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Parks bureau adds $350,000 Off-Road Cycling Master Plan to budget

Posted by on February 6th, 2015 at 11:44 am

Newton Rd in Forest Park
Plan now, ride later.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

2015 is shaping up to be a great year for off-road cycling in Portland.

We have just learned that the PP&R requested budget for 2015/2016 (PDF) includes $350,000 for an “Off-Road Cycling Master Plan.”

This is nothing short of huge news for mountain biking advocates in Portland who see the lack of such a plan as the last remaining hurdle to more local trails, building more pump tracks, and so on. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz called for the plan one year ago and just last November the NW Trail Alliance started an online petition to persuade Parks to fund it.

The Off-Road Cycling Master Plan was not initially prioritized in Parks’ budget. According to a letter an email we’ve received from a parks staffer, the $350,000 line item was added “because of strong public support.” Parks asked the public to help them weigh priorities via an online survey and a public hearing that took place on January 7th. As a result, two new projects were added to the budget: the off-road cycling plan and a community garden program.

Here’s the official description of the master plan investment taken from Parks’ requested budget (emphases mine):

Off-Road Cycling Master Plan – $350,000
Strong demand in and around Portland for off-road cycling, particularly single-track trails, is creating a need for a region-wide master plan to identify appropriate sites for this recreational, social, and health-focused activity. Currently, the City only has two sites with very limited trail lengths and quality for this type of cycling, and some users are creating their own trails that are impacting natural areas. Portland’s status as a bike-friendly city would be enhanced by expansion of more off-road opportunities. This package would fund a joint effort with Metro to identify several sites, possibly within and outside of Portland, in which to build sustainable trails, access points, and facilities for off-road cycling that would not negatively impact natural resources.

Expected Results: If this package is funded, percentage of residents rating the overall quality of parks and recreation activities as good or very good may increase.

In a letter to Mayor Charlie Hales from Parks Budget Advisory Committee Chair Kathy Fong Stephens, she wrote that the outpouring of public support persuaded BAC members that the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan was a priority for the community.

The NW Trail Alliance’s petition urged Portland City Council to create more places to ride in the dirt. “Let’s catch up with the overflowing demand for off-road cycling opportunities,” it read. That petition has been signed by well over 2,500 people so far and NWTA representatives delivered it in person during testimony at the January 7th budget hearing.

The 2015/16 budget request also includes $250,000 for matching funds that will go toward the Gateway Green bike park project.

Keep in mind that this is only the bureau’s requested budget. From here, all the bureau budgets go to City Hall where they’ll have to get through the political process before becoming officially voted on and adopted by Council in June.

We’ll have more on this plan as details get fleshed out. Stay tuned for updates.

And thank you to everyone who spoke up and helped make this happen!

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

52 Comments
  • Adam H. February 6, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Damn. Now I need to buy a mountain bike…

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    • Brian February 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Yep. Great 26″ wheeled mountain bikes can be had for quite cheap these days.

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    • Dan February 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      I bought a mountain bike 14 years ago shortly after moving to Portland, not realizing I couldn’t just ride to nearby singletrack like I did in Corvallis and Walla Walla. That 2001 Rockhopper is still in great shape!

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    • Chris Balduc February 6, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      I’m selling a nice 29er!
      http://portland.craigslist.org/clc/bik/4869236581.html

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      • caesar February 7, 2015 at 2:23 pm

        I think I’ll be listing my Santa Cruz Superlight very shortly….

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        • davemess February 8, 2015 at 8:27 am

          I always found that name incredibly ironic for that bike.

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          • caesar February 9, 2015 at 5:56 am

            Haters gonna hate….

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  • J_R February 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    So, is the master plan simply a budget request or is it in the adopted budget?

    I’m pretty certain it’s only a budget request at this point, which means that the Parks Bureau will need help from advocates during the actual budget process. Each Bureau is simply putting out its wish list. Now the “fun” begins.

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    • Peter R February 6, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      This early in the process it is just a request. I assume like most municipalities, that they are currently in FY16 budget mode, and anything that happens to be requested wouldn’t happen until 7/1/15. Assuming it makes it through the multiple layers of budget review.
      So yes, support will be needed. Those of you in PDX should let your elected officials know that you want this line item to stay.

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      • Alex February 6, 2015 at 2:51 pm

        Yes – but what is the best way to let them know we want it to stay? Ideas? Official forms/methods? Ways we can organize to get more people in touch with them?

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        • Peter R February 6, 2015 at 4:40 pm

          Portland’s City Budget Office.
          http://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/
          see “attend a budget event” or better yet join a budget advisory committee. I’m not a PDX resident or employee, but I have 15 years of government finance experience at both a State and local level. I can tell you that showing up and voicing your concerns and opinions matters and can make a difference.

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        • Peter R February 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm

          Budget Calendar here
          http://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/515782

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        • Brian February 6, 2015 at 5:21 pm

          I am confident that NWTA will have a plan for how to garner support. Do you receive their newsletter? Also, come to the meeting at Velo Cult this month. The topic is Gateway Green and I know there will be announcements/updates on this topic, as well.

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    • Kelsey Cardwell February 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      You are right. We have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that Parks has the funding to follow through. NW Trail Alliance will do another big push when City Council determines their allocations.

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  • Buzz February 6, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    The City of Portland sure loves throwing money at plans and studies.

    I think the money would be much better spent on actual facilities, rather than another plan that stands a decent chance of just being ignored once it’s completed.

    Git ‘r Done!

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    • Alex February 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      I agree.

      It is funny that we have to have a master plan before there is even the slightest amount of single track in the city. That is like not allowing commuters to ride their bikes on the streets before there was some sort of master plan. It is kind of backwards. The plan should meet the demand and without any access, how do we know where the demand is?

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      • Dan M. February 12, 2015 at 1:42 pm

        Master plans guide the development. You don’t want to do any infrastructure improvement without and overall plan. You must be a few credits shy of an urban planning degree.

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        • Alex February 18, 2015 at 6:18 am

          No, what I have done is looked at how things have developed and happened without the obstacle of a master plan at such an early phase of development – look at skateboarding as an example. There have been a ton of skateparks developed without a master plan – the master plan came much later in the process of adding parks and spaces to skate. Or how about bicycling in the city? People were bicycling for many years without a master plan, it wasn’t until there was enough demand on our infrastructure to support a master plan that we needed one. We really can’t say the same thing about mountain biking as there really is no access in the city of Portland – at least nothing that is used on a regular basis by any mountain bikers that I know or that I have seen using the current spaces. My point is this – it is really hard to have a master plan when we really don’t have a good pulse on what is going on. In all the other scenarios, we had some numbers to go by to know how to move forward – in mountain biking we don’t really have that scenario.

          I honestly see this as one more stall tactic than anything else and do not see a good reason to not move forward with simply adding some before the master plan to get an idea of what to include in the master plan.

          You must be a few credits shy from a history degree.

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          • TrailLover February 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

            I agree that a master plan SHOULDN’T be necessary before making significant and obvious improvement to off-road cycling in Portland, but neither were the many other experiments, initiatives and fake promises of the past that turned out to be diversions, lies or failures.

            The reason that an MP may be different is that when the city commits real, line-item funds to something like an MP, it improves the chances of SOMETHING actually happening down the road, albeit probably at a slower pace than should be necessary. It also creates a public process where community input and other testimony can be better solicited and recorded as the basis for making policy. The challenge here is going to be making sure than any MP process doesn’t get hijacked by anti-bicycle, anti-sharing, anti-science, anti-public interest and, ultimately, anti-conservation minority voices as has occurred in the past. If the MP gets funded, we’ll need to be vigilant. If we are, we should expect some positive outcomes.

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            • Brian February 18, 2015 at 11:50 am

              “It also creates a public process where community input and other testimony can be better solicited and recorded as the basis for making policy.”
              This is key. Mountain bikers don’t even agree on what we need. Some people only value tradition XC trails, others want advanced lines, others are in favor of skills parks and dirt jumps. One poster below listed that “Portland to the PCT is the real goal.” I disagree. The City needs to know what and how much to build before building, in order to get it right. They know there is demand, but what that demand exactly is is an unknown to them at this point. Just looking at Parks’ trail-building guidelines will give you some insight into just how much they need to learn before embarking on this process.

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              • Alex February 18, 2015 at 3:02 pm

                Yea – if we only we had something to base the popularity of types of riding in Portland…

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            • Alex February 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm

              We don’t need a MP for community input on how to move forward – we have so many ways to do that and have tried to do that many times before. I am not against the MP, that being said, I think it is premature and was really only put in there as a stall tactic rather than it being put in place for the good community. Am I glad to see more support for it, yes, but we will see how it pans out in the long haul. I would have honestly preferred to see some funding going towards good mountain bike access somewhere, see the results and then come up with a more long-term plan rather than put the red-tape first.

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              • TrailLover February 18, 2015 at 4:19 pm

                I hear you and I agree it’s at least partly a stalling tactic by Fritz/PP&R. But it’s one that sets a process in motion that should be much harder to derail than previous piecemeal initiatives.

                With respect to putting some trails on the ground before an MP in order to establish some kind of track record (hopefully of success), I’m not sure that would be much help. There is already no shortage of examples of successful, sustainable trail sharing and trail systems all over the country. The widespread and obvious success of including bicycles on singletrack trails right alongside other trail users has been willfully ignored by the anti-bicycle folks here in Portland so it’s clear enough already that more examples of success aren’t likely to sway their rigid views. For those of us more in the mainstream, however, the MP will hopefully set in motion a process that will usher in some long overdue changes.

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                • Alex February 19, 2015 at 7:23 pm

                  It would help to determine usage statistics and the types of riding people want – i.e. it would guide what the MP would build in the long run. It isn’t just about sharing, but building what will be used and appreciated. I hope the master plan considers all types of riding styles and does not limit it to just xc or something like that.

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  • George H. February 6, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    “Planning” in this sense is a euphemism for stalling.

    We would get greatest benefit getting someone to head Parks who is not Amanda Fritz. She is definitely no ally of bicycling.

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    • rick February 6, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      She has helped to develop the Spring Garden Park in SW near Barbur Blvd.

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  • Jocelyn Gaudi
    Jocelyn Gaudi February 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    This is exceptional news. It’s very, very important to keep in mind that the Off Road Cycling Master Plan and Gateway Green Match Funding where prioritized “because of strong public support,” as Jonathan as pointed out. Because of YOU.

    That support needs to continue and, ideally, ramp up. This is our shared responsibility, as a community. The Budget Advisory Committee will hold two public hearings in March and April. It will be our last choice to voice our support for this proposed budget. Once the dates have been announced – add it to your calendar, invite your friends, and let’s fill the City Council room! Consider testifying in support!

    The Approved Budget will be voted on in May and final budget adopt occurs in June.

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  • davemess February 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I know this is how the process can often work, but I’m just sitting here thinking that $350K would be a good starting point to get the shovels to the dirt and start actually building trails, instead of studying and planning to do so.

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    • Brian February 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      I want to start building and riding, too, but I do think the planning process is important. They need to know what type of riding is needed (XC, skills parks, advanced trails, etc), how much of each type is desired, what suitable locations would be for each discipline, what modern mtb trail-building looks like, etc. I would rather it be done right, from the start. If you haven’t already seen it, the 2008 Citywide Skateboard Plan is a good example of what is needed, and I do think a Mtb Master Plan is more complex than the skateboard version.

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      • davemess February 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        I understand all that, and appreciate the long game. But at the same time with the right person in charge of Parks we just could have built new trails 5-10 years. Plenty of projects get fast tracked and don’t have to jump through as many hoops.
        It just depends on who is in charge.

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  • redhippie February 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    I wonder if the problem in the past is that volunteered built and maintained contribute nothing to power structure. By spending a third of a million dollars you start to build advocacy within the power structure from those who profit from it. Such a shame we can’t just come up with a reasonable plan and put the money into the actual construction and maintenance.

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  • caesar February 6, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Currently, the City only has two sites with very limited trail lengths and quality for this type of cycling.

    I’m new to Portland, so you must forgive my ignorance of local MTB infrastructure, but I sure hope that one of those “two sites” is not Forest Park. I recently rode the Leif Erikson and Saltzman “trails” on my hard-tail and I will never bother doing it again. I may be spoiled from prior lives in Santa Fe NM and Oakland CA – where the MTB trails are amazing – but labeling Forest Park as a MTB option is an just plain wrong.

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    • Alex February 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      The hope of many MTBers here is that this is yet another attempt at getting actual MTB trails and access in Forest Park. There are a few very loud, politically connected opponents who have worked hard to keep it out of FP. I certainly hope it doesn’t count, either.

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    • Dan February 6, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      The fire roads are better.

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      • Alex February 6, 2015 at 2:33 pm

        They really aren’t. They are basically straight up and straight down – and not fun either way. I enjoy a good climb, but these are only good if you are looking to do HIIT. They don’t drain well. The corners are crap. There are large ruts from the poor drainage. They are only good if you want to do hill repeats and up your climbing game.

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        • davemess February 8, 2015 at 8:28 am

          And they’re pretty wet/muddy for a good chunk of the year.

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    • davemess February 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      I don’t know what they were considering in their two sites.
      I could count three that “technically” have riding.
      1. FP
      2. Riverview land
      3. Powell Butte

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    • gutterbunnybikes February 6, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Though technically illegal to ride on now, there is some great riding paths in Forest Park. Glad I was riding up there in the early 90’s before all the fuss.

      Nearly every weekend was Forest Park followed by a bike rinse at Fat Tire then a burrito and beer(or two or three) at Acapulco Golds.

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    • spencer February 6, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      River View and Powell Butte are the only local options, but River View is the only technical riding. It does not do well when wet (clay). Forest Park doesn’t count (yet), but you may find MANY awesome trails with no NIMBY’s if you ride with a good light

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  • Dan February 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    FWIW, I know freeriding is all the rage these days, but I hope there’s just as much focus on regular ol’ trails to ride around on.

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  • Charley February 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Free Forest Park!

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  • TrailLover February 6, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Yes, it is good and reasonable to be suspicious of this process. But if the Master Plan is funded, successful and not co-opted by the anti-bicycle, anti-science minority (who have been dominant in the past), then the existence of a Mater Plan will make it much harder for the city to abandon progress as it has so many times before. The community needs to support but keep a close eye on the process.

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    • Buzz February 6, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      But why would you expect the city follow an ‘Off-Road Cycling Master Plan’ any better than they have followed (or not) their ‘On-Road Cycling Master Plan’?

      My prediction is (1) that it will be watered down by the vocal opponents of off-road biking in Forest Park and (2) it will gather dust because the city won’t be willing or able to come up with the funds to actually implement it once the plan is completed.

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      • Brian February 6, 2015 at 5:19 pm

        So, what should local advocates and mountain bike enthusiasts do instead of pushing for this plan?

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      • TrailLover February 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm

        That’s a great point and it’s exactly why this Master Plan (MP) process has to be watched closely. It’s really the first time in 25 years that there’s something concrete to focus on. The Singletrack Advisory Committee was co-opted from the start. Lesson learned, I think. At the moment, the MP is something of a clean slate, assuming it even gets funded. As long as the goals, scope and limitations of the MP are not perverted by the anti-bike, anti-facts people, the outcome could be very different than the past. As long as a goal of the MP is to provide singletrack opportunities that don’t require getting in a car, then we are going to see something positive. As you point out, funding the recommendations is another matter but at least there may be a genuine plan for the public to rally around.

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        • Wondering February 6, 2015 at 10:20 pm

          Portland to the PCT is the real goal. The amazing number of bike-packers I’ve spoken to who can’t wait to take it to the limit is beyond count. PDX to Mexico or Canada will make history. The long, slow technical grind will get you the peace, quiet and views you’ve all earned as dirt mongers.
          Cheers!

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  • Joe February 6, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    free forest park 🙂

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  • Thom Batty February 6, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    The ally we tend to forget in this struggle is tourism. Travel Oregon wants to see urban MTB options in Portland, Oregon Mt Hood Territory is a strong advocate in Oregon City, and numerous other DMOs have seem big upticks in tourism when the have accessible mountain biking in their area. Yes, support NWTA as they lead this battle, but don’t forget to show some love for the other groups that are on our side.

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  • TrailLover February 6, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Another ally, one that has previously been co-opted sadly but effectively by the anti-bicycle voices, is environmental conservation. Fritz and others have attempted to pit recreation and conservation against each other as if they are competing interests. On the contrary, conservation depends on the constituency that votes and supports it. It is a maxim of conservationists worldwide that the way to instill and promote societal commitment to environmental protection – especially for land conservation – is to allow the public to experience and connect with those places. Portland has thus far provided virtually none of that for one of the biggest, youngest, most active and fastest growing segments of the community: off-road cyclists. Of course, access has to be low-impact, safe and sustainable. Off-road cycling fits the bill perfectly.

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    • Alex February 6, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      Unfortunately the loudest “conservationists” in Portland are anti-MTB in FP. They sure seem to place a higher value on keeping MTBs out of FP than they do conserving our environment.

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  • Phil Richman February 6, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Riverview Natural Area (RVNA) actually has some nice little single-track loops that really should only be ridden when it hasn’t been raining. There is signage in the area indicating bicycling is OK, but strictly prohibiting trail building, which is a bummer, because it could be easily made to be much better by the army of MTB-friendly neighbors in the area. My understanding is development is a much bigger issue having to do with the land being acquired as environmental preservation, rather than recreation. This of course all goes back to the accusation of BES funds being used for PBOT projects and the city is very cautious moving forward with RVNA as a result.

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  • Ryan February 6, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    One of the best ways to show your support for Mountain Biking in Portland is to join NWTA. That is the easiest way to keep abreast of where to put your energy to help out.

    http://nw-trail.org/?q=join

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