Like most off-road cyclists around the South Sound, Brian Henderson of Puyallup has been waiting a long time for something like Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park.
Ever since the 41-year-old pilot moved here in 2005, he’s pedaled trails in forests around the region, occasionally finding logs to leap and jumps to huck himself from and, when he’s really lucky, hand-made features built in the backwoods near Black Diamond or Olalla’s Banner Forest.
But when it came to features such as platform drops, large, expertly-built jumps and flowing cross-country trails crafted specifically for mountain bikers, there were times Henderson didn’t think he’d get any closer than looking at pictures in mountain bike magazines.
“I was just waiting for something like that around here,” Henderson said.
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And now he has it.
Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park in Issaquah officially opened Saturday morning taking the region’s mountain bike scene to a new level.
The 120-acre park is packed with the type of features cyclists like Henderson thought they’d never get to ride so close to home while still offering about 6 miles of single-track trails for cross country riders.
“After riding out there, I don’t really want to ride anyplace else,” Henderson said. “I ride once a week and I want to make sure I get my money’s worth, so to speak.”
Duthie Hill is the latest project of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, a Seattle-based organization dedicated to making Washington one of the country’s best places for mountain biking. The organization drummed up more than 7,000 volunteer hours to build the park.
The EMBA was approached by King County Parks in 2004 about building the park.
“We’d been looking for years for a place to put a legitimate trail system where people could ride,” said Butch Lovelace of King County Parks.
With about $40,000 in donations and $200,000 in grants the alliance went to work on the park in September 2008.
Alliance project manager Mike Westra describes the trail system as “a giant four-leaf clover.”
The park has four large loop trails for cross-country riders, the most common type of mountain biker. Inside the loops are technical features designed to give riders of all skill levels plenty of options.
The trails are marked like ski runs – green for beginners, blue for intermediates and black for experts. And Duthie Hill, while perhaps challenging for rookies, was designed to have something for everybody.
It didn’t take long after construction began for the park to lure riders from all skill sets.
“That’s one of the ways to draw in volunteers,” said Glenn Glover, the alliance’s interim executive director. “Volunteers come and work for a while then they ride for a while.”
Word spread quickly, and now Glover says the trails are regularly in use even on weekday mornings.
“It is fantastic,” Glover said. “It is a great value to us to be able to provide this park to so many people. It is a great experience for a wide range of riders.”
It’s also a huge step forward for a group of athletes who constantly have to fight for access to trails and parks.
Glover hopes Duthie Hill will enhance the group’s credibility just like their last park, Seattle’s Colonnade, and open the door for more bike parks.
“It’s an upward spiral,” Glover said.
A planned second phase for Duthie Hill will include more single track and a kid’s zone. Westra believes sports like mountain biking are what’s going to pull children away from their TVs and video games and get them outside.
“You’ll see more kids on the trails at Duthie Hill in one day than you’ll see on the hiking trails all summer,” Westra said.
While Duthie Hill might seem heaven sent for Puget Sound mountain bikers long waiting for world class terrain and kids looking for a place to learn the sport, it’s not the entire answer.
The mountain bike alliance hopes that it’s just the beginning. The group also is working on projects near North Bend, Black Diamond and Goldbar.
“It’s really clear this area (Duthie Hill) is going to be overused,” Westra said. “We need more of these.”
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497