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Commissioner Fish gets educated at off-road biking roundtable

Posted by on April 7th, 2009 at 10:48 am

At a meeting in City Hall last night, Parks Commissioner Nick Fish (in suit in upper left corner) learned more about urban mountain biking issues from a host of experts and advocates.
(Photos © J. Maus)

After making it clear that he wants to move the dialogue about urban, off-road biking forward, City Commissioner Nick Fish got a crash course on the topic at a roundtable discussion held in City Hall last night.

Off-road trails roundtable discussion-102

Fish listened and learned.

Fish came to the meeting prepared with questions and he busily took down notes from the group of assembled experts and advocates. Around the table were 18 representatives ranging from city staffers from the Parks and Transportation bureaus, bike shop owners, and leaders of local non-profit advocacy groups like the International Mountain Bicycling Assocation (IMBA), Forest Park Conservancy (FPC), the Portland United Mountain Pedalers (PUMP) and the Audubon Society of Portland.

Judging from who was around the table, it was clear that Commissioner Fish is making this a real priority (versus just having a meeting to satisfy constituents). Before asking each person to introduce themselves and share their thoughts about the issue, Fish said that as the new commissioner in charge of parks he has been “struck” by the “passion in the biking community and the interest in this issue in particular.” Fish admitted that he doesn’t have a personal connection to mountain biking but that he called the meeting to “be educated” and to scope out the forthcoming off-road trail study project planned by the Portland Parks Bureau in June.

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Fish also added that he was aware that there are differing perspectives on this issue. “I want to get past some old stalemates,” he said, “but I want to do so thoughtfully.”

“I’ve ridden Wildwood Trail [a popular hiking trail in Forest Park that is off-limits to bikes] many times…but it was 30 years ago, before it was illegal.”
— Jay Graves, Bike Gallery owner, Co-Chair of the Bicycle Master Plan update and Oregon State Parks commissioner

During introductions, Sellwood Cycle Repair owner Erik Tonkin said he thinks there’s a “real opportunity for Portland to capitalize on the excitement around the Cross Crusade [which has more participants than any other cross series in the world] and the general interest for cycling around town.”

Jim Labbe, who was representing the Audubon Society of Portland, stressed that his interest was in making sure that Portland’s commitments to stewardship of its natural areas was upheld as the number of park users grows.

The Forest Park Conservancy had four people in the meeting; executive director Michelle Bussard, stewardship director Stephen Hatfield and board members John Runyon and Barbara Nelson.

During her introductory remarks, Bussard said the Forest Park mountain biking issue is about “mindfulness” and “how we balance users needs and take care of the ecology of the park.”

Other notables in the room were Bike Gallery owner and Oregon State Parks Commissioner Jay Graves, BTA executive director Scott Bricker, lawyer Mark Ginsberg (representing the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee), PUMP and Gateway Green board member Tom Archer, and citizen advocate Frank Selker.

Selker can take a lot of credit for this meeting coming together. It was his plan and vision that sparked a renewed interest in the topic of more bike access in Forest Park and the public’s reaction to Selker’s plan caught the attention of Commissioner Fish. Introducing himself, Selker said for him, the issue is “about love and money.” “The park needs love,” he explained, “it needs people to support bonds, to pull ivy, etc…” Selker also stressed that he feels the $50,000 recently committed to the cause by Universal Cycles is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Off-road trails roundtable discussion-103

Jim Labbe wants to make sure any
new recreational use is managed
with conservation in mind.

Tom Archer, a very hard-working advocate who is closely involved with just about every off-road biking issue right now, said he loves to ride and wants to “see that opportunity given to more people.” “As a user group,” he continued, “we’re underserved. It’s not one’s fault, but we have some catching up to do.”

My favorite line of the night came from Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves (who, in addition to being a state parks commissioner is also the Co-Chair of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan Update effort). Graves told the group he had a confession to make; “I’ve ridden Wildwood Trail [a popular hiking trail in Forest Park that is off-limits to bikes] many times…but it was 30 years ago, before it was illegal.”

Once introduced to everyone around the table, Fish asked a series of prepared questions.

He asked Chris Bernhardt, a natural surface trail expert with Alta Planning (formerly with IMBA), to share examples of what other cities are doing with urban trails and how Portland can learn from them. He asked Frank Selker; “When we talk about ‘off-road biking’, what are we talking about? Can you flesh it out for me?”

Fish also wanted to learn more about Gateway Green (he had a meeting about that project just prior to this meeting), the city’s current inventory of singletrack trails (1/3 of a mile in Forest Park and 5-7 miles on Powell Butte, according to Parks staffer Emily Roth), the number of mountain bikers in Portland (he asked Bricker this, but he said no one really knows the number).

Off-road trails roundtable discussion-104

Singletrack advocate Tom Archer.

Several times during the meeting, Fish asked the group if there was any “low-hanging fruit” that he and his office could go after (politicians love low-hanging fruit). Selker suggested implementing a trail-sharing system in Forest Park which he noted “a lot of cities have had good success with.” This would entail allowing bikes on certain trail sections at certain times of the day.

Jim Labbe with the Audubon Society — who has often disagreed with Selker and other supporters of increased mountain bike access in Forest Park — immediately spoke up to that suggestion; “I wouldn’t call that the low-hanging fruit. To me, the opportunity is not trying to open up trail that are designed for hikers, and that are overused already.” Labbe made the point that existing hiking trails were not designed for cycling and that “there would be a lot of controversy” and “would not move us forward” if trail-sharing was attempted.

Labbe said that Portland currently has shared trails in Powell Butte and that, “it hasn’t been seamless”. He also stressed – by referring to our story on urban trails from the National Bike Summit — that “trail design is critical” in making shared trails work.

Labbe, who is a regular rider himself, would rather focus on projects like Gateway Green or on, “retrofitting and redesigning specific fire lane, powerline corridors, and trail segments for new single track trails”.

Another topic that came up was the Forest Park Mountain Biking White Paper. This project, which many people at last night’s meeting have been working on for over a year now, was kick-started by the Forest Park Conservancy. FPC board member John Runyon said they’re about a month away from completion and that the group is “pretty close to consensus” on several short and long-term actions outlined in the document.

Advocate and PUMP board member Tom Archer has been closely involved with the white paper project. He has told me in the past that the effort was “languishing” and that at one point, staffers from the Parks Bureau had walked away from it altogether due to disagreements about various issues (this seems to have been resolved of late now that Commissioner Fish has made it clear he wants to move the issue forward).

Another topic Fish wanted to understand better was the extent of existing conflicts between trail users in Forest Park. The consensus around the table seemed to be that anecdotal evidence points to a lot of conflicts, but that no one has any real numbers about it. Hannah Kuhn, a senior policy advisor to Fish spoke up to say, as a regular walker in the park, her biggest conflicts are with off-leash dogs.

Labbe urged that the City of Portland needs to “recognize the need to manage recreational impacts.” He said that use has expanded rapidly but that none of the recommendations about how to manage that growth have been implemented.

Another perspective came from Bricker with the BTA. “Sometimes,” he said, “you just have to try something new and see what happens.” Bricker suggested the idea of an entire day where mountain biking is allowed in Forest Park. It wasn’t a seriously considered idea, but his point was that perhaps it’s time to shake things up and not fall back on the status quo (in transportation planning terms, he said, the equivalent would have been to “just keep building freeways.”)

There were several key themes/issues that emerged last night that will be interesting to follow as this conversation continues.

Should the city focus on a system-wide approach to find more off-road trail opportunities, or focus efforts on Forest Park access? Erik Tonkin and Frank Selker emphasized that many people have come to the table, and there is broad support from the community and local businesses for Forest Park specifically (Tonkin doesn’t want Forest Park to “get lost in the shuffle” in the citywide approach). The issue however, is that some feel Forest Park will be too much of a battle (and potentially controversial) so they’d rather find other places for bikes to go.

There’s also the balance between short-term gains and longer-term projects. Fish knows politically that short-term gains are valuable and off-road trail advocates feel like Portland has waited long enough and has demonstrated enough demand from the community to make some gains happen sooner rather than later.

One idea that everyone can agree on is that more park users, while they may pose a strain on trails and must be managed carefully, will only make the pie bigger and bring in more resources and much-needed investment (both financial and in terms of sweat equity) into the park system.

The people at this meeting will likely morph into an off-road trail/Forest Park bike access advisory committee. Fish and his staff plan to keep in touch and re-assemble the group to continue discussing these issues into the future. Fish also knows that he’ll need the support of the advocates around the table at last night’s meeting. He shared that there’s a $700 million tab of “unmet needs” in his parks system and that his office is considering the public’s willingness to pass a bond measure between now and 2011 to help pay for it.

Besides this issue of more urban singletrack trails, Fish is really establishing himself as a much more vocal champion for bikeway network trails and multi-use paths than his predecessor, Commissioner Saltzman (I have already written more about Fish in his first few months than I did about Saltzman over several years). Fish called the Gateway Green project “an historical opportunity”, he is very interested to push the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail, and he recently got a tour of the North Portland Greenway Trail that will someday connect the Steel Bridge to St. Johns via the riverfront.

The lines between bikeways, trails, and parks continue to be blurred here in Portland. Not only is the local mountain bike advocacy conversation maturing quickly, but the BTA is looking into how local parks can integrate more favorably with bike boulevards and Safe Routes to Schools, and there is more momentum for expanding and funding regional trails now than ever before (thanks to Metro especially).

As the commissioner in charge of parks who has made his support of bicycling very clear, Nick Fish will be an important part of this momentum going forward. Fish reminded the group last night that he’ll be up for re-election next year and I think he realizes his involvement with these issues will garner him broad community support and ultimately, political success.

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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

  • Paul Tay April 7, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Did everyone score bike parking at City Hall?

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  • Scott Mizée April 7, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for the extensive coverage of this meeting, Jonathan. I think your last couple of paragraphs summed up our situation well. I believe we are at a watershed moment for our region regarding parks, trails, walking and biking. Connecting Green and meetings of groups of people like those that were at this one can really start making things happen.

    We were very pleased with what we heard from Commissioner Fish and his staff on the tour of The North Portland Greenway the other day and eagerly anticipate moving forward.

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  • kgb April 7, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I would agree with Jim that building some new trails specifically for bikes would be best for everyone including the park. New trails could be designed and built specifically for bikes, and could have special rules (like one way) where appropriate while at the same time protecting the experience of other park users and cyclists by reducing user conflicts.

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  • gabriel amadeus April 7, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Nice article, thanks!

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  • Bob_M April 7, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Trail construction would require removing plants. These plants could be removed in such a manner, and at a time, that they do not die. These native plants could be sold to help fund the project, or used in other restoration projects. Although the trails are for recreation, bicycles are for transportation and clever grant writers may be able to find stimulus money to pay workers to salvage the plants. Find me if you want someone to tag the plants. I can identify them all.

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  • Will April 7, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Great idea Bob. Fantastic coverage Jonathan. This sounds like one of the healthiest conversations that has been reported on mtb in Forest Park. Huge props to all those that attended and all the time spent advocating for the mtb community.

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  • chuck April 7, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    woo! more trails in portland! thanks to everyone involved in the meeting for getting together and trying to figure out how to make this work.

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  • Dave April 7, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I think the cooperating between parks and transportation is really important and exciting –

    I remember seeing a video about Copenhagen, and part of it touched on how they are trying to make more and more sort of “green trails” in the city that go through parks and other quiet, calmer areas (the waterfront park path would be an example in Portland), but still connect to their network of bike paths – and they said they’ve found that a lot of people will take the ones they’ve made so far, even if it takes them a bit out of their way, just because they’re so pleasant.

    Of course, transportational trails and mountain biking trails have different requirements, but all in all, I think just getting the cooperation going between all these different groups has some exciting potential, both for recreation and transportation – not to mention the livability of the city.

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  • metal cowboy April 7, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    As an equal opportunity cyclist – I ride road, trail anything with twoish wheels, I think this is a wonderful development, And just as I’m vocal about my disappointment of Fish’s vote on the CRC, I want to be vocal about how encouraging it is to see him educating himself on trails and moving forward with this.

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  • hemp22 April 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Yes, thanks for the great coverage.
    On the topic of how many people mountain bike in Portland? Hardly anyone mountain bikes *IN* portland because there are so few opportunities, but hordes of Portland residents are driving out to Hood River, Scapoose, Central Oregon, etc. on a regular basis to get in their Mtn off-road biking fix. The opportunity here is to make it so that they can stay in town

    And regarding user conficts in Forest Park, most conflicts involve bikes will primarily occur on the first few miles of the Leif Erickson from the road (at either end), where joggers, hikers, and yes, scores of unleashed dogs, are not expecting bikes to pass them so quickly. More single track options would reduce the cyclists on the Leif Erickson.

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  • spotter April 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I find it interesting (ironic? sad?) that while our city Parks Commissioner is spending time getting educated about mountain bike trails, Multnomah County can’t afford one bike/ped coordinator.

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  • brian April 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    it is not difficult. bikes get the odd days.

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  • gabriel amadeus April 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I think my mom taught me to share when I was 3. Is this really as hard as we’re making it?

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  • Tom Miller April 7, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    For the record, Mayor Adams supports expansion of single-track mountain biking opportunities within city limits. To that end, he supports the Gateway Green concept, as articulated to date. If and when a Forest Park single-track access plan matures, he’ll take a close look at that. Certainly our hope is that a plan could be established with Audubon’s support, i.e. the “Portland Way.”

    We appreciate Commissioner Fish’s interest in this issue and we look forward to hearing what he proposes.

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  • Blah Blah Blah April 7, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    I agree Gabriel, how hard can this be.

    There has to be some common ground here.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 7, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    re: common ground.

    everyone should know that it was said several times at the meeting that there indeed is a lot of common ground between all perspectives.. in fact, more common ground than disagreements.

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  • Sean April 8, 2009 at 7:32 am

    I used to live in Charlottesville, Virginia. There in to we had a small set of multi-use trails on Observatory Hill near the University of Virginia. I am a mountain biker and these trails were great for short, weekday rides. However, most bikers quickly discover that they need to the trail with many more hikers and their dogs on weekends and in the evenings, so they would tend to head out of town at those times. I am not opposed to the idea of separated use trails, but I believe that people can figure out on their own when and how to share the trails.

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  • brian April 8, 2009 at 8:10 am

    why is the Audobon Society a player in all this? do they get involved when new basketball courts are made?

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  • Dave April 8, 2009 at 8:15 am

    If the basketball court was going in a protected nature preserve, then probably yes.

    I think they’re involved because they want to protect the ecology of green spaces where trails may potentially end up.

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  • Erik April 8, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Look at that first photo…clearly a square table, not round.

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  • toowacky April 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I would agree w/ Erik Tonkin in saying that FP shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. There are other opportunities that perhaps are easier wins (Gateway Green, for example), but let’s keep trying to improve singletrack access in FP.

    Although the idea of building new singletrack in Forest Park to minimize conflict sounds great, I also see that as an argument that will just further push out into the future access to FP. In other words, breaking new ground for new trails in FP doesn’t sound like something that would be supported by the Audobon Society in the near future, IMO.

    Perhaps a two-pronged approach, with short term (trail sharing/alternate day usage) and long term goals (new singletrack built for cyclists) for access should be considered.

    Great news, though! Thanks Nick for the opportunity to talk about this!

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  • daalan April 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Glad to read the report from this very important meeting. And, I’m glad that Commissioner Fish is trying to get things accomplished.
    I would disagree with the Parks Department when they claim there’s 5 to 7 miles of singletrack out at Powell Butte. There’s just over 2 miles of singletrack out there, and the rest is doubletrack trail. Still, the ratio of singletrack, open to mountainbikers out there, to total miles of trails (singletrack or doubletrack) is way better than that at Forest Park. Now, if we could only get two percent of the trails in Forest Park open to mountain biking that would be great.
    Retrofitting a firelane that heads directly downhill is not the way to build a trail. That will lead to serious erosion problems.

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  • blah blah blah April 8, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I don’t get why it’s a big deal to build new trails…Is the Audobon Society afraid of damaging all of that fine English Ivy habitat.

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  • hiker April 8, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    RE Jim Labbe’s comments:

    “I wouldn’t call that the low-hanging fruit. To me, the opportunity is not trying to open up trail that are designed for hikers, and that are overused already.”
    That sounds like a very broad generalization. Except for the trail sections closest to the Thurman entrance, I wouldn’t qualify trails in Forest Park as over-used. What criteria does he uses anyway? Damage to trails? Well, maybe the problem is not over-use, but lack of trail maintenance. That’s something that mountain bike community can help with if Parks make them a legal user of these trails.

    “there would be a lot of controversy” and “would not move us forward” if trail-sharing was attempted.
    Wildwood Trail: true.
    Less-traveled trails NE/down from Leif Erickson: not true. I hike the Maple Trail regularly and I hardly come across other hikers. There are plenty of other hidden trails in Forest Park that are prime candidates for trail sharing and opening them up to mountain bikers on select days would almost go unnoticed.

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  • brian April 8, 2009 at 7:17 pm


    you are dead on. i lived all over the country, and no matter what trail it is, it is always the same story-people tend to only use the first mile or two of the park. forest park is underutilized past this point. this is where mountain bikes should dwell.

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  • Friend of Forest Park April 8, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Audubon is posturing out of self-imposed necessity. Put yourself in its shoes. The vast majority of its membership has an idealized vision of Forest Park and a paternalistic view of what appropriate uses are. They’re not bad people; they just know what’s best for you.

    In this case, sincerity is a vice.

    One of the great weaknesses of the modern conservation movement is its haste to judge and inability to include. There’s irony afoot. Portlanders are probably more sympathetic to the Audubon agenda than the bike-friendliness agenda. Protecting birds and their habitat (to keep things simple) is less impact on the average Portlander’s daily lifestyle than accommodating bikes.

    It would be revealing to see 10-year trends on both grassroots and corporate membership for Audubon and BTA. I’m willing to bet BTA’s growth curve far outpaces Audubon’s. The BTA agenda is inclusive; the Audubon agenda is exclusive. Bottom line.

    But Jim Labbe puts it in perspective with the threat he delivered to Commissioner Fish about single track access in Forest Park. Threatening an elected official takes nerve. Change is hard and the old guard doesn’t go down without a fight.

    It’ll happen though. When businesses starting ponying up $50,000 there’s a sea change coming on. Audubon soon will have a choice: collaborate and accommodate, or get rolled.

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  • Andre Pinter April 8, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I have a very hard time understanding the zealousness of the ‘protecting’ crowd. It just seems to me from a simple surface area equation to.

    If we build 20 miles of singletrack at an average of 2 feet of wide (that we will be removing from native habitat), and given that we have 5157 acres in Forest Park. We will be using approximately .1% of the available space.

    This really just seems like small beans to me. Can anyone explain this? It’s not like trails are roads where you end up running over all sorts of animals.

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  • wsbob April 9, 2009 at 12:02 am

    “Audubon is posturing out of self-imposed necessity.” Friend of Forest Park

    Friend? With a ‘Friend’ like that, who needs enemies? Insults, made in antagonistic, subtly malicious tones hurt the case MBkr single-track enthusiasts are trying to persuade skeptics of.

    Without checking, I know the Audubon Society has had facilities open to the public on Cornell Road bordering McCleay Park, adjoining Forest Park for more than 20 years. The Audubon Society’s interests have to do with the health and welfare of wildlife in and of land that has been set aside as nature parks for the public; residents of Portland and visitors to this city and its parks as well. Audubon has done much to offer related information and education to anyone interested.

    On that basis alone, I’m far more inclined to trust the thoughts and opinions of Audubon Society reps and those of the Forest Park Conservancy regarding access into Portland’s nature parks by people on their mountain bikes, than I would the same from mountain bike single track enthusiasts, mountain bike advocacy organizations like IMBA and PUMP.

    Forest Park Conservancy, Audubon…these groups seem truly concerned about nature and the most genuinely natural experience that’s reasonably possible in publicly held natural lands most readily accessible to people in an urban-suburban area such as Portland and the smaller cities surrounding it.

    From certain mountain bike single track enthusiasts, the sense I get is that some of them may like nature, even appreciate it (assuming they slow down from time to time to take a look), but what seems to be far more important to them, are single width trails on which to ride their bike off-road. They seem to think that single track trails for mountain bikes is what Forest Park’s 5000 acres are there for. I suppose if they’re able to convince Commissioner Fish that this is what the park is there for, the fate of Forest Park’s future may be cast.

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  • matt f April 9, 2009 at 7:57 am

    This is fantastic progress. Thank you, thank you, Commissioner Fish. And thank you too Jonathan.

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  • BTodd April 9, 2009 at 8:39 am


    we get it. you are closed minded**, and do not want access to natural areas. please stay off this BIKE site, and enjoy fighting with the cars.

    **BTodd, please try and refrain from direct person insults. It does nothing but detract from the quality of discussion. Thanks. — Jonathan

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  • f5 April 9, 2009 at 10:15 am


    I would wager that most people coming to this blog and commenting on articles such as this aren’t trying to convince the skeptics. People do need to vent from time to time when dealing with folks who are seemingly completely unable to shift their views one iota. This is a cycling blog afterall, and not a city council roundtable. And you sir, are most certainly no Nick Fish.

    Again, the case can be made that for an organization like the Adubon Society whose central focus is protecting the flora and fauna of FP is losing the war bigtime — at least in the Flora category. At the current pace of ivy growth, there probably won’t be any trees left for the birds to rest on 50 years from now. Allowing bike access to the park will bring hoards of ivy pullers. You can be sure of that.

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  • Jill April 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

    This isn’t bike access versus nature. Many of us are conservationists AND singletrack enthusiasts. Indeed, many of us are conservationists BECAUSE we are singletrack enthusiasts.
    Just because I am a trail advocate doesn’t mean I don’t have an understanding of the complexity of urban ecosystems and our place within it.
    We balance the compelling interest of engaging the public in nature with our impacts to it. Adding bicycles to trails (and/or adding trails) is another way to engage a community of low-impact users who have demonstrated that they will protect the parks, with their dollars, votes, and labor.

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  • wsbob April 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

    “…not trying to convince the skeptics…”. “…seemingly completely unable to shift their views one iota.” f5

    If mountain bike single track enthusiasts aren’t prepared to convince skeptics of the value to the general public of having single track mountain bike access to nature parks, it’s likely they’ll continue to have their hopes for that kind of trail access rejected for good reason.

    “…do not want access to natural areas.” #30 BTodd

    Mountain bike access to the natural setting of FP currently exists. More than 26 miles of it. If there’s someone that doesn’t want mountain bikes to have access to those natural areas, I don’t know who it would be.

    MBkrs in their comments on this weblog constantly complain about lack of mountain bike ride available to them in Forest Park. Wide, hard packed gravel content fire roads in the park doesn’t seem to be good enough for them, even though people on bikes seem to enjoy using them, as do runners, people walking their dogs or just walking, photographers, and so forth.

    Lacking narrower, packed dirt path accessible to mountain bikes in FP, it’s been suggested that perhaps moderate width (say 7′-9′) trail of that type be designed, built and made accessible to all park visitors including those on their mountain bikes. No mountain biker on this weblog has indicated receptivity to such an idea. There seems to be an insistence that trail type accessible to them be single width. Now that to me sounds as though it could be due to inflexibility and close-mindedness. Hopefully, it’s just due to lack of understanding at present.

    If MBkrs really are serious about sharing trails in FP, they might show some receptivity to a trail type accessible to them that will not, by design, cause the presence of their bikes to place a burden on everyone else that might like to use those trails without a bike.

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  • David A April 9, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Jill #32
    Bravo! I couldn’t say it any better. I started being an active birder at age 10 in 1962, and a few short years later as a result of that became environmentalist who wants to see natural areas and virgin forests protected. I just want to be able to ride my mountain bike on the same type of trails that I used to hike on. There’s nothing that makes those interests mutually exclusive.

    Many people, myself included, have and are trying to educate you as to why we like riding trails that are 18-24″ wide. I’ve even invited you out, and have an extra mountain bike you could ride, but you have declined that invitation. Frankly, I’ve come to the conclusion that you are like someone else who posts on many forums regarding mountain biking with whom there is no discussion on this subject. Your mind is already made up and there is nothing that anyone can or will say that will change it. Just remember that I used to think, like you, that mountain biking should be prohibited from places from Forest Park. I don’t any longer because I realized that mountain bikes weren’t the two horned beasts that some fanatics make them out to be. If I can see the light on that, so can you and anyone else. I’m just not going to spend my time anymore trying to convince you.

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  • f5 April 9, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    What the hell, I’ll take a stab at it.

    If mountain bike single track enthusiasts aren’t prepared to convince skeptics of the value to the general public of having single track mountain bike access to nature parks, it’s likely they’ll continue to have their hopes for that kind of trail access rejected for good reason.
    Bob, enthusiasts are convincing the skeptics. it’s what happened at city Hall. This is an internet chatroom, and shouldn’t be your only measure of appropriate dialogue taking place. I’ll say it again: No one is obligated to deliver detailed analysis to you, especially when you make blanket statements intentionally ignoring the exact type of comments you claim to not be getting. It makes you look like a chatroom troll and gives people even less motivation to try and sway you.

    Mountain bike access to the natural setting of FP currently exists. More than 26 miles of it. If there’s someone that doesn’t want mountain bikes to have access to those natural areas, I don’t know who it would be.
    Are you serious? Bob, you know and we all know, no one is talking about access to firelanes.

    MBkrs in their comments on this weblog constantly complain about lack of mountain bike ride available to them in Forest Park. Wide, hard packed gravel content fire roads in the park doesn’t seem to be good enough for them, even though people on bikes seem to enjoy using them, as do runners, people walking their dogs or just walking, photographers, and so forth.
    So to continue that line of reasoning, we could elimenate all singletrack and foot trails from the park and people would continue to be just as happy with only Leif Erickson. This is flawed logic.

    Lacking narrower, packed dirt path accessible to mountain bikes in FP, it’s been suggested that perhaps moderate width (say 7′-9′) trail of that type be designed, built and made accessible to all park visitors including those on their mountain bikes. No mountain biker on this weblog has indicated receptivity to such an idea. There seems to be an insistence that trail type accessible to them be single width. Now that to me sounds as though it could be due to inflexibility and close-mindedness. Hopefully, it’s just due to lack of understanding at present.
    That’s fundamentally different that what cyclists seek. Also, doubletrack that you describe already exists. You can’t fairly or logically paint cyclists as narrow minded in this instance.

    If MBkrs really are serious about sharing trails in FP, they might show some receptivity to a trail type accessible to them that will not, by design, cause the presence of their bikes to place a burden on everyone else that might like to use those trails without a bike.
    So are you suggesting that a reality where you might have to walk past a cyclist who pulled over and yielded to you as a hiker is too much to ask?

    Bob I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again: If the Forest Park Master Plan (or whatever it’s called) originally called for recreation in the park, and if those involved with trails professionally generally accept cycling to be a legitimate low-impact and vialbe user — what exactly is the basis for your argument?

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  • RWL1776 April 9, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Here’s an interesting quote that puts bird watching AD mountain biking in the same class:
    “In August 2003, Santa Clara County, California, adopted a Strategic Plan for
    the County Parks and Recreation Department.

    Here are the definitions of active and passive recreation from the Strategic

    “Recreation, Active Outdoor:
    Recreational uses that are conducted outdoors and that typically require
    specific developed facilities or designated use areas. Active outdoor recreation uses include, but are not limited to, team sports, motorized recreation, racing on trails,
    and playground activities.”

    “Recreation, Passive Outdoor:
    Recreational uses that are conducted almost wholly outdoors and do not
    require a developed site. Passive outdoor recreation uses include, but are not limited to, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and bird watching.”

    You can find the entire document at,4770,chid%253D16556%2526sid%253D12761,00.htm

    There you go, bird watching AND mountain biking are considered, according to this source, to both be ‘passive recreation’. We are BOTH conservationists, as Jill noted, can’t we all just get along?

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  • RWL1776 April 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    From the pages of the 1995 Forest Park Plan, in regards to bicycles in the park:

    Page 85:
    Current Park Uses-
    Types of Recreational Use-
    Recreational use at Forest Park is passive; that is, walking, running,
    hiking, biking and equestrian trail use.

    Page 87:
    Bikes Allowed-
    Mountain bikers are allowed on most fire lanes where there is sufficient
    sight distance for the safety of other trail users. One–way bike traffic is
    allowed on Holman Lane; cyclists are allowed to go up only. Many trail
    loops are available for cyclists.
    Note the ‘sufficient sight distance’ wording. Bikes are ONLY allowed on trails where you can see a long way. If I can see 1/4 mile DOWN an 8 foot wide trail, the ONLY way to make it fun is open it up. Sorry.

    Future Trends and needs had already been identified in the plan-
    Page 92:
    Recreation Trends and Needs-
    Although new recreation activities are difficult to forecast, it is reasonable
    to assume that any new trends will involve more, rather than less, use of
    the park. This will no doubt encourage more people to go farther into the
    park, harming natural resources. The most recent recreation trends of
    running and mountain biking have already done that. Additionally, the
    fact that the Portland metropolitan area is growing means that more people will be looking for various kinds of recreation opportunities, especially those found in Forest Park.

    Page 115 already states:
    Recreational and Educational Goals-
    Parks and Recreation has two primary recreational and educational goals:
    1. Protect and enhance the value of Forest Park as a regionallysignificant
    recreational resource–a place that can accommodate recreational and educational use at appropriate seasons of the year
    without environmental damage.
    Page 116:
    In the last 10 years mountain bicycling
    has increased recreational use in the middle of the park. This existing
    gradation of recreational use, and the resulting gradation of user impacts
    should allow different outcomes from the goal balancing process to occur
    within each unit. Prospects for the continuation of this gradation of use are
    What kind of ‘trail’ are bicycles allowed on? Here, we are bunched in with 4 wheel drive vehicles:
    Page 205:
    Graveled fire lanes are maintained to provide access for the Fire Bureau
    during fire season. These fire lanes also provide hiking and biking
    opportunities in the park. In general, fire lanes are the only trails where
    mountain bikes are allowed.
    • Maintain to be passable by 4-wheel drive, 1/4 ton pickups during the months of July, August, September and October.
    Who wants to ride gravelled roads? Not me, but we DO because that is ALL we are allowed to ride on.
    Page 207:
    Bicycle Trails: Cyclists in Forest Park are almost exclusively mountain bikers. They are allowed on the paved roads, most of the fire lanes and on Leif Erikson Drive. One-way trail use is in effect on Holman Lane—uphill bike traffic only.
    • Allow cyclists on all roads and fire lanes with the following exceptions: FL 9 because of steepness; FL 8 because it is a short lane that connects directly to Wildwood Trail where bikes are not
    allowed; FL 5 because there is no good terminus at present—FL 2 and FL 7 due to user conflicts.
    • Trail surface – hard packed dirt or gravel
    • Width – minimum 2.4 meters (8 ft.).
    • Clear trail of vegetation to width of 3.7 meters (12 ft.) and height
    of 3.4 meters (11 ft.).
    • Signs – Install “no bike” signs on the pedestrian trails where bike
    and pedestrian trail cross.
    Even on page 217 they made the following recommendations:
    Accommodate recreation trail activities while causing little or no impact on the park’s natural resources.
    Provide additional foot trail connections between neighborhoods
    and park; provide more recreational trails within the park; provide
    connections between park trails and other regional trail systems outside the park.
    Construct new, extend and improve existing foot, bike and horse trails where desirable; remove unused trails; provide connections to nearby regional trails; construct new connections between
    existing trails to extend usefulness of trails.

    When WAS the last time you saw a horse in the park?

    So, there you go, just about everything that mentions WHY the trails for bicycles are the way they are. Remember this Plan process was intitiated about 1988 and approved in 1995, many years ago. Maybe it needs to be updated to include the kind of trail riding experience a mountain biker would prefer, along with conserving the wildness of the park, which mountainbikers DO enjoy, riding outside, in the woods AWAY from cars.

    We should be able to ‘Ride to where we ride’.

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  • kgb April 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    The bottom line is we don’t need to convince skeptics, the audobon society or FPC. We need to convince a majority of the CITIZENS of the city of PORTLAND and by extension OUR leaders. Everything else is just window dressing. That is because it is OUR park.

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  • kgb April 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    During the dry months I see Horses on a regular basis. They usually enter from Saltzman or Springville.

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  • BTodd April 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    horses should be allowed because everyone has at least one horse in their garage.

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  • f5 April 9, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    kgb: Thanks for words of wisdom. Well said. (As much as I’ve tried, admittedly, changing the opinion the extreme and fringe perspective just isn’t gonna happen.)

    Horses: I’m not going to go there, other than to WISH that we lived in a perfect world where they didn’t leave 8″ deep potholes in the trail as well as mounds of their feces. Talk about having an extreme, disgusting impact on the trails.

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  • wsbob April 9, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    To you that have made efforts to respond to the points I’ve raised about the prospect of singeltrack access for mountain bikes in Forest Park:

    You don’t have to persuade me. I don’t expect anyone to exert their efforts in that direction. I’m not the skeptic you need to be concerned with. I hope that people interested in mountain biking in natural areas will, when presented with a perspective on the subject that differs with their own, think about what it represents to all parties concerned rather than just their own.

    If skeptics at the city hall meeting have been persuaded that single track for mountain bikes in FP is a great idea, then I guess it’s a done deal, correct? In which case, no one here need feel threatened or put off by any contrary view on the subject I or anyone else presents.

    As I’ve said in earlier threads, I think a lot of the question regarding the future possibility of single track in FP has to do with how accessibility to the service this very unique and important park in Portland is supposed to provide people with is interpreted. Right now, accessibility to that service is based on an egalitarian mode of
    transportation: by foot. Everybody that can walk can travel any trail in the park on an equal level. Access to single track by mountain bikes changes that.

    Sure, people on foot can stand aside when people on mountain bikes overtake them, and most will probably do so politely as will most people riding mountain bikes that find themselves approaching people on foot, or other people on bikes. No one though, seems to have thought a lot about just how many times these encounters will occur in this particular park and how that could impact the experience people come to the park to enjoy, now and into the future if mountain bikes are allowed more access to single track there. I think this is something that’s important to consider.

    From comment #35

    (Lacking narrower, packed dirt path accessible to mountain bikes in FP, it’s been suggested that perhaps moderate width (say 7′-9′) trail of that type be designed, built and made accessible to all park visitors including those on their mountain bikes. No mountain biker on this weblog has indicated receptivity to such an idea. There seems to be an insistence that trail type accessible to them be single width. Now that to me sounds as though it could be due to inflexibility and close-mindedness. Hopefully, it’s just due to lack of understanding at present. wsbob)

    That’s fundamentally different that what cyclists seek. Also, doubletrack that you describe already exists. You can’t fairly or logically paint cyclists as narrow minded in this instance. f5

    Why would this type trail not be a reasonable compromise for all FP visitors including people that ride mountain bikes?

    People confined to wheelchairs are the ones that are really getting shorted when it comes to trail accessibility in nature parks.

    Amongst Portland’s parks, Forest Park is extraordinary. Different people want it to be different things.

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  • F5 April 9, 2009 at 11:14 pm


    I’ve never said anything going on at city hall is a done deal.

    Again, your ‘trail proposal’ is fundamentally different than what cyclist seek. Singletrack is different than doubletrack. This has been explained to you at lenght. I’m just taking the bait to reiterrate to you. 7′-9′ wide trails, doubletrack or ‘firelanes’, are what cyclists have access to now. Proposing what already exists is neither new, nor a compromise. You see the circular logic?

    As for the wheelchair comment, I don’t see how this I don’t see how this is suddenly relevant. Your trail proposal for double track doesn’t really address accessibility as people in wheelcharis are rarely seen on the trails in my experience.

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  • Jim Labbe April 10, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Audubon is posturing out of self-imposed necessity. Put yourself in its shoes. The vast majority of its membership has an idealized vision of Forest Park and a paternalistic view of what appropriate uses are. They’re not bad people; they just know what’s best for you.

    I or Audubon are not “posturing.” Nor do we or most of our members hold an “idealized vision of Forest Park” or nature in general. Unlike many other environmental groups, we’ve been a leader urban conservation for over 35 years working to integrate the natural places and natural processes into the urban environment through natural resource conservation, management and environmental restoration/enhancement. That has included actively supporting initiatives to buy land for trails and greenspace for conservation and recreation.

    The user conflicts aside (they are real), there are real natural resource issues with trying increase use on already overused trails never designed for mountain bikes. The increasing use of Forest Park and the flat or declining resources to manage the impacts and conflicts with these increasing recreational pressures is also real. There are also known and unknown impacts of mountain bikes on wildlife and the unique environment of the Tualatin Mountains that warrant a precautionary approach that emphasizes adaptive management.

    Hikers or bikers don’t have the same impacts nor do they always have equal impacts. I’d be happy to discuss these issues here with anyone who is genuinely interested having a conversation. But that issue aside, adding more single-track to Forest Park will increase use, even if we are successful in redirecting some existing inappropriate use.

    My biggest concern is that we continue to add to the recreational impacts to the park without making the investments to properly plan and design for new uses and manage new impacts. We all love Forest Park but we run a real risk of continuing to love it to death.

    Much can be achieve with volunteers but we can’t do it all with volunteers. You need people to coordinate and manage volunteers, you need paid staffing that can consistently manage and monitor use and impacts over time (signage, outreach education, etc), and we clearly need to have the City involved in enforcing the rules that apply to all users and all types of users. While we can do a lot with volunteers, this type of ongoing management is not going to be done with volunteers.


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  • DJ Hurricane April 10, 2009 at 10:38 am

    No, really, Jim, you are just posturing out of self-imposed necessity. If Audubon is so concerned about conservation and habitat preservation, don’t they have better things to do fight mountain bike trails in Forest Park?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 10, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Let’s please be respectful of all opinions.

    Jim Labbe is a daily biker and a very smart and thoughtful guy who is just trying to make sure his perspective on this issue is heard and understood. Let’s please continue to let that happen in a supportive and constructive environment.


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  • Frank Selker April 10, 2009 at 11:01 am


    I believe that by instituting trail sharing we can reduce conflict and we can engage cyclists to increase their support and work for the park. Separate trails may be a good long-term goal, but it would take many years so it cannot be the sole solution.

    I share your desire to see more resources available to care for the park. However, I sense that you would be quicker to direct them toward enforcing the status quo (no cyclists on trails) while I would prefer that they go toward more work removing ivy and working on trails and care. If you want peace, work for justice (sharing), and then you can spend the peace dividend on the park’s health and care.

    At the risk of repeating myself, neither research nor experience elswehere supports vague and awful impacts of bicycling on trails. Similarly, virtually no trails were “designed” for cycling, and that is not an issue in terms of maintenance or suitability. Yes, any trail – with or without use – needs maintenance. If you visit regional shared trails you will see that cyclists do far more than their share of caring for trails. I rode the Wilson River Trail this week and saw evidence of hundreds of hours of work that cyclists have done in the past few months to clear it and improve the tread.

    I think the “love it to death” mantra is misguided – what it needs is MORE love. If you locked out all users for 20 years, you would return to an ivy monoculture. We need engaged constituents ready to help pass bonds, contribute, and work in the park.

    I look forward to working with you and others to find great Portland solutions.

    Frank Selker

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  • DJ Hurricane April 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I apologize if my comment came off as disrespectful. I really question the priorities of Audubon here, as I see many greater threats to habitat and even to Forest Park itself. I feel as though Jim’s statements here show Jim and Audubon have lost perspective on how best to carry out the organization’s mission.

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  • Brian April 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I appreciate your efforts in Forest Park, but I disagree with your opinions on user conflict and impact. I call them opinions as I have yet to see data from Forest Park to support your conclusions. I also believe the way you measure “impact” and “conflict” may be biased as well. For example, hikers are known to cut switchbacks in established hiking trails, an impact mountain bikers never engage in simply because we physically cannot do so. Hikers and runners also tend to walk around water puddles, which leads to widening trails. Mountain bikers ride through the pooled water, and do not widen trails. Based on that I could reasonably conclude that hikers have more impact than mountain bikers who stay on established trails.
    Again, I argue that we are not loving the park enough. The acreage affected by alleged trail impact (by all users) is minute and less destructive in comparison to the acreage affected by invasive plants, for example. Having pulled ivy multiple times, including one day with a group of my middle school students, the ivy is a far more destructive force IMO than anything happening as a result of riding properly constructed trails. The lack of trail management is more harmful to the park than riding properly managed trails.

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  • wsbob April 10, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    F5, after having made my own inquiries I’m well aware of what single track is, from a mountain bike perspective. Simply said, it’s a single width hiking trail that MBkrs have been able to gain access to( excepting of course, single width trail that has built specifically for mountain bike use.). Apparently somewhere during the relatively recent history of the mountain bike, the word ‘singletrack’ was coined to describe this type of appropriated trail.

    To be honest, I haven’t been on Forest Park’s various firelanes, so I can’t personally vouch for how wide they are. If they’re 7′-8′ wide and hard dirt packed, that would seem likely to offer a ride experience closer to what mountain bike riders want than a gravel road. I have been on a short section of Leif Ericson. Didn’t measure it, but that seemed to be a full width road of about 12 feet wide. I can understand that MBkrs would be interested in a road narrower than this as a means of having a closer connection with the nature setting around them. This seems reasonable for a park like Forest Park.

    Somewhere on the parks website, I read that the parks obligation to comply with the citizens disabilities act does not require the park to create wheelchair accessible trail where conditions would make it unreasonable to do so, such as steep terrain. It’s possible though, to engineer trail to deal with obstacles presented by steep terrain, giving it a grade that would be negotiable by people in wheelchairs. One of the great things about this kind of trail is that it’s 7′-8′ wide and everyone can use it, including people on bikes. No one has to stand off trail when one or more bikes need to pass them. There’s enough room on the trail for people on bikes to pass to the side of other trail users.

    One of the things mountain bikes stand to do for Forest Park is make it smaller. Part of the idea behind riding a bike, rather than traveling on foot, is that more ground can be covered in less time. Allowing mountain bikes access to single track doesn’t necessarily mean greater numbers of people on bikes will enter and penetrate further reaches of the park, but the potential is there.

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  • David Anderson April 10, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I can fully appreciate your concerns regarding the impact mountain bikes on trails and the environment in general. I once had those same concerns and even believed that mountain bikes were bad for the trails, the land, the plants and animals. That’s what I was told by people who called themselves environmentalists and I believed them. Even though I am no longer a member of any environmental group I do consider myself an environmentalist since I do care what impact I do have on the environment and take all reasonable precautions to minimize that impact. For reasons I have stated in the past, I took up riding a mountain bike on trails similar to the ones I used to hike on. While riding on those trails I took pains to see what the impact of riding a bike vs hiking might be. Yes, there are differences – but usually not in a negative way! Unless people walk flat footed – an unnatural way of walking – walking wouldn’t have too much impact on a trail. However, people put their heel down with some force and then push off with their toes. That way of moving around does tend to chew the ground up vs a bike tire rolling over the ground.
    I have, in all my rides, never had large mammals run from me – in fact I rarely see large mammals. I see flocks of juncos fly up, but then they would if I were hiking or biking. In short much of the concern over the impact of mountain bikers on wildlife is overblown. I belive that there’s not much, if any, difference between hikers or mountain bikers.
    The only concern of your’s that really holds merit is one of user conflict. If that’s it, then why not support alternate day use on trails? Why not support hiking on even numbered days, and mountain biking on odd numbered days?
    As the population of Portland grows there will be increased pressure on usage of all parks in the urban growth boundary. To limit the number of visitors to Forest Park in, say, 20 years from now what would you suggest? Putting a quota on the number of people inside the park?
    Forest Park, as a habitat, is not unique in western Oregon. It is unique among city parks in it’s size, inside a major city. The park is being slowly suffocated, not from human use, but by the spread of noxious weedy plants, especially ivy. Ivy, and Holly are spread by birds eating the seeds and dropping the seeds at a different location. It’s too bad that birds are helping to suffocate the park. No one seems to be getting upset about birds being an agent of destruction in the park, but mention allowing mountain bikers riding singletrack trails and people go ballistic. A bit ironic isn’t it?

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  • F5 April 10, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Wsbob: Impressive tangents, kudos!

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  • BTodd April 13, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    can we all say yes to mountain bikes, and then go fight mountain top mining in west virginia. no matter what anyone says, bikes are allies of the wild. period. stop being children, and go fight the real enemy. and i guarantee, when your knees give out, you will thank your lucky stars bikes exist to keep you active. i just hope at that moment you will still be allowed to ride in nature.

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  • DJ Hurricane April 13, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you, Btodd!!

    Unfortunately, the Audubon Society and other local ignoramuses are only interested in obstructionist BS!

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  • wsbob April 14, 2009 at 1:46 am

    People have already said ‘yes’ to mountain bikes. The bigger issue here is about a desire on the part of some MBkrs, specifically for single width trail to ride their bikes on, and their belief that FP should be made to accommodate that desire.

    Questions related to whether or not FP should accommodate mountain bikes on that width trail is what I believe most people here are making a sincere effort to understand.

    Forest Park already provides people that ride mountain bikes 26 miles of access on routes through the park that are wider than single width.

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  • matt f April 14, 2009 at 9:37 am


    Wake up to the new reality. There just isn’t enough public dollars for maintaing a park as big as Forest Park (or providing sufficient funding for schools, etc). The *ONLY* way things will get done now and in the future is with volunteers. Forget money, think man hours.

    Please consider this: the only way to improve and maintain the park is to increase the volunteer pool…by increasing the user pool.


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  • peter April 14, 2009 at 10:25 am

    It sure would be nice to see all the statements of good intention from single-track advocates translate into action at Powell Butte where trails are already used and abused by mountain bikers.

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  • f5 April 14, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    calarification: that’s for a future trail work party at powell butte, and not for this last december.

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  • Frank Selker April 14, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I assume that opponents are motivated by the desire to make the best choices too, even if I personally may not find their information and arguments convincing. I think we are better off focusing on the issues and staying respectful of the people. We may never fully agree, but we should try to understand each other.

    It can be frustrating if people on either side are repeating themselves without listening, aren’t responding to evidence or logic, are stalling or avoiding the issues, etc. But I expect that this will be evident to the decision makers – they are smart people with experience cutting through rhetoric to find solutions. Our job is to give them good ideas, good information, and our help, and staying on the high-road of civility makes their job easier.

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  • BTodd April 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm


    powell butte is abused by horses. those 1,500 hundred pound beasts of burden cause as much damage as atv’s and motorcycles. the National Park Service conducted a study in 2008 that verified that mt. bikes and hikers have a similiar impact on trail conditions. bikes belong-this is a bike site.

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  • kgb April 15, 2009 at 8:23 am

    A lot of money is being raised for forest park by cyclists. Instead of funneling all that money into the existing powers overseeing the park why not put it into a trust to be dedicated to be used in the park to support cycling. I love the park and would contribute to multiple organizations but I would contribute the most to a cycling specific fund since that is how I use the park the most. Once such a fund reached a critical mass you would see the other groups bending over backwards to gain access to it.

    With that said I don’t think the point that Frank made in #60 can be emphasized enough. Be an ambassador for your sport, especially in the park.

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  • DJ Hurricane April 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Unfortunately, the main tactic of the environmental community in opposing development projects is simply to create extensive delay and hope project proponents either get frustrated or run out of resources and give up. They do this by introducing false uncertainty, insisting on limitless public imput and process timelines, and asking endless questions about impacts.

    This tactic is obviously being used here. We already know that mtn bikes have a similar level of impact to hikers and that building new trails in FP, if done right, would have minimal impact.

    Yet these people insist on continuing a discussion on these issues as though there is uncertainty. And they’ve been doing it for 20 years with mtn bikes in FP. They’re hoping we’ll give up again. They’re wrong.

    As Sinead O’Connor once said, “Fight the real enemy.” And let me ride the trails in peace.

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  • Frank Selker April 15, 2009 at 10:16 am


    Your idea is pretty much what Universal Cycle has proposed – they want to kick off raising funds (with thier $50,000 over 5 yeears!) that benefit the park overall, but with a particular focus on cycling. For example, this money could be used to improve signage, improve trails for all users including cyclists, perhaps ultimatley build new trails, improve fire lanes, etc. Hopefully the actual fund will be in place soon so that we can contribute to it.


    There are legitimate questions to answer and decisions to make, but I agree that some objections include vague uncertainties and ominous concerns about wildlife and “sustainability” that sound large but don’t stand up to inspection. But if you listen uncritically you find yourself starting to worry about the very future of our planet — then you snap out of it and realize we’re really talking about sharing and improving our great but ailing city park.

    The irony is that every off-road cyclist that I know is an environmentalist, and many (including me) have in the past or currently support Audubon and similar groups, so it is interesting to see these tactics used to keep us off trails.


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  • DJ Hurricane April 15, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Well-said (again), Frank. I agree.

    And this environmentalist and mountain biker no longer contributes to the Audubon Society.

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  • f5 April 15, 2009 at 11:13 am


    To your point about mtbike overuse at Powell Butte: PUMP, the local mountain bike club, hosts monthly trail work parties there.

    Does anyone know if any local hiking/walking/equestrian groups are doing anything similar in terms of volunteer hours?

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  • BTodd April 15, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    what we need are bike only trails. then there will be NO user conflicts. hiker only trails exist, and this is the direction bikes need to go.

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  • wsbob April 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Park users already share routes through the park with mountain bikes. MBkrs would likely gain much greater support for their choice of transportation through the park if they proposed more double width trail that provided for compatible use by people on the trail together, some traveling by foot, some traveling by bike.

    Certain MBkrs insist on single width trail in the park, then, when their demands aren’t met with blind compliance, cast aspersions on loyal, long term supporters of the park. It’s their choice to take that means of working to gain access to single width routes (aka single track) through the park, but I doubt any reasonable person will have much respect for that kind of attitude.

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  • David Anderson April 15, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    wsbob #68.
    Great idea! I hereby propose, and recommend, as a resident of Portland that we convert all trails in Forest Park to doubletrack. That will settle the question as to what is fair and reasonable once and for all! Thanks for the idea!

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  • wsbob April 15, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Yes David, that sounds like the kind of thinking that MBkr’s insisting on access to single width trail in FP would come up with.

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  • BTodd April 15, 2009 at 7:41 pm


    mountain biking is trail riding(singletrack). what would be the harm if certain trails were designated bike only. then, you would know not to go on these trails. this is waht bikes want-bike only trails-no user conflicts. hikers already have there own trails, and we bikers want our own trails.

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  • BTodd April 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    jonathan maus,

    this is your issue. please get involved. we need your help. injustice has existed for far too long. i remember when you went to mt. bike oregon and you sounded more alive than ever. this is important enough to choose a side. if you haven’t noticed, oregon is made up of forests, and this is where bikes belong.

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  • David Anderson April 15, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    wsbob, jim labbe, et al.
    I wasn’t going to say anything more, but…
    Your attitudes are simple. You think mountain bikers should be happy with just riding the double track in Forest Park. Or, you think we shouldn’t be riding there at all.
    There is apparently, according to some sources, some level of agreement between Jim Labbe/Audubon and mountain bikers. So far, I haven’t heard him say where he agrees with mountain bikers, all we’ve have heard is excuses as to what needs to be done, or reasons to delay allowing mountain bikers ride on singletrack. Jim says he wants a serious discussion with mountain bikers. OK Jim, where do we agree? Let’s start there. Can you state where you think we agree? Let’s find some common ground.

    I quote you: “MBkrs would likely gain much greater support for their choice of transportation through the park if they proposed more double width trail…”
    Excuse me, but I don’t want more double width trail in Forest Park. But you are the one who suggested that. Not me. That’s where I came up with the idea of turning all trails in to double track. It’s kind of a King Solomon kind of compromise. BTodd, and others have suggest having trails designated only for mountain bikers, like hikers have their own exclusive use trails. What is wrong with that idea? Anything? What is wrong with the idea of alternate use days? Anything? If you had to pick first option or second option which would you pick? And could you live with it? Would you, as a hiker, be happy with being relegated to hiking only on double track? I doubt it, you’d be yelling louder than you are now about mountain bikers wanting to be able to ride on singletrack.

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  • BTodd April 15, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    bikers need there own trails. problem solved. now let us fight those who desire to develope every square inch of land available. i love to hike, and i love to bike, and i love music. anything wrong with that.

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  • wsbob April 16, 2009 at 1:22 am

    “Would you, as a hiker, be happy with being relegated to hiking only on double track? I doubt it, you’d be yelling louder than you are now about mountain bikers wanting to be able to ride on singletrack.” David Anderson #73

    David, I wouldn’t be yelling. I’d be glad to get it if it was in a park not particularly designated for my ‘on foot’ mode of transportation, and that I felt really had something important for me to experience.

    If double width trail was the only trail width available to people on foot due to a recognized importance associated with providing trail that both people on foot and people on mountain bikes could use comfortably, I’d be glad for the opportunity to walk it if it meant that this was the way I could experience what the park had to offer. If biking was the standard accepted mode of transportation in FP, if I wanted to visit the park, I’d take what was available to people on foot or get a bike.

    This gets back to the basics of what nature parks such as Forest Park are established for. People disagree about what such parks are designated for when a mode of transportation other than by foot is requested. Near as I can tell, the standard mode of travel they tend to be designed for is by foot. That’s because nature that the park offers is the focus of such parks.

    Trail that represents the least amount of intrusion to the park, it’s flora, fauna, and visitors is the logical type. Is there any question that walking single width trail on foot is the least intrusive mode of transportation in such a park? And the most accessible mode of transportation? Almost everyone has shoes and can easily transport them.

    Same doesn’t apply to mountain bikes. The opportunity that nature parks offer people to move on their own power without the assist of a car or other other type of vehicle or the intrusion of them is one of the most compelling attributes of nature parks for people overwhelmed by a mechanized world. It’s one of the reasons such parks continue to be important to people.

    Mountain biking has become popular, so people feel the need for a readily accessible place to ride them. They’re capable of traveling very fast and covering a lot of ground in a lot less time than people on foot do, so, MBkrs look enviously on FP for the sheer size of its 5000 acres. It’s not a surprise that they want the question of what mode of transportation is appropriate for a park such as FP to be reconsidered.

    People on foot don’t need double width trail. I’ve walked on packed earth double width trail before. Nothing wrong with it really. Like any good trail, it can be nice to walk on if well built. As an accommodation to people that wanted to ride their bikes more places in the park, I’d support construction of more double width trail with them in mind. People in wheelchairs too; they’re a group that really should be considered first in regards to questions of any new trail to be built.

    If there is overwhelming demand from the general public for mountain bike access to single width trail in nature parks, including FP, it’s likely to be provided. If as seems to be the case, that demand or insistence comes from a relatively small but determined number of mountain bike enthusiasts, resistance from the general public will most likely, rightfully turn them down. Is there a reason that MBkrs should receive special consideration in this situation?

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  • f5 April 16, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I think it would behoove us all to leave the trail design concepts to the experts. We could propose double track trails and slap odd names on them until we’re blue in the face, but the likelihood that there would be any support at all by any interested group for adding double track to forest park is little to none.

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  • David Anderson April 16, 2009 at 8:56 am

    It is not a question of ‘special rights’ for mountain bikers. Because it is hikers who demand special rights by having places to themselves, be it Forest Park or designated Wilderness Areas. The same argument is used in other areas when the majority charge the minority wanting ‘special’ rights when the majority doesn’t want to let the minority share equal rights.
    As I have said in the past I have had a greater impact on birds when I was an active birder and moved slowly thru an area. In fact it could be argued that people on mountain bikes, because they move quicker thru an area than do people on foot, have less of an impact on the nearby fauna. Again the ideas that people riding mountain bikes having a greater impact (and I’m assuming you mean ‘negative’ impact) on wildlife than hikers is not valid. I don’t see it on my rides, and I am conscious of the birds, animals and flora around me. So, no, I do not agree with your assumption that hikers have less of an impact on the flora or fauna, or trails, than mountain bikers. With all due respect it is about the same.
    So, then I guess the best solution to the issue is to have specific singlewidth trails for hikers and specific singlewidth trails for bikers, or alternating use days, with the extra day in the week for shared use. Now, let’s move forward and decide which method we are going to apply to FP and quit bickering about minutia! Alright?!

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  • David Anderson April 16, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I hope you and everyone else knows that I do not support turning any trail in FP in to doubletrack. I’m sorry I let my sarcasm get the best of me last night.

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  • Jim Labbe April 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    David Anderson

    I would not have participated in the Forest Park Conservancy White Paper Committee on single-track expansion over the last year if I was not interested in doing new single track in Forest Park right. The Committee has included PUMP and IMBA representatives and other riders and has largely been a positive experience. We have discussed the issues and opportunities for finding “common ground” including specific alignments for potential single-track expansion in Forest Park.

    I can assure you it’s been much more rewarding than enduring the caustic slander and innuendo on this blog! But it has certainly done a lot more to move things forward.


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  • Matt January 1, 2010 at 5:35 am

    I am quite amazed on how some people on this blog treat recreational choice as if it is some sort of human right. Please stop and listen to yourself. No one has a right to anything based on their choice of recreation. No one is excluded from Forest Park. It is bikes that are appropriately limited and managed for safety and environmental protection, not a particular group of people defined by race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. This discussion is akin to the lazy, divisiveness that creates the ridiculous bikes vs. cars debate… as if people’s transportation choice is inherent to their nature. “Rights” to recreate is even less relevant in the mountain bikers vs. hikers silliness and in this case the more vulnerable user is not on a bike.

    Which brings up another curious aspect of some of the comments here. What has happened to the principle- widely embraced by the bike community- of yielding to the more vulnerable user?

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  • Frank Selker January 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm


    Nice to see that people are still reading this. Cool – and happy new year.

    I dont know if “rights” is the ideal word so I’ll put it differently – our parks are publicly owned facilities with the purpose of serving (you guessed it) the public. I think Portland Parks has done a great job of this, continually working to care for the resources while also meeting demand and interests with evolving facilities and uses. Skate board parks are a nice example. No one user group (e.g., hikers or bikers) has exclusive “rights” – the goal is to serve many and diverse users well while preserving the resources. That is all we are asking for.

    When bikes share trail (but not at the same time) there is no threat to users or the park. This has been demonstrated in many places. So the question really is, are existing users willing to give up any access (they now have 100% of trails 100% of time) to give bikes a little access to trails (we only ask for a little).


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