-’90s, while it closed trails to mountain bikes. Today, through the Issaquah Mountain Bike Task Force, he’s been able to help steer the future of biking in the city.

The group wrapped up its meetings and released its study to the Park Board last week. For him, it’s more than just another political process. It’s a sign of changing times.

“There has never been meaningful dialog between the mountain bike community and the City of Issaquah,” Tanka said. “Even though the recommendations are small and simple, that’s huge.”

The completion of the study comes with quiet contention from hiking groups, who successfully saw several trails close to mountain bikers in the mid-’90s.

Despite disagreement, the Park Board is expected to pass much of the study intact to City Council, that asked for it about a year ago.

The plan calls for a trails commission, provides information and makes a couple recommendations.

The task force called for a mountain bike skills park at Central Park. Reportedly, money already has been set aside and the land has already been cleared.

The City Council is just waiting for the task force recommendation to move forward with construction.

The park’s location is awkward at best. Bikers would have to loop around a massive power poll and under power lines.

It’s also on a cleared piece of land, which isn’t ideal for mountain bikers, who prefer trees and bushes, Tanka said.

The group researched other locations, but it was already clear what the council wanted, said Connie Marsh, president of the Issaquah Environmental Council, who also served on the task force.

The major advantage to the location is that it would connect to a network of Grand Ridge trails, which draw heavy mountain bike use from their connection to Duthie Hill, a major mountain bike park east of Sammamish.

While the park might attract youth, mountain bike groups really want single-track trails, which there isn’t much land for, Marsh said. “It was very clear that the mountain bike group was about increasing their territory.”

In its research, the group dug up city plans for a mountain bike trail to Lake Tradition Plateau. While a hiking trail was build, the bike trails never were.

Strolling up a rogue trail on the property, Tanka points to a trail that switchbacks up a steep grade. The property isn’t ideal for mountain biking, but it could be a nice connector to East Tiger Mountain, which has a network of biking trails.

That connection would require the Department of Natural Resources to allow the biking community to build a trail through its conservation area.

While convincing the city of the plateau trail still seems daunting, convincing DNR is the bigger challenge, Tanka said. “If Issaquah had that (connection), wow, there would be a lot more bikes in town.”

One of the goals the City Council passed down was mapping out connections that would make Issaquah more mountain bike friendly. The task force mapped several new trails, but refrained from recommending them.

The major outcome of the study was a proposal the council to create a trails commission, which would allow private and city groups to propose new trails.

The city would be force to decide how it plans to manage its open space, Tanka said.

By setting up a system, it provides a public forum for hikers and bikers to debate the use of forests, such as Park Pointe.

For Marsh, this was the best part of the study, but she wished it was more inclusive and broad.

While hikers have proven themselves for more than 50 years, bikers, too, should have a chance, she said. “I believe it’s everyone’s territory.”

 

Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer Celeste Gracey can be reached at

425-391-0363, ext. 5052.

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