Vamos Outdoors Project, Trails and Conservation: What Else is Needed to Build Access and Community?
By Andy Basabe, Director of Vamos Outdoors Project
“Before jumping right into the article, I would like to acknowledge the people and communities that have stewarded the land in what is now referred to as Whatcom County. I am writing this article on lands within what is traditionally Coast Salish Territory, stewarded by the Coast Salish Peoples since time immemorial. Please join me in expressing my deepest respect for our Indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of these shared lands and waterways.
Vamos Outdoors Project is a local non-profit serving Latinx, Migrant, and Multilingual families in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Vamos’ mission is “Building Community Through Connection to the Land and Access to the Outdoors.” As one of our programs is mountain biking on Galbraith Mountain, Vamos would like to thank the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition (WMBC), City of Bellingham, and the Whatcom Land Trust for their work in ensuring public access to the trails and scenery. The Land Trust helped to negotiate the purchase of a conservation easement to protect almost 2,000 acres of land on Galbraith Mountain from further subdivision and commercial development.
Due to the hard work of all of those involved, Galbraith is guaranteed permanent protection from development, and to provide recreation and public access to organizations like Vamos. Spring, summer, and fall, Vamos is up on Galbraith one to four times a week with kids connecting with the landscape and their community through mountain biking. Mountain biking is Vamos’ most popular program, serving youth ages 5-19. WMBC has been able to secure funding and donations to provide bikes and helmets for all Vamos participants to use while on the trails.
Mountain biking is really fun, and there are many different ways that Vamos participants connect with the activity and the landscape. Some participants enjoy sending pictures of the view from the overlooks down over Bellingham to family members who live in other countries. Other participants really like to push themselves and get faster and more proficient on their bikes. Some participants enjoy connecting with the forest, playing in the trees and clearings. In spring 2021, Vamos started an all girls group, which was empowering and helped participants feel welcome and included as cyclists. One participant quoted “you can ride bikes and you get wind when you go up and down hills!”
Vamos hopes that there is continued public access to Galbraith Mountain and other landscapes in Whatcom County. Vamos hopes that the access is equitable, and that families from different backgrounds, cultures and economic situations are welcomed and included in outdoor spaces. Vamos is a part of that process, supporting participant access through transportation, equitable access to equipment, multilingual communications, and representation through staffing and media. Thanks to everyone in the community for building more equitable access to land!”