Ski to Sea planners: Race's last leg will use Interurban Trail

Ski to Sea planners say they have final permission from the city for the course of the seventh and final leg of the Sunday, May 24, race.

The mountain biking leg, concocted after a poor snow season forced planners to cancel the race’s namesake first two ski legs, will run both directions on the Interurban Trail, taking riders to and from Arroyo Park.

At one point, racers will be expected to ride along the shoulder of Chuckanut Drive, from the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead toward Old Samish Road, to reconnect with the Interurban, according to a description of the leg planners sent out in a newsletter Tuesday, May 12.

Other Interurban Trail users will be warned by signs to “consider using alternate routes and/or use extreme caution” from 1 to 6:30 p.m. the day of the race, as 300-plus mountain bikers could be going either direction during that time period.

Race planners said they finalized the leg Monday evening, May 11, just about a week after they released a two-page document criticizing Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville for what they perceived as going back on a decision to run the course through the Chuckanut Community Forest.

The planners argued the city had given them the OK in April to run the final section of the mountain bike leg through the Community Forest, also known as the 100 Acre Wood, but then on May 1 told the race planners that wouldn’t work.

City officials disagreed, citing the fact they had not yet signed a final special request permit for that race leg. While staff members had walked through the potential course with Ski to Sea staff and emailed them that it seemed doable, they had not yet signed off on the final plan, said Bellingham Parks and Recreation Director James King.

Because they thought they had permission, race organizers announced the mountain biking leg on April 1. After community members concerned about potential impacts on the forest contacted the city, staff members let Ski to Sea organizers know they would not have permission to ride through the 100 Acre Wood, and thus needed to draft a new plan.

After continuing to work with parks and recreation, planners and city staff have both agreed on a route, said Pete Coy, the race’s executive director.

“It’s going to be better than what we had planned,” he said.

The deadline to register for the race is May 18.