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Portland mountain bikers pumped about Sandy River Basin project

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 28th, 2008 at 11:39 am

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour
(Photos © J. Maus)

A plan to develop close to 15,000 acres of public land for recreational use in and around the Sandy River ("Located in Portland's backyard") has local mountain bikers excited for the potential of new trails and riding opportunities close to home.

The Salem District of the Bureau of Land Management is in the process of seeking public input and comments on their Sandy River Basin Plan. Among the issues they want to learn more about are "Potential non-motorized multiple use trail systems for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use in the Mount Hood Corridor."

"The goal is to get at least 100 mountain bikers to send in their comments... I have seen the concept plans and the trail possibilities are impressive."
-- PUMP member Ted Dodd

Local advocacy group and riding club, the Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP) are rallying their members to get involved.

"The goal is to get at least 100 mountain bikers to send in their comments by 9/18 [the BLM deadline]," wrote PUMP member Ted Dodd on the group's website. "Personally," he added, "I am excited about this new trail. I have seen the concept plans and the trail possibilities are impressive."

Jill Van Winkle is a trail specialist with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA). Jill, who now lives in Hood River but is in the process of moving to Portland, says the development of the Sandy River Basin area for mountain biking would, "greatly enhance the closer-in riding options" for Portlanders. Van Winkle explains that the area is just a 30-40 minute drive from Portland (or you could take MAX to Gresham), 20 minutes from Gresham, and within pedaling distance from Sandy ("if you're strong").

Jill Van Winkle at the
2007 National Bike Summit.

In the project area, there are about 25-30 miles of trails planned at three different sites. According to Van Winkle, the trails would accommodate a wide range of skill levels and would offer everything from sandy beaches (for post-ride picnics) to ridge line views of Mt. Hood via several loop options.

Construction at the various sites is dependent on environmental assessments but at a site known as The Confluence, Van Winkle says trail development could begin as early as next year.

IMBA's Trail Solutions crews designed twenty miles of trails at the Confluence and another site called Marmot last fall and Van Winkle says the BLM already has funding to begin construction.

Beyond simply providing a place for mountain bikers to ride, Van Winkle says this project is about protecting the Sandy River. "No more logging, no more dams... this is a great opportunity to protect lands and provide high-quality recreational experiences."

And she's quick to remind us that this new project won't replace the need for riding options within Portland city limits; "We still need places to ride from home."

The BLM held two open houses earlier this month and the comment period for the Sandy River Basin Plan is open until September 18th. For more information on the plan, visit the project website. To download a comment form and other documents, visit this page on PUMPClub.org.

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  • ralphie August 28, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I\'m glad they\'ve got IMBA involved from the start. Proper trail building is the key to reduced maintenance in the future. I\'ve worked with IMBA and IMBA contractors on trails and they do a great job of building and education. The first trails were put in 4 years ago and the biggest maintenance issue has been clearing the brush back.

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  • rick August 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Regarding single-track in Portland. Does anyone know how many miles of single-track are provided within the City of Davis California, the other Platinum rated city?

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  • Red Hippie August 28, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    As for in-city limits riding, I think Salt Lake, Philadelphia, Seattle and Las Vegas are all light-years ahead of Portland. That Platinum doesn\'t seem so shiny.

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  • WOBG August 28, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I went to UC Davis and I can tell you it\'s pancake-flat. Any single-track within city limits (and there is little to none) is kinda lame, unless something new has been added since \'94.

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  • Jim Labbe August 28, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Portland actually provides more opportunities than Davis for single track and mountain biking (off paved surfaces) in general. When I last checked, Davis had no single track in the city limits and under 5 miles of off-road mountain biking.

    Compare that to Portland which has 28+ miles of Leif Erikson and firelanes open to mountain bikes plus 9 miles of trail on Powell Butte Nature Park open to mountain bikes when conditions are not too damp.

    Most of Seattle\'s single-track trails are not in protected natural areas, but under their elevated freeways and associated lands. We could do more of that here and indeed there is talk of it with the Gateway Green project.

    I don\'t know about Philadephia, but I would be curious to know how much single track or unpaved biking opportunities are actually within the city limits of Salt Lake and Las Vegas. Both these cities have adjacent federal lands. My hunch is the federal agencies not the local parks department are providing the bulk of these opportunities.

    So I think the notion that Portland is way behind in providing opportunities to mountain bike in the city is- IMO- a bit of a fallacy. Not that we can\'t or shouldn\'t do more in the appropriate places.

    Jim Labbe

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  • JH August 29, 2008 at 7:33 am

    All of Vegas is surrounded by public lands. The trails were made possible by interest groups like BARTA (Basin And Range Trail Advocates) working closely with the BLM.

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  • Jeff August 29, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Then where will Bigfoot live?

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  • Fred August 29, 2008 at 8:31 am

    There is no single track within Davis. The only section of dirt trail runs through a detention basin. Just outside of the City, to the west, you can ride on a dirt levee road for a short distance, but that it.

    Jim, there is less than one mile of single-track in Forest Park. Firelanes are not single track and do not offer the same riding experience. The only other single track in Portland is at Powell Butte, which is minimal.

    What mountain bikers are looking for are legal and sustainable single track, in a sufficient quantity, within the City where we can ride to and from the trail system. Many of believe that there are areas within the City where this can happen, it’s a matter of wading through the political process.

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  • ben lat August 29, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Portland in my mind is terrible for -close to home- mtb. I came from charlotte NC, and this southern city, while being very UNfriendly to street and urban biking, had mtb trails all over the city. I\'d love to see portland develop these kinds of trails like charlotte has.
    check out http://www.tarheeltrailblazers.com
    they\'ve got like at least 15 trails in the city (great length too).
    portland seems to have a bit of a negative image associated with mtb, due to more diverse use of trails in portland by hikers, equestrian folks and stuff.
    i admit, i come bombing down the hill. . . and its tough to do here without scaring the sheezy out of people. . . so portland decides to restrict mtb to certain boring fireroads. (IE forest pk)

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  • brian August 31, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Portland is unfriendly towards mtb\'ers. We are surrounded by verdant hillsides and no bike dedicated trails to speak of. A scene is built on having a loop system close to home. What we need is a 5-15 mile trail system designed for bikes. Until that happens, a user group(mountain bikes) is being severely underserved.

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  • tired of poo August 31, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Here is hoping that when the sandy basin trails are opened it will be with the expectation that poop will be removed from the trail or not placed there to begin with. If I walk my dog on a trail I carry a bag, and horses can be fitted with a diaper that prevents having trails become an open sewer.

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  • wsbob September 1, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Apparently no suggestion has been made that would be sufficiently persuasive to convince the public in Portland to serve a mountain bike user group wanting to ride the hillsides around Portland.

    Definitely: diapers for horses on trails especially where people are walking and riding bikes.

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  • btodd September 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

    dear wsbob,

    So why are hiking trails such a convincing public asset? Most people I talk to do not even know what the Wildwood trail is.

    The benefit of having bike trails is the securing of natural lands, while allowing citizens to recreate.

    No more naysayers on this site, please.

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  • wsbob September 1, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Why are hiking trails such a convincing public asset? Never thought of it in quite those exact words, but I think I get the drift of what you\'re saying. I think there\'s probably more answers to your question than I could reasonably list here.

    For starters though, to answer your question; one reason, is you don\'t need a bike to travel a nature or wilderness trail. Walking works just fine for this, and it also means that a much wider range, and greater numbers of people are going to be able to get into the woods. I\'m not absolutely sure, so I\'m going to be careful in saying this, but I think it\'s easier for people on foot to pass each other on a hiking trail than it is for people on bikes, or a person on foot by a bike.

    Walking is slower than biking (except for maybe trials, and that\'s an entirely different activity); on a hiking trail, nature trail, wilderness setting, that\'s a good thing. At least I\'m one that hopes it continues to be thought of in that way.

    I read that mountain bikers want the technical challenge that extreme terrain offers them. That\'s fine. Efforts should certainly be made to provide them with exactly that. Should wilderness areas or other places such as Forest Park (in which Wildwood trail is located)be made to serve their desire for that kind of technical challenge? Why? A wilderness area isn\'t necessary to provide a technical challenge for mountain bikers. Those kinds of challenges can be created without going into wilderness or natural areas. That\'s where mountain bikers wanting this kind of challenge might have more success devoting their efforts to.

    btodd, I have no idea who you talk to, but I believe many people in Portland and out of city know about Forest Park, if not Wildwood trail specifically. On a national level, it\'s one of the amenities Portland is known for.

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  • SkidMark September 2, 2008 at 8:59 am

    There is no one-type of mountain biker, though. Some are freeriders who go for big air over man-made obstacles, some bomb fire-roads, and some like to ride slow and responsibly on trails, enjoying the view. Unfortunately, the latter have been overshadowed by the former.

    I always wonder, what if the shoe were on the other foot, and trails were \"no hikers\" instead on \"no bicycles\"? How would hikers like that?

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  • wsbob September 2, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I imagine its possible for mountain bikers to work together to create a mountain biker exclusive trail somewhere. Hikers probably wouldn\'t want to come near it, because if you\'re not on a bike, who would want to have to deal with the disruption bikes on trails represent?

    Support for a mountain bike trail somewhere could probably be mobilized if it was connected with money to be made. The ATV crowd represents money spent on gas, food, lodging, amusements. It\'s tourism dollars. Same thing in Hood River with windsurfing and so forth. If it could be proved to the city of Portland that mountain bikers represent big money, the city might rush to support ideas to build a trail for mountain bikers in the surrounding hills.

    My impression is that interest in natural areas providing opportunities for mountain biking comes from a very specialized interest group. I think support for hiking trails in wilderness and forest comes from a much broader grass roots base of Oregon residents. That\'s why the big money connection isn\'t as essential to generate support for hiking trails. Also to make the point again, the beauty of hiking, is that a bike isn\'t required. That\'s something that\'s very easy for most people to understand and readily support.

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  • btodd September 2, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    does wsbob even like bikes?

    all mtb\'ers want is a dedicated trail within town limits. nobody needs to know about it, and the bikers will take care of it.

    there is no debate necessary.

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  • SkidMark September 2, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Just curious as to how I am any more of a \"distruption\" than a jogger or a person on a horse. When I approach hikers from behind I slow down, announce my presence, and pass when safe. I fa hiker is coming toward me I slow down, way down or even stop until they pass. And contrary to the stereotype of the \"extreme mountain biker\" this is how most behave, or at least most of whom I would ride with.

    And why to we have to generate income just to have our own trail access? Do hikers and equestrians generate income? Seems to me a hiker would generate less, they don\'t need bike parts.

    I guess the beauty of mountain biking is you don\'t have to walk. I ride my bike to the mailbox.

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  • btodd September 2, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Plus, a bike rider\'s position is with hands at shoulder width apart. Just like when you are walking or running.

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  • [...] Portland to a new trail system on BLM land just east of Sandy. The Sandy Ridge Trail System (which features we reported on back in August 2008) is about a half-hour drive from Portland and features trails designed with the held of IMBA and [...]

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