Esplanade closure begins February 1st

SE Portland site eyed for future bike skills park

Posted by on November 24th, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Graphic of potential new bike skills park at a defunct school on SE Stark and 14th.
(Graphic taken from forum post by Will Heiber)

There’s an exciting effort underway to transform the field of an abandoned high school in inner Southeast Portland into a bike skills park.

A reader forwarded me a forum thread posted on the Westside Trail Federation’s website that describes the plans and the potential site. Based on postings in that forum and from talking with volunteer Will Heiberg, plans to create a cyclocross practice area, a pump track, and a youth bike skills area are already moving forward.

Story continues below


According to Heiberg, the effort was launched by David Reese, a local resident who wanted a place for he and his kids to ride.

Also working on the project is the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). They hope to use the site to teach youth biking classes to students at three nearby elementary schools.

Apparently the school has been closed for years and is owned by Portland Public Schools and managed by the City of Portland Parks and Recreation department.

If this happens (I’ll have more official details soon), it would be a fantastic addition to the riding choices and opportunities available to Portlanders.

Heiberg has started a PDX Skills Park forum to share information about the project.

Stay tuned for developments and more coverage.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 24, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Cool! How about inviting the McMen. brothers too!

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  • Zaphod November 24, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    this is cool

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  • JHB November 24, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    This is the Washington/Monroe Highschool.

    At one point this site was identified as the future location of a southeast community center. Also to include converting the old school to apts/condos and constructing new townhouses.

    Last I heard the conversion of the old school and new townhomes were on hold because of the economic downturn, but would still be constructed eventually.

    How do the cycle track plans impact the future development of this site, or vice versa?

    – John

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  • gabriel amadeus November 24, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Wow! I heard rumors of this, but it looks radder than expected!

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  • Bob November 24, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    This property has been much discussed at Buckman neighborhood meetings for years. While I would love to see this come to fruition, my experience tells me it is going to be a challenge to see it actually happen. Good luck to those working on it!

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  • Tony Pereira November 24, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I’ve been fantasizing about moving my shop into that building. With this news I’m now motivated to look into it! How about a bicycle-business incubator?

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  • anna November 24, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    AT LAST!!

    I live on morrison, and there is something to make up for all the one-way streets where drivers mean-mug me as I ride on the left hand side of the street to prepare for my left turns to get home from work…

    (this is not to mention the blockades presented by schools, cemeteries, et cetera – it makes commuting in this neighborhood less agile than it should be for a bicyclist and let’s not even talk about the evil 12th and Sandy cluster**** nearby)

    …and something that once blocked an approach to my house from the North would become an awesome Xcross course for me to ride through before I land at my house. a nice photo finish….lol.

    Of all the places I have lived, this neighborhood seems the most misleading in how it quietly gives bicyclists the finger. The one-ways are dangerous because drivers do not understand traffic laws for bicycles on one-ways.

    Even if there is some bureaucracy to work through and this plan does not come to fruition for a while, this is nice to see. It would restore some positive vibes to an area I generally see as passively hostile towards bicycles, as far as traffic design is concerned (which will still be a pain, but at least the park will be a welcome addition!).


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  • Burk November 24, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    So… if cyclecross track means cyclocross track I am all for this project 🙂

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  • -b November 24, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    oh man!
    i live and work right next to that field.
    i soooooooo hope this happens!
    and i know many of my neighbors/co-workers/business owners feel the same way!

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  • Donna November 24, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    RE #8: Good to hear, Feh, because the neighborhood has always had a reputation for being reluctant to support anything that they see as bringing down their property values – including some cool/interesting/economically valuable things.

    As far as I’m concerned, business(es) that actually make something of value would be a better use of the property than more condos that aren’t going to sell anytime soon. Having a bike skills park would make it even better.

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  • Jeff November 24, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    This sounds like a cool project.

    Has anyone heard anything about a new velodrome site. I remember this being discussed some time last year.

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  • Mirasol November 24, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Cool, but I bet odds are 10 to 1 against this happening. And if it happens, 10 to 1 against it lasting. The land is simply too valuable. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but just sayin’…

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  • Graham November 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Freaking. Weird.

    Earlier today Elly Blue posted a “Monday Roundup” thread, which included a video that was a fun, bike-themed viral ad for Guitar Hero. I wrote a comment for that story that ended with: “Random trivia: a big chunk of the art for Guitar Hero was done right here in Portland. Some of it by cyclists, even.” And who should turn up just hours later in this latest story, but pretty much the main, cycling, Guitar-Hero-making guy I was referring to? So, hey there, Will! (Assuming you’re reading this.) Way to make manifest the bike track, well done. Good to see it’s coming together for you. And what a great use for that space! I had no idea this was in the works, very cool.


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  • more? November 24, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    there is a much bigger cyclocross track at the end of thurman st.

    are there no better uses of an old school? not that it would suck….

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  • YOUR-INN.COM November 25, 2008 at 12:48 am

    That looks awesome, they should also consider a BMX area as well, possibly a racing track since there are none in the area, as well as possibly an indoor skatepark setup inside the building, it does rain here quite often

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  • DaHoos November 25, 2008 at 8:46 am

    I’m cool with a cross track and I’ve volunteered with the BTA teaching kids at school to ride safely, so I’m all for the learning area. The pump track is awesome too, but I’d really like to see some kind of “freeride” practice area. Something similar to the “Family Man” section out at Post Canyon for those who know of it. Log rides/ladders and teeter totters. Maybe some other obstacles with different levels of challenge for everyone.

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  • Michelle November 25, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I know Portland Public Schools was trying to redevelop this site (into condos, commercial, etc) for years. I suppose they wouldn’t be trying very hard right now. But it does make me worry about the longetivity of a really built-up skills park.

    It’s rad, nonetheless. It would be a really big draw for the neighborhood, surely benefitting the businesses right across Stark as well.

    Think the neighbors will tolerate the total loss of their dog-walking and frisbee-throwing space? As cruddy as that “park” looks today, it is heavily used.

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  • Chris November 25, 2008 at 9:04 am

    FYI – Portland Schools owns the old Washington HS and the boiler house (labeled tool & equip. storage on the picture above). The rest of the property pictured is now owned by Parks & Rec. There is also another building south of Alder that the school dist. still owns. It is primo real estate. Whatever happens, I hope soembody reuses the old high school. It is a COOL building!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 25, 2008 at 9:04 am

    “Think the neighbors will tolerate the total loss of their dog-walking and frisbee-throwing space?”

    if/when this moves forward, it will be interesting to see if that becomes an issue. I have a feeling the local media would try their hardest to make it so.

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  • Joe November 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

    anything free is cool, just a place to roll without the death missles is nice.

    we avoid the cars, then its the dogs, or peds.. let us ride 🙂

    careful in the fog! fun riding this time
    of year..


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  • JayS. November 25, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I’m all for adding things to promote all forms of biking but this does not work for me. I would rather see our public spaces used in a broader more functional way like a park with grass and trees that ANYONE can use any time. I think turning the school into housing makes a lot of sense. Think of all the bike commuters who could live there.

    #7 If you think that neighborhood quietly gives bike the finger you should try living just about anywhere else in the city and see how much worse it can be. I’d rather be quietly given the finger than constantly have punches thrown at me. In addition you seem to be talking about commuting. This park will do nothing to improve your commute except possibly one block. In all likely hood there would be an entrance that will not make it easy to ride through on your way home.

    This is the first project I have seen in relation to bikes that I just wouldn’t support.

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  • sockeye November 25, 2008 at 9:39 am

    I hope it doesn’t end up like the bike polo track at Alberta Park, which is just a bunch of **insult deleted** that drink in the park and piss in the bushes instead of the restrooms at the park. The city should take that place back. It does nothing but piss off all the neighbors and the users of the park.

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  • SkidMark November 25, 2008 at 10:27 am

    sockeye, I’m pretty sure that the polo players would prefer to use the restroom and not risk getting a ticket, but the restrooms are locked.

    And my favorite thing about bikeportland, people who are against a bike project because it does not fit within the rigid parameters of what they think a bike should be used for. I don’t cyclocross but I think it would be cool to have a practice area close-in. I like the idea of a pump track too, and the idea of teaching kids bike skills beyond hand signals. What I would really like is for the building to be used for an INDOOR ramp facility (halfpipe, “street” course, etc.) and even an indoor pump track made from wood. They have them in other cities where the weather sucks half the year, why not Portland?

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  • gabriel amadeus November 25, 2008 at 10:32 am

    #15 YOUR-INN:

    Hell yeah, I’m all for more support and infrastructure for BMX riding, I think the pump track is a great start. The park down the street, has always seemed ideal for Trials riding, but then again we’d need to find some trials riders in this town…

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  • RyNO Dan November 25, 2008 at 11:53 am

    There gonna turn three city blocks of inner SE portland into a bikey play zone ??
    Way way way way too good to be true.
    Good luck to you.

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  • Icarus Falling November 25, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    We played bike polo here for a while, after being booted for no real reason from Col.Summer’s Park.

    Maybe these people involved with this would put in what Portland really needs, a lit Bike Polo court………

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  • camp November 25, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Good luck getting the park built out. Sounds quite cool. Take a look at our pump track site, we just got it built and approved in Sept.

    Add yours to the pump tracks in the US map when you get it going.

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  • Steve Brown November 25, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    What a great idea. As someone who has been scouting locations around the city for a new velodrome, I can easily support this as a great use of space. This is something that can be done fast, low cost and does not impact long term uses of the site.
    Congrats on the idea and initiative.

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  • Tommer November 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    #27 Can you add the link for the pump track site? I’d like to see it.

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  • Ian C. November 27, 2008 at 9:13 am

    As a neighbor who was involved with this initial political push to get the city to buy this site for a FUTURE COMMUNITY CENTER, I can say that I am wholeheartedly against the project outlined above.

    A community center like Dishman, Gabriel Park, or Mount Scott would serve far more people than a bike track and bike skills area. Think about what other community centers offer: exercise facilities, swimming pool, activities for the disabled, children, elderly, and everyone else including art classes, music classes, teen dances, childcare. I mean, seriously, the list goes on and on. Plus it’s indoors, dry, warm.

    Anyone have kids that they need to entertain during the 10 wet months of the year? Portland’s goal should be to retain families like mine and Jonathan’s in the city, not encourage us to move to Beaverton where facilities like a community center are more abundant.

    What do we get for making this some bike playground? Bikes. More bikes. This is a deadend idea because it would turn a lot of allies of the bike community against bikers.

    Do a little research of the neighborhood’s plans for this site and I think you’ll find that it’s great.

    -Ian C

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  • Jeff Ong December 1, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Ian —

    Are the two proposed projects so incompatible? Everything you’re suggesting is “indoors, dry and warm.” And of course, some of the proposed facilities would be a big draw for kids.

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  • Kevin December 1, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    A big part of why there is no community center planned for that location is cost. Parks and Rec (who run the community centers) have had to reduce their budget for the next couple of years. Converting the building, adding on to it and staffing it would take a HUGE amount of resources that the city just doesn’t have. The above plan doesn’t cost much plus it would be the first of its kind in the city. This idea would allow the growth of a new generation of capable, confident cyclists.

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  • Tommer December 2, 2008 at 11:20 am

    My understanding is that this is a place holder for the site. There is no mis-conception about its longevity. A community center would be a great use but in the interim a bike park seems like a better use than a camp. More eyes on the street make it safer for families and businesses in the area as well. When the Community Center is ready to be built I hope it gets full support from the bike community and that another vacant lot can be found for the bike park.

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  • Will December 3, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Tommer, you are correct. This is a proposed interim use for the site. The purpose is to use this as part of a program to teach kids bike handling skills and give them confidence while being in a fun and safe environment. The plans center around non-invasive ways to create skill section, something that can be erected and torn down quickly.

    There are some fantastic ideas out there for long term use of this site, but until those ideas reach fruition, this appears to be an excellent use of space that is consistent with Portland values.

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  • B.C.A. board member December 10, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    The Buckman Community Association has a 25+ year involvement with creating a community center and swimming pool on this site with five years of positive action including the city purchasing 4.5 acres here for approximately $5.4 million. For a few years a small portion of this site might be used for an adult supervised bike skills area for pre-teen children. To expect more would be a stretch. I am sure there are better places for these big ideas. Personally, I would like the entire area for community gardens.

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  • […] On a side note: Portland, Oregon is possibly next on the bike park front. Read more about that here: […]

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  • Icarus falling December 15, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I think it is great how some of you think that, first off, a community center and a bike skills center could not be placed on the same parcel.

    And second, how a community center will affect more users than a skills park.

    I think people would see, if this skills park were to be built, that an amazing number of cyclists would be there to use it daily, no mater what the weather.

    Case in point.

    Around the country, we have community centers in parks with baseball diamonds, roller hockey rinks, etc., many of which sit empty most of the time.

    And on the same parcel will be a skatepark with 150 to 200 kids crowding it….

    I have experienced this in many cities.

    The alternative sports are what the kids are most interested in, and building more skateparks and bike skills centers are a very good draw for just such spots as this.

    Not to mention, it builds creativity and individuality skills that most major sports parents involve children in do not.

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  • Icarus falling December 15, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    And, I don’t know what the hell is Sockeye’s problem with bike polo…

    Maybe he should just shut up and play…

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