Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Momentum for Forest Park plan; group sees surge in new members

Posted by on January 12th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Enjoying a road in Forest Park.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last month we shared a new, grassroots effort to open up more of Portland’s Forest Park to bicycles (currently, only 1/3 of a mile of trail — out of over 5,000 acres — is open to bikes).

Frank Selker, a citizen activist who is passionate about riding off-road, decided that the path to more bike access was to join the the Forest Park Conservancy. As a non-profit, the FPC has worked as a respected partner of the Portland Parks and Recreation Department for many years.

Selker’s idea was that if that the FPC had more active, bike-centric members, it would send a clear message that the time has come to work toward a solution for more bike trails and access in the park — and that the FPC would have the people power to get it done.

“This effort has also seemed to get quite a few folks at various organizations talking about progress…in providing some single-track in the city.”
— Frank Selker

Frank challenged the community to become members of the FPC. He said that if 100 people joined by March 1st (and noted “cyclist” on the application form) he’d give them $500 and continue his one-man advocacy mission to work on the issue and to make his voice heard with elected officials.

His idea sparked a lot of enthusiasm in the community (read the 134 comments on our story) and now we’ve got an update on how the membership drive is going.

Selker — who has been working with FPC Stewardship Director Stephen Hatfield to track the new members — told me this morning that “we are well over 50 new members at this point.” Selker added that cyclists gave over $4,000 to the FPC in December (that’s over half of all their donations).

Selker also said that in talking with these new bike-riding members he has found they are “clearly motivated by hope for more singletrack (trails) in the future.” He also said that the buzz around this issue has been heard loud and clear:

“This effort has also seemed to get quite a few folks at various organizations talking about progress in getting Portland to catch up to other cities around the country in providing some single-track in the city, which is great.”

People who want more places to ride off-road near the city aren’t the only ones stepping up to help this effort. Fat Tire Farm in Northwest Portland is giving 10% off to customers who flash their FPC membership card.

This morning, I confirmed that Sellwood Cycle Repair has also stepped up to sweeten the pot. Co-owner of the shop, Erik Tonkin said he’ll raffle off a 2008 Kona Caldera mountain bike (retail price: $950) to one lucky member. Anyone who has joined FPC (and noted “cyclist” on their application form) from December 17 (the day our story broke) through March 1st is eligible.

There’s a lot more to come on this issue. Right now, we’re following up with the Parks Bureau about the status of white paper on mountain bike access that was commissioned last year. We’re also hoping to bring you thoughts on the issue from Portland’s new Commissioner of Parks, Nick Fish. Stay tuned.

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  • dan January 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Great news- sounds like it’s had a positive effect for getting our voices heard and for the forward momentum we’ve needed.

    Jonathan- Thank you for recognizing that the fireroads, although enjoyable, are roads, and not in fact trails to mountain bikers. Whatever people try to claim, the fact is that there is still only 1/3 mile of trail in all of Forest Park open to bikes.

    Sweet positive revolution!

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  • Richard January 12, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Is this movement about opening existing trails to bikes or creating new trails? There are problems regarding both, so it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.
    However right off the bat you need to remind the readers that more than 1/3 mile is available to bikers currently. You can bike on the 12 miles of Leaf Erikson drive, which is closed to motor vehicles and quite pleasant to ride on.
    I’m not certain, but you might be able to bike up the fire lanes as well. Currently you can’t bike on the hiker-only trails.
    I would be against opening those trails up to bikes at this point. They would have to be widened significantly before I feel like it would be safe for walkers and runners. I’ve seen bikers on that trail illegally before, and it’s certainly a shock to see them bounding down the trail, and a few seconds one direction or another and you risk collision. It’s not always easy to see and hear a biker coming down the trail.
    Having said that, I am for sharing the park with bikers and look forward to seeing what develops.

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  • jered bogli January 12, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    This does “sweeten the pot” with 50 people joining I’ll have to get out the checkbook and contribute my name to this cause. I love riding the Mt. Bike, but the 1/3 mile of single track doesn’t cut it and leaf erickson is NOT NOT NOT NOT Mt. Biking, the fire roads as pointed out are indeed roads – not trails.

    I would love to see some new trails created in the back half of the park, possibly in the “new” part of the park. having cut my teeth riding in Connecticut I know you don’t need a ton of space for great single track, just some creativity.

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  • brian January 12, 2009 at 6:33 pm


    Widening a trail actually increases speeds. Hikers do not own the park, so there is clearly room to share the trails-like we are taught as children.
    The idea is to have bike only trails, hiker only, and multiuse trails. This is about equity, which bikes,whether on the road or trail, have not seen much of. Please open you mind.

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  • sh January 12, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    One more cyclist joining FPC today!

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  • Bjorn January 12, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I have to agree with number 4 about widening the trails creating additional problems. In Corvallis they did things to trails like graveling, widening, and flattening to the point that it might as well have been a cement sidewalk. This seemed to increase the conflict problems because overly paved trails ended up with higher speed uses.

    To me forest park is too busy for mtn bikers and runners on the same trails at the same time. I suggest having mtn bike days on some of the single track, like wednesdays and sundays on 1/2 the single track. Also night mtn biking can make lower skill trails more exciting and I believe the park is closed at dark now, so maybe open it to mtn biking later at night during the summer months.


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  • brian January 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Mountain Bikes on odd days, hikers on even days. Tsali trail system in North Carolina does it to great success.

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  • GlowBoy January 12, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    I disagree that the current FP “trails” are too busy to share. I’ve almost never heard of significant conflicts between runners and mountain bikers on Leif — its busy sections are 30 feet wide, fer Chrissakes — and hardly any runners ever use the firelanes. I agree with Brian (#4) that there’s plenty of room. And if conflicts ever do increase, there’s plenty of room for improved education and signage to reduce the problem without resorting to restricting people’s access. Restrictions on a group’s access are exactly the problem we’re fighting today.

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  • Bjorn January 13, 2009 at 12:33 am

    There is not an issue on firelanes or the full width roads, I was referring to the singletrack trails. If the kind of narrow trails we are talking about were open to cyclists I don’t think it would work well in such a high use park to even have riders going both directions let alone have riders and runners at the same time.



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  • Dave January 13, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I love the idea of (real) bike access in FP! Whether the trails be designated seperate use or some sort of day-specific plan be developed, I’m elated to see us talking about it. Thank you for the coverage, Mr. Maus.

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  • RD January 13, 2009 at 9:49 am

    While I’m a huge supporter of the bike community, I’m often disturbed by how crazily bikers tear up the hiking/biking trails in Forest Park. I’ve been nearly run over many times while hiking there. Yikes.

    As an older, “I’m just trying to enjoy the beauty of nature” hiker, I certainly don’t own the trail at Forest Park. But I wonder if there shouldn’t be some etiquette when it comes to sharing the road with Xtreme trail riders. Does anyone know of other parks that have established some kind of formal or informal sharing guidelines? Just screaming “ON YOUR LEFT!!!” has always seemed a bit rude to me.

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  • Michael January 13, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Bikes do not belong on trails in Forest Park!
    Fire roads and the Lief are fine. That’s where they belong. The trails are too narrow and twisty. They are ripe for erosion and collisions with hikers and runners. Horses do not belong on those trails either.
    I am a runner and bicyclist who lives near the park. My neighbors and I have had confrontations with mt. bikers who ride the Wildwood illegally. Some mt. bikers ride on trails at night with headlamps and are highly agro when we try to educate them.
    The area between Newberry and Germantown has few trails now and would seem to be a good place for dedicated mt. biking trails.

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  • Coaster January 13, 2009 at 10:26 am

    trail etiquette is important for ALL trail users and goes a long way towards building the kind of respect needed in order to make multi-use trails a success. Having come from the Bay Area, and ridden the embattled trails of Marin county, I’ve seen the rude behavior of cyclists screaming by, as well as hikers stubbornly standing in the middle of the trail, refusing to let riders pass. There is more than enough nature to go around, we just need to learn how to share it and educate each other on how to behave in a civilized manner… it’s not all that different from the issues cyclists see when sharing the roads with motorists….

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  • Brian January 13, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    As a mountain biker, and hiker, I respectfully disagree with Michael. Hikers and mtb’ers can, and do, peacefully coexist on many trails in Oregon and across the country. That being said, they need to be correctly constructed and maintained trails, ridden and walked in a way that is conducive to coexistence and preservation. As a counterpoint, many hikers incorrectly use trails as well-widening trails around puddles, cutting new switchbacks, etc.

    I encounter hundreds of hikers on trails around the state each year, and I can honestly say that I do not remember an aggro or confrontational situation yet. Mountain bikers are taught to yield the right of way to hikers, and to read the trail ahead to avoid dangerous situations. Allowing mtb access on trails should reduce conflict in Forest Park as we are currently forced onto the roads that also contain the most hikers, runners, and dog walkers (Leif Erickson, Saltzman). Not to mention the manpower we bring to the park as a whole. Anyone notice the invasive Ivy choking the life out of the park, the trails in dire need of maintenance, and the need for improved signage throughout?

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  • toowacky January 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Nice work. Let’s keep the ball rolling. It’s about sustainable multi-use, and there is plenty of space for us all to get along and enjoy FP.

    Thanks, Jonathan, for continuing to cover this issue.

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  • Frank Selker January 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I think a good plan will:

    – Mimize conflicts among users,
    – Maintain or improve trail integrity,
    – Not cost much money,
    – Not harm the park as a natural area, and
    – Monitor results so we can learn and improve based on real experience, rather than being frozen in place by hypothetical issues.

    I believe these are all acheivable very soon. Portlanders can innovate, Portlanders can solve problems, and Portlanders can play responsibly with others.

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  • Bryan January 13, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    RD #11 i am curious what you would prefer as opposed to “On your left”?

    Michael #12 way to start your post off with “Bikes do not belong on trails in Forest Park!” Are you trolling for something? If so save it. If not open your mind of the possibilities to coexist. Please don’t take a few ignorant actions by some Mt. Bikers as an attitude for all bikers.

    For anyone reading this, if you read only one post, read Franks post above #16 he truly said it best. Those are the views that will make everybody happy.

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  • brian January 14, 2009 at 8:19 am

    There have been numerous cases where dangerous HIKERS have placed fishing line, and other dangerous items across a trail to purposely injure a bike rider. Keep in mind, this is just a person pedaling a bicycle. We are all on the same team, and those who do not believe so, better stay inside, because they are not equipped to function in a social society.

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  • brian January 14, 2009 at 8:37 am


    There are millions of drivers that do not want YOU riding your bike on their roads. Control your intolerance.

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  • wsbob January 14, 2009 at 11:52 am

    To characterize Michael’s (#12) comments as ‘intolerant’, is an over-reaction, perhaps even a hostile over-reaction. His words, to me, instead, sound like those of a reasonably concerned person that perhaps isn’t quite so adept as some internet savvy people are at avoiding some of the common debate traps used to insult and intimidate.

    It’s been made plainly clear by certain of them that some MBkrs would like access to FP trails, which are, and have always been available to everyone as walking trails. I give MBkr Frank Selker his due, because he has made a significant effort to propose discussing in a reasoned, non-agressive manner, the prospects of having some walking width trails made accessible to MBkrs in FP.

    Coaster (#13) raises an excellent point in regards to a human social observance that would be essential to fair sharing of any trails that might be made accessible to MBkrs: etiquette. Etiquette is part of courtesy and consideration for others. Given the tone and seeming mindset of the majority of most conspicuous MBkrs, are etiquette, courtesy, and consideration things that FP users wll be able to depend upon from MBkrs? Seems like there are substantial reasons to question this.

    Add to this the fact that though MBkrs seem to see FP as a convenient resource that could be adapted to provide them the gratification of desire for a particular challenge associated with mountain bikes, MBkrs have not yet, at least on the bikeportland.org threads, made a convincing argument as to why some accommodation in FP on walking width trails/single track, should be made accessible to them.

    If MBkrs ever hope to receive favorable consideration from the vast majority of FP users and supporters (that I would venture to say, when they choose to visit the park, are far more interested in going on foot than by mountain bike), then it might be a good idea to use some moderation in responding to concerned, opposing viewpoints.

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  • wsbob January 14, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Just added the word ‘voices’, to the following sentence:

    “Given the tone and seeming mindset of the majority of most conspicuous MBkr voices, are etiquette, courtesy, and consideration things that FP users wll be able to depend upon from MBkrs?”

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  • John January 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    MBkrs have not yet, at least on the bikeportland.org threads, made a convincing argument as to why some accommodation in FP on walking width trails/single track, should be made accessible to them.

    The same argument that pedestrians use will do nicely. Minus the claim of a right to exclude other users of course.

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  • Michael January 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Frank’s reply was thoughtful and reasoned. I completely agree.
    As one who has also participated in trail use issues on Mt. Hood involving hikers/motorcyclists and xc skiers/ snowmobilers, I think the same principle applies here: in a multiple use situation, all users have rights that are best served by separate trails.

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  • brian January 14, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I wish people would realize that mountain bikers do not want to take over hikers trails. All we are asking for is a fair share of trails/space, where mountain bikers can enjoy our sport.

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  • Dan Reed Miller January 14, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    I can understand the fun and thrill of mountain biking. I also think it is not compatible with hiking on narrow trails, especially clay-soil ones like we have here. I hike a lot in Forest Park. I particularly cherish the quiet northern end of the park. I often ride my bike to get there, lock it up at the edge, and walk in (there are several places one can do this easily.) Portland is *extraordinarily* lucky to have a quiet and wild forest oasis like that right there next to the city. No other city, none, in the U.S., maybe in the world, has that much wild forest that close to its downtown. I love bikes. I have been riding them for 35 years. I ride one nearly every day. But they are machines. Transportation machines. Sometimes adrenaline machines. I merely suggest that the only real way to actually experience the forest wildness and reap its deep (indeed essential!) spiritual benefits is to go afoot.

    Bike advocacy is righteous, necessary, joyous in the context of transportation. But in *my* opinion the advocacy of bikes as transportation and solution to multiple social ills cannot be equated with the advocacy of turning wild spaces into adrenaline playgrounds. (Although I guess better that than motorbikes.)

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  • John January 15, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I merely suggest that the only real way (FOR ME) to actually experience the forest wildness and reap its deep (indeed essential!) spiritual benefits is to go afoot.

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  • Erik Tonkin January 15, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I am actually encouraged by Michael’s (#12) and Dan Reed Miller’s (#25) because, if read closely, they extend an olive branch to bicyclists. Michael concedes he’d be open to separate trial in the northern section of the park; Dan admits he’d prefer bicycles to motorbikes. If we off-road riders hope to sway those on the opposite side of the table, we need to find common ground and be thankful for it.
    I agree that off-road riders need to “make a convincing argument” as to why we should have new access to trials that have been closed. Well, this is it: Forest Park is ailing, and its stewards like Portland Parks and Recreation and the Forest Park Consevancy need more money and more people power to save it. Off-road bicyclists are generous volunteers of both time and toil, and they spend. This user group could be the answer. We can help get them on board by opening small segments of previously closed trails to occasional (certain days at certain times) use. Of course, many of us have already taken a good-faith first step by joining the FPC. We have done so with no real strings attached. Of course we hope that in time we will be able to use special parts of the park. On the other hand, we certainly appreciate the park for what it is now. All of us tend to be constructively critical of what we hold most dear: we love the park, and we want to make it better.
    I disagree with the idea that nature’s wonders can only be enjoyed on foot. Ask my birding friend who avidly mountain bikes in the park, and he’ll descride encounters made possible thanks to his wheels. I doubt I would’ve crossed paths twice with coyote on Fire Lane 1 had I not been on my bike. And light and color played thru and off the wet foliage is uniquely held by a biker. But I do agree that certain parts of the park should continue to be managed first for forest and fauna. We bikers do not plan to take over the park.
    Concerns about etiquette are well-made. That said, most of us bike riders are quite deferential to other users. I think it’s hard to address this until we actually see what happens once bicycles are on the trails. I don’t know how many times I came across off-leash dogs last week on my two rides the length of Lief Erickson Rd. In just about every case, the owner sheepishly corralled the pet, gesturing apologies. I suppose I held the upperhand of self-righteousness then, but I didn’t press my advantage. What was the point? No harm was done. Plus, I like dogs and their owners. There was no need for conflict. Let’s all take the high-road. There’s no guarantee that bike son trails will be a problem. In fact, it could be a partial solution.
    Finally, I must say I’m thankful for the debate and the thoughtful points made by folks on all sides of the issue. It has brought out the best in me, so, again, thanks. I look forward to more of it. I can be reached at 503-233-9392 or 503-348-7211 or at tonkin@sellwoodcycle.com

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  • brian January 15, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Dan Reed Miller,

    I do not want closed minded people on my tight, singletrack trail either. We are talking about an equitable distribution of existing, and new trails. Stop trying to cloud the issue with your narrow-mindedness.

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  • dennis veatch January 15, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I think the best thing would be for us to lose our platinum status due to absence of singletrack biking trails. Maybe then eyes would open.

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  • brian January 15, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Life is a user conflict.

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  • Icarus Falling January 15, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Dan Reed Miller,

    Feet are machines.

    Transportation machines.

    More “mechanical” parts in a foot than on a bicycle. ( Ok, so maybe not more if you count each bearing on a bike, but you get my drift)

    Hiking/running is transportation as much as Mt. biking is.

    As a hiker, climber, cyclist, and more, I take offense to your thought that the only way to properly enjoy Forest Park is to get out on foot.

    That statement, taken in context with the rest of your post, clearly show why we do not have more bicycle trails in Forest Park.

    The reason is not trail maintenance. The reason is not safety.

    The reason is close mindedness.

    Friends Of Forest Park,
    (if that is actually your name)

    Get over yourselves and open some more trails to multi use already…


    And the excuse that the trails are far worse for wear now adays, and cannot handle bicycles traffic?

    Seems to be a problem caused by transportation of the foot.

    And a FOFP that really does not maintain properly or even love the park at all.

    Friends my butt.

    Control should be wrestled from your grasp, and handed over to a group that actually will be looking out for Forest Park, and for ALL of it’s users.

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  • Icarus Falling January 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I must add that I very much appreciate what Erik wrote above.

    I feel the same way as he does.

    It has just been proven over many years that the FOFP does not .

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  • […] BikePortland.com ran a story about locals joining the Forest Park Conservancy in an effort to add bicycling voices to their constituency.  Their goal is to steer decisions in favor of more bike trails and access in Portland’s Forest Park.  The response was impressive, with lots of cyclists joining and providing more than half of the groups donations. […]

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  • wsbob January 16, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Comment #31 (icarus falling). Statements in that comment make virtually no sense whatsoever, but do appear to be particularly driven by meanness.

    The name of the organization that takes some advisory and conservationist responsibilities for FP, Forest Park Conservancy…formerly…Friends of Forest Park. This is a fact that seems yet to occur to poor Mr. Falling.

    Unless I’m misinformed, members of FPC aren’t paid to do trail maintenance and construction. That work is all volunteer. Mr. Falling is welcome to hop on down and help out if he doesn’t like the quality of maintenance being done.

    I’m sure there are some people riding bikes that could be perfectly good, compatible companions with walkers in sharing single track in FP, which isn’t to say this will, or should happen, in FP. Given the attitude he displays in comment #31, Mr. Falling seems unlikely to be one of those.

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  • Dan Reed Miller January 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Not really worth an argument here I suppose, but feet (and bodies) are not “machines”. In a certain sense, yes machine-like, but so vastly much more. There is a distinction, otherwise the word is meaningless.

    I am a biker. I even sometimes bike on trails. I was just expressing an *opinion* about the best way to enjoy the woods. The “for me” qualifier is unnecessary because implied.

    We all could stand to slow down.

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  • Bryan January 21, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    I am a Mountain Biker (and a bike commuter). I have been for a long time 20+ years. I moved to portland 7 years ago and have been riding in forest park since I got here. I really enjoy Forest Park but the potential for more single track is truly amazing in my opinion. In the summer months I drive about an hour each way 1 to 2 days a week to go biking. I spend money in other towns, burn gas, and these are usually all day events. To keep all that in Portland would make this town amazing for me and a lot of people.

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  • Blue Healer
    Blue Healer January 31, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    This might be long but…
    Forest Park is not a “Wilderness”. It is a natural area surrounded by a massive amount of human population. I remember when there were NO gates on the firelanes and Lief. There was a huge amount of trash, abandoned vehicles and vandalism that took place in there. Now that is minimized with the gates. It needs a massive amount of work however. It is a beautiful place that can be enjoyed in many ways by many people. For some to say only hikers are right for trails is his/her point of view, but it is not the only point of view. I hike (have spent much time in Forest Park on foot over the years) and bike (spent even more time in the last 10 years on the bike in FP). As a hiker I have almost been run over by bike riders going “too fast” for thier sight line. That is a real put off. It can polarize one to think all bikers ride in that manner. That is not the case. There are aggressive drivers, bikers and yes… hikers. It is not about a group of users, it is about individuals and how they behave. I have seen more damage on trails in wilderness areas because of horses and hikers that take shortcuts off of existing trails. The argument that mountain bikes cause more damage to trails is only true if the trails are not built and maintained properly. This includes drainage issues that are crucial in the steep terrain of Forest Park. Remember this is the park surrounded by a large population. The population that lives adjacent to Forest Park does not have the final word on how it is used. People from all over the Portland area come and use the park. I do not ride where bikes are prohibited, but I ride in there and will ride trails if they are opened up. I have helped with several work days in the park including Firelane 5, ivy removal and lower Newton work. I believe that the most important thing regarding this park is to respect the amount of “Nature” calling it home, but also respect the fact that the human population wants to use it in a non-motorized manner that will work in harmony with the nature. This needs to happen because it is right and most important fair. I would suggest that a higher percentage of hikers than bikers DRIVE a vehicle to get to the park. I do not have problem with that except that we should be doing all we can to encourage all users to find close places to their homes to recreate. Forest Park is close enough to many areas of Portland and suburban West, that biking there is not that hard. As we do all we can to prevent urban sprawl by infilling spaces with homes and business, we need to also be willing to make the commitment to make these open spaces available to both hikers and bikers so they do not always need to drive an automobile on a hundred mile round trip or more to enjoy their non-motorized activity. I know for a fact that mountain bikers will provide massive amounts of energy in the form of hard back breaking work to build, maintain trails and help with other needs in Forest Park. Lets not just focus on what “I” want, but on the concept of sharing. I am not a gonzo fast downhill mountain bike rider (I would rather ride slowly up the hill), but I believe it is as important for those who love “going down” to have a place close to home to use that energy as it is for my passion or a hiker’s passion to be met. And I believe we can do all this in a manner that enhances Forest Park (and other natural areas) because we can get more man/woman power to help remove ivy etc. and in the process offer those involved the chance to learn and grow with life experiences. Do not trash each other people. Like Frank, be willing to give of yourself to not only help yourself… but the park and others.
    blue healer…..ron

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