Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 25th, 2008 at 10:07 am
“This has left many in the mountain biking community very frustrated.”
–Shane Gould, Portland United Mountain Pedalers
Mountain bikers throughout Oregon, with support from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the Oregon Mountain Bike Alliance (ORMBA), are miffed at a recent proposal by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) to ban mountain bikes from the Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes areas near Mt. Hood.
They say Blumenauer’s ‘Oregon Treasures’ proposal (which is also backed by his Oregon congressional colleagues Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, and David Wu) will close 123 miles of highly desired singletrack trails currently open for mountain bike use.
Blumenauer’s move is the latest in a legislative effort to re-draw the Mt. Hood Wilderness that has dragged on for over five years. The challenge of that effort is to strike the delicate balance between recreational access and natural area protection.
Shane Gould with the Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP), a Portland-based mountain bike club, expressed to me via email that, “With every new iteration of Mount Hood Wilderness legislation there has been an increased amount of land that has been closed off to mountain bike access. This has left many in the mountain biking community very frustrated.”
When word of Blumenauer’s proposal first spread back in May, an action alert was sent out by IMBA encouraging their members to contact Rep. Blumenauer and write letters to newspapers expressing their disdain for the proposal. In that alert, IMBA wrote:
“We hope Mr. Blumenauer will revise his current proposal to include bicycle-friendly protection for the Boulder Lake and Twin Lakes areas. This is extremely important to the bicycling community and will not compromise the integrity of these natural areas…
Blumenauer’s comprehensive plan for Mount Hood would close the beloved Boulder Lake area to bicycling. This important detail is a key divergence from the proposed Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, which the mountain biking community supports…
Because our activity is a quiet, low-impact, human-powered use compatible with backcountry settings, we are asking Mr. Blumenauer to protect Boulder Lake and allow bicycling to continue.”
Blumenauer’s legislative assistant working on this issue, Hillary Barbur, says she he has met with representatives from IMBA and from PUMP on this issue and that she recognizes the importance of mountain biking in Oregon.
In a recent telephone conversation she said, “We know they care deeply about these places… but one of the things that we’ve always tried to achieve when it comes to public lands protection is a balanced bill.”
in Forest Park.
That “balance”, according to Barbur, is a bill that supports recreational opportunities and places that “deserve the highest protection.”
Barbur says part of the issue is timing and working with the Senate to reach agreement on the bill. “We really want to get a bill passed this year.”
As for the Boulder Lake bike trail closure, Barbur says she wants to be clear that they put it on the table because, “we think there are some important things about it and it may be worthy of wilderness designation… we don’t know if it will stay in [the bill] or come out, but we think it’s a discussion worth having right now.”
Barbur told me their office has heard loud and clear from environmental groups that protection of natural areas is very important to them.
This issue strikes at the heart of how advocates with different interests and the political machine can pose challenges to lawmakers.
According to Barbur, Blumenauer is, “trying to strike a balance between the Senate, environmental groups, and mountain bike groups.”
She also expressed concern that talks between mountain bike advocates and environmental protection groups have broken down recently.
“This isn’t just about Boulder Lake,” she said, “There will continue to be increasing recreational pressure on our public lands and the more these groups can work to find common ground, the better.”