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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.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Paul Tay
Guest

Did everyone score bike parking at City Hall?

Scott Mizée
Guest

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.

kgb
Guest
kgb

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.

gabriel amadeus
Guest

Nice article, thanks!

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

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.

Will
Guest
Will

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.

chuck
Guest
chuck

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.

Dave
Guest

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.

metal cowboy
Guest

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.

hemp22
Guest
hemp22

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.

spotter
Guest
spotter

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.

brian
Guest
brian

it is not difficult. bikes get the odd days.

gabriel amadeus
Guest

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

Tom Miller
Guest
Tom Miller

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.

Blah Blah Blah
Guest
Blah Blah Blah

I agree Gabriel, how hard can this be.

There has to be some common ground here.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

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.

Sean
Guest
Sean

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.

brian
Guest
brian

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

Dave
Guest

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.

Erik
Guest
Erik

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

toowacky
Guest
toowacky

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!

daalan
Guest
daalan

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.

blah blah blah
Guest
blah blah blah

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.

hiker
Guest
hiker

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.

brian
Guest
brian

hiker,

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.

Friend of Forest Park
Guest
Friend of Forest Park

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.

Andre Pinter
Guest
Andre Pinter

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.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“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.

matt f
Guest
matt f

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

BTodd
Guest
BTodd

wsbob,

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

f5
Guest
f5

wsbob-

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.

Jill
Guest
Jill

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.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…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.

David A
Guest
David A

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.

WSbob:
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.

f5
Guest
f5

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
Guest
RWL1776

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
Plan:

“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
http://www.sccgov.org/channel/0,4770,chid%253D16556%2526sid%253D12761,00.htm
l
…………….

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?

RWL1776
Guest
RWL1776

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
good.
……..
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.
Guidelines:
• 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.
Guidelines:
• 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.
Standards:
• 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:
RT – RECREATION TRAIL PROJECTS
Goal:
Accommodate recreation trail activities while causing little or no impact on the park’s natural resources.
Objectives:
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.
Recommendations:
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’.

kgb
Guest
kgb

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.

kgb
Guest
kgb

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

BTodd
Guest
BTodd

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

f5
Guest
f5

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.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

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.

F5
Guest
F5

Wsbob:

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.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

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.

Jim

DJ Hurricane
Guest
DJ Hurricane

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?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

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.

thanks.

Frank Selker
Guest
Frank Selker

Jim,

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

DJ Hurricane
Guest
DJ Hurricane

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.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Jim,
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.
Cheers,
Brian