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MTB riding area near Portland closed due to fire danger: Advocates urge compliance

Posted by on August 5th, 2009 at 9:57 am

Riding in Scappoose is in jeopardy
if fire closures are not honored.
(Photo: jordan_n22/Flickr)

A popular mountain bike trail riding area in Scappoose, a town just 20 miles north of Portland, has been closed due to high fire season brought on by recent record-setting heat. The closure affects hundreds of thousands of acres of private forest land in Oregon and Washington and the timber company that owns the land is threatening to make the closure permanent if the violations of the closure continue.

The trail network in Scappoose (Google Map) offers close singletrack riding opportunities for Portlanders and the area has increased in popularity in recent years.

“This is not public property and is not subject to public hearings or debate on how the land is used. It is strictly up to the landowner to decide who, how, and when their property is used.”
— The Northwest Trail Alliance

Local mountain bike advocacy group, The Northwest Trail Alliance (formerly known as PUMP), is spreading the word and urging riders to obey the closure. The NWTA has released a statement on their website saying they’ve been contacted by the timber company that owns the land — Longview Timberlands — that they have had violations of the posted fire closure signs.

Longview Timberlands has warned the NWTA that they have notified law enforcement officials and citations will be issued. More importantly however, is a direct threat from the logging company that if the closure violations continue, they will permanently close off access to their land currently open for public use. That’s 332,000 acres in Oregon and 321,000 in Washington that includes mountain biking trails in Scappoose, Longview, and Castle Rock.

Here’s more from the NWTA:

“Everyone needs to keep in mind that access to Longview Fibre property is a privilege granted by the landowners. This is not public property and is not subject to public hearings or debate on how the land is used. It is strictly up to the landowner to decide who, how, and when their property is used.”

More info and latest updates on the closure are available at NW-Trail.org.

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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

14 Comments
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    Paul August 5, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Still trying to figure this one out since bikes don’t exactly emit sparks. Interesting, thanks!

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    Rex August 5, 2009 at 10:40 am

    This is total crap

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    Brian August 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Paul,

    Please just say “Yes Sir!” and ride somewhere else.

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    bahueh August 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Paul…its not tough..closed is closed. its their propoerty, they don’t want people on it. after it rains, it’ll be opened back up..unless people can’t refrain…

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    buglas August 5, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Is there a handy way for people to check closure status before arriving, after a twenty mile trip, at a closed gate with a sign affixed? I’m guessing that the frustration of a potentially wasted trip is motivating at least some of those who violate this temporary closure.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 5, 2009 at 10:57 am

    This situation is complicated for advocates. The Scappoose riding isn’t really something the timber companies want everyone to know about.. after all, it’s their land and they don’t want to be responsible for maintaining it, putting up signage, and worrying about legal exposure is someone gets hurt…. HOWEVER, now they want advocates to spread the word and make sure no one disobeys to closure.. .sort of a conundrum that speaks to the need for a more formal situation to be made between trail advocates and the timber company.

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    wayne naillon August 5, 2009 at 10:59 am

    A huge investment of PUMP members volunteer time went into building and maintaining the trails in Scapoose. John Joy has worked tirelessly to keep a positive relationship with the landowner. If the landowner wants to close it down for a while, so be it. That landowner has been really good to mtn bikers in Portland; providing great riding opportunitues very close by.

    Wayne Naillon PUMP/NWTA member

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    Bjorn August 5, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Some users smoke, some users use firearms on the land, both of these activities have the potential to start a fire. It is a lot easier to close the forest to all uses than to try to parse it out. A fire would cause massive damage to their timber. I’m not pumped it is closed but there are other trails that are open, please respect the closure until they reopen.

    I agree that the main thing that needs to happen is to get the word out. The trail alliance website is a good place to check for trail status both on fire closures and things being way too wet to ride. Many thanks to Jonathan for posting a story as well.

    Bjorn

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    Anonymous August 5, 2009 at 11:01 am

    So now that the trails have dried out enough to ride (& not be damaged)they’re shut down until the November rains.

    It appears that Longview Fibre along with Weyerhauser have closed down all their property to public access, not just to bikes.

    While I will abide by the closure, I believe that it once more opens the debate about vast tracts of our country being privately owned by the resource extraction companies and public right of way.

    Especially in light of (questionably) detailed thought given by by the liability minded company bureaucracies/legal departments. It is safer just to close it off, but these things have a tendency to appear as the thin end of the wedge to me.

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    Bjorn August 5, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Scappoose has excellent drainage, I think my first trip out there this year was late March/April and other than a couple of puddles things were fine, so it isn’t really like the trails have only been open for a couple of weeks.

    That said I agree that US public right of way is quite limiting. I was amazed to find out while visiting Norway that if you own land outside of a city you do not have the right to prevent others from accessing it. My family owns a small cabin in the mountains and people can walk right through their yard on the way to the lake.

    Unfortunately due to a lot of hunting by tourists from other countries they were starting to consider becoming more restrictive.

    Bjorn

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    redhippie August 5, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    To Anonymous,

    There is a great organization called the Nature Conservency. They buy up land to provide natural protection and often, public access. You should consider a donation to help further you goals of universal ownership.

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    sswannabe August 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    This has been an almost annual occurrence on Weyerhausers other properties in Longview and Castle Rock and first I’ve known of at Scappoose so please be respectful before they cut us off permanently.

    I’ve been riding all three areas for years and the property owners have been super supportive and cool to us and hate to ruin a good thing.

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    CAPS August 5, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    this temporary closure should serve as a wake up call to users who feel entitled to this land (for example the past illegal trail builders up there). the reality of loosing this access is real.

    just to get my pedal on today on a quick jaunt up Leif Erickson and i have never seen so many cyclists there at 11am on a Wednesday. it would be pretty sad if that was once again our only local option.

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    buglas August 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    @Paul and any others who may be interested – while it’s enough to say that it’s private property so Longview Timberlands gets the final say, a little understanding is always good.
    I grew up in timber country near Roseburg. No fewer than five of my high school classmates have died fighting forest fires over the last thirty years. Part of why they went where they were and stayed as long as they did was to make sure everybody got out. Bikes don’t emit sparks. But cyclists can die from somebody else’s fire.
    With respect – buglas

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