Summertime for many kids usually means TV, junk food and no worries. But, in Whatcom County summertime means it’s time to get outdoors and participate in the third annual Bellingham Kids Traverse on Sunday, June 28.
The race, which celebrated the journey of wild salmon, according to Recreation Northwest’s executive director Todd Elsworth, was open for 6-12-year-olds. Teams were formed in solo (Chinook), tandem (Coho) or relay teams (Chum). All named after Pacific Northwest salmon.
“We want to offer kids in our community the opportunity to set goals, complete challenges that increase confidence and self-esteem and work together with a team to build a sense of camaraderie,” said race director Jen Gallant.
The 6-9 age group kicked off the race at 10 a.m., and the 10-12 age group and open divisions following at 11 a.m. The course included a 1-mile run through Salmon Woods Trail, a 1 1/2 mile mountain bike around Civic and Geri Fields, a half mile obstacle course on the field and a one-fourth mile trek run, where entire teams raced to the finish line and made their way to Mallard Ice Cream.
All participants received a ribbon and their choice of ice cream to cool off after their long journey. Medals were given to the top three finishers in each boy and girl division.
Ted Buetow and Diego Flores, both 11 and both from Bellingham, decided to join together as a duo after participating in the junior Ski-to-Sea and becoming self-proclaimed best friends.
“After I did Ski-to-Sea with him I thought I could ask him if he wants to do the traverse with me because I know he’s pretty good,” Flores said. “He did the running portion in Ski-to-Sea, so he could do the running portion here.”
The race cost between $40 to $90 depending on participant team size, but for the first time in Bellingham Kids Traverse history, scholarships were provided by the Fairhaven Lions Club. Kids who qualified for free and reduced school lunch were encouraged to apply, and the scholarships were issued on a first come, first served basis, according to the traverse’s website.
“Thanks to the generous assistance of the Fairhaven Lions Club, scholarships [were] available for teams,” Gallant said. “We [wanted] all kids to be able to participate, regardless of ability to pay.”
The event partnered with and was sponsored by 17 organization and business from Whatcom County. These included The Bellingham Herald, Village Books, Community Co-op, WhatcomTalk, The Y, Greenleaf Bookkeeping & Accounting, Bellingham Parks and Recreation and LA FiAMMA.
Recreation Northwest continuously puts on regional races for Whatcom County throughout the year.
“Our signature event is the Bellingham Traverse, which provides a fun, approachable outlet for recreation through all ages and active abilities and we also promote recreation,” Elsworth said.
The Kids Traverse comes from the Bellingham Traverse, which will be held Saturday, September 19, and will celebrate its 14th year. In the past, the race has been held in Olympia, Winthrop and North Bend.
Recreation Northwest has also begun supporting community members in quest adventure races that require more attention to physical and mental demands in hopes of one day hosting the US Adventure Racing National Championships in Bellingham.
“Teams of traditionally three stay together during the whole course,” Elsworth said. “It’s not a relay like the traverse, and they’re given maps a half hour before the race starts to be able to navigate their own way, so it’s really a course of strategy and stamina.”
Not only is the organization supporting teams in Whatcom County, it is also supporting a new and upcoming Associated Students club that will be in conjunction with the Outdoor Center to be able to support collegiate athletes with adventure racing.
The organization is working towards preserving and improving the trails that community members utilize Gallant wrote.
“They are heading up an effort to build a proper trail connecting Fairhaven Park to the forest,” Gallant wrote. “The current path goes directly through a wetlands area. It needs to be improved for easier access for all types of users – and even more importantly, for the health of the park.”
Recreation Northwest began working with the city of Bellingham and Parks and Recreation about a year ago as a steward, when the areas of attention were made clear.
“In our agreement to be stewards of the park, it quickly identified a need that the trails built through there are not sustainable, but the city of Bellingham doesn’t have it in their budget to deal with them right now,” Elsworth said. “So we, as a community-wide organization, took this on as a pet project to help relocate trails and find what better ways out of or through the wetlands exist.”
Through donations from over 90 donors, the Fairhaven trail is soon to open in the next coming month with continuing steps to figure out what the next section of trail will look like.
Recreation Northwest provides volunteer and internship opportunities for those who are interested. More information on upcoming races and on Recreation Northwest can be found at recreationnorthwest.org.