Riders jump into new Bike Skills Area on opening day

Course is now open daily from dawn to dusk at Deane’s Children’s Park.

Let the riding begin — again.

Just over two years since the Bike Skills Area (BSA) was shuttered on Oct. 7, 2021, at Upper Luther Burbank Park due to significant operating challenges and safety concerns, the city unveiled the new BSA with a grand opening in Deane’s Children’s Park from 3-4:30 p.m. on Nov. 15.

In July of 2022, the Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Commission recommended that Deane’s Children’s Park, situated at 5701 Island Crest Way in the northeast corner of Island Crest Park, was an ideal location for the new BSA. Also in July of that year, city council appropriated $75,000 from the Capital Improvement Fund to begin the 30% design at the former Adventure Playground site. The project has an estimated total budget of $302,500.

Now, riders of all ages and abilities can begin their new adventures on the BSA, which is open daily from dawn until dusk.

The American Ramp Company (ARC)-designed skill-building course, which was constructed by ARC and Creative Native Concepts, includes beginner and intermediate bike trails with jumps, berms, a sender, a roller corner and a bicycle playground area for less-experienced riders.

Prior to the grand opening, a plethora of helmeted kids pedaled their bikes through the parking lot toward the BSA entrance. They were clearly ready for some action.

As Mayor Salim Nice greeted attendees and spoke about how crucial the course is to the community, those riders were parked in a pack off to the side, eyeing the BSA in the distance as if it was calling to them to unleash their skills on the fresh trails and jumps.

They would get their chance to do so after an adult-led riding team got first crack at the course with some demonstration runs. Then it was everyone’s turn to roll through the BSA, and there were smiles all around from riders, parents and city staff members as they witnessed the project come to fruition.

After one rider completed a run, he said, “It’s sick!” Another rider chipped in with: “That was a phat turn down there!”

Nice thanked the parks and recreation commission, city councilmembers, ARC and Creative Native Concepts, community volunteers, Eagle Scouts, parks and recreation and public works teams and Lola Deane for their vital roles and immeasurable contributions in planning, designing and constructing the BSA and the park in general.

“This isn’t just any addition to our parks, it’s a standout facility that promises fun and excitement for people of all ages. It’s a haven for honing bike skills and experiencing thrills,” Nice said. “Let’s remember that this space is a precious asset to our community and requires our collective care.”

Sarah Bluvas, the city’s Capital Improvement Program project manager, said that throughout the next year city crews will continue to revegetate the site and there will be times when closures are necessary to perform maintenance, especially during rainy weather.

“We want to make sure that we’re able to maintain the integrity of the trails, but also the safety of our riders,” she said.

It’s a community-driven project, added Bluvas, noting that residents provided critical input at public meetings and through surveys and now they can safely have fun on the course.

In a previous Reporter article, Bluvas said that people have voiced concerns about possible conflicts between different trail users in the Island Crest Park realm, and the city will work on improvements to mitigate those potential scenarios and maintain safety for all trail users.

While taking a break from riding the course on grand-opening day, Island Park Elementary student Andy McAndrews, 11, said that he’s enjoyed watching the crews construct the BSA from his nearby school.

The thrilled youngster’s take on the BSA after his first go-round: “It’s very fun. The jumps are fun. It’s challenging. It definitely gives you adrenaline — it’s crazy.”

His father, also named Andy, shared in his son’s excitement to have the BSA open as younger son, Jack, age 7 1/2, sat closely by on his bike.

“Having this close and in our back yard is a huge asset to the Island and the community, instead of having to drive off Island to go do this,” Andy Sr. said.

Mercer Island High School junior Cooper Pomering, 17, got in a few rides on day one, and gazed at the course afterward while he offered an approving nod of the head.

“There’s a large turnout and lot of kids mountain biking on Mercer Island, so I think it’s just about one of the best things that they could have added for the community and for the sport,” he said.

For more information, visit: https://www.mercerisland.gov/parksrec/page/bike-skills-area

Mayor Salim Nice addresses the crowd as bikers wait patiently to hit the Bike Skills Area on Nov. 15. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Mayor Salim Nice addresses the crowd as bikers wait patiently to hit the Bike Skills Area on Nov. 15. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Andy Nystrom/ staff photo