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Guest Article: Erik Tonkin on why he joined the FPC

Posted by on December 19th, 2008 at 9:52 am

Twilight Criterium 2007-39

Erik Tonkin
(Photos © J. Maus)

[Publisher’s note: This article was written by Sellwood Cycle Repair co-owner, community advocate, and beloved off-road racer, Erik Tonkin. Erik writes about an issue that’s close to his heart, mountain bike access in Forest Park. He’s been riding his mountain-bike and ‘cross bike in the park for 16 years.

For background, read A new plan for MTB access in Forest Park. You can also browse all of our Forest Park coverage here.


“We should use our cash to support the things we love; and there is strength in numbers. Of course, by joining we should hope that our concerns will be heard, considered and acted upon.”

I believe the Forest Park Conservancy [formerly Friends of Forest Park] is the group best positioned to improve off-road bicycling access in Forest Park. Last Wednesday, the FPC’s Stephen Hatfield (Stewardship Director), Andrea Schwartz (Development and Communications Director) and David Prause (board member), invited me on a hike in the park. It was not only flattering but very educational. They shared their concerns about the park’s ecology and discussed the relationship between cyclists and Forest Park and, by extension, the FPC. I’ll never see the park or those who work to sustain it in the same light.

The FPC wants to reach out to off-road riders and include us in their ranks. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I have joined the FPC at $100 level. I’ve also pledged the membership of Team S&M riders and those regular off-road riding customers of Sellwood Cycle Repair.

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour

Riding in Forest Park is great…
but it could be better.

This is how it works: most of us can afford the $35 fee; we should use our cash to support the things we love; and there is strength in numbers. Of course, by joining we should hope that our concerns will be heard, considered and acted upon.

However, we should join the FPC in a good-faith effort to show support for the park.

I am troubled by how many off-road riders have written-off the park for its lack of singletrack. Of course, these people still regularly ride in the park. It’s a weird love-hate relationship: happily riding while simultaneously complaining about what can’t be ridden. I have — and so has Team S&M — put this way of thinking behind me.

Riding in Forest Park is wonderful. Try Firelane 1 (both its upper and lower sections) on a ‘cross bike in December; then ride it on a dually [full-suspension bike] in June and you’re in for two very unique experiences. Bomb down Firelane 5 alone or with a group of pals, and it’s different. And these are the routes close to home. There’s a lot of good here that we should be thankful for.

“We off-roaders certainly need more routes clearly marked “open” for bikes. We can’t just subsist on what’s open or certain “gray areas” of usage.”

I recently led a large group ride of shop racers and customers through the park. We rode up Holman, down upper 1, up upper Saltzman, down 5, and then down lower Saltzman. It was a three hour ride, starting and finishing in Sellwood. Many of the riders had never been up Holman or down 5. Some had never been to the park. It was raining and muddy, and half the ride was on pavement, but all — even those who constantly jones for epic singletrack — came away w/ an overwhelmingly positive experience. Hell, there’s often only one good line, and it changes from season-to-season, from bike-to-bike. I’ve been riding my MTB or ‘cross bike in the park for 16 years now, and I’m really not sick of it.

We off-roaders certainly need more routes clearly marked “open” for bikes. We can’t just subsist on what’s open or certain “gray areas” of usage. The FPC understands that a strong partnership w/ a new, dues-paying constituency of off-road riders is a two-way street: membership has its rewards. In fact, as we met, they acknowledged that some easy victories for bike access could be on the horizon.

More than one trail south of Germantown are technically closed to bikes in a nod to equestrian-only use. There are also existing trails that could be adopted and improved by cyclists–trails that get no use or maintenance now.

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour

If we join to show our support, we could see more routes open in the near future.

The FPC also knows that cyclists are not the only bad guys. In fact, according to them, the most harmful user group are people with off-leash dogs. However, conflicts between cyclists and other users tend to be heated and, therefore, the most frequently reported. They’re heated, I think, because we cyclists are so often on the defensive, even when we’re doing nothing wrong. (I remember riding up Holman — a legal act — and being scolded by a dog walker w/ her dog off-leash, which is illegal.)

Sometimes, we are poaching a trail, and we’re caught at it. Or we’re going a bit too fast on Lief, and we spook a runner. I say, take the high-road. Really, I never have to entirely curb my enthusiasm while riding the park: I know that the satisfaction of flying down upper 5 might have to be tempered with riding the brakes a bit of Lief.

Again, let’s take the high road…and join.

— Remember, when you fill out the membership form, write “cyclist” in the “In honor of” field, so the FPC can track where new members are coming from.

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Kristin
Guest

I just joined at the $100 level as well… might as well, you get a free pair of Keen shoes if you do so before the end of the year. sweet! 🙂

Clodhopper
Guest
Clodhopper

If I had some guarantee that Forest Park track would be open to me, even at limited times of the week, my check would be in the mail.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

hey Clodhopper,

has it ever occurred to you that that kind of guarantee just might be possible if you put your “check in the mail” now?

beth h
Guest

As someone who has never ridden in Forest Park but who has hiked and birdwatched in it a gazillion times in the last thirty-five years, I have only been spooked a handful of times by bike riders going too fast or on a trailer where they didn’t belong. Most times the riders apologized for scaring me; slowed down and went on their way. In a few cases they were rude and belligerent. I’m not holding that against an entire off-road riding group, mind you, but if you’re going to advocate for more access, please, PLEASE make sure that all your participants are up to speed on the rules and regs for the park. Thanks.

Peter W
Guest

Great idea. I have friends at PSU who would probably be interested in supporting this.

Also, anyone know what the Keen shoe deal is – is it any shoes or just a certain type?

Clodhopper
Guest
Clodhopper

Johnathan,
Sure, it would be a guarantee that I would be supporting the Conservancy, which is not a Bad Thing, but I want to ride the trails. I don’t see any promises in your article that I will have that opportunity if I send in $35. If the FTC could pull off a commitment to trail access if (and when) a certain monetary goal is reached I would feel a lot better about contributing.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

I hear you clodhopper,

I’m just saying that in these kind of situations, it’s very very rare than any side will make a direct guarantee to do anything… there are too many intricate political relationships at stake.

Brian Johnson
Guest

Beth H.

I’ve only ever enjoyed Forest Park on a bicycle.

It’s true enough that we ALL need to learn how to share the roads and trails up there.

The bad behavior goes both ways! I can’t count the times that I have had off-leash dogs charge me or dart in front of me. Unfortunately only a few of the owners made any effort to control their dog. I’ve encountered plenty of runners (in groups) who spread out across Leif Erickson and seemingly begrudge me passage (I have to say “excuse me, can I get past?” several times.)

Oh and clodhopper– there really are no guarantees in life. Join in and do what you can.

Red Hippie
Guest
Red Hippie

I’ll put my $35 towards PUMP which as an organization logged 3 times the number of trail maintenance hours in FP than the FFP. It is ironic that an organization that is BANNED from >95% of the accessible trials does as much work.

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

I joined at the base level. I support conserving green/open space and think we should be able to work out our differences, if any. It breaks my heart when user groups (i.e. hikers and bikers) are in conflict. The industrial forces of development and “growth” (the ideology of the cancer cell, as Ed Abbey said) love it, because they know that divide and conquer is their best strategy against the grassroots.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Just joined. Great idea, Eric

Clodhopper
Guest
Clodhopper

Brian,
I don’t see anything wrong with expecting a return on my investment. In Pasadena we help maintain the trails in the mountains and in return we are allowed access. I would certainly be willing to help maintain any trails I was allowed to use in Forest Park. I’m sure many folks would volunteer to shoulder a rake and help clean up the Wildwood trail if they could ride on it.

Stephen Hatfield
Guest

@Red Hippie (#9)

PUMP has done some great work in Forest Park – no doubt about that. But to be fair, it is a relatively small portion of the overall work done on trail maintenance. The Forest Park Conservancy coordinates all of PUMP’s quarterly work parties, which also entail the guidance and expertise of our Trails & Restoration Manager Jeff Hough.

In addition to these quarterly efforts, FPC volunteers have logged in excess of 2,000 hours of work in Forest Park this year. We also hire an AmeriCorps LINKS crew to work with Jeff four days a week between the months of May and October. Although the majority of our work has been centered on trail maintenance, our focus on restoration (removing non-native invasive species, and planting natives) has been steadily growing in recent years.

It should also be emphasized that all of our work is done in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation.

The Conservancy welcomes volunteers to join us each Thursday morning, and we host larger work parties on the third Saturday of each month. We have a volunteer tree planting event scheduled for the morning of Saturday, January 17th. We encourage any and all to join us for these events. Check our website for more info, or feel free to contact me directly.

Thanks,

Stephen Hatfield
Forest Park Conservancy

Joe
Guest
Joe

Forest Park is a great Portland jewel. I’ve been hiking, biking and unicycling in Forest Park for 20 years – thanks City of Portland. It’s a wonderful escape within the City. I’m happy to help and appreciate the opportunity to recreate in the park. With growing population comes growing pressure, so we all need to help maintain and enhance this great resource. Thanks Erik for stepping up and helping.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

JOINED! And it’s about time. I’ve loved Forest Park for many years. I’ve hiked almost every trail in the park. I’ve ridden every meter I could find of bike-legal trail, including the obscure ones that very few bikers have ever ridden. I’ve pushed my son’s stroller and pulled his trailer all the way up and down Saltzman quite a few times. I’ve walked there with my wife to induce labor. And I’ve walked my dog on quite a few of the trails too.

To those who don’t understand why bikers want singletrack in Portland: I can’t tell you how many newcomers and visitors I’ve run into who are absolutely astounded that, given our bike culture and our outdoor ethic, there is almost no legal singletrack within the city limits (or suburbs, for that matter) and that you have to drive half an hour or more to get to any. Most big cities — even many “back east” — now have mountain bike trails in town.

Clodhopper, if you’re looking for a “return on your investment”, I don’t see why you should bother joining. Nothing is guaranteed in policy and politics. This is democracy, not a convenience store.

Jill
Guest
Jill

I love the positive vibe here! Partner and be a part of the solution- join FPC, and PUMP, volunteer, whatever, but DO get involved. If you don’t have the money, volunteer your time at work days. Pull ivy, maintain trails, or serve coffee for hungry volunteers.
Biking is a great reason to support protecting the park and enhancing and expanding sustainable, high quality experiences for trail users. Better experiences that appeal to a range of quiet, low-impact trail users (hikers, runners, and cyclists!) will generate a robust and diverse support system for the long term.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit this week and I’ve come to a conclusion. 35 dollars is about what I spend on gas to go mountain biking out of the city one time… If I ended up not needing to drive to bike 1 time it would pretty much pay for itself…

Clodhopper
Guest
Clodhopper

Glowboy,
I offered to work on the trails in Forest Park in exchange for riding on them (as I have done elsewhere) would you do that? I think it’s a fair trade to have one day of riding on the trails as a reward for one day of volunteer work. We could set up a “Trail Fest” event with signs posted at the front gate politely informing users that all trails were multi-use for the day.

By the way, you can’t get something for nothing, especially in a democracy.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

Eric is a rock star to me, I’m joining only because Eric promotes it, and rides like a fiend. Blind? I don’t care. He is my Michael Jackson!

dave g
Guest
dave g

We couldn’t have a better spokesman (get it ‘spokesman’) for this effort. Erik is one great individual. I was stoked to read this story. I have enjoyed knowing Erik via the September Cyclo Cross clinics each fall over at Alpenrose. (not to mention watching he and his wife compete) His passion for all things ‘bike’ is tremendous, and his desire to pass the bike luv onto all is what makes him this great individual. I am happy for both Erik and FPC. I’ll be completing my application as well.