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TRAIL
ADVOCACY

Biketown, a film by Freehub magazine is a story of mountain bike communities and the struggles they face that ultimately inspire collaboration around shared visions and goals. The advocacy work WMBC does each year for our trails is highlighted in this film - check it out!

WE ADVOCATE FOR OUR TRAILS

Our mission is to preserve and enhance non-motorized trail access in Whatcom County through stewardship, education, and advocacy. WMBC takes the advocacy of our trails very seriously. We have been working directly with land managers since the organizations conception to open up more trails and access points for mountain bikers and other trail users.

 

Our history of advocacy is rich with successes and longstanding relationships that have resulted in the 85+ miles of mountain biking trails you can find in Whatcom County.

 

Recent advocacy achievements include the creation of the Waterfront Pump Track, Huff & Puff, Cougar Ridge, Mohawk, Dad Bod, Brown Pow, and we just started the permitting process to build the Birchwood Pump Track!

Please email any questions or concerns to trails@wmbcmtb.org.

TRAIL ADVOCACY TIMELINE

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2023

Birchwood Pump Track

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2022

S Side Entrance Widened

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2022

Waterfront Pump Track Race Course

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2021

Birch Street & Blue Rock Kiosks

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2019

Cordata Pump Track

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2019

Baker to Bellingham Plan

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2016

WMBC Trail Survey

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2014

WMBC Trail Survey

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2013

Larrabee State Park Trail Proposal

2023

Cedar Dust Skills Area

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2022

RESPECT Neighborhood Outreach

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2022

Galbraith Mountain and Padden Trails Parking Lot Expansion

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2021

WMBC Trail Survey

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2019

Waterfront Pump Track

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2019

Brown Pow

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2018

Galbraith Rec. & Cons. Easement

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2015

 Galbraith EMS Checkpoint System

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2013

Lake Whatcom Reconveyance

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2010

WMBC Trail Survey

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Each trail system in Whatcom County has multiple land managers

that we collaborate with in order to achieve our mission

Including:

Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

City of Bellingham, Whatcom County

Washington State Parks

Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)

United States Forest Service

We also work with other local groups such as Whatcom Trails Association, Backcountry Horseman of Washington, and Aspire Adventure Running.  We lobby on behalf of our mountain bike user group at county and city council meeting as well as meeting at our state capital, while engaging with a variety of user groups: mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, dog walkers.

Many trails that we manage in Whatcom County are built by volunteers organized by WMBC, however many trails are built by professional trail builders such as Shire Built and require paid trail work.

ADVOCACY GOALS

  • Advocate for pump tracks and skills zones in city parks and tribal land

  • Contribute to DNR Trail Policy guidelines

  • Expand trail access and mileage in Whatcom County

  • Work directly with local land managers to protect access and increase trail mileage

ADVOCACY ON GALBRAITH MOUNTAIN

Background

Galbraith Mountain is a privately-owned commercial working forest surrounded on 3 sides by neighborhoods along Samish Way, Lakeway/Lake Louise Road and Yew Street. Since 1986, WMBC has been building and maintaining trails on Galbraith Mountain and have been the authorized trail stewards since 2001. That original Recreation Use Agreement transferred from the former owners (Trillium Corporation) to Polygon Financial in 2011. Between 2011 and 2018, we assisted the City and Whatcom Land Trust in negotiating permanent easements across the 2,240 acres purchased by Galbraith Tree Farm in 2017.

 

The four main landowners on Galbraith are Galbraith Tree Farm (2,240 acres), Polygon LLC (650 acres), City of Bellingham (400 acres) and the Department of Natural Resources (50 acres) along with some smaller private in-holdings.

TIMBER MANAGEMENT
Janicki Logging (along with their subcontractors) performs timber management operations throughout the year including aerial spraying, commercial and non- commercial thinning, road construction and clear cutting. Because Galbraith is a dynamic landscape, WMBC manages the evolving trail network unlike other areas in Whatcom County. Within the timber management, there are two types of logging on Galbraith that impact the public’s trail access each year: thinning and clear cutting.

 

THINNING
Thinning is where the loggers harvest a percentage of trees in a particular area. After thinning, there is a variable amount of damage to the trails. In most sections, there is slash (cut branches, tops of trees, etc.) laying across the trail. Restoring these sections of trail can typically be cleaned up by hand with typically little tread repair that needs to take place. Piles of slash surround 100% of the trail tread post-harvest and keep sediment from traveling no more than a few feet.

 

There are also bigger trail crossings during thinning where the machines have created a "road" that the loggers use to travel across the trail to haul logs to their landings. For this part of their operation, they use a machine called a forwarder which has 5' tall wheels with chains on them. The crossings typically have 3-5' deep ruts from the machine where the slash is driven into the soil. The crossings tend to be narrow (30-50 feet wide) but are a massive amount of work to restore.


Depending on the topography and vehicle/road access points, the loggers will sometimes utilize the trail corridor itself and create 3-5’ deep ruts going down the trail itself and require significantly more work to restore. An example of this was the middle section of Atomic Dog during last year’s harvest. Because of the intensity of trail damage, we restore the crossings and ruts with our mini-excavator and then do hand work to button things up at the end. Sometimes, there is just a few crossings and sometimes there's large sections of trail destroyed.

CLEAR CUTS
As the name would suggest, this operation is when the loggers take all the trees within an area (minus the ones they keep for the Habitat Conservation Plan - HCP). By and large, this harvest operation impacts an entire trail or area of trails and most of the trail tread is heavily impacted by their machines with slash driven into the ground. When restoring trails in clear cuts, we use our mini excavator to move slash away from the trail corridor and then have hand crews (volunteers typically) do the final shaping and compaction of dirt. As with thinning operations, there are piles of slash surrounding 100% of the trail tread post-harvest that keeps sediment from traveling no more than a few feet. Areas on Galbraith that have had extensive clear cuts like the Bears, Bunny Trails, SST and Lost Giants are indicative of the level of work in these zones.


RESTORING ACCESS
An important aspect of Galbraith being a working forest is the volume of trails affected during harvest operations. In the past 5 years, nearly every trail has been impacted in some way and last year (2019-2020) more than 1/4 of the mountain's acreage had timber harvest and the WMBC restored 22 miles of trail. During the 2019-20 season, trail access on the north side (Birch Street) was completely closed when The Ridge, Bob’s, Cedar Dust and FF Center were being thinned. The North Side access is the primary route from Bellingham and the closure affected more than 50% of the public’s access to the mountain. When these closures occur, we redirect ALL traffic to the south side of the mountain (Galbraith Lane) and to other neighborhood access trails which invariably causes friction with neighbors. As such, it is always WMBC’s goal to get trail access restored as quickly and as efficiently as possible post-harvest.

E-BIKES ON THE TRAILS

E-bikes designed for off-road use (aka E-MTB’s) are a relatively new phenomenon and both public and private land managers are implementing and adjusting their access policies for this activity.

The Washington state vehicle code, ratified by the legislature in February 2018 in SB 6434:

  1. Defines what an e-bike is in Washington State, and establishes a regulatory framework for their use.

  2. Classifies an e-bike as a special class of bicycle, as long as the power output is no more than 750 watts, it has a saddle, includes fully operative pedals, and meets the following other class restrictions:

    • Class 1: E-assist only while pedaling, with a maximum speed of 20 mph.

    • Class 2: Can be propelled solely by the motor, with a maximum speed of 20 mph.

    • Class 3: E-assist only while pedaling, with a maximum speed of 28 mph, and has a speedometer.

  3. Generally disallows e-bikes on designated non-motorized natural surface trails, including singletrack, unless specifically authorized by the land manager.

  4. Requires prominent labeling for all e-bikes containing the Classification Number, Top Assisted Speed, and Motor Wattage.

Where are E-MTB’s Allowed?

  • Larrabee State Park singletrack where analog bikes are already allowed.

  • Canyon Ridge motorized trail (US Forest Service)

  • Motorized access roads that are open to the public on DNR land.

  • Walker Valley OHV Area

  • North Mountain in Darrington (Snohomish County)

E-BIKES ON GALBRAITH MOUNTAIN

The recreation easement between the City of Bellingham and Galbraith Tree Farm (GTF) names the WMBC as the recreation manager, however, the WMBC does not set policy for access.

Since the first Recreational Use Agreement on Galbraith in 2002,

the land manager’s policy has always been non-motorized access. 

Currently, neither the City or GTF are enforcing e-mtb use on the mountain, however we have been monitoring for any negligent use or potential conflicts.  We are in discussion with the City's attorney regarding e-mtb access (both current and future) and what that will look like on Galbraith.  We have proposed a near-term solution of permitting riders with disabilities full trail access on e-mtb's and a potential pilot project for other e-mtb use in the future.

ISSUES AFFECTING E-MTB ACCESS DECISIONS

  • How will the current emerging E-MTB technology change over the next few years?

  • Will other trail user groups be more or less inclined to support human-powered mountain bike access on trails due to increased E-MTB access?

  • How will E-MTB power activation and speed limits be enforced?

  • Will E-MTB’s increased speeds lead to more user-group conflicts?

  • Will the WMBC advocate for E-MTB access?  If not, who will represent E-MTB users?

We continues to closely monitor the emerging E-MTB technology and its use across the country and around the world. We will work with local land managers on E-MTB policy to ensure it makes sense for all trail users.

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