Bike Skills Area discussion rolls on at city meeting

Parks and Recreation Commission sends 30% design to city council.

Much like the final conceptual design of the proposed Bike Skills Area (BSA), the votes twisted and turned at the conclusion of the elaborate discussion of the cycling space at the Feb. 2 Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Commission regular hybrid meeting.

With two commissioners absent, the remaining members voted 3-2 in favor of sending the 30% design city council’s way for examination and potential approval at its March 7 meeting. The next phase in the design process would have staff and the American Ramp Company (ARC) venture into the 60% realm.

“The way that this facility has been designed is to allow users of all skills and abilities to use the different trails that have been proposed,” said Jason Kintner, the city’s Public Works chief of operations, regarding the Deane’s Children’s Park location.

Public comment was potent during the meeting, with five residents voicing their opinions on BSA safety, access points, environmental impacts, how the facility will affect users of neighboring Island Crest Park and how the biking community appeared to receive design access before the rest of the Islanders got their eyes on the document. Some commenters were also appreciative about what they observed in the design.

“No particular group has gotten first-hand information or better information or newer information as some of the public comment suggested this evening,” said Kintner, adding that the city posted all information to its Let’s Talk page for equal community perusal.

ARC’s Maddie Ferson explained that the area’s proposed features haven’t been altered since she presented the previous design, which still features table-top jumps, an elevated tunnel, wooden berm turn, beginner and intermediate jump lines and more. They’ve added a gate between the BSA and the children’s playground and have proposed to create an S entrance to slow down riders and a wider shared access trail to create a smoother flow for users entering the park.

Commissioners touched upon the pros and cons of the east and west access trails adjacent to the tennis courts featured in the design, but left the discussion undecided on which one to retain. Taking immense community feedback into consideration, Kintner said that city staff feels both trails provide balanced entrance points. He added that modifications can still be made in this area and within the entire design.

Kintner said that in the Jan. 24 public meeting breakout sessions, some participants did chime in with concerns about the proposed east/west entrances, noting overlap with car traffic and parking and the redundancy with the existing entrance. Bikers also suggested using a dirt berm turn opposed to a wooden structure, which they feel will be slippery amidst rainfall and require maintenance.

On the environmental side of things, Kintner said the design minimizes tree impact, and initial restoration tasks include soil improvement and plant installation, along with planting, mulching and vegetation maintenance and more.

According to a previous Reporter article, the city council appropriated $75,000 from the Capital Improvement Fund in July 2022 to begin the 30% design of the BSA, which has an estimated total project budget currently sitting at $302,500. The city plans to develop the design and have the construction project out for bid in the spring of 2023, and begin construction in the late spring of 2023.

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