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Electeds line up to support Gateway Green concept

Posted by on April 15th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Emily Hicks (L) from Commissioner
Fish’s office, Mayor Adams’ Chief
of Staff Tom Miller, and Steve Bryant
from Oregon Solutions.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Over 120 people packed into the Gateway Elks Lodge last night to learn about the Gateway Green project — and many of them were elected officials or high-level agency or city staffers.

The open house event was a bit short on substance (especially for anyone who’s been following our coverage here on BikePortland), but the big news of the night was how many notables lined up to throw their support behind the project.

Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz were there, as was Mayor Sam Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller and his transportation policy director Catherine Ciarlo. Metro Councilors Rex Burkholder (the Gateway Green land is in his district) and Robert Liberty (the city of Gateway Regional Center is in his) were also in attendance.

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Before any electeds stepped up to the mic, the Bicycle Concept Plan was presented by Jill Van Winkle from the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Chris Bernhardt, a natural surface trails expert with Alta Planning.

The man behind the
vision, Ted Gilbert.

The plan outlined the main goals of the project, one of them being “To create a world-class bike facility”. Also in the plan were assumptions about how many people might use the park once it’s open. Bernhardt referred to a 2006 study by the Outdoor Industry Association that reported 22.6% of the U.S. population had ridden a bike on off-road trails in the past year. From that number, Bernhardt said he believes “there are tens of thousands of mountain bikers in the Portland area.”

Also according to Bernhardt, the number of projected annual visits to Gateway Green would be 424,000 people. “We’re not aware,” Bernhardt said, “of any facility in the world that has this type of potential.”

The potential of Gateway Green has also attracted the interest of Steve Bryant from Oregon Solutions (OS). Oregon Solutions is an organization that grew out of Oregon’s Sustainability Act of 2001. The group could play a major role in moving Gateway Green forward. Projects designated by Oregon Solutions are then officially recommended to the Governor as having a special priority for the state.

If Oregon Solutions designates the project (they look for projects that have a big sustainability component and that bring communities together), they would help with a major piece of the puzzle by bringing the various agencies (ODOT, Metro, City of Portland, etc…) together to create a binding “Declaration of Cooperation.”

At the moment, ODOT owns the land, and the major hurdle (besides cash) in getting this project to move forward is to have ODOT agree to transfer the maintenance, operations and liability responsibilities of the 35 acre parcel over to someone else.

Mayor Adams’ transportation policy
director Catherine Ciarlo learns more
about the project.

“The challenge,” Bryant said, “is to identify a lead agency to enter negotiations with ODOT.” Bryant also added that Oregon Solutions would only recommend a project that they think, “has a reasonable chance of success.” Does Gateway Green? Yes. “This project hits a lot of buttons for us,” he said.

In his remarks about the project, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish said one of the reasons he supports this “compelling vision” is because there is “tremendous demand for off-road cycling in Portland.”

Fish remarked that while “many hurdles remain” for the project, the fact that so many citizens and elected officials showed up to the open house, “bodes well for the project.”

“Put the pressure on us, it needs to happen.”
– Tom Miller, Chief of Staff for Mayor Sam Adams

Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder called Gateway Green a potential “pearl on the string”, a description that Metro uses to describe regional trails with points of interest along the way. He spoke about the importance of connecting this project with the future Sullivan’s Gulch Trail (which is only in the planning stages at this point).

Burkholder also mentioned his enthusiasm for a wildlife corridor from the Gateway Green parcel west to Rocky Butte via a land bridge over I-205. (It struck me that Burkholder would put his political weight behind a wildlife bridge, while at the same time advocating for a controversial new I-5 bridge that is decried by many concerned about the environment).

Mayor Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller was more excited than anyone else in the room (except for project founder Ted Gilbert). Miller said that “this is an amazing concept” and he noted that the one thing Portland got “dinged on” in our application for Platinum status with the League of American Bicyclists was our lack of off-road riding opportunities. Miller mentioned the I-5 Colonnade project, an urban skills park created under I-5 overpasses in Seattle, and said, “this vision blows doors off anything in Seattle”.

Miller urged everyone in the room to “put the pressure on us,” and added, “It needs to happen.”

A good turnout is a
good sign for the project.

(It’s important to note that Tom Miller (who also was instrumental in getting skateboard parks built throughout Portland) was a very early proponent of this project and helped bring together many of the stakeholders that are now leading the project.)

The long list of notables in the room was a clear sign that the Gateway Green project is gaining momentum. But while a well-attended open house is exciting for the projects backers, attendees of last night’s event were also faced with the realities of the bureaucratic process. When asked about setting firm dates for decisions and next steps by someone in the crowd, Chair of the Friends of Gateway Green, Linda Robinson, said the process requires “a combination of patience and persistence” and that they’ve “made amazing progress” thus far.

At this point, there’s a lot of vocal support for the project, but no commitments (financial or otherwise). Ted Gilbert, the developer who dreamed up this project, says he’s formed a task force to work on an “inter-governmental agreement” to facilitate the transfer from ODOT and to find public and private funding resources to move things forward.

A big part of the land transfer will be a decision about who will assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and operations of Gateway Green. ODOT doesn’t want that responsibility, or the price tag that comes with it. Gilbert says they’ve been a very willing partner, but they’ve made no promises.

The Oregon Solutions possibility is very promising. If they recommend Gateway Green to Governor Kulongoski, things could suddenly move much more quickly.

We’ll keep you posted.

– Learn more about Gateway Green at GatewayGreenPDX.org and browse our Gateway Green tag for previous coverage.

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Comments
  • Options Guy April 15, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Very exciting! This concept brings together so many good ideas – a premier off-road cycling facility, a great destination and landmark for East Portland, park space for walkers and families, sustainable design for stormwater management and wildlife habitat, and more – it seems like a perfect fit for Portland and the region.

    If you couldn’t make it to last night’s open house, pencil this date on your calendar: Thursday, June 18. We’re planning on hosting a presentation about Gateway Green at PBOT’s Bike Brown Bag that day.

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  • Jim Labbe April 15, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Jonathon for your coverage of this exciting project.

    Folks interested lending a hand soon can join the Friends of Gateway Green on Saturday, May 2nd 9AM to Noon for a No Ivy Day pull. Register at:

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=pU5uokTZAVCSxKg6m7_avOg

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  • BTodd April 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    this is for bikes, isn’t it?

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  • John Russell April 16, 2009 at 12:03 am

    (I closed Options Guy’s bold HTML tag for him.)

    Anyway, I really hope this comes out as well as we are all planning. Currently, this is probably one of my least used portions of the I-205 Bike path, as there’s very little reason to actually go there, instead of simply traveling through. On top of that, it makes it rather hard to make any decent connections.

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  • A-dub April 16, 2009 at 8:06 am

    This is great…but where is the city of Gateway? I think St. Louis is the Gateway to the west…but I’m not sure that’s what we are talking about. ;) Are you referring to Maywood Park?

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  • Jim Labbe April 16, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Gateway is located east of I-205 just south and east of the Gateway Green site. It is both a City of Portland urban renewal area and regional center designated in the 2040 Growth Concept, our region’s plan to manage growth over the next 30 years. As a regional center Gateway will be the focus of infrastructure investments to support a dense, walkable, mixed use neighborhood of some 100K residents.

    However according to the Regional Equity Atlas and assessments by Portland Parks, Gateway and surrounding neighborhoods (especially Parkrose Heights) are among the most park and natural area deficient in the region.

    Hence Gateway Green holds great promise both in providing a spectacular and needed destination for off-road cycling in Portland- a key cross-roads in the regional trail system- AND a signature greenspace for a major growth area currently lacking adequate access to neighborhood parks and natural areas, especially with enhanced connections to Rocky Butte and South Madison neighborhood.

    That’s only a few of the major possibilities in this project.

    Jim

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  • chris April 16, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Good to see such positive movement on this, and so many people working together to make it happen.

    The only thing I’m worried about is that it ends up that some beginner/intermediate trails get built, and everyone calls it good as far as mountain bike access in Portland is concerned. However good their intentions, I can easily see it becoming somewhere you’d take your family to for a nice day at the park rather than to get the much needed singletrack experience. The elevation gain in the designated space is very minimal, as well as the forested area. Would be good for cyclocross or bmx, but for actual mountain biking I just don’t see the opportunity there.

    There are hundreds of acres of hilly, forested park in Portland. It would be a shame if our entire mountain bike access dillemma was settled with an essentially small, flat, open space.

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  • brian April 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    but doesn’t 35 acres seem small to anyone else?

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  • casey April 17, 2009 at 8:15 am

    I don’t see there being enough space or hills there to make any reasonable XC trail.

    It scares me that people like Jim Labbe and the rest of those that don’t want bikes in forest park are going to use this project as their argument that there’s other places to ride close to town.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 17, 2009 at 8:25 am

    folks,

    you’ve got to think outside the box a little bit. Sure, 35 acres is no Mt. Hood Wilderness…but come on, we’re talking about getting together the best and brightest trail-building experts in the country to devise a radical and innovative urban trail network.

    I’ve walked the site and it’s plenty big for lots of fun trails of all types.

    As for Jim Labbe (comment #9), to say he “doesn’t want bikes in Forest Park” is just not true. Jim isn’t opposed to bikes in FP, but is very concerned that increased use to the park won’t be coupled with a similar increase in commitment to make sure the park is closely monitored and taken care of to deal with that increased use.

    Lets make partners, not enemies, and let’s think beyond how things have always been done in the past. This is portland, we have the smartest people in the room and we can do cooler things because of it.

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  • Jill April 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

    You are correct that 35 acres is not a lot of space, but it will be used creatively. The Colonnade park in Seattle is only 6 acres, and that includes the dog park, picnic areas, and some passive open space.
    The space will not limit the bike park facilities, but will limit the development of singletrack to probably 2-3 miles at the Gateway Green site. However, it is planned to connect to trails in the Rocky Butte area with a bike/ped bridge across 205. The idea is to link together trails, park areas, and paths to build your ride. It won’t be like riding singletrack in Forest Park, but it will be purpose-built trails and features for cyclists. It’s in the middle of the freeways, literally, but the trails and park areas will be so compelling that the setting will matter less.
    We want to provide a range of experiences for cyclists, including more natural trail experiences in Forest Park, Rocky Butte, and/or other parks, where appropriate. This isn’t the only answer for off-road facilities in Portland, but it is an exciting start.

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