Here’s where a fourth bike pump track for riders of all ages could be built in Bellingham

‘Pump track’ at Bellingham’s Whatcom Falls Park

An off-road bicycle 'pump track' was built in Spring 2017 in Whatcom Falls Park. A second track is planned for Bellingham’s central waterfront and could open late summer 2019.
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An off-road bicycle 'pump track' was built in Spring 2017 in Whatcom Falls Park. A second track is planned for Bellingham’s central waterfront and could open late summer 2019.

A bike pump track could be built in Birchwood Park next year, a new feature that’s being enthusiastically supported by the neighborhood.

The park also could get a permanent bathroom to replace a portable toilet that’s there now.

Both projects have to be added to the park’s master plan, a city of Bellingham document that guides the park’s development. Up next in the process is a neighborhood meeting on Tuesday, April 30. The proposal also has to still go before the City Council for consideration.

The Birchwood Neighborhood wants both projects and will raise the estimated $50,000 needed for the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition, also known as the WMBC, to build the dirt pump track and cover associated costs.

Construction could begin in spring 2020.

The nonprofit trails and biking advocacy group built the pump track at Whatcom Falls Park in 2017, and the one at Birchwood would be about the same size.

A pump track is a looped circuit made up of berms, banked turns and rollers. The goal is to ride without pedaling but by pumping your body up and down to gain momentum.

The one being proposed for Birchwood Park would help neighborhood children get outside and allow them to gather in a healthy way as well as develop their bike skills, according to Kelly Morgan, a first-grade teacher at Birchwood Elementary School and president of the Birchwood Neighborhood Association.

It’s also important in other ways.

Birchwood Neighborhood has limited green space and there are residents who live in higher-density housing where they don’t have a yard, according to Morgan. Plus, 67 percent of students at Birchwood Elementary School qualify for free or reduced meals, an indication of family income.

Sometimes children who are living in poverty or facing other challenges don’t have access to activities such as mountain biking or a bike pump track because it’s farther away from them, Morgan said.

The mountain bike coalition is involved with two mountain biking clubs at Alderwood and Birchwood elementary schools and the educators there, who help lead the clubs, wanted something closer to their schools that could be easily accessed by the neighborhood kids, said Eric Brown, executive director of the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition.

And, Brown said, the pump track would add biking infrastructure to the northern part of Bellingham, where it’s lacking.

Pump tracks also help build bike-handling or bike-commuting skills, Brown said, and they don’t require riders to have expensive bikes.

“A less fancy bike is better for a pump track,” Brown said.

And the beauty of pump tracks, he added, is that riders of all ages and ability can use them.

“You don’t have to be an expert rider to enjoy them,” Brown said.

As for the project to put in a permanent restroom, there’s a $200,000 budget for that, according to Nicole Oliver, development manager for the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department.

The project includes a sewer hookup and creating a water source to build and maintain the dirt pump track. City park impact fees will pay for it.

The pump track at Birchwood is the fourth to either be built or proposed in Bellingham.

In addition to the one that’s been built at Whatcom Falls Park, there’s one planned for Port of Bellingham land on the central waterfront, near Waypoint Park, and one being proposed for Cordata Park.

“The thing that we’ve really seen with the Whatcom Falls pump track is it appeals to a large range of people who recreate with them,” Oliver said. “It’s really fun and it’s good exercise. It does teach you a lot of the skills that you can use up on Galbraith or other biking areas.”

Galbraith refers to miles of mountain biking trail on the mountain just east of Bellingham. The coalition has built and maintained those trails for decades, and Galbraith is a renowned mountain biking area.

If you go

What: A community meeting about the proposed bicycle pump track and permanent restroom at Birchwood Park in the Birchwood Neighborhood, Bellingham.

When: 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 30.

Where: Birchwood Elementary School Library, 3200 Pinewood Ave., in Bellingham.

How to help

Donate to efforts to build a bike pump track at Birchwood Park, 2709 Cedarwood Ave., by going online to wmbcmtb.org/birchwood.

The project is expected to cost $50,000. The Birchwood Neighborhood is raising money for the project, which is being done in collaboration with the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. It has so far received a $6,200 grant from REI for the project.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.