Opinion

Kent riding a good thing with tour | Klaas

A group of riders led by the Cascade Bicycle Club stop and pose for a photo at the Robert Morris Earthwork Park last Saturday in SeaTac during the Earthworks Tour Inaugural Bike Ride. The Morris Earthwork is the highest point of the bike tour.  - Charles Cortes/Reporter
A group of riders led by the Cascade Bicycle Club stop and pose for a photo at the Robert Morris Earthwork Park last Saturday in SeaTac during the Earthworks Tour Inaugural Bike Ride. The Morris Earthwork is the highest point of the bike tour.
— image credit: Charles Cortes/Reporter

It was much more than a leisurely bicycle ride under unpredictable skies last weekend.

Kent's innovative Earthworks Tour Inaugural Ride last Saturday took more than 200 participants on a scenic trip of discovery through four iconic landscapes in the Green River Valley. Stops included the restored Herbert Bayer Earthwork, a Kent landmark and influential environmental artwork.

Bicyclists – accessing the Earthworks Tour by way of the Interurban Trail or via transit at Kent Station – also took in the beauty and wonders of the Robert Morris Earthwork in SeaTac, the Green River Natural Resources Area in Kent, and Lorna Jordan's Waterworks Garden in Renton.

The recreational ride is only the beginning to bigger and better things for enthusiasts. The Earthworks Tour will become a permanent bicycle route and remain open to the public for self-guided tours. The ride will expand as new routes become available to bicyclists. For instance, the Green River Trail, once cleared of sandbags, soon will allow riders more room to roam.

The reviews from the free tour ride were good. Organizers considered the event – part exploration, part celebration – a success.

"We were very excited to have people who hadn't visited Kent before ... come to Kent ... and be charmed," said Cheryl dos Remedios, event coordinator with the city of Kent Arts Commission, which sponsored the half-day adventure. "It is something people wanted. It is something positive, supported by businesses."

The Cascade Bicycle Club, 4Culture and the City of Renton helped co-produce the Earthworks Tour, which was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Art's Mayors Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative.

Kent made the most of the opportunity.

From public feedback, organizers are looking into the possibility of bringing it back next year. Such a ride brought together riders, artists and historic preservationists – people wishing to experience extraordinary land art and reclamation projects in their own backyard.

"In addition to providing a bicycle route, it connected four sites because they are in such close proximity," dos Remedios said. "We were able to raise public awareness about them."

The family friendly event presented theater, music and site specific installations along the route. It offered three routes for different riding abilities. It featured a dignitary-led dedication ceremony of the restored Herbert Bayer Earthwork. Park renovation brought a double-ring pond, drainage improvements in the surrounding bowl and a reshaping of the cone atop the main berm. New interpretive signage explains the functionality of the park's water detention dam.

The restoration project was made possible by funding from Partners in Preservation, a partnership between American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A 4Culture Historic Preservation Challenge Grant provided additional funding.

The ride accomplished what it set out to do, a "desire to create some cultural tourism to the Green River Valley that we haven't experienced in the past," dos Remedios said.

The event coincidentally ran just as Washington was recognized as the nation's leader as the most Bicycle Friendly State for the fifth straight year, according to the League of American Bicyclists rankings.

Strong and active bicycle advocacy at the state and local levels contributed to Washington's top ranking, the league said.

Kent – with its latest efforts – certainly is doing its part.

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