Up here in Bellingham, Washington, mountain cyclists have over the years developed an incredible riding area that is “in town” but world class. Known as Galbraith Mountain, the area is private land owned by a timber company.
In its infancy years ago, locals tell me use of Galbraith lands for wheeled recreation was under the radar. (Similar to our situations in Colorado and other western states where recreators cross or use private land for years and sometimes are not even aware of ownership issues). Use of the area shifted to the more legit side of the equation as the original local Bellingham owners tolerated public use for some years. That recently changed when ownership of Galbraith shifted and the potential for permanent closure became all too real. Public activism with government support ensued, Bellingham’s backyard remains open for business with a truly amazing network of mountain bike trails that from what I’ve heard are some of the best in the nation.
According to my reading of newspaper articles, negotiations for permanent public Galbraith easements are ongoing, and will involve compensating the land owner with something like $5 million. To us that sounds cheap, with a huge return that will pay forward through generations.
That said, one would hope that not only bicycles would be the focus of an expenditure of public funds, but that a few trails could be designated for foot travel only, while perhaps a few others could be set up for motorized use. More, if money is an issue, I’m wondering if anyone is considering a user fee system. That would seem quite reasonable considering that a concentrated network of trails is going to require ongoing upkeep.
Take away here is that sometimes a large vociferous group of people (mountain bikers), along with responsive government and land trusts, can make a difference in working with private land owners to enable recreation. Something to consider when you whine about seeing more than two cars at a backcountry skiing trailhead, or figure placing hate stickers on your car is a solution to land use issues. More, it is fascinating to see logging and recreation coexist.
Build your house and ride your bicycle in the woods your 2x4s came from. Interesting concept. As in, if you don’t mine it, you have to grow it? What is more, we are weary of the constant ranting from certain groups and individuals about how we must have ever more legal Wilderness to support backcountry recreation. Here at Galbraith they have backcountry recreation in a privately owned logging area that appears quite robust. Fascinating to ride through the regrowth areas and see how nature rules.
Comments on, Bellingham local’s insights appreciated.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.