Fish’s office, Mayor Adams’ Chief
of Staff Tom Miller, and Steve Bryant
from Oregon Solutions.
(Photos © J. Maus)
Over 120 people packed into the Gateway Elks Lodge last night to learn about the Gateway Green project — and many of them were elected officials or high-level agency or city staffers.
The open house event was a bit short on substance (especially for anyone who’s been following our coverage here on BikePortland), but the big news of the night was how many notables lined up to throw their support behind the project.
Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz were there, as was Mayor Sam Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller and his transportation policy director Catherine Ciarlo. Metro Councilors Rex Burkholder (the Gateway Green land is in his district) and Robert Liberty (the
city of Gateway Regional Center is in his) were also in attendance.
Before any electeds stepped up to the mic, the Bicycle Concept Plan was presented by Jill Van Winkle from the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Chris Bernhardt, a natural surface trails expert with Alta Planning.
vision, Ted Gilbert.
The plan outlined the main goals of the project, one of them being “To create a world-class bike facility”. Also in the plan were assumptions about how many people might use the park once it’s open. Bernhardt referred to a 2006 study by the Outdoor Industry Association that reported 22.6% of the U.S. population had ridden a bike on off-road trails in the past year. From that number, Bernhardt said he believes “there are tens of thousands of mountain bikers in the Portland area.”
Also according to Bernhardt, the number of projected annual visits to Gateway Green would be 424,000 people. “We’re not aware,” Bernhardt said, “of any facility in the world that has this type of potential.”
The potential of Gateway Green has also attracted the interest of Steve Bryant from Oregon Solutions (OS). Oregon Solutions is an organization that grew out of Oregon’s Sustainability Act of 2001. The group could play a major role in moving Gateway Green forward. Projects designated by Oregon Solutions are then officially recommended to the Governor as having a special priority for the state.
If Oregon Solutions designates the project (they look for projects that have a big sustainability component and that bring communities together), they would help with a major piece of the puzzle by bringing the various agencies (ODOT, Metro, City of Portland, etc…) together to create a binding “Declaration of Cooperation.”
At the moment, ODOT owns the land, and the major hurdle (besides cash) in getting this project to move forward is to have ODOT agree to transfer the maintenance, operations and liability responsibilities of the 35 acre parcel over to someone else.
director Catherine Ciarlo learns more
about the project.
“The challenge,” Bryant said, “is to identify a lead agency to enter negotiations with ODOT.” Bryant also added that Oregon Solutions would only recommend a project that they think, “has a reasonable chance of success.” Does Gateway Green? Yes. “This project hits a lot of buttons for us,” he said.
In his remarks about the project, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish said one of the reasons he supports this “compelling vision” is because there is “tremendous demand for off-road cycling in Portland.”
Fish remarked that while “many hurdles remain” for the project, the fact that so many citizens and elected officials showed up to the open house, “bodes well for the project.”
“Put the pressure on us, it needs to happen.”
— Tom Miller, Chief of Staff for Mayor Sam Adams
Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder called Gateway Green a potential “pearl on the string”, a description that Metro uses to describe regional trails with points of interest along the way. He spoke about the importance of connecting this project with the future Sullivan’s Gulch Trail (which is only in the planning stages at this point).
Burkholder also mentioned his enthusiasm for a wildlife corridor from the Gateway Green parcel west to Rocky Butte via a land bridge over I-205. (It struck me that Burkholder would put his political weight behind a wildlife bridge, while at the same time advocating for a controversial new I-5 bridge that is decried by many concerned about the environment).
Mayor Adams’ Chief of Staff Tom Miller was more excited than anyone else in the room (except for project founder Ted Gilbert). Miller said that “this is an amazing concept” and he noted that the one thing Portland got “dinged on” in our application for Platinum status with the League of American Bicyclists was our lack of off-road riding opportunities. Miller mentioned the I-5 Colonnade project, an urban skills park created under I-5 overpasses in Seattle, and said, “this vision blows doors off anything in Seattle”.
Miller urged everyone in the room to “put the pressure on us,” and added, “It needs to happen.”
good sign for the project.
(It’s important to note that Tom Miller (who also was instrumental in getting skateboard parks built throughout Portland) was a very early proponent of this project and helped bring together many of the stakeholders that are now leading the project.)
The long list of notables in the room was a clear sign that the Gateway Green project is gaining momentum. But while a well-attended open house is exciting for the projects backers, attendees of last night’s event were also faced with the realities of the bureaucratic process. When asked about setting firm dates for decisions and next steps by someone in the crowd, Chair of the Friends of Gateway Green, Linda Robinson, said the process requires “a combination of patience and persistence” and that they’ve “made amazing progress” thus far.
At this point, there’s a lot of vocal support for the project, but no commitments (financial or otherwise). Ted Gilbert, the developer who dreamed up this project, says he’s formed a task force to work on an “inter-governmental agreement” to facilitate the transfer from ODOT and to find public and private funding resources to move things forward.
A big part of the land transfer will be a decision about who will assume responsibility for the ongoing maintenance and operations of Gateway Green. ODOT doesn’t want that responsibility, or the price tag that comes with it. Gilbert says they’ve been a very willing partner, but they’ve made no promises.
The Oregon Solutions possibility is very promising. If they recommend Gateway Green to Governor Kulongoski, things could suddenly move much more quickly.
We’ll keep you posted.