Bikes replace boards for a night at Mill Creek skate park

MILL CREEK — Once a month, the park is all theirs.

“Bicycle motocross” or “BMX” riders usually are banned from the skate park at the Mill Creek sports complex on North Creek Drive.

For safety reasons, the city says it can’t let bike riders and skateboarders commingle on the park’s ledges, stairs and in the deep concrete bowl set into the ground.

The cops kept having to kick out the bike riders. That didn’t make them too happy.

So Mill Creek police officer Mike Harris, the city’s full-time bicycle cop, found a solution.

For about a year now, Harris has been hosting “Bike Night” on the first Friday night of each month, when the weather cooperates.

From 5 to 10 p.m. on Bike Night, BMX and mountain bike riders get to use the skate park and practice tricks. The most recent Bike Night was Friday.

“It just gives them a place to hang out and have fun in a good environment,” Harris said.

As many as 40 kids and young adults come from all over Western Washington, the officer said. A YouTube video of Bike Night posted online in June already has hundreds of views. The word spread through the BMX community and social media.

“They love it,” Harris said. “They think it’s fantastic.”

Local BMX riders hope Bike Night can show people the positive side to their sport, said Chance Keyes, 25, of Mountlake Terrace.

Years ago, BMX riders had a reputation for being trouble-makers, he said. At the Mill Creek park, they try to be laid-back, respectful and clean up after themselves. He hopes more skate parks will consider allowing BMX riders or giving them allotted ride time.

Keyes grew up in Marysville, and he joined neighborhood kids as they rode bikes over makeshift “jumps” on dirt paths in the woods, he said.

He’s worked at the Marysville Bike Shop and now Bicycle Centres in Everett.

The Everett shop provides bicycle supplies and repairs for the Mill Creek police department. Keyes got to know Harris. He’s made nearly every Bike Night so far.

“It’s really cool because you get to see people of all ages and all skill levels and have a good night of riding,” he said. “It’s always super positive.”

Harris, who’s also worked as a school resource officer, joined the Mill Creek department in 1990. In earlier years, he worked for the federal government, and he served in the U.S. Air Force as a sergeant and a handler for dogs trained to detect illegal drugs and bombs.

In the early 1990s, Mill Creek was struggling with car prowls, Harris said.

Thieves were taking advantage of the community’s dozens of miles of trails and wooded acreage in their getaways.

Harris had grown up riding a bike around his neighborhood. The police department started a bike patrol.

“It was a way of addressing a problem that was happening in the city, and a way to get back into the trails and the areas that cars were having a hard time getting to,” Harris said.

When the Mill Creek Town Center first launched, Harris patrolled there a lot, keeping an eye on things. He got to know the business owners.

“One thing about the bike is it’s easy for people to talk to me,” he said. “You don’t get the steel cage around you that sometimes inhibits people.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

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