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After years of disappointment, single track lovers have reasons for optimism

Posted by on November 21st, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Newton Rd in Forest Park

With renewed energy from Portland’s off-road biking advocates and a Metro project that could open up 1,300 acress of trail possibilities, 2015 could be a very big year for advocates itching for more local single track trails.

As we reported yesterday, local advocacy and trail building group the Northwest Trail Alliance has thrown down a gauntlet of sorts by launching an online petition in the form of an open letter to members of Portland City Council. The petition urges them to “catch up with the overflowing demand for off-road cycling opportunities.” By the time this story is published there will likely be close to 1,000 signatures collected in its first two days.

It’s been four years since a bruising public process ended without any real progress on bike access improvements in Forest Park. After that loss, the NW Trail Alliance vowed to stay focused on the issue.

Now, with the passage of time and healing of wounds, it looks like they’re ready to start pushing once again. The Trail Alliance can start fresh with lessons learned and new faces in charge at City Council and on their staff.

Also working in bike advocates’ favor is a Metro plan to develop 1,300 acres of land known as the North Tualatin Mountains along Forest Park’s northern boundary. As we reported back in September, Metro is entering this planning process with eyes wide open.


But then again, mountain biking advocates were also optimistic back in 2009 when former Parks Commissioner Nick Fish made a bold promise that he was ultimately unable to keep.

However, this time around advocates have even more reason to expect a good result. The biggest difference is that their fate is in Metro’s hands now, not Portland Parks & Recreation. And unlike the 2009 Forest Park effort, biking hopes can be based on clear policy language, not a politician’s promises.

mccarthycreek
At 403 acres and accessible right off Skyline Blvd and McNamee Road, the McCarthy Creek parcel holds great promise.

The North Tualatin Mountains project is funded through Metro’s natural areas levy that voters passed in 2012. The NW Trail Alliance came out in support of that levy because it included specific language about mountain biking.

The levy was adopted by Metro Council in December 2012. Page 14 of Exhibit A in the adopted resolution contains an initial project list. Among the projects listed is one of parcels of the North Tualatin Mountains project. Here’s the text of that project description:

Agency Creek/McCarthy Creek
Various parcels near to but outside of Forest Park are currently or could be used by walkers or cyclists to access nature close to Portland. Access to the site is challenging and there may be opportunities to enhance use. Over the past decade the demand for single track mountain biking trails has increased. This project would explore the potential to provide quality cycling and hiking experiences for formal single track cycling and walking trails, and as appropriate, construct the facilities.

While that language doesn’t set anything in stone, it’s clear Metro has been thinking about single track from the outset and they’ve left the door wide open.

As you can imagine, people who want more single track trails within riding distance of downtown Portland are taking this Metro process very seriously. If they succeed here, it won’t just give them a great new place to ride, it would serve as a symbol of success right next door to where the City of Portland has thus far only failed.

Metro is holding four community meetings to gather feedback on this project. The second one is coming up on December 2nd.

Ryan Francesconi and Andy Jansky, two volunteer advocates with the NW Trail Alliance, hope to see a large contingent of bicycling supporters at the meeting. “Allowing bikes on trails is currently very much a possibility,” they wrote on Facebook, “however if we don’t attend this meeting and give voice to our perspective we may lose out.”

    North Tualatin Mountains Open House
    Skyline Grange
    Tuesday, December 2, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m
    11275 NW Skyline Blvd. Portland, OR 97231

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

22 Comments
  • Barney November 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    A single-track trail system close to town would take a lot of cars off the highway. Sounds green to me!

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  • Joe R November 21, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Would like to stress that NW Trail Alliance isn’t just about advocacy (the article makes it seem like that’s all we’re about)… By itself advocacy is a good thing, but we’re also trail builders (with an arsenal of professional equipment and volunteers with knowledge/expertise). Also host regular fun group rides and other events too (not as often as some would like).

    In other words, we don’t just ask nicely (usually) for what we want, but we offer to help build it and maintain it.

    The IMBA motto is “Speak. Build. Ride. Respect.”

    That’s what it means. don’t just speak, but also build and ride and respect (the trails, the land managers, and the other trail users).

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 21, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      That’s a great point Joe. I added “trail building” at the beginning of the story and will keep that in mind in the future.

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  • redhippie November 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    After PUMP/NWTA sold out to the Friends of Forest Park I dropped my membership. Looks like there might be a glimor of hope and a reason to sign up again.

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    • Andy C November 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Great point!! Now is time renew your membership (www.nw-trail.org/join). The more members we have the more influence we have. We need need all the members we have. We are about to approach 1000 members and that’s the point where we become a significant organization in the political world.

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      • dave November 21, 2014 at 3:07 pm

        Amen! We can all come here and argue till we’re blue in the face, but it is money and roll calls that will matter in the end. NWTA/IMBA membership is $30 a year – most of us probably have more than that invested in a flat kit, and showing at least that much support should be a minimum if you want to see new trails, or enjoy riding the ones we have now.

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    • matt November 21, 2014 at 11:47 pm

      Way to hang in there! So supportive of you! Nothing like riding coat tails…

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  • Ryan Francesconi November 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for this Jonathan. Hope to see you at the Dec 2nd meeting! Ryan

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  • ron
    ron November 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Remember that membership is huge. NWTA did not sell out to F. of Forest Part (now the conservancy)….they just had MORE political clout because they had more members and funding. Just being a member is all NWTA asks. Some build, some ride, some teach…some are just members. That way we gain access for Healthy Living Options (Riding our bikes) close to home. Thanks for re-upping your membership redhippie. Get a buddy to join as well if ya can. Together we can change the world.

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  • Charley November 21, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Let’s build new trails in this new Metro parcel! Let’s also keep pushing for Forest Park- so many more people can ride there from their house. First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

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    • Charley November 21, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Oh, also: I’m a proud NWTA member!

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  • Aaron November 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Any new close in to town singletrack would kick butt, but I want something that I can ride to from house.

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    • davemess November 22, 2014 at 9:33 am

      I think with the combination of Powell Butte, Gateway Green, Forest Park, and Riverview Cemetery, we can pretty much achieve that. With decent trails at those four locations we will have most of the city covered (granted it will still be a 4-7 mile ride for many in Portland, but certainly doable).

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  • rick November 21, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Safe routes to school and work are needed. Trails are great.

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  • Dabby November 21, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I was one of only two Mtb’ers at the first meeting ( was there with Jansky) and I really hope we get a better contingency this time.
    As an obvious (I guess) Mtb’er, I was immediately approached by Metro and thanked for representing mtber’s.
    It is as simple as showing up, reading some story boards, saying hi to some people, and filling out index cards as to what you would like to see on these parcels.
    The responses directly to metro personnel, and as I was told especially the responses on the index cards, will greatly help dictate what these parcels are used for.
    I like words such as XC, multi use, shared, maintainable, dedicated.

    I also think we should meet before hand at the Skyline Pub.

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    • Amy November 23, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      I’m in. What time at the Skyline Pub?

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  • bikey November 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Related question: Whatever happened to the space near Lewis and Clark College?

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  • Paul G. November 23, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I was a big skeptic about MTB trails in Forest Park. I ran those trails for many years, saw how bad the single track trails were in the winter, and didn’t believe that MTB could possibly be compatible with the landscape and the user demand.

    I’ve living temporarily this year in Western NC and have learned that trails can be built, maintained, and used wisely, even under heavy demand.

    The trail infrastructure in the Research Triangle Area–a population that well exceeds Portland’s–puts Portland metro to shame. Trails are both long (Umpqua Forest) and short (Crabtree lake). They hold up well even during the heavy rainy season.

    It’s all about careful construction, something I’ve learned volunteering for trail building and maintenance around Boone NC and Mountain City, TN. And a well maintained trail system brings in tourists from all over, not something PDX needs, but something this part of the country really wants.

    I hope PDX trails move forward. Until then, if you get a little vacation time, give a look at the High Country area of Western NC, SW Virginia, and Eastern TN a look. The road riding and mountain biking are spectacular.

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    • davemess November 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      You didn’t have to go all the way to NC. Just head an hour away up to Sandy Ridge to see trails that can be built to withstand our weather.

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    • fivefrud November 25, 2014 at 5:57 am

      You didn’t have to move to NC to learn that. just look at the fire lane 3 (3 or 5?) singletrack section.

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    • Cuyler Abrams November 25, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Seeing real modern mountain biking trails helps convince a lot of naysayers. However, for urban mountain biking trails, you just about have to show off other urban mountain biking trails in big cities to help people to “get it”. Even then, a certain percentage just don’t like mountain biking and you will never show them enough examples.

      Its a shame that many of those firmly committed to preventing mountain biking in Forest Park don’t seem to know what urban mountain biking looks like. If they had some intellectual curiosity and visited other trails and talked to land managers of those trails, they might find their opinion radically changed. Even if it wasn’t they could at least argue their position with more knowledge.

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  • bb November 30, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Sounds great and highly needed. After getting our hopes up so many times and then shot down by extremist anti-bike hikers/birders that are hell bent on making us look like environmental terrorists, it’s hard to get too excited. But I’ll be there anyways to show support.

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