Unlike the first Project Advisory Team meeting for the proposed Cheasty Greenspace mountain bike trail—an unusually controversial pilot project for the city—the second meeting didn’t include a police presence. Held at the bustling Rainer Community Center, the meeting attracted about 30 community members and at least three reporters. It was mostly peaceful, aside from Skip Knox snapping at Celeste Gilman when her toddler daughter began babbling about two hours into the three-hour meeting.
According to a couple of the 18 citizens who spoke during the public comment period, this meeting was more productive than the last, too. The focus was on the health of the environment in Cheasty Greenspace, a 43-acre urban forest in Beacon Hill. While there were verbal reports from Seattle Parks employees about trail building and a rough inventory given of the natural features and vegetation found in the greenspace, there weren’t any reports produced with actual data from the forest or environmental studies.
This bothered several citizens who implored Parks to give PAT members more information before asking them to cast their vote that will serve to advise the city council’s next move, a move that could release a $100,000 Department of Neighborhoods grant to the Friends of Cheasty Greenspace at Mountainview for the construction of the trail.
That’s the group that proposed the mountain bike trail. Their volunteers have spent years removing invasive plants, planting native plants and building walking trails in a 10-acre segment of the greenspace divided from the rest by South Columbian Way.
Earlier in the day, two Parks employees—Paula Hoff and Joelle Hammerstad—asked to meet with me prior to the meeting. They wanted to make it clear that the mountain bike project wasn’t initiated by their department but by the community and that until the PAT decides how the project should move forward, it’s technically not a Parks project at all. They also took issue with this week’s Seattle Weekly article that used their own budget number—$450,000—saying that the money will be raised by volunteers and isn’t coming from Parks. (A correction has been made.)
According to the department’s “Fact Sheet” for the project, Parks estimates that it will cost approximately $450,000 to complete planning and design of the pilot project, Phase 1 construction of the trail, and forest restoration. These costs include an extended public involvement process, Parks management costs and cost for the three-year monitoring program associated with the project. At this time, the City of Seattle is paying for completion of the public process, with other costs being paid for by the Friends of Cheasty Mountain View. The Department of Neighborhoods has awarded $100,000 for the physical construction of the loop trail, once the final design, and the public process, have been completed.
Speaking of public outreach: The general consensus from those in the audience last night is that Parks should have done a better job with public outreach much earlier in the process. Hoff said the department has had a difficult time reaching people in the area, which she told me earlier in the day is “Seattle’s most diverse zip code.” At the meeting she said, “There’s been some calls made, and some not returned,” adding, “We can’t force people to come to these meetings.”
Follow the meeting’s minutiae via the Twitter hashtag #CheastyPAT.