PDC says BMX facility near Burnside Bridge is a no go

The vacant lot at E Burnside
and 2nd that is slated
for an “interim site use” by
the PDC.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Advocates for a pump track and bike riding facility on a vacant lot adjacent to the Burnside Bridge are a bit miffed now that their idea has been scuttled by the Portland Development Commission (PDC).

There are several vacant parcels of land north of the bridge that are in line to be developed as part of the PDC’s Burnside Bridgehead project. While the project itself languishes for various reasons, there is an opportunity for a host of “interim site uses”. One of the interim uses under consideration was a bicycle pump track and skills area.

Back in February, the Portland Business Journal made it seem like a done deal when they reported that, “In the short-term, the site will be put to temporary use as a parking lot and bicycle motocross park.”

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I followed up with the PDC a few days later and found that it wasn’t quite in the bag. Project manager for the PDC Trang Lam, stopped short of confirming the plans but told me she liked the idea and thought it might be a good fit.

“Unfortunately the description is not accurate and we are afraid this characterization could also be very damaging.”
— Will Heiberg, on a quote by a PDC staffer about his bike park idea

Meanwhile, citizen advocates David Reese and Will Heiberg — who are working to find more spaces for BMX and bike skills areas in close-in neighborhoods — had been in communication with the Portland Parks Bureau about the site. When I followed up with Heiberg about the status of those communications, he said the Parks Bureau told him to sit back and let them handle future negotiations and discussions with the PDC.

Fast forward to an article in the Daily Journal of Commerce published on Monday (4/27) and now it seems like those discussions didn’t go quite as planned.

The DJC reported that the PDC evaluated a proposal for a “BMX bike facility for kids, but passed on the idea”. PDC project coordinator Geraldine Moyle told the DJC that “the thought of kids performing death-defying stunts on tricked-out bicycles near a construction site did not sit well.”

That quote comes as a shock to Heiberg and Reese. First, they feel it is an incorrect characterization of their proposal and second, they never said the facility would only be for kids.

“I think some wires got crossed on that one,” Heiberg said via telephone today. He feels like Moyles’ quote is inaccurate and that the characterization “could also be very damaging” to their future efforts.

Heiberg said their goal with the space was to “give people of all ages and abilities a fun and controlled environment to develop bike handling skills and gain confidence.”

Trang Lam is the PDC’s project coordinator for the interim site use. She said they decided against the kids bike skills facility because it would be right across the street from a future construction site. “It’s not a good use at this time,” she said, “we wouldn’t have any interim site uses that would bring kids to that area.”

When I asked her where she got the notion that the site would only be for kids, she said that’s all that the Parks Bureau presented to them. Lam also said that she feels the site is too small to accomodate adult riders.

Heiberg disagrees. “It’s absolutely big enough,” he says.

In the end, Heiberg said he appreciates the opportunity to work with Parks and the PDC (both of whom say they are actively looking for other sites where a bike park might fit) and he looks forward to dispelling any “mis-conceptions with the PDC and other Portland agencies” in the future.

— Learn more about pump tracks and watch a video of one in action in our previous story.

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