“My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do…I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of singletrack trails.”
— Nick Fish, Portland City Commissioner
The idea of mountain bike access in Forest Park has been an issue for Portlanders for over two decades. Local advocacy group, the Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP) was founded over twenty years ago specifically to counter threats of bikes being prohibited from the park altogether (currently, bikes are allowed on all fire access roads and a .3 mile stretch of singletrack).
In recent years, the idea of adding more singletrack trails — or allowing bikes to ride on the many miles of existing hiking trails — has languished due to a variety of factors (that’s a whole other story entirely).
But recently, momentum has picked up for a new approach to the conversation: The League of American Bicyclists chastised Portland’s lack of urban off-road riding opportunities; the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation responded to that by officially adding a chapter on mountain biking to the update of their Bicycle Master Plan, citizen activists have stepped up their efforts, and fresh faces in City Hall bring the potential of a new perspective.
One of those new faces happens to be the commissioner in charge of the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau, Nick Fish.
Unlike his predecessor Dan Saltzman, Fish bikes. When I interviewed Fish during his campaign he also told me that his wife was an avid cyclist and that, while he usually walks and takes transit to work from his inner Northeast home, he was warming to the idea of getting a bike.
Fast forward a few months to a bike event at a local elementary school (put together by one of Fish’s friends and political supporters — former city bike program manager and now planner Mia Birk) and there’s Fish astride a new Trek city bike.
When I called his office to chat about citizen advocate Frank Selker’s effort to thaw the Forest Park mountain bike access dialogue (which is turning out to be quite successful thus far), I wasn’t too surprised to hear that he was open to the idea.
I was however, a bit surprised at how open.
“It’s fair to say this issue is on our radar,” he said at the outset of our phone conversation last week. He went on; “I have seen a story or two on BikePortland about that.” So, it’s clear that Fish is aware of the renewed energy around this issue, but he also added that he and his staff are not “up-to-snuff on off-road biking,” — meaning they have some education to do before making any firm decisions.
Commissioner Fish brought up a white paper on mountain biking in Forest Park that is currently being drafted by the Forest Park Conservancy (the Parks Bureau was also involved with this, but sources say they’ve walked away from the process — more on that later). Wanting to have all pertinent information in hand, Fish said his plan was to have a meeting about the issue at the beginning of March, with the white paper in hand. At that time, he told me, “I think we can expdedite our consideration and then come up with some policy.”
This was interesting to hear because the old thinking on this issue was that no Forest Park policies would change until the city’s Forest Park Master Plan could be updated (when it was written, off-road biking barely existed).
I asked Fish if an update to that plan was necessary to change the bike access policy. “I don’t think so, no,” he said. He then continued:
“I was just at a Parks Bureau senior management retreat,” Fish shared, “and the theme was getting things done. I believe there are things we can consider that don’t require systemwide changes to make more singletrack trails happen.
I think there is a need and there is a demand and my job is to see how we can make that happen. I’m not interested in delaying this.”
“In the end, we’ll have a stronger coalition and in these times we need all the friends we can mobilize.”
Fish sounds very open to acting on the right plan for increase the amount of singletrack trails and bike access in Forest Park in general. But he’s not about to make a rash decision. “What we’re talking about is finding the right balance,” he explained. He also said that, “We have to balance the needs of our city,” which is typical politician speak, but then he went on to add:
“I come at this with a fresh look. I’m a new commissioner…my interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do. I assume everybody comes to the table in the good faith. I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of singletrack trails.”
Fish is not only be open to meeting a demand for off-road trails that this city can no longer ignore, but he see another benefit that will come with increased bike access in Forest Park.
If we can bring more users into the park, he said, “We’re also cultivating new coalitions that can help me do my job… which is supporting natural areas. In the end, we’ll have a stronger coalition and in these times we need all the friends we can mobilize.”
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This is great news for mountain bikers and cyclists across the city. PUMP and the whole mountain bike community looks forward to working with Commissioner Fish on increasing bike access and creating solutions.
PUMP Board member
“currently, bikes are allowed on all fire access roads and a .3 mile stretch of singletrack” Are you sure about that, does that include firelanes 2 and 7?
DISCLAIMER: I am going to carefully, deliberately, insert tongue in cheek prior to writing the rest of my comment. Look out. Warning.
Liberal special-interst (Sierra Club, GreenPeace, EarthFirst, etc.) helped ban cyclists from Forest Park in the first place, at tax-payer expense of course. Now Liberal special-interest is the main component in the call to remove the prohibition?
Wow, just wow.
Oh, and to be fair, I like neo-cons even less! I’m really just poking fun here. Don’t dogpile. It IS kinda funny though.
I remember those days. MTBers were in heavy conflict with hikers in general back then. MTBers got lumped in with gasoline-powered off-road motorcycle users, and were subsequently marginalized in the debate. A voice for MTB access to Forest Park, and many other regional trail systems, was a vote for big-oil! Crazy how times change. Ironic too.
There are many more mountain bike riders than the general public is aware. They areyoung, old(I am 59)and come from all walks of life. They are not a fringe group. Portland has a large number of these riders. The type of riding they do varies from casual/sport, hard-fast trail riding to downhill/freeride. Different styles of riding need different types of surface design. With a focus on Land Use Planning to prevent urban sprawl, our green spaces need to reflect the needs of all the citizens living in ever more close proximity to each other. For some a bike ride is a smooth asphalt bike path, for others it is an 18″ wide dirt/rocky trail and others still it is a series of logs to ride/hop over or a 4′ drop to the trail below. We are all taxpaying citizens and the greenspaces can reflect our varied interests/passions. I know many volunteer hours to help construct and maintain sustainable trails will come from the cycling community. I think the City/Metro governments will be amazed with how much of our time we will provide to help our home be a more viable place to thrive.
Firelane 2, my personal favorite has “no bike” signage along it.
Let’s not stray too far from the facts here.
Mountain Bikes are not banned from Forest Park. There are 28 miles of unpaved road, firelane, or single track open to mountain bikes.
Add the 9 miles of single-track on Powell butte, Portland is second only to San Diego among major West Coast Cities in providing more off-road cycling opportunities within the city limits.
While I am not wholly opposed to expanding access for MTBers in Forest Park, I still worry about the implementation of more access and how it will affect other trail users. Already the Park suffers from a lot of individuals who do not abide by laws (e.g. leash laws) or common courtesy (e.g. giving way/walking single-file when being overtaken by faster users or meeting another group of individuals). I worry that throwing faster moving individuals is a recipe for serious injury. Forest Park trails often have blind corners and descents with sharp drops to one side, which could easily lead to a severe accident when a fast moving cyclist collides with another cyclist/runner/hiker around a blind corner.
Um, point of fact: Powell Butte is not in the Portland city limits. Also, I understand that there are over 360 miles of trail within forest park, Mt. Bikes have access to 28 of them? “Ban”, then it would seem becomes semantic.
Prior to the ban, mode on these trails was unregulated. There was a series of accidents involving cyclsits and walker/hikers, and a subsequent outcry. Just like when we start talking about bikes on sidewalks, the debate quickly heats. MTB users were seriously vilified, and marginalized back then. Sort of like the Snow-Boarder witch-hunt of days gone by.
So, the best intentions have created this conundrum, I just wonder how they are then going to solve it?
“There are 28 miles of unpaved road, firelane, or single track open to mountain bikes. ”
Gravel road and firelane is not what makes MTBers hearts go pitter-patter. And the singletrack component is indeed a tiny 0.3 miles.
As for Powell Butte, if it were open regularly and I didn’t get a “you’re not welcome here” vibe every time I went there, I’d consider it a more valid option…
Powell Butte is within the Portland City limits and is a Portland Public Park managed by Portland Parks and Recreation, it has been since 1925.
More singletrack in Forest Park will attract more mountain bikers. No different from building more roads for cars.
But more singletrack will also allow mountain bikers to use that singletrack instead of some heavily congested fire roads (especially LE), which can actually make it safer for other users.
Singletrack that gives riders priority over hikers will encourage riders to use those trails, while avoiding fire roads and the (oh so tempting) existing trails, where hikers can walk without fear of being whacked by a reckless biker.
Your “facts” are misleading and are untrue. Roads are not singletrack, therefore they do not count. We are talking about access to singletrack trails, those only wide enough to ride a bike (approx. 18″ wide). Portland falls behind many major and small cities in this respect. We are not living up to our reputation as a bike friendly city.
I look forward to doing my part to making this happen. The bike community will supply the labor to build the trails we just need access and a plan. Hopefully Commissioner Fish will help us get there.
Okay, if links are necessary… Portland city limits end at 148th. Powell Butte is on 162nd, that’s Gresham. Portland parks does maintain it now, but that’s fairly recent. (1925 my toe. Heck, I doubt the PPB is even that old.) The equestrian club there raised all of the funds for it prior to that. I know this based upon my participation clearing trail, and riding in fund-raisers. Portland Parks maintain a lot of parks outside of the city limits. Think of the Sandy river. I still don’t think it warrants getting all semantic.
I’ve been biking at the Butte for over 30 years, do I know you? Plus, know that that place was designed for, and maintained by, horse owners. We used to have to get written permission to ride in the park, from them. That would be the vibe you feel. Plus, once the city chased us out of FP, we got kinda aggro about who uses the Butte. Don’t want chased out of there is all.
These are all aspects of the city growing out of control. I’ve ridden my bike in the FP area litterally since before it existed. Or before it became the park it is now, to be exact. These problems are the result of over-use. Over-use is the result of unchecked population expansion in the area. The real culprit in many things controversial IMO.
I think Nick Fish hit the nail on the head: Overdue progress will encourage a growing constintuency of passionate supporters to protect, support, and maintain the park.
I am very impressed that Parks and Nick are looking for creative single track options in FP that are good for citizens and the parks, rather than studying it to death after so many delays.
If Nick has a fan club, I’d like to join! Ditto for Parks for real progress!
@ Dave # 9
Go with me to Powell Butte. I never get that vibe, or if I do I guess I’m too busy enjoying the MTB’ing to care
The city limits go past 174th for those keeping track.
The first meeting of the Board of Park Commissioners for the City of Portland was held on October 20. 1900.
But don’t let little things like facts get in your way.
Oh and Powell Butte was purchased by the city in 1925, it was a Water Bureau property until it officially became a park in 1987.
Every time Jonathan writes about this issue so many people feel the need to post who have never been REAL mountain biking before. It’s obvious from their comments (yes you Jim Labbe, Russell, kgb). REAL mountain biking…not Powell Butte, not Leif Ericson in Forest Park: I’m talking about a three or more hour ride on 90% or more singletrack (18″ wide trails or less) with major elevation gain (at least 2000 feet). Unless you have done this before could you please preface your post with something like: “I’ve never been mountain biking before but here’s my 2 cents…!?” Better yet, rather than posting about something you know nothing about, how about actually going on a real mountain bike ride? Rent a mountain bike, go to the PUMP website, find a ride, and GO RIDE DAMMIT!!! I guarantee that the next day after the ride, you’ll want to do it again.
I’m for building some more single tracks for the poor mountain bikers out there.
However, as a hiker/runner of the Wildwood trail, I can tell you that that trail already has plenty of people on it. People walking down the trail have a hard time getting out of each other’s way, I could only imagine more conflicts if mountain bikes were on the trail.
I think that the new single track should be designated mountain bike trails(or at least highly prioritized – with lots of warning signs) so no unsuspecting hikers/runners come into any conflicts with them.
In my years as a race and event promoter, I have had a very strained relationship with PDX Parks & Rec. (That’s actually putting it mildly). If Commissioner Fish actually takes some action on this issue, that in and of itself will be a huge breakthrough for the cycling community.
Frank Selker, I’ll buy you a cold one any time.
User conflict is a real issue, having said that, we are not the first city or the first park that has had to deal with this. It has been managed very successfully across the country. Mountain bikes can cover large distances, so you put the mtb trails further away from the entrances (use the fire lane to reach the single track). This in itself will cut down on much of the conflict. Trails can also be designated as single use or possibly single direction trails. If this is not a viable option, then you make the trail itself so that it provides good sight lines and controls speed. You add flow, the ups and downs and small turns, and you make the trail much more fun to ride as well as slow the pace down.
These are just a few examples of ways to effectively manage user conflict.
I love Nick Fish!!! I love Park’s new ‘Get it done attitude’! Here is to being a Platinum MTB city!!!
We could tear down Forest Park, and build a Wal Mart.
Please people. Know your enemies.
Matt, before you open your mouth you might want to first think about making a point and not jump to any conclusions. I’m not talking about the fire lanes or the gravel roads. I know what single track is and I know what the MTB community is calling for. What I’m concerned about is what it means for the REAL trails in Forest Park–Wild Cherry, Dogwood, Aspen, Wildwood, etc. Trails that are 18″ wide or less. My concern about this whole thing is two-fold:
1) The existing TRAILS (not fire lanes or Leif Erikson) being opened up to OR mistakenly/purposely used by MTBers resulting in conflicts between hikers/runners.
2) A significant amount of new trails being added, potentially leading to many conflict zones as they cross existing trails.
Now both of these concerns are valid considering that the article states both options are on the table. So, Evan and Matt, before you criticize me perhaps you should consider the fact that I am not talking about the fire lanes or gravel roads.
It is funny what people will presume. I actually grew up mountain biking in Forest Park (always in permitted areas). It is not something I do regularly but I have more than a few single-track miles under my belt… including a few races back when I was in high school.
But that doesn’t matter. You don’t even need to ride a bike to have a stake in how our publicly owned and protected natural areas are used or abused.
Portlanders have a 100+ year history of investment in the conservation and stewardship of Forest Park. If we are going to expand recreational uses in an already heavily used park, we need to do in the right places, in the right way, and with long-overdue investments in managing existing and any new recreation uses/impacts.
We heard a lot about how Portland is “behind” other cities in offering off-road cycling opportunities. Based on the research I have done, that is actually not true. But if, as a City, we decide we really want new off-road cycling opportunities there are more accessible and lower impact locations than Forest Park.
However we provide MORE off-road cycling opportunities (single track or otherwise), we should do it in a way that is consistent with our local values; through a process that brings people together around a coherent, comprehensive and preferably city-wide plan; and in fashion that meets high-standards for natural resource conservation.
Portlanders are not going to have it any other way.
Bravo to Commissioner Fish. This is most awesome and a welcome breath of fresh air. I and many other people who enjoy riding singletrack look forward to enjoying nature, and riding singletrack, from our bike seats. I didn’t know there were 9 miles of singletrack available to mountain bikers at Powell Butte. Guess I’ll have to go out there with my gps unit and map those few miles that are available to me to ride and check that figure out. Personally I think that figure is bogus.
Mountain bikers have less than 6 miles of singletrack available to ride in the city of Portland. The vast majority of that is at Powell Butte. And that is closed at the first sign of rain drops falling out of the sky. I personally do not consider any of the trails on Mount Tabor ‘singletrack’. As far as I’m concerned, as far as singletrack is concerned, there is Powell Butte and the .3 miles in Forest Park. That is it.
I am the past President of Oregon Field Ornithologists and a past member and Board Member of Audubon Society of Portland. I’ve harassed more birds when I was an active bird lister than I ever have done as a person who now enjoys riding a bike on singletrack. I also used to think mountain bikers had horns and disturbed wildlife. I can now honestly say that there is no valid reason to think that mountain bikers cannot enjoy riding their bikes on singletrack in parks and that the resident wildlife, or trails, will be the worse for it.
Matt F. is correct. Real mountain biking involves, at a minimum, long and arduous climbs on challenging jeep roads and, for most serious mountain bikers, plenty of singletrack as well, with technical challenges. You have to be really fit and a bit daring to take full advantage of this passion-inducing sport. That’s what makes it so great!
Unless something has changed since I last lived in Portland (in most respects a wonderful city), the opportunities for genuine mountain biking are nil. There are instead a boring fire road in Forest Park and the smallish and quickly rideable Powell Butte. I now live in the Bay Area. Here we have major and bitter conflicts over trail access (it seems to go with urban areas of a liberal bent, where mountain biking is frequently the subject of moral panics), but we also have many dozens of miles of legal singletrack (the woeful East Bay Regional Park District is the major exception). Some of that singletrack is first-rate. We also have stupendously difficult and quite delightful climbing on fire roads.
One previous poster mentioned San Diego as, like Portland, being a favorable mountain biking venue. I grew up in San Diego, have a mountain bike down there, and ride it when visiting my relatives. San Diego’s mountain biking is dreadful, worse than Portland’s. Like Portland, you have to head well out of town for anything decent. And even then there’s very little. So anything that can be done to create more trails in Forest Park and improve the current singletrack would be great. I might even rent a bike the next time I come up.
It was the awesome NW dirt, a mountain bike culture as deep as Colorado and a city that is completely friendly to cycling that drew my company (and others here) and I know that whole “Field of Dreams” statement applies here as poignant as any. “If you build it, they will come.” Let mountain bikers breathe life into Portland, they will bring with them companies and jobs and cash to spend. If the issue comes down to it, have separate trails for hiking and for biking, Forest park is plenty big enough for it.
A valid argument, given the purpose for which Forest Park has been set aside, for allowing bike use on Forest Park single track (also known as foot paths, walking and hiking trails) has yet to be made.
I’ve read not all of, but a substantial portion of the FP master plan. The impression I take away from that reading, is that FP was conceived, and continues to be a nature refuge, a place that offers readily accessible relief from civilization and all the commotion that goes with it. Bikes have been around since the late 19th century. FP was never conceived of as a bike challenge park most likely, because their presence their contradicts the nature experience the park is intended to provide people with.
The question of bikes in FP is not one of equity. It’s about reserving that resource for the vitally needed purpose the land of FP was set aside to serve.
Of course, if the city and Portland residents want Mbks on FP single track, that’s their choice to make. Admitting MBks to FP single track would be a major departure from the purpose the park is intended to serve. If this is really going to happen, perhaps the decision should be one made by a vote of the people.
There probably should be readily accessible mountain bike challenge single track in Portland. FP does not seem to be the place for it. Parts of Portland’s 40 mile loop might be able to supply some of that.
It sounds to me like the people who have voiced concerns are more worried about runner/hiker conflicts that bird conflicts, and I think that’s an issue that will need to be addressed.
Also, as a non-mt. biker, can someone tell me what the big deal is about single track and why it is preferable to the forest park fire roads?
Also, how many miles of trails are there within an hour’s drive of Portland? I’m not saying that Portland shouldn’t have more miles in the city limits, but I think that statistic might be a useful one to bring into the discussion.
You have to ride to know the difference. However, if you enjoy bicycles, then just picture the difference between riding on the highway compared to a beautiful country road.
Bikers either stand together or suffer.
Mike #29. The International Mountain Bike Association is a great place to learn about the various off road cycling trail experiences, how they can be successfully created, managed and enhanced.
On the issue of user conflict. I regularly run, walk and yes ride the Maple trail in the spring/summer/fall months and rarely see anybody, and this is on weekends during daylight hours. I can honestly say I have only seen a couple people on this trail over the years. With that being said, there ARE trails in the park that would be inappropriate for bikes, mostly the trails in Washington Park, some of the trails closer in and the crown jewel…The Wild Wood, but only close in. I’d like to see either a schedule, something like bikes ride odd days only or new trails built for bike use, I think there are enough people in this town to get it done by volunteer work.
Having spoken with you for 45 minutes about Mt. biking and reading your comments I understand your view: you do not think Mt. bikes should be on trails in Forest Park. I think it is an extreme position, but there are extremes on either side. I confess my frustration however when it does not appear you hear others on this – e.g., try to accept that cyclists are much like hikers: Leif, Gateway, etc. are great but nothing like a trail. I also take exception to selective discounting of research that supports cycling while citing research opposing it. I’ll repeat in sincerity the offer that I made to you on the phone last month to meet any time to try to bridge differences and find solutions.
I read the master plan and there is nothing in it that says cycling is not what the park is for or is inconsistent with the parks purpose or goals. There is also nothing in it to prohibit trail sharing. But I would not lean on that document to support cycling either – it was written 13 years ago and and was not intended to prevent innovation as the world changes.
re. conflict, many locations around the country designate specific and limited times for cycles on trails, sometimes for one-direction riding only. Runners work well during these times since they travel at similar speed. Hikers are allowed any time, but they tend to focus on non-cycling times. Cyclists don’t face the cheat-or-nothing choice, so hikers encounter fewer cheaters. Cyclists help take good care of the trails for all users. It makes many happy users and citizens. This is not rocket science: it has proven successful in many locations and for many years.
A pretty useless, condescending comment; and either way it’s the same forest with the same trees, birds, ferns, and ugly English ivy. If you can’t articulate your passion for single track to open-minded fellow cyclist, you’re going to face some tough battles convincing others to join your cause.
Thanks, I’ll be sure to check that out!
I find it hard to believe that trail runners (5-10mph) go as fast as mountain bikers (? mph). It seems it would have to be a pretty slow, windy trail to accomplish that sort of parity. Am I wrong?
Found a great article addressing why single tracks are so important to mountain bikers on the International Mountain Biking Association website:
Sorry for all the consecutive posts!
I think #21 is right. what is the problem with making a 10 to 15 mile uni- directional loop. PDX parks could post signs to all the joggers/walkers/scofflaw dog owners that there is a potential hazard to their usage of the “loop” and call it good. Of the 300 some odd miles of trails in forest park, is 13.5 miles of single track to valuable to give up? Come on people! Look past your noses!
Frank, the parks reason for existence, going back to its conception, is to provide people with a place where they can convene with nature, away from the commotion of modern mechanized life. If the most recent master plan doesn’t spell out in so many words that bikes are not what the park is for, an understanding of the parks reason for existence should suffice.
The park is about having accessible to residents of an urban setting, the truest nature experience that is reasonably possible. With very few exceptions, a bike is not required for such an experience.
A bike priority single track trail, by its nature, will reduce usability of such a trail to a specific type user group. Where the mode of travel is foot, trails are accessible to everyone.
People like their bikes and they want a challenging ride to put them through. This is a need that departs from the FP’s reason for existence and the purpose it’s intended to serve. People that want a challenging technical course to ride their mountain bikes on, rather than a true nature experience such as FP is set aside to provide, should seek out land that is waiting to be designated for that kind of experience.
I’ve got a strong feeling that the kind of bike single track that could possibly be approved for FP will never satisfy the kind of riding experience that Mbkrs are hoping for. They’ll want something fast…then steep. Then they’ll want leap and jump terrain. Is this really the kind of activity that Portland residents will welcome to FP? Even if it’s just simple bike riding at about 4-5 mph?
FP, large as it may seem at first look, has a huge metro population to serve. Whinnying away the integrity of the nature experience it is designated to provide does not serve that population well.
We need more places like this around where I live.
There needs to be more focus on maintining and building places like this to help the kids stay out of trouble and get back to nature and enjoying the things of the outdoors!
Bikes and runners are surprisingly similar on many trails – we go faster down but they go as fast or faster up. In other shared trail use the two turn out to mix well.
First, FP trails could satisfy the riding most off-road cyclists love. They wouldn’t be working so hard for access – nor would rule-breakers be riding there – if it would not.
Second, the reason and purpose for FP is not just the reason you list: It also includes recreation. For example the master plan specifically includes recreational goals and refers to it as a “significant recreational and educational resource.” In fact included in the list of “Most Important Projects” for the Central Management Unit it lists “Build the bike trail connections that will braoden the recreation opportunities of that unit.” It is a goal that is both absolutely clear and has been neglected. Your preferred purpose for the park is not the only purpose.
Shared trails do not prevent anyone from using the park as you wish to, however. Bikes would only be allowed on certain trails, most likely only in the Central Management Unit, and even those at limited times. Most trails, most times would not allow bikes. A few trails and certain times, others could enjoy the park and be in nature in their preferred manner.
I do not believe that vast majority of trails in Forest Park were designed and are currently suitable for single-track. If you think that is extreme position than I think you have some very unreasonable expectations. After our phone conversations it was clear to me that you underestimate the public dialogue necessary for and the technical and fiscal imperatives of responsible single-track expansion in Forest Park.
Your charge of selective reference to the scientific literature is ironic in the extreme. I have simply tried to correct some of your blanket statements about the potential environmental impacts and to point out that we should be using the best available science that is relevant to our region’s unique climate, geology, and wildlife. Simply pointing to a literature review done by International Mountain Biking Association and asserting that wildlife and other environmental impacts would be negligent is not going to cut it. I suspect and hope that IMBA would agree. Since we have had this discussion elsewhere I won’t rehash it here.
wsbob. I share your feelings in regards to the original intention of the park. It is summarized in the mission statement when our community came together to develop the 1995 Forest Park Plan. “Forest Park represents an unparalleled resource where citizens can enjoy the peace, solitude, ruggedness, variety, beauty, unpredictability and
unspoiled naturalness of an urban wilderness environment; a place that
maintains this wilderness quality while allowing appropriate passive recreational and educational use without degrading natural resources; an urban laboratory for environmental research and resource enhancement and restoration; America’s premier urban ancient forest.” It is up to our Parks department to establish what qualifies appropriate passive recreational use. I support their management decisions to balance the needs of the city. Personally I ride my bicycle to and in Forest Park to find peace and solitude and to reconnect with my sense of person and place in this busy world. The park is like church to me. I rarely use an automobile to get to the park, and when I do it is to carry my family for hikes or to get to restoration work. I enjoy the single track experiences provided by our Parks department because that is where I find the most about myself. Its slow pace and challenge helps me detach from my conscious thoughts, focus on breathing, escape from the urban environment, and really relax overall. The fall line trails along the fire lanes which are open to bikes and the wide corridor that is Leif Erikson do not provide the experience I find most valuable. I enjoy the true natural experience. It is difficult to find this experience on a paved road shared with automobiles, no matter how well planned or crafted. I participate in restoration efforts, trail maintenance, advocacy and planning as I am able. I try to take care of the natural areas I use and I have worked with other cyclists to these ends as long as I have ridden in the woods. The Park needs restoration help and cyclists are willing to help. We are very excited to assist our Parks department in their effort to balance the needs of the community with the needs of the forest.
I brought up the subject of birds/wildlife because there is an underlying misconception that mountain bikers scare wildlife. The point I am trying to make is that, I used to think there was a negative impact from mountain bikers on wildlife. I also used to think that bikes had a negative impact on the trail.
In my experience of riding singletrack trails it is my experience that I have less of an impact on birds than when I was an active bird lister. It is now my belief that mountain bike use of trails is no more damaging than hikers using it. And, I still consider myself an “environmentalist”, I now enjoy the back country and hopefully undeveloped places from a bike seat.
Right now I have to drive at least an hour and a half to get to my favorite trails: Ape Canyon (Mount St Helens), Siouxon Creek, and various trails on the east side of Mount Hood. Yes, there are some trails closer that I do ride, but they aren’t my first choice.
I am completely for dialogue – my efforts have been entirely in the public and my offer to meet with you was made in our first conversation. But you are correct that I have found “technical and fiscal imperatives,” upon inspection, to have little substance and the appearace of calls for endless studies without action. That language alone says it all.
I stand by my assertion that you have been selective in your use of research: I stated that there is research on either side; you rejected supporting research as being from areas that are different, but then cited opposing research that was also from a different climate and geography. We should use all research, but also know the limitations of its significance for our policy decisions.
I am a bit disheartened with the obstructionist attitude both of you are displaying here. Frank’s idea of opening up more singletrack trails in Forest Park to bicycles might sound ambitious, but it is a totally reasonable expectation and it is a desire that is shared among many in the bike community.
When commissioner Fish and people at the Forest Park Conservancy are all warming up to the idea of opening up existing trails in certain areas of the park – at select times of the year, week or day – you can’t keep rehashing the same old arguments against any form of shared use, without coming across as an extremist.
I think that most reasonable people recognize that Forest Park – like most city parks – serves both conservancy and recreational purposes. Bikes are already there, so the argument that the parks exclusive mission is “to provide people with a place where they can convene with nature, away from the commotion of modern mechanized life” seems a weak one. Like Frank points out, nobody argues that some parts and trails of the park need to be set aside to serve that purpose. And for other parts of the park, we should be oepn for shared use. Besides, 10-15 miles is not a whole lot to ask, given the size of the park.
Personally, I just don’t get what is so hard for you to grasp the concept of responsible and respectful shared use of single track trails. It’s been done successfully in so many other places, including some very popular urban parks, and I would hope you have more trust in your fellow bike riders and citizens that we can do as well (or better) in Forest Park.
Frank, Rouleur, et al.: you’re not going to get anywhere with Jim or like-minded folks. I know Jim is well-meaning and wants to do what’s right. But ultimately his is a recipe for analysis paralysis and of studying this issue to death. The city won’t have the money to do what he wants and ultimately you’ll end up with the status quo preserved. The ultimate problem is that a lot of people perceive no value in mountain biking and fret endlessly about any liberalization of trail access rules. It’s a mindset that is not easily altered, and you’ll be wasting your time trying to convince them. See, as evidence of this, the similar debate over mountain biking in the National Parks at this site:
And see also the link to the Denver Post debate at the bottom of that thread. It’s endless. I know this from long experience with bicycle skeptics here in the Bay Area.
Instead of trying to persuade Jim, which you won’t be able to do, just work with Commissioner Fish. That’s a good use of your limited energy.
Great discussion here!
A few comments:
Please don’t make assumptions about experiences mountain bikers seek. Not all hikers are out there for solitude and wildlife viewing- many are out for exercise, socializing, walking the dog. The same is true of runners and cyclists. The mode of travel is different from the experience goal. I seek trails in Forest Park for a variety of reasons. When I’m riding my bike on singletrack (unfortunately, not in Portland), it brings me into a more intimate connection with the environment. Pace slows, attention focuses on the trail and surroundings, and I forget about the urban constructs for a while. I seek this experience on my bike. I wish that I didn’t have to drive to get there.
Bike parks are great too, and we may see them sooner than any meaningful singletrack (whether at FP or elsewhere), but this provides a decidedly different bike experience. A hike through the Rose Gardens is interesting and fun, but a very different experience than hiking in the woods.
Providing diverse experiences for cyclists and other park users is critical in creating the next generation of park and open space supporters. And it’s so much less expensive and less of an environmental impact than other facilities (soccer fields, paved paths, etc). Keep in mind, that these trails wouldn’t be exclusively for cyclists, but for hikers and runners too. The existing trails close to Leif Erickson can get crowded- this is not the place to add a new use. But there is room in the Park (and other areas around the City), either on existing low use trails and/or new routes.
Sounds like we’ll be turning Forest Park into a Mountain Bike Amusement Park.
Again, what does bombing downhill or running jumps on a machine have to do with communing with nature or respecting the experience of folks who enjoy quiet recreation?
Perhaps, if single track is built in Forest Park the track will have NO top access. That way when I see a rider blowing down the hill I will know that they earned the experience by riding to the top of the hill first.
The last thing I look forward to in Forest Park is mountain bikers supported by drivers who continuously drive their asses to the top of the hill (53rd Ave Speedway?). No doubt such drives add to the wilderness-like, park-like, nature-like, quiet recreation-like experience that is mountain biking. Why be “like” when you can get off the machine and respect nature and the park quietly?
Rouleuer and Ted,
Thank you for the perspective – the point is well taken.
Jim et. al.,
Please prove Ted wrong. Nick said: “My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do…I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of singletrack trails.” If you take him at his word and work with us to support him, rather than opposing any shared trails in FP, we can do this better.