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Bellingham Traverse celebrates 15th year; race honors wild salmon

Bellingham Traverse competitors get into the spirit of the event, wearing animal costumes during the 2008 race.
Bellingham Traverse competitors get into the spirit of the event, wearing animal costumes during the 2008 race. The Bellingham Herald

Bellingham Traverse, a multisport relay race that honors the journey of the wild salmon, celebrates its 15th year on Saturday, Sept. 17.

“It’s been a wild ride,” said Todd Elsworth, executive director of Recreation Northwest, who developed the six-leg event to honor the Northwest’s iconic fish.

“(Salmon are) a yardstick of ecological health,” Elsworth said. “It’s an event to celebrate the life cycle of the wild salmon, demonstrating the natural and urban challenges of their journey. It’s about bringing people together and having fun.”

The race also celebrates Bellingham’s commitment to the outdoors, with a course that follows urban trails and roadways south to Lake Samish and back. There’s a Greenways run, mountain bike and road bike courses, a trail run and a waterfront paddle. It ends with a full-team dash to the start-finish line at Boundary Bay Brewery, which has been a Traverse sponsor since the beginning.

Area residents should expect crowds for the noon start downtown at Boundary Bay Brewery/Bellingham Farmers Market, 1107 Railroad Ave.; on Boulevard south toward Fairhaven; at Marine Park; Old Fairhaven Parkway; Samish Way; around Lake Samish; on Old Samish Road; and on Chuckanut Drive.

Spectators are welcome. Best views often are in the relay transition areas. Race fees range from $95 to $350, depending on division, and entry is open to teams and individuals through Friday, Sept. 16, at recreationnorthwest.org.

Elsworth said the race also puts focus on local environmental conservation and stewardship programs, especially Recreation Northwest’s work on the Fairhaven Park Trail.

“The community and events have changed over the years,” Elsworth said. “What I enjoy as far as the teams go, it’s an approachable way to participate in an athletic event such as this. It’s fun. It’s a delight. Fifteen years sure flew by fast.”

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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