The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Families flock to Hillsboro’s first annual ‘Tour de Parks’

Posted by on September 15th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-4.jpg

The ride began with a roll
through downtown Hillsboro.
Video report below
Photo Gallery
(Photos © J. Maus)

With crowds much larger than organizers expected, the first annual Tour de Parks, held yesterday in Hillsboro, was a smashing success.

My family and I made the trek out West (thanks to the MAX) for our first foray into the Hillsboro bike scene.

As the crowd milled about, kids on BMX bikes raced around the parking lot (playing a two-wheeled version of tag), Bruce Buffington and volunteers from the Northwest Bicycle Safety Council fitted helmets, gave a brief traffic safety presentation, and then we were off.

“We were expecting 30-50 people…but we got 170 and 32 familes.”
— event organizer John-Michael Kowertz

As waves of riders embarked on the Tour, one of the event’s organizers, Nancy Nelson stood on the side of the road with a proud smile on her face. Nelson — who is also the woman behind Pedigreen, a company that sells pedestrian and safety products — admired the crowd and said, “Not bad for sleepy old Hillsboro huh?!”

Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-12.jpg Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-9.jpg Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-27.jpg Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-7.jpg

I’ll say. Not bad at all.

I was impressed not just with the excellent organization and planning of the event, but with the general enthusiasm and rider turn-out. I got the sense that there’s a pent-up demand for bike events in Hillsboro. One woman I rode along with for a few minutes, Andrea Korsen, agrees.

“Hillsboro is really changing,” Korsen said as we pedaled down Main Street. She’s excited about Hillsboro’s 2020 Vision plan and she’s hopeful more folks will start biking (she’s a fair-weather commuter herself), but added that, “There’s just nothing like this (ride) here.”

Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-14.jpg

Hillsboro resident Todd Harple
and his 9 year-old son Sean.

Another Hillsboro resident I met was Todd Harple. Harple was on the ride with his 9 year-old twins, Sean and Hailey. As they rode ahead of us, Harple told me he and his kids love biking but that, “There’s not a whole lot of friendly place for kids to be biking here…not a whole lot of bike lanes, not a whole lot of bike trails.” Harple said he’s forced to pack up his car to take the kids somewhere to ride safely.

With large groups of others riding with him, Harple said he and his kids felt much safer. “If something like this was organized every other week, or every month, it would be great for us…we’d do it together.”

Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-32.jpg

These ladies proudly display
their “Tour de Parks” ribbon.

Maybe it’s time for a Kidical Mass ride in Hillsboro?

The ride twisted and turned through gorgeous parks and wide, low-traffic, and smooth residential streets before making it’s way to the plaza in front of the Hillsboro Civic Center. Some took immediately to the fountain and others participated in several fun activities the organizers had planned. There was a slow bike race, a Zig-Zag skills course, and my favorite, the Paper Toss event.

Tour de Parks - Hillsboro-31.jpg

Organizer John-Michael Kowertz
readies another competitor for
the Paper Toss.

One of the organizers, John-Michael Kowertz said he expected 30-50 people to show up. He ended up with nearly four times that amount and the crowd included 32 families and riders of all ages and styles. With this success, Kowertz hopes to make the event larger next year and has plans to include a longer loop (possibly out to the Vernonia-Banks Trail) and even a criterium race in downtown Hillsboro.

Hear more from an interview with Kowertz, see some Paper Toss action, and ride along with the Tour de Parks in my video report below:

— Link to video on YouTube Photo Gallery
— Learn more at

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

  • Marcello September 15, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun. There is a lot of interest in cycling in Hillsboro, but unfortunately the city is not very cyclist-friendly. For example, last time I checked, you were not allowed to ride a bike in the park in Hillsboro. The city not only put signs to that effect, they even spray painted the message (\”bikes must be walked\”) on the paved trails at every entrance to the park near where I live. Granted, it\’s been over a year since I finally got the message that the city of Hillsboro did not want us cyclists in the city parks, but I don\’t think that the policy has changed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jenn September 15, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for covering this, we had other plans this weekend otherwise we would have joined in the fun! There are A LOT of people interested in cycling out in Hillsboro. I actually had to wait in line at a light 6 cyclists deep on the way home last week, how cool!!

    Downtown Hillsboro is a really neat place, nice to see the city sponsoring this type of event.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ayresjk September 15, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    We are bike commuters out here on the west side..we brought both sets of inlaws and all had a GREAT time! The tone was so happy and easy and joyful. Jonathan, it was just so cool to recognize you out in \’sleepy old Hillsboro.\’ I really hope that this is the start of years of great bike events here. Nancy is an amazing woman whose ideas know no end.
    Marcello, I guess I\’m going to have to look into the \”no bikes in the parks\” rule. To bolster Hillsboro\’s image, we both have grown up here, bike through the parks regularly and never gotten any flak. If there\’s a ban, I am sure this event will change some minds!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nancy September 16, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Jonathan, thank you very much for taking time in your busy schedule to attend the Tour de Parks ride. I was more than overwhelmed at the turnout.
    The comments we have received have been extrememly positive. Suggestions are being taken for improving the event next year.
    In response to Jenn\’s comment: this event was put on entirely by two downtown Hillsboro business people. The city of Hillsboro and the parks and rec department didn\’t even know it was in the works until late in the planning however they gave us the ok…waved the permit and insurance fees..which was a huge help.
    Marcello, the only park I am aware of which posts no bicycle riding is Nobel Woods…the other parks I have not seen any signs posted no bicycle riding. I agree this needs to be adressed to the parks and rec dept…let\’s see what we can do to change this…
    For those of you wanting more rides in the Hillsboro area-pay attention.
    The weekly rides began as the organizers plotted out the best route for the Tour de Parks…and will continue. Riders meet Thursday evenings at 6:30 on Third Avenue between Main and Washington Streets (in front of Art Envy/Pedestrian & Safety Products. This is open to all. The rides may change to a weekend ride due to the daylight hours.
    Some other ideas we have floating around are to have a night ride with best costumes and best lit bike, a \”Rust Shaker\” spring ride and of course the 2nd annual Tour de Parks with more rides, races and activites for the young and old…
    For those of you wanting to have some input-which we love…drop us a note on the website:
    Finally, a sincere thank you to all the participated and helped in making this ride a success.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jenn September 16, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for the clarification Nancy. A night time costumed ride sounds like a blast! (Halloween perhaps?) Would any such future rides be posted on the Tour de Parks website, or is there another source for this info?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nancy September 16, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Jenn, I just talked with our webmaster about this and he is in agreement. A page with information on rides will be posted on
    Halloween ride??? We are just starting to unreel from the ride Sunday…I have to talk with the businesses who are in charge of the Halloween activities in downtown Hillsboro to see if since the streets are already being blocked off-a costumned night parade would fit in…of course I think it would…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Laura September 16, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS to Jon-Michael and all the organizers on the success of your first Tour de Parks in Hillsboro! It sounds like a great time!

    Recommended Thumb up 0