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Interview with Commissioner Fish about Forest Park decisions

Posted by on September 30th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

City Council candidate Nick Fish-2.jpg
Nick Fish
(Photo © J. Maus)

The City Commissioner in charge of Parks, Nick Fish, announced a set of “actions” earlier today about off-road cycling in Forest Park. I spoke to him on the phone from his office in City Hall about that announcement…

You told Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) today that Forest Park isn’t ready for new bike trails. Why not?

“I don’t think the park is ready to have an expansion in bike trails right now for two reasons. Number one is that we don’t have all the data that we need to make thoughtful decisions; data about who uses our parks, the health of our park, and so on. This was a significant problem I discovered through this process. The second part is that anything I propose for the future is going to be subject to a Type II or Type III land use review, so if we don’t have the science ironed out than nothing gets through land use review. Nothing would be more cynical for me than to announce a breakthrough today that I know will be stalled in litigation tomorrow.”

If it’s litigation you’re worried about, how was Parks able to build the 1/3 mile of singletrack on Firelane 5 back in 2006? Why can’t we do more of that?

“I can’t answer that.” [Parks spokesperson Beth Sorensen followed up with me and said that this short piece of singletrack trail was identified in the 1995 Natural Resource Management Plan, which was approved by the Bureau of Desvelopment Services and therefore grandfathered in when the plan was approved.]

Why not use existing trails? Why was the solution of trail-sharing not proposed as an action?

“We went through a lot of deliberations… Let me get back to you on that one… There were a lot of moving pieces.” [PIO Sorensen followed up on this question to say that trail-sharing wasn't forwarded as a recommendation by the committee. Committee member and off-road cycling advocate Frank Selker says the committee didn't forward trail-sharing because Parks "changed committee rules so unless committee support was unanimous, it would not be an option."]

In February 2009 you said, “My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do… I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of singletrack trails,” yet today you announced more studies and you have found no new ways of expanding singletrack.

Why have your public statements on this issue changed so much in the past year?

“It’s not a change. I actually think I’ve been consistent. I am committed to expanding off-road cycling. I am committed to finding additional singletrack opportunities… The group I pulled together to do this, quite honestly, led me in some unexpected directions and one of them had to do with the state of Forest Park… By saying the park is not ready for new trails, I’m saying there are some things I have to do lay the foundation to process permits that will be successful for trails that we have now identified. Once we have completed the next phase and we have the data and the science we can begin the permit process for those trails.

We have momentum… My job is to lay the foundation for the decision-making and in my judgment, acting prematurely based on what I’ve learned over the past year would be counter-productive.

… What I’ve learned in the course of the last year, and it was a challenging year, was that the City had not done a great job serving as stewards of Forest Park. Having the opportunity to look more closely at the Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan, the feedback I received during the committee’s work, and frankly talking to a lot of thoughtful people about this, it became clear to me that we have to do some immediate things to enhance and protect the ecological health of Forest Park. One of the most productive things that occurred through this process is a consensus around that.”

In your press release today, you said, “Further restoration and maintenance work is needed in the park before recreational use can be expanded.” Does that mean you plan to cap the current number of users? Will Parks begin to limit the number of people hiking, walking and taking dogs into the park?

“It’s never been about bicycling. You’re looking at this through the wrong frame. You’re looking at this like world revolves around the bicycle instead of the world revolving around the park. My approach is this: We need more off-road cycling opportunities, we have to look region-wide and look at working with our partners. The park is not ready for additional bike access, yet… I have also said in the interim we will be very creative citywide in order to meet what I consider is a legitimate need and we’ll put dollars and leadership behind a bigger plan down the road.”

[Note: We jumped around a lot in the conversation, so the snip below doesn't really have a specific question attached to it but I feel it's important to share.]

“There is in this city a kind of culture debate between bikers and non-bikers that sort of reminds me of what we went through with skateboarders and non-skateboarders. Today we have 10 skate parks and more on the books. The skateboarders are great stewards of those parks. To me, that’s what the future holds for bicycles and what I’m trying to do is strike the right balance by moving the ball forward. I feel confident that we’re making progress, the only thing I worry about is that some feel this announcement signals the city’s retreat from a commitment to expanding off-road cycling.”

He mentioned Gateway Green, Powell Butte, pump tracks, and the other efforts Parks has made toward off-road cycling and then said, “Judge us on the totality of our work and then watch closely over the next 1-2 years on how we proceed in Forest Park.”

What about Forest Park specifically makes this issue so difficult?

“It’s the most significant natural area in the city. It’s largest urban forest in the country, and it is vital to our whole clean air/clean water system. It was identified by Charles Olmstead in 1903 as a legacy piece and it has a passionate following in this city. It is fragile and the city hasn’t always done the best job acting like a steward of Forest Park and today it faces some real challenges, not all of which are man made… Forest Park is iconic and people have very strong attractions to it…

I believe that the single biggest obstacle that arose to our ability to move forward in a more united way to bring more cycling into the park was our recent history of stewardship, and with all due humility I recognized we have to do a better job. When we do a better job and the park’s ecology is healthier it will make it easier for us to welcome new trails for bicycling.”

What do you say to people who are frustrated by this decision and feel helpless as to what to do next ?

“If people are disappointed, than what I’m asking them to do is to continue to work with us on the solutions. I represent almost 600,000 and on any given day there are people disappointed in what we do, but I hope people understand that the decisions we make, particularly the tough calls, are based on what we think are best for the system as a whole and not designed to single out any particular group.

Some things take a little extra time and this is not an example of putting up a road block to prevent something from happening — this is about sequencing and this is about doing it thoughtfully.

When you do things thoughtfully and with a strategy and you take the time to do it right there are some barriers you can get over you didn’t even think possible. I also believe at my core that we are laying the foundation for being able to do some very innovative things for Forest Park down the road and the sequence I have proposed is the right one.

… The process to get to this point left some people feeling bruised and in a democratic process that happens; but my commitment to enhancing the bicycling experience and welcoming bicycles into our park system and to thinking of creative ways of enhancing that experience has been strengthened through this process.”

I’m still processing all the news about Forest Park today. I’d love to know how you are feeling after hearing a bit more from Commissioner Fish.

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  • ecohuman September 30, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    “It’s never been about bicycling. You’re looking at this through the wrong frame. You’re looking at this like world revolves around the bicycle instead of the world revolving around the park.

    Which is what several commenters have been telling you, Jonathan.

    It is fragile and the city hasn’t always done the best job acting like a steward of Forest Park and today it faces some real challenges, not all of which are man made

    Which is what several commenters have been telling you, Jonathan.

    “It’s the most significant natural area in the city. It’s largest urban forest in the country, and it is vital to our whole clean air/clean water system.

    Which several commenters have told you, Jonathan.

    What I’ve learned in the course of the last year, and it was a challenging year, was that the City had not done a great job serving as stewards of Forest Park.

    Which I and others have told you, Jonathan.

    the decisions we make, particularly the tough calls, are based on what we think are best for the system as a whole and not designed to single out any particular group.

    Like, say, bicyclists who demand a “mode share”. Which is what many commenters have told you, Jonathan.

    but my commitment to enhancing the bicycling experience and welcoming bicycles into our park system and to thinking of creative ways of enhancing that experience has been strengthened through this process.”

    Sure. I’ll leave it to others to compare the various statements of Fish over the past year, and his actions, and see what conclusions they arrive at. In my opinion, he’s already running up against cognitive dissonance and a delusional ordering of city and environmental priorities. His bumbling around in Forest Park is just one example.

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  • Kevin September 30, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Does that mean you plan to cap the current number of users? Will Parks begin to limit the number of people hiking, walking and taking dogs into the park?

    Brilliant.

    (and totally ignored)

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  • Opus the Poet September 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    It sounds like they have been listening to Mike Vanderman over on rec.bicycle.soc Usenet group.

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  • Daniel Porter September 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I think he caved to the vocal minority.

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  • CAPS September 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    ecohuman…glad you have enough time to play “I told you so” on a bike advocacy website.

    feel better already?? now go outside and ride your bike…if that is really an activity that you do.

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  • f5 September 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    So, everything needs to be perfect with the park for there to be equity among legitimate trail users. Gotcha. Let’s spend an unfunded 80k to shutout a sizeable chunk of volunteers needed to do the unfunded volunteer work.

    What have been the reasons for the mountain bike trail shutout over the last 20 years then? Where are the concrete plans for expanded singletrack bike access once these pilars are all met? Oh right, the comittee charged with recommending that threw a few tiny bones that amounted to existing, unconnected perimeter roads — and then scrapped that alltogether.

    Don’t worry Fish…I won’t read too much into that because I know you’ve got Big Plans for mountain biking in Forest Park.

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  • Michaewh September 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    “There is in this city a kind of culture debate between bikers and non-bikers that sort of reminds me of what we went through with skateboarders and non-skateboarders.”

    So, mountain bikers are reviled, through ignorance, like skateboarders were 10 years ago… He makes it sound like the mountain biker just arrived into town.

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  • RDAC September 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    It all sounds like politics talk, very disapointing to see Mr. Fish been convice by a small selfish group of people. The Park is sick!!!, of course is sick the population of our city grows every day and houses all around just get closer and closer “in to the park”. Take a drive thru Skyline or Germantown and you will find several new constructions.
    I am hope this other bike proyects around the city, do happen !!!! If not please don’t dare to call this place bike city.

    We want to build and manage give us green light and you will see results.

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  • boneshaker September 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    From his comments it sounds to me like he has a plan. If so, I think sharing it would go a long way to quell the frustration a lot of us feel. If it is about “enhance and protect the ecological health of Forest Park” then what is he doing to that end? Mountain biking and a healthy ecology in Forest Park are NOT mutually exclusive.

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  • Dave September 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I here this a lot, it seems “it is vital to our whole clean air/clean water system”.

    In what way? The watershed from Forest Park is all straight to the Columbia, downstream of Portland. Which isn’t part of our water system. Mt Hood is, but we can ride our bikes all we want there.

    And as for air quality, in what way does encouraging cyclists to drive to the coast for decent singletrack improve air quality? In what way do bicycles in Forest Park inhibit the ability of trees to absorb CO2?

    Again, they want to manage it like pristine wilderness, when it’s anything but.

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  • Oliver September 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    The commish probably had honest intentions about how things could be, and then had a reality check like the rest of us, By underestimating entrenched monied interests.

    Lest we forget in shared delusions about democracy I think we were reminded of an important lesson here.

    1 vote at the timberline will always be worth 1000 on the valley floor.

    The most important points: Any future proposal will require Type 42 land use study and airborne liquid amoeba habitat assessment; AND: Litigation.

    Trail expansion is DEAD in forest Park. Forget about it now, or be forever disappointed.

    I hope none of the heavy equipment up there on Leif Ericsen damages the “Wilderness” or transits any “ecologically sensitive” areas.

    But then we know that’s bs anyway.

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  • steve September 30, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    This is the best interview you have ever published Jonathan.

    Thank you for finally asking one of these people tough questions, then following up with even tougher ones.

    Nick Fish has just demonstrated his complete lack of leadership skills. Thanks for shining a light on his incompetence.

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  • brian September 30, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I want my “Portland Is The Worst Bike City In America” t-shirt, now.

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  • spare_wheel September 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    “The park is not ready for additional bike access, yet…”

    yet = pushback from a vocal wealthy minority.

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  • Hack September 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    what a joke.

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  • brian September 30, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Austin, TX has city mountain bike trails. I hope someday Portland can be as progressive as Texas. Maybe if we had more forest land…

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  • Bjorn September 30, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    @kevin #2 amen, he totally dodged what has to be one of the most hardball questions a reporter has asked him in his tenure. Keep pushing on that Jonathan, either they are lying about the need to reduce impact to the park, or they should allow mtn biking because clearly loose dogs are a bigger impact to wildlife than cyclists ever will be. Not to mention cats belonging to people who live on the edge/practically in the park.

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  • Joe Rowe September 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Nick Fish quote: “Nothing would be more cynical for me than to announce a breakthrough today that I know will be stalled in litigation tomorrow.”

    Wake up Nick, your words are exactly the opposite of your actions on the 3 times you’ve made hasty “sit-lie” ordinances, and you seem happy to face more litigation on your newest attempt. We see right through your smoke.

    This is exactly why we need voter owned elections in Portland.

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  • davemess September 30, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I agree, great questions. Same political drivel you would expect to hear, and it is pretty obviously clear they have no plan for future mountain biking in Forrest Park. If they did, they would have been glad to appease you and silence the crap storm that is about to reign down on them. Bad news for them is, mountain biking is just going to get bigger and more popular, and this issue is not going to go away. They’re going to have to deal with it sooner or later.

    “It’s not about bikers”???? Isn’t that the main issue here. Isn’t that main group that wants access, yet is continually denied it? Isn’t that the group of people that have come up with a plethora of solutions and ideas, the capital, volunteer manpower, and now machinery to do what successfully, enviromentally, and safely complete what they want to implement?

    I just still can’t understand any of it. I’ve had trouble processing it since I moved here this summer. Largest wooded, hilly urban park in the country (5,000 freaking acres!!!!) and 1/3 of a mile of singletrack? I really couldn’t have (and still can’t) fathomed the anamosity in Portland for mountain biking.

    My wife and I went for a really short hike off of Germantown a few weeks ago. 45 minutes and we didn’t see a single person. How can people possibly argue that the trails in this area are too busy to accommodate some mountain bikes?

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  • Bula September 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Sheesh, sorry I did not advocate earlier — I guess I just thought common sense would prevail on this one and we’d have a great advocacy group improving trails and making Forest Park healthier – whoops.

    To think that they just lost a huge group of advocates for Forest Park is such a shame. Cyclists (not just mountain bikers) give, give, and give some more and Forest Park would have been better for it.

    Instead, we’ll have the same old problem getting people to get behind park restoration and improvements and we’ll have dog poop and dangerous homeless camps.

    Mr. Fish, you probably just lost at least one more vote…

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  • Charley September 30, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Here’s my letter.

    Commissioner Fish,
    I write today to tell you that I am deeply disappointed in your decision regarding bicycle access in Forest Park.

    I’d specifically like to point out a glaringly obvious shortcoming in the logic of your decision. Your press release states the following:
    “Despite the professionalism and hard work of Parks Bureau staff, the perpetual budget shortcoming has led to an unavoidable conclusion: the city of Portland has failed to properly maintain Forest Park…”
    From the already well-known fact that the City Council has not recently budgeted an appropriate amount of funding for Park maintenance, you leap to an unrelated conclusion: that no one should be allowed to ride a bike on a trail in the Park. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t follow.

    Your observation that the City itself has failed the Park should lead you to push for more funding, not lead you to deny bicyclists access to singletrack. Instead of creating a larger constituency for the appropriate funding of the Park, you’re turning away the hundreds of park users who are interested in making the park a better place. You’re turning away activists and recreationists who could have been the Park’s newest large constituency.

    To be honest with you, I’ve followed every bit of publicly available reporting on this issue, and I think I know the real reason why your new plan is to study this to death.

    Here’s a rough timeline: You had a good idea for modernizing Park access and growing the constituency of Park advocates, and took your idea public. Then you smelled a whiff of controversy, and met the entrenched interests of other Park users (who are reliably uninterested in sharing any recreational resource). That’s mostly thanks to Marcy Houle. The Park is smothered under dog feces and English Ivy, and is full of eroding Fire Roads, homeless camps and unauthorized boot trails, but Ms. Houle reserved her most potent “sky is falling down” rhetoric to unleash against fellow citizen Park users. While you could have focused on tackling these existing problems, while enlisting the help of thousands of bike riders, you told us to wait indefinitely. Instead of looking to the greater good, you listened to the angry few. In the end, you decided to bail, rather than face any more flak. That’s a profile in cowardice.

    I voted for you last election, but I will not vote for you again.

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  • Andy September 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    When is the critical mass ride on Leif?

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  • Charlie B September 30, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    The only thing banned is building new trails. What was taken off the table previously is trail sharing. Sure I get it: to build more trails there needs to be studies and money. To open existing trails (not all of them) to mountain bike access, on a limited basis is a discretionary act. That this did not happen is simply a matter of the dominant group unwilling to share.

    The fact of the matter is that mountain bikes are legitimate park users and have a precedent for riding singletrack (Firelane 5). Trail sharing on multi-use paths is successful in many communities; it is proven. Say the words out loud: “We just don’t want to share.” Quit making excuses and perpetrating stereotypes and being sacrosanct. Say the words so I know what you are and I will ride away from YOUR park.

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  • Jim September 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Have urban growth boundaries, and then tell folks they can not use 50,000 acres of park within those boundaries. It looks a little unbalanced to this untrained eye.

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  • pdxthinker September 30, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I have been following this blog and the immature tone of many comments is amazing.
    You repeatedly blame some mysterious cohort of people with “power” who live near the park, when park users are from all over Portland. You ignore the input from Mazamas, medical groups and City Club,and many individuals (including cyclists!) each with their own viewpoint but all thoughtful and concerned about the park. Do any of you even BELIEVE that the park is in trouble—that young saplings are not surviving? Do any of you feel any guilt about the illegal trail that was cut—and yes –it is certain that members of this blog did that…no one else would. Do any of you consider that hitting a child at 15 miles an hour can cause great injury? Do any of you question why the mountain bikers have not really been out there pulling ivy during the last volunteer sessions, despite all protestations to the contrary? Do any of you consider that your numbers are actually not that great? Being a mountain biker is not the same as being a commuting road cyclist (I am). I often bike Lief Ericson and thank my stars that Portland offers this. Not many cities have something like this for bikers. Do any of you realize that platinum status has nothing to do with mountain biking–(yeah, look it up)? Nick Fish is not responsible to a small fringe group–he tried, but was educated in the process as to a mature and responsible approach. His responsibility is to the majority. Mountain bikers on this bolg clearly show with your comments (eg. “I’m not going to volunteer anymore”) that you don’t care a whit about the park except as it serves your playground purposes. Please note that MANY responsible cyclists want the park to be healthy, understand the concerns of runners and joggers (because they also run and jog) and find what they have in the park to be wonderful.. My advice to you testosterone soaked macho guys/gals who are stuck in adolescence is –be happy with Lief Ericson and the firelanes–they are beautiful and it is amazing they exist. And instead of planning illegal critical mass rides on the Wildwood, do something relevant like volunteering in the school systems to increase literacy. Or pulling garlic mustard that your tires bring onto roadways and into the park.

    Part of being a grownup is accepting disappointment and making the best out of it –which in this case would be recognizing the wisdom of the decisions made and realizing you live in an incredible place that offers you so many options.

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  • pdxthunker October 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

    @25 pdxthinker
    The tone on bikeportland, in general, is surprisingly mature for the internet. Have you seen the rest of the internet?

    I hate to even respond to you, and hopefully your name is more ironic than a hipster’s mustache, but it seems that you are ill informed. The League of American Bicyclists do take into account off-road accessibility and facilities. From the link – “In addition, some questions focus on other things that have been built to promote cycling or a cycling culture such as off-road facilities, BMX parks, velodromes, and the existence of both road and mountain bicycling clubs.” Portland has sided with the commuters very frequently and I am more than happy about that, but there is a much richer culture in cycling than just that. It seems that the LoAM realize that but you choose to ignore it.

    The “think of the children” argument has been done before and you haven’t breathed new life into it. You can come talk to me about that when the number of mountain bikes running into children surpass the number of cars running into children.

    I would like to take your argument about “be happy with what you have” and turn it around. Allowing mountain biking in FP is not depriving anyone of the ability to find solitude and peace within the park. Be happy with what you have and don’t deprive others of enjoying it their own way, while allowing you your own defined space.

    Part of being a grownup is accepting that not everyone sees things like you and will actively work against you, while still expecting respect and not being spoken to like a child. Only a child would turn politics into such a degrading exercise. After re-reading your post, I hope you understand that claiming maturity and acting maturely are two dramatically different things.

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  • C-Dawg October 1, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I would have appreciated some straight-up honesty, as in:

    “The vocal pedestrians don’t want to hear a bunch of hooligan mountain bikers whooping it up, and don’t want mtn bikes running them down on the trails. The illegal mtn bike trails cut in Forest Park this year made this a slam-dunk decision. You mtn bikers never had a chance after that.”

    It’s a shame, since mtn bikers pay taxes like everyone else, and don’t contribute any pollution to Forest Park.

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  • Jim October 1, 2010 at 2:04 am

    Part of being a grownup is accepting disappointment and making the best out of it –which in this case would be recognizing the wisdom of the decisions made and realizing you live in an incredible place that offers you so many option

    This statement…even after a beer makes my head spin. Just what are you saying?? Wisdom of decisions??..that leave us with so many options?? but yet…we can’t ride… I am sooooo confused.

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  • Vance Longwell October 1, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Ha. Ha. The Church of Green gets clubbed in the head with its own bible! Oh, too funny. I’m not sitting here actually chuckling out loud to myself. Nope. If you observed me right now, you wouldn’t think I’ve totally lost it, sitting in my office laughing softly all by myself. Nope. For crying out loud…

    Oh, and please ignore the historical precedent of just exactly this kind of reaction to ‘other’ people using that park. The Thurman St. gang getting grabby with FP? Nah, no half-a-century of, “Get out of my park!, BS from those on-high dweebs to warn you off. Nuh-uh.

    Now, about that leash-law… Anybody up for a nice enforcement ride?

    …and to think, barely 25 years ago I’d push-ride my YZ80 up Thurman to the McClay stairs, and ride those trails all day long, virtually by myself; and with a Sthil Mini-mac bungied to my handle-bars for purposes of making, “unauthorized”, trails.

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  • Vance Longwell October 1, 2010 at 6:56 am

    For Pete’s sake you guys… Pool your dough and hire a lawyer to argue the 6th on this. That’s public property sanctioned by it’s very own department, I realize, I’m not saying it’s not an uphill battle; but you’re being denied due process.

    It could also be legally construed as taxation without representation. You don’t live in California anymore, and in Oregon you may not, “Contract away certain rights…”, blah, blah. Who cares what the rules on the sign say? That’s public property, and you’re banned, and aren’t getting boo for good reason. Set a national precedent.

    Good gravy. People go to parks to recreate. They do it with Frisbees, and picnic baskets, and an occasionally exhibitionist romp on the ‘ol blankey. The sheer scope of irony, that is being denied this freedom, is stupefying. City parks aren’t nature preserves. They’re parks. You want a nature preserve, do the work, right? You want a park, then mind your own business when other people exercise the same prerogative.

    I laugh, and enjoy watching you’all swallow some of your own medicine, but I’m with you, and support your right to access a city park, and engage in a reasonable activity there.

    Those in opposition sound like a bunch of suburban white kids pissed that some bruthas moved into the ‘hood, and took over the buckets at the corner park. Thruman St gang, hello, not your park! The clear solution to your problem is to get into Mountain Biking, and STFU! Or find a different park, right?

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  • visiondrawn October 1, 2010 at 7:08 am

    @25 pdxthinker,
    Thank you for your comment. You are not the only avid cyclist in Portland who does not want more mountain biking in Forest Park.

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  • Lisa October 1, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Taxation without representation?

    Whaaa?

    So when you go to the Metolius River in central OR, or Teton National Park or Glacier National Park or anywhere else that restricts mountain biking on the trails you could sue for being banned from publc property?

    Puleeeze.

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  • Minnow October 1, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Pdxthinker: Bravo!! You are a voice of reason in the wilderness of bikeportland.org.

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  • k_t_w October 1, 2010 at 8:03 am

    @#25
    “You ignore the input from Mazamas, medical groups and City Club”

    Yes, we would choose to ignore the small and vocal minority that wants to keep exclusive access to the park. Remind me again why a medical group is relevant to the conversation.

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  • k_t_w October 1, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Anyone remember when Nick Fish said it wasn’t a matter of if they were going to increase access but how they were going to increase access? I don’t believe a word that comes out of this guy’s mouth.

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  • Did I miss it? Again? October 1, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Due process is not being denied. As was stated in the interview, any proposals would be followed by a Land Use Review, which would, without evidence to the contrary, point to the park not being ready for the new trails/users.

    ” In your press release today, you said, “Further restoration and maintenance work is needed in the park before recreational use can be expanded.” Does that mean you plan to cap the current number of users? Will Parks begin to limit the number of people hiking, walking and taking dogs into the park? ”

    How does further maintenance on the park equate to capping visitors?
    When a road requires maintenance do they cap the number of drivers?
    All he is saying is that you can’t increase traffic/capacity. This question was blatantly biased and loaded; no wonder he answered it the way he did.

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  • keefer October 1, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Going to Brian’s comment, #16, about Austin’s MTB Trails and Texas being progressive… Yes when I step out my front door I am 5 minutes aways from 50+ miles of pristine single track, and 300 days + of sunshine. However I wouldn’t use Texas and progressive in the same sentence. Having just returned to Austin after my 2 year + stint in my hometown of Portland, I miss Portland’s progressive pioneering spirit and am quite disappointed with the outcome of the Forest Park bomb. What can you do to make it better? In Austin there’s 0 to no advocacy for mountain biking, which is why we still have trails. In Portland there is tons of advocacy, which is why you don’t have trails…

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  • Frank Selker October 1, 2010 at 8:51 am

    A few things:

    - Regarding Nick’s comment that alternating use was not brought as an option: Parks did not want it taken to the public as an option. They changed committee rules during that meeting so unless committee support was unanimous, it would not be an option. They worried about “raising expectations” – that is, that the public would like it. They were right: In the survey of over 1,000 people, 67% thought it should be considered.

    - I don’t have anything negative to say about Nick Fish or Parks except that they currently side with neighbors and certain vocal hikers, not us. I hope and expect that their view of Forest Park will become more balanced over time.

    - As others have said, it is the politics of people who see a fixed pie, currently have that pie, and want to keep it. I have not seen a scientific or technical reason that bikes should not be on any trail in the park. Current trail users deserve a good part of the trails to themselves – I like to hike on trails without bikes too. But a roughly 99% / 1% split is not balanced, it is just a historical hold-over.

    I believe the Forest Park pie can be made larger and that we deserve a share, and I believe it will ultimately happen.

    Frank

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 1, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Did I miss it? Again?,

    I believe the question about the park’s ecology and how it relates to not improving bike trail access is relevant and I don’t think it is “loaded” or “biased”.

    What’s happening here is that people who do not want improved bike trail access are using the ecology argument to back up their opinions… but I still don’t understand what ecology has to do with bike trail use specifically.

    It seems to me that the park is in a dire condition ecologically because of the current overuse by off-leash dogs, hikers, walkers, etc.. — the user groups that make up the bulk of the current use. So, if the City is worried about overuse, what exactly does that have to do with bike trail use? Do you follow?

    It still feels to me like there is a jump in logic, and now policy, from ecology concerns to bike trail use and i just don’t see the connection. That’s why i think this is about bikes and not solely about doing “what’s best for the park.”

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  • Frank Selker October 1, 2010 at 8:54 am

    A Dilbert cartoon comes to mind:

    “Leadership is the art of trading imaginary things in the future for real things today.”

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  • Justin October 1, 2010 at 9:35 am

    C-Dawg (#27) actually makes a good point. I don’t feel that walking and mountain biking on these trails are compatible uses. If I want an exciting ride where I can whoop it up if I choose, I don’t want a bunch of shuffling pedestrians in the way. Similarly, if I’m a shuffling pedestrian who wants a peaceful walk and to look at birds, I don’t want someone tearing down the trail.
    To be fair, yes, mountain bike tires do a lot more damage than shoes and boots, especially when we’ve had rain somewhat recently. It’s much easier to increase pedestrian capacity because they do far less damage to the trails.
    But I think we can all agree on one thing: leash your darn dogs!

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  • Gabriel Amadeus October 1, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I really don’t think the hikers/dogs impact the park negatively. The park is in dire condition ecologically because of the lack of diversity from a history clear cutting and current ivy problems. It’s not a nature preserve, and bikers/hikers can enjoy it together.

    I’d think IMBA would have stats/case studies from other cities where there are shared trails and ecological concerns. I’d bet those are the 2 biggest concerns any place singletrack gets built.

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  • fredlf October 1, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I just utterly fail to understand why trail sharing won’t work here when it works well elsewhere.

    e.g. Trail X is open for bikes on Wed. afternoons. It is not open to bikes in winter, when it’s muddy.

    How frickin’ hard is that?

    There’s plenty of research out there showing that bike impact to trail is little or no different than hikers or horses. This was not a science or reason-based decision. This decision was on the basis of misinformation, fear-mongering (save the babies!), and politics.

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  • Vance Longwell October 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Lisa #32 – Clearly you missed my disclaimer. I know it’s a stretch. Fact of the matter is that public property is maintained from tax-revenue, whether park or no. Being taxed for something, then being denied the benefits of that something, is most certainly taxation without representation. Banning me from public property without my day in court, is a more direct violation of the 6th, than any representation issue, though. THAT one could get traction.

    Until the tree-huggers showed up in large numbers, I rode dirt-bikes in Federal forests with the authority provided me by a decrepit Winchester revolver. You folks think I’m just going to stand by, and let you do to me, what our ancestors did to the Indians? Not. This park ban is outrageous. Totally insane. It’s the slippery slope, and a half. Next, let’s ban any act that can be construed as fun, you know, in a park.

    I wish I had the nads to ride where ever I felt like up there, and back that up with deadly force, until the FBI outnumber me enough to get me.

    I don’t MTB that park much, so I’m ambivalent. But I deeply empathize with folks feeling their freedoms squished.

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  • wsbob October 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

    pdxthinker #25, with the others that have already done so, I want to thank you for speaking up.

    “…people who do not want improved bike trail access…”maus #39

    I read a similar phrase maus had written yesterday and wondered what he was talking about. Is maus suggesting that allowing off-road bikes to ride on single track in Forest Park…a natural area/nature park… represents “improved bike trail access”? Most likely.

    Many people in Portland don’t seem to think this kind of presence in the park would be an improvement. They think it’s a bad idea. Why? Many reasons that off-road bike enthusiasts, pushing for access to Forest Park’s single track consistently try to ignore.

    Here on bikeportland, as people that have been trying to convince the city to allow their off-road bikes on Forest Park’s single track well know, I’ve written at length about those reasons. For anyone that wants to read them, a search of bikeportland’s archives may bring them up.

    Except from off-road bike enthusiasts, the call to parcel out Portland’s uniquely expansive natural area park to allow off-road bikes on single track in Forest Park, is not strong.

    Off-road biking on single track is what a place such as Sandy Ridge is for.

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  • BURR October 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

    stalling and more studies are not a satisfactory plan

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  • Charlie B October 1, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Bikes are legitimate park users.
    Bikes are allowed on singletrack (FL5).
    Continuing to ban bikes from other trails is discretionary and represents an unwillingness to share.

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  • Vance Longwell October 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

    “What’s happening here is that people who do not want improved bike trail access are using the ecology argument to back up their opinions…”

    Now, Mr. Maus, and with all due respect, are you saying that occasionally environmentally sensitive advocates will disingenuously deploy an environmentally friendly position in hopes of furthering a corollary agenda? Isn’t one of the main reasons I’m persona non gratta at this very blog, due to making this identical statement myself? Say it isn’t so! The Church of Green spewing lies to get their way? No way! NOT possible.

    Good grief…

    K, just making sure we’re all on the record and stuff.

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  • matt picio October 1, 2010 at 11:39 am

    pdxthinker (#25) “do any of you feel any guilt over the illegal trail” – Nope, none whatsoever, because I didn’t build it. The only folks who should feel guilty are those responsible. It might be appropriate for us to feel outrage, disgust, or disappointment (or apathy in some cases), but definitely not guilt.

    “Part of being a grownup” – that’s pretty patronizing. Your argument either stands on its own logic and facts, or not. You seem to be wanting the whole community to feel some sense of guilt or shame, and I find that curious. We’re not responsible for the choices of others – merely our own. And it’s certainly reasonable to disagree with the decisions of committees and elected officials – there’s nothing mature in accepting a committee decision without looking at it critically.

    Forest Park is HUGE – there is plenty of room to accommodate additional trails. If the park needs to be protected to the extent that is frequently implied, then it needs to be designated something else, not “park”. “Park” implies recreation as the primary focus, which is clearly not what the many of the committee, local residents and at least some of the Forest Park users want. We already have special designations for areas where wildlife needs to be protected, and it feels like those options aren’t being discussed because many want their current recreation form to remain, but not to entertain others.

    For the record, I’m against trail-sharing. As a hiker, I do not like being surprised by the sudden appearance of a mountain bike barrelling down the trail. But as a cyclist, I recognize the fact that some bikers love barrelling down the trail – and there’s no reason why trails can’t (or shouldn’t) be built to accommodate them in Forest Park, unless there is some species that only exists in Forest Park that needs protection.

    And thanks for voicing your opinion, and in an articulate manner. I don’t agree with you, but I respect that you’re willing to voice it, to stand by what you say, and to argue with conviction and purpose. I hope you also volunteer for the causes you champion.

    Also, thanks ecohuman, wsbob, cyclist, Vance, and others I disagree with frequently on this blog for the same – I’d like to think that despite our differences in opinion that we’d be able to sit down and have a beer/coffee/whatever together. The civility of folks here is a large part of what makes Portland great.

    Jonathan (#39) – That’s exactly it, the CURRENT user groups, of which mountain bikers are a minority. Yes, there was an illegal trail built by some group of people, and I’m not ignoring that – the arguments against mountain biking were there before the trail was found, and looking at the park as a whole, the main issues are off-leash dogs, owners who don’t clean up after their dogs, invasive species brought in by ALL park users, and illegal trail switchbacks created by walkers & runners. If you want to limit the damage, then limit all park users.

    Justin (#41) – The damage is minimized and controlled so long as the users stay on the trail. All trails have erosion issues, some worse than others. The current illegal switchbacks that hikers have created on the trails are pretty damaging. I’d love to see new trails for biking (though I wouldn’t expect to use them much personally), so long as park users of any type try to keep from cutting the corners on switchbacks.

    Gabe (#42) – Hikers and dogs impact the park negatively by spreading English Ivy and other non-native species through dog feces, running/hiking shoes, and failing to keep their gear clean. I’ll acknowledge they probably aren’t the #1 reason for the park’s issues.

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  • George Hayduke October 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Why don’t we ask the park if it wants more eroding dirt bike trails in it?

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  • Alan October 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    George, I asked the park and it said its ultimate destiny is to become a playa. It didn’t mention anything about the Stop Mass Wasting jokers. It said that, as a park, it expects and desires people to use it, it just wants them to act responsibly. Responsible design, construction and use of trails, including by bikes, is OK with it. It very much doubts that responsible sort of use will be significant in its journey to destiny.

    I own bikes and a dog. I try to behave responsibly with both. I guess most “bike owners” fit other categories, too. Scapegoating other categories doesn’t build up the “bike owner” category but it does promote fractious factions which divide political clout.

    “Wilderness” has many connotations. It could be a bonsai garden or it could be no longer found on the Earth’s surface. Getting hung up on the semantics won’t get bike trails built. Getting specific about where and how such routes can be built while at the same time optimizing the park for all users (including wildlife, conservation, reclamation, solitude, etc.) is where the discussion needs to go.

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  • jj October 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Vance, you confuse access with free and unfettered access according to your standards.

    Many, many public resources can be accessed only certain ways. You can’t drive the wrong way down one way streets. You can’t sleep in City Hall hallways. And you can’t ride mountain bikes on single tracks in FP. But you are completely free to walk, hike, or jog along those trails.

    P.S. all those folks comparing us to Austin–have you any sense at all about how the geography, topography, and climate of Austin, TX differs from Portland, OR?

    Do you think that might make a teensy weensy difference in our ability to build and maintain a heavy use MB trail in a park here vs. Austin (or for that matter, So Cal)?

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  • Charlie B October 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    jj (#52): in fact, mountain bikers are legitimate park users. Mountain bikes can, in fact ride singletrack in Forest Park, albeit a tiny fraction of the park’s inventory of singletrack trails (the 1/3 mile of Firelane 5). The continued ban of mountain bikes on the remainder of trails is discretionary and represents an unwillingness to share.

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  • Bryan October 1, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    20 years of bikes being banned and the park needs a lot of help… go figure.

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