Ride will help land use activists ‘Save Helvetia’

Rural roads like this one could
be developed for industrial use.
(Photo: Kevin Van Dyke)

Beaverton resident, race promoter, and bike advocate Kris Schamp has joined a grassroots effort to save 34,000 acres of rural farmland from industrial and residential development in Washington County.

Schamp, owner of Portland Racing and communications director of Northwest Trail Alliance, has organized the “Save Helvetia! Bike Ride” that will take place this Saturday (9/5).

Save Helvetia is a coalition of community members working to influence a major land use decision that would impact popular biking roads west of Portland around the small farming towns of North Plains, Helvetia, and others.

Areas shaded orange are proposed as Urban Reserves. View full map at SaveHelvetia.org.

“I kind of feel connected to the land out there, so it feels good when I know the produce I’m eating was grown right there in a field I ride by all the time.”
— Erik Voldengen

According to Save Helvetia volunteer Cherry Amabisca, the City of Hillsboro and Washington County are requesting 34,000 acres of existing agricultural land be put into “Urban Reserves”. The proposal is part of a process being undertaken by Metro (along with Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas County), to designate areas outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) as either Urban or Rural Reserves.

Lands put into Urban Reserves will be candidates for expansion of the UGB in coming decades and Rural Reserves will remain set aside for agriculture well into the future. (Learn more about the Urban/Rural Reserves process on Metro’s website.)

Amabisca says the 34,000 acre request amounts to 25% of all available farmland in Washington County.

“The countryside you enjoy cycling through will be replaced with industrial complexes and housing densities of 10 to an acre. You will no longer have close-in country roads to enjoy and to get to them you will be riding through urban and suburban areas, with the associated traffic issues.”

Schamp is not just trying to save this area for great bike riding, he also knows several of the farmers in the area and says they’re strongly opposed to the plan. “They prefer to continue farming and preserve this rural area for future generations.” About the impact to people who ride in the area, Schamp says, “The scenic/pastoral landscape and hillside roads make this area a great destination for recreational rides, with the added bonus that it is within riding distance of downtown Portland.”

Schamp hopes his ride will raise awareness and garner support for Save Helvetia’s proposal — which is to designate all the land north of Highway 26 as Rural Reserves. The ride will stop at farms and several scenic viewpoints along the way.

NW Philips and Helvetia Road.
(Photo: Kris Schamp)

Portland-based web developer Erik Voldengen has been riding in the area for many years, including one spot he knows as “proposal point” because of two friends who got engaged there. Voldengen told BikePortland that he not only rides in the area, but also buys produce and milk from the farms. “I kind of feel connected to the land out there, so it feels good when I know the produce I’m eating was grown right there in a field I ride by all the time.”

Washington County held a public hearing on August 20th but opportunities remain for community input. Metro will hold a hearing in September and the final decision will be made in November. More on public involvement opportunities here.

Full details on the ride here.

For more on this issue, read coverage in The Oregonian and visit SaveHelvetia.org

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Notify of

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 years ago

this is a really important cause and all should come out if possible.

defending the urban growth boundary as well as setting aside areas that cannot be developed not only impacts the areas of development directly but reverberates throughout the metro area and region. more urban sprawl promotes bigger highways, more traffic, and less opportunities for public transportation not to mention lesser ability to bike between places.

having farmland so close to our urban area is critical. any future development must utilize smart planning and reuse of existing sites whenever possible.

i could go on and on. point being that this ride is a great idea. this issue affects us all no matter where you live around portland.

14 years ago

I feel like we’re at a turning point in society where farming is gaining a lot of respect. If we can just hold off the major rezoning for a few more years, I don’t think it will be as hard an argument.

Daniel Ronan
14 years ago

This is a great way for activists to come together! Congrats to the organizers of the event. I would add that I’d love to see something of this nature for Hayden Island as well. The Port up there wants to use one of the most pristine habitats for Northwest plant and animal life for more Port space.

Perhaps we could have many “conservation rides” across the region? We could have them right around earth day next april to bring awareness to land conservation issues in the metro area. I know this idea doesn’t help for the issue at hand, but just a thought nonetheless.

14 years ago

Looks to be a fun…as well as informative ride…stops at CSA farms….bar-b-que afterwords…easy route’s passing right by the Helvetia Tavern… .

The ‘Save Helvetia Ride’ and the activist organizations website seem as though they could be two very helpful tools for people that are interesting in gaining a better understanding of how the regions’ agricultural and other undeveloped lands have been systematically converted to development use.

There’ll be two different route options. The more difficult of the two routes will show examples of beautiful, open land, but also, will pass through Bethany, an example of land that was until 10-15 years ago, sweeping, open farmland, woodland and wetlands.

In the article above, Maus provided a link to Metro’s Urban-Rural reserves process. The following is a link to Save Helvetia’s page on the process that I found to be a little easier to read:

Save Helvetia reserves process

The Oregonian has had some interesting stories recently on the Helvetia land use issue. Here’s one about an email campaign that Save Helvetia conducted recently, and what Hillsboro’s city council and planning dept has done with the results:

O story-Hillsboro study of Save Helvetia e-mail campaign reveals loci of support-Susan Gordanier

15-20 years ago, Washington County worked out an effective strategy to attract ‘non-polluting’ industry to it’s area: lots of land made available to corporations at a very reasonable, competitive price. Those corporations took advantage of the offer and used the land luxuriously with the construction of many single level offices, factories and parking lots. That might have been a good idea then, but isn’t such a good idea anymore.

Sure, it costs more to do it, but if more room to build is needed, maybe now is the time to persuade those corporations to build up…using their air space for new construction, rather than cover up more open land already filling a vital need of residents and visitors to the Helvetia area.