Starting this summer, Bellingham’s mountain bike community will have another new spot to check out.

The Port of Bellingham is building a temporary pump track at the waterfront and aim to leverage the large number of mountain bikers in Bellingham to get people down to the waterfront while the redevelopment process continues.

“What we wanted to do was put in something to encourage folks to get down and use the waterfront and increase public access to the water sooner rather than later,” says Mike Hogan, public affairs administrator for the Port of Bellingham.

The new pump track will be about 20,000 square feet and will sit in front of the two iconic tanks left over from the Georgia Pacific paper mill. The tanks were used to store bleached and unbleached pulp and are one of several mill relics that have been preserved on the waterfront as art installations and reminders of the city’s industrial past.

Waypoint Park is the first public park at the waterfront district. The final plan includes 33 acres of public parks. Photo credit: Frederica Kolwey

A pump track is a continuous loop of raised dirt berms that bikers ride without pedaling. Instead, they “pump” the bike up and down over the berms, using the momentum gained from each downhill run to coast back up over the next section of berm.

A similar track was built in collaboration between the City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition in 2017 at Whatcom Falls Park. For the waterfront track, the port is taking a page from the Whatcom Falls playbook, building a track that’s navigable by younger riders as well as a more challenging track with higher berms and rollers, Hogan says.

Along with the pump track, the port is building a single-track bike trail from Laurel Street to Granary Avenue, connecting riders to the pump track from the north and south of the waterfront district. The trail will include mountain bike features for riders. They are also building a crushed limestone walking path to offer connectivity for pedestrian visitors to the waterfront.

Construction continues on the other side of the Granary Building. Chris Erdmann, the leasing manager for the building, estimates the open-air market going in on the ground floor will open in the next three months. Photo credit: Frederica Kolwey

The port is waiting on their finals permits, but expect the pump track to open during the summer of 2019, Hogan says. The pump track is a temporary feature to draw residents and visitors down to the waterfront, but eventually it will be a permanent park.

The final waterfront redevelopment project includes plans for 33 acres of parks, including the 20,000 square feet where the pump track will be.

The pump track is an effort to engage Bellingham’s large mountain bike community. The port is hoping their interest will galvanize further interaction with the waterfront in these intermediary years.

“There’s probably more bikers per capita in Bellingham than just about anywhere on the planet,” Hogan says. “Having a pump track and some mountain bike features down on the downtown waterfront will definitely add one more thing for the mountain biking community to check out.”

Construction along the northwest side of the Granary Building is basically complete. The first business opened in the building on April 27 – the Bellingham Yoga Collective. Photo credit: Frederica Kolwey

It has been about 80 years since Bellingham residents and visitors have been able to check out the downtown waterfront. The Puget Sound Pulp and Timber company built the first facilities for a paper mill on the waterfront in 1938. The site was later bought by Georgia Pacific and grew into a 137-acre industrial site. By the time the city of Bellingham bought the site back in 2005, the area was contaminated by petroleum and acidification of the soils as well as serious mercury contamination in the soil and surrounding waterway.

Over the next ten years, the Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency undertook massive cleanup efforts, the first of which were completed in 2017, allowing the parks department to open Waypoint Park, the city to start building the first roads, and development to begin inside the Granary building.

These tanks are a relic of the old paper mill at the waterfront. The 20,000 square-foot temporary pump track will be built in front of them. Photo credit: Frederica Kolwey

The Granary building was the only building saved from demolition. It was once home to the Washington Cooperative Egg and Poultry Association, and its remodel marks some of the biggest changes at the waterfront.

On April 27, the first business opened inside the newly remodeled Granary Building. The Bellingham Yoga Collective offers yoga classes as well as other wellness services, such as massage. They also offer childcare for people attending yoga classes.

The Bellingham Yoga Collective is owned by Western Washington University graduate Claire Stetina.

“This whole thing happening on the water is such a gift to the community,” Stetina says. “We’re really excited to be part of the first steps.”

One of the first cleanup efforts the Department of Ecology completed was for Whatcom Waterway, a 200-acre area along the waterfront. The cleanup involved dredging up contaminated sediment and capping it with non-contaminated sediment to support the aquatic organisms that live in the water. Photo credit: Frederica Kolwey

Vendors will also be moving in to the ground floor of the building in the next three months or so, says Chris Erdmann, the co-founder and managing broker at Bellwether Commercial Real Estate. Harcourt, the Ireland-based developer responsible for the remodel of the Granary building hired Erdmann as the local leasing agent.

The ground floor will be a cross between a food hall and an open-air market, Erdmann says.

Starting this summer, an outdoor recreation company will occupy a space outside the building and rent kayaks and paddleboards.

While completion of the whole project is a long way out, there is plenty residents and visitors to Bellingham should look out for at the waterfront this summer.

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