Ruckus Warehouse Sale

A first for Forest Park singletrack plans: Opposition

Posted by on October 28th, 2009 at 5:08 pm

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour

Former Parks Bureau staffer
Gregg Everheart enjoys a rare piece of
Forest Park single track.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Ever since citizen activist Frank Selker launched his grassroots campaign to garner support for more bicycle access in Forest Park, progress has followed at a steady clip.

The community responded quickly, business support followed, and even City Commissioner Nick Fish added his support to the effort. But all along, even as momentum and the coalition of advocacy grew around the issue, opposition simmered under the lid. Now, with the formation of an official Parks Bureau committee to look into how increased bike access will play out, those opposing voices are being heard.

Marcy Houle, a member of the Forest Park Single Track Cycling Advisory Committee recently circulated a six-page letter to “All Who Care About Forest Park”. In the letter (download below), Houle — an author who has written a book about Forest Park — warns that the “lovingly and carefully stewarded” park we all know and love will “transform irrevocably” if “cycling enthusiasts” get their way.

Here’s an excerpt from Houle’s letter:

“A proposal from cycling enthusiasts to greatly increase the amount of biking routes in Forest Park is currently being highly promoted citywide. Unknown by most park users, mountain biking advocates are rapidly gaining momentum, funding, and political clout. The bike industry is heavily pushing for singletrack trails in Forest Park to make a ‘world class singletrack in our backyard’.”

In her letter, Houle states she’s concerned that more bikes in the park would result in erosion, damage to the parks “ecological health”, and an increase in near-misses between people riding bikes and people on foot. The most serious issue for Houle — and the one that is likely to cause the most consternation in the minds of bike advocates and Commissioner Fish — is that an increase in mountain biking in Forest Park runs afoul of the Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan which was adopted in 1995.

Houle’s opposition caught the attention of The Oregonian, who published an article saying talks of new bike access had reached an “impasse” and that, by supporting the idea, Commissioner Fish had “stepped into a public tempest”.

Off-road trails roundtable discussion-104

Tom Archer.

But Tom Archer, the advocacy director for Northwest Trail Alliance and also a member of the Parks Committee, says Houle missed the first two Committee meetings and came to the third without fully understanding what was being proposed. When she did hear the ideas on the table she was “obviously distressed with the charge of the group.” Archer said he and others tried to reach out to her to explain the proposal but that “she didn’t want to talk with us.”

Archer, and other bike advocates who have been working with Parks on this issue for years, say the Parks Committee was formed to find out how best to move forward with increased bike access (by summer 2010), not if it should happen at all.

“[Commissioner Fish] started to play with the park before reading the instructions. When I met him 2-3 weeks ago he hadn’t even read it.”
— Les Blaize

Another person on the Parks Committee who has been vocally opposing the idea is Les Blaize, a 30-year veteran of Forest Park advocacy who owns land adjacent to it and who represents Neighbors West/Northwest, a coalition of 13 neighborhoods in the area.

In a phone call today about the issue, Blaize summed up his feelings like this: “I’m not against access for bikes, I’m for health of the park with respect to all user groups. I’m a steward of this park. A steward considers the health of the park first, and secondly a steward has to be prepared to give up what they want for the park.”

Gateway Green Kick the Dirt event-27

Frank Selker.

Blaize maintains that nobody is excluded from trails in the park “only their form of transportation”. Bikes can ride on 30 miles of roads, he points out, and “they can walk theirs bikes” on the trails if they want to.

Blaize is critical of Commissioner Fish’s support of the idea, saying “He [Fish] started to play with the park before reading the instructions. When I met him 2-3 weeks ago he hadn’t even read it.”

Blaize feels that the issue isn’t about bikes, it’s about being true to the park’s management plan (a.k.a. “instructions”).

The Forest Park Management Plan does not specifically prohibit bicycles (they’re currently allowed, but only on wide, fire lane roads, with the exception of a 1/3 mile section of new singletrack), and it actually encourages their use and leaves the possibility open for expansion of bike acccess. However, the plan does warn against overuse. From Page 84 of the plan:

“One of the first steps is to either determine how much recreational use can be accommodated without any adverse effects or to determine the amount of deterioration that is acceptable. This is done through observation, research, baseline inventories of vegetation and wildlife habitat, consultation with experts and periodic monitoring of the resources.”

According to Blaize, “Instead of looking for ways to follow the plan, we’re looking for ways to go around the plan, that doesn’t make sense. That’s not the stewardly thing to do.”

But Frank Sekler objects to the notion that he or other bike advocates are looking to circumvent the plan. In a letter to Commissioner Fish refuting claims made by Houle (download it below), he wrote:

“Nobody is proposing anything that is in opposition to the 1995 Management Plan. The plan specifically places a priority on recreational uses, specifically supports cycling and adding cycling opportunities, and specifically calls for partnerships that bring private funds to bear on the Parks needs. Nobody has questioned whether Parks and the city will follow the legal rules and procedures – of course they will.”

The plan also says major usage increases — by any user group — must be accompanied by surveys and extensive monitoring.

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour

Blaize and Houle are opposed to increased bike access on the grounds that not enough data exists yet about the health of the park and how more bike access would impact it. Since 1996, the amount of people hiking and running in the park has increased dramatically. However, no such survey, monitoring, or baseline studies have ever been for those uses.

Does Blaize then think that there should be caps or prohibitions on the number of people walking and running in the park? “Sure. Eventually… It’s specifically in the plan. If you find a resource is being negatively impacted.”

But, since there’s not budget to do such surveys, the argument quickly becomes circular.

Several times during our conversation Blaize referred to a “hurdle” of increasing bike access being that “one user group can’t take anything away from another user group.”

Frank Selker, says that’s precisely the wrong attitude. “It’s about sharing” says Selker. “Currently walkers have access to every inch of trails in Forest Park while cyclists have access to less than a mile of true trail.”

Blaize says everyone should just be content with what they have. “I’m content, why can’t everyone be content with what they have.” I reminded Blaize that he’s likely content because he can hike and walk on every trail in the park — a luxury not afforded to people on bicycles.

“If we were talking about how there was no access at all you’d have some legs… But your legs are dwindled because you do have access [referring to the fire road access].”

On the topic of sharing existing trails (which is sure to be a heated discussion before this is all done), Blaize worries that that concept would turn Forest Park “into a theme park”:

“Just imagine if we took all the trails and shared them [which is nowhere near what’s being proposed]. Linnnton would have hotels, people would come from all over to ride. It would blow the park away! The use would be incredible because it would be a glorious experience. But, it would decimate the park because of the amount of usage increase.

Until the science is done, I feel that anything that dramatically increases use will have a detrimental effect on the park.”

Blaize thinks a way forward is to convert some existing fire lanes into narrower single-track style trails. Some bike advocates also like that idea, but warn it’s difficult and expensive to do. To them, sharing existing trails is still something that should remain on the table (although they concede that Wildwood is a non-starter due to its popularity with people who hike).

The Parks Committee meets again tonight. This is a complicated issue, and we’ll continue to keep you posted as it develops.

Read Marcy Houle’s letter (PDF)
Read Frank Selker’s reply (PDF)

Marcy Houle did not respond to our request for comment on this story.

For more information, read our analysis and download the recently drafted White Paper on Mountain Biking in Forest Park.

Please support BikePortland.

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

  • Roger Louton October 28, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    As for user studies, there was one back in 2006 or so, which was a study project for some students at PSU. I participated, PUMP (now NWTA) participated, and as a matter of fact, we supplied 25% of the volunteers for the effort, 10 out of the 40. Consistently, there were MORE bicyclists passing by each multi use trail head, and consistently, MOST dogs were off leash in this ON-LEASH park.
    What happened with this data? No idea, ask someone at the Friends of Forest Park, I think the numbers came back in a way they did not like, so the final counts were never released. All I ever received was a summary of what was done, never any data.

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  • Will October 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for the update, Jonathan. This is absolutely one of those issues that emotionally charges people.

    It amazes me who many other cities (Philadelphia, Boise, New York City, Tucson, to name but a few), have embraced singletrack in the city limits and have been able to devise ways for all the user groups to be able to have fantastic experiences.

    I can’t help but feel that so much of the perception of conflicts between user groups is based on everyone sharing a 30 foot wide fire road. This is absolutely a recipe for clashes. Standards exist to manage user groups that have been proven to work. Standards also exist on how to build sustainable trails that do not promote erosion, Many of the trails currently in the park are not built correctly and suffer badly with or with out even foot traffic.

    Regardless, it absolutely sounds like there are people who joined this committee with the only intention of derailing the process at any cost. My understanding was that this was a committee formed to figure out how to add bicycle singletrack, not whether to add these opportunities.

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  • Bjorn October 28, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    It would be nice to be able to ride on some of the forest park trails, and I joined up with the FPC and have been supportive of Frank, but the idea that people will travel to portland to ride in forest park is ludicrous. These trails will be great for locals because they are in town, but there are so many trails that are so much better than forest park ever possibly could be a moderate driving distance away that I don’t forsee a large hotel being built in Linnton to house the crush of folks flying in from all over the US to ride the amazing Forest Park! In fact part of why I have been advocating allowing the use of some of the trails one or two weekdays per week is that I doubt there will be all that much weekend demand as most folks would probably rather head out to hood river or scappoose. Sharing more of the trails but only at certain times also helps to reduce the risk of overuse by any one group be it runners or cyclists.


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  • gabriel amadeus October 28, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    What Will said.

    And nice article Jonathan!

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  • Adam October 28, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    The problem I see with citing 30 miles of rideable trails currently is that the fire lanes are all for the most part very steep and hard to ride up (or down safely for many without a downhill mountain bike). I’ve ridden many of the firelanes and for the most part they require a fairly high level of skill to ride. It’d be really nice to have more options that were flat to rolling besides Lief Erickson.

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  • sabes October 28, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    So what exactly is the basic proposal? How many trails would be open to bikes? I’m a cyclist, and I used to ride single track a bit back in the day, but I’m also a hiker. There is no way that I would want to share a trail with mountain bikers.

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  • f5 October 28, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Wow. Things are really getting blown out of proportion. As long as groups are selectively interpreting the ‘manual’ to fit their agenda this just looks grim for cyclists getting fair access to their public park.

    Are road cyclists from all over descending upon Linton so that they can ride the fantastic and world class west hills routes, turning those common routes into theme parks? I didn’t think so.

    I can see how the bill of ‘wold class’ might make one think that, but what the reality of good bike trails in FP would just mean a viable option for mountain biking without having to drive outside the city.

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  • old&slow October 28, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Sharing the trails is possible with the right cooperation. I just got back from the Mckenzie River trail where it has the reputation as one of the best mtb trails in the country. There were not that many bikers because of the out of the way location so the biker/hiker conflict is easily managed with common courtesy. The terrain is also really rocky so the bikes do almost no trail damage.
    The conflicts here with the population will be constant so the trails really need to be separated. I would also think the bike trails would need to be closed for a god part of the year which would not be popular but the forest park terrain is not conducive to wet winter riding without a lot of erosion problems.
    I think the concerns expressed by Ms. Houle are legitimate and the bike association needs to be reasonable with the access demands. Will bikes stay off the trails in wet weather? I doubt it short of fences and gates. I think sharing single track trails is out of the question because there will be just too many people on the trails because of the proximity.

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  • brian mack October 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Those mountain bikers are surly, unkempt, anti-environment, communists! Keep them out of the Park.

    Just kidding!

    Great article Jonathan! Both sides of the argument should be heard. Neighbors, trail runners, mountain bikers, hikers, hunters, flycasters, skiers, snowsledders all have a vested interest in our parks and national forests. I think we all have a responsibility to protect our green spaces, and I think the fine folks at NWTA are advocates of protecting Forest Park. Kudos to their volunteers.

    b mack

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  • Zaphod October 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    This quote is amusing, “I’m content, why can’t everyone be content with what they have.”

    There are singletrack trails in FP that have low usage. The more West you go, the fewer hikers and cyclists you will find.

    Numerous studies have proven a negligible difference between damage/wear between hikers and cyclists. All the damage caused by either of these modes is like a single drop of rain in the ocean when compared to the building of a single parking lot, road or building. I find it deeply frustrating that there are people who will fight against this microscopic non-problem tooth-and-nail while subdivisions get constructed and huge swaths of forest land get clear-cut. Find a different cause…please.

    If mountain bikers get some trails, all it means is that we will get to enjoy our city more and likely not generate as much traffic heading to distant trailheads with the same frequency.

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  • f5 October 28, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Old&slow, there are many proven techniques for trail building that allow for proper water control, shedding, and drainage — that can accommodate bikes 12 months out of the year just like Joggers and hikers. I suggest checking into the IMBA website if you have concerns about trailbuilding and the environment.

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  • SkidMark October 28, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    So the same old Sierra Club-esque arguments are being trotted out once again.

    I have never been directly involved in reinstating trail access to bicycles, but I know that it has been done down in Marin County (in bad bad evil California) so studies have been done in the recent past about what the true impact of bicycles on trails are.

    I think I’ll get more mountain biking done if I get a bike rack for the Toyota Echo. Either that or just buy better bike lights and ride the trails when nobody is looking.

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  • DaveM October 28, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Trails in the park already seem to be needing more attention than they are getting. How much trail building and maintenance has the cycling community in Portland been doing in Forest Park?

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  • Anonymous October 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Much of the problem is that the current trails were not built to proper standards. It done correctly there’s never a need for water diversion other than the design of the trail it self.

    IMBA standards are exceptional and are based on trails built as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 30’s.

    I built a number of trails from 2005 through 2008 that required little more than some cutting back of the brush each year as maintenance. But we had very strict rules about riding the trail when it was wet, because that’s when the trails are most most susceptible to damage.

    Feel like seeing what happens when trails are incorrectly cut, go ride around Hagg Lake. And most of the damage has come from irresponsible bikers and from poorly designed trails.

    Open up the poorly designed trails in Forest Park and they will deteriorate.

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  • wsbob October 28, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    “…I don’t forsee a large hotel being built in Linnton to house the crush of folks flying in from all over the US to ride the amazing Forest Park!” Bjorn #3

    On that bit of speculation, I’d probably agree with Bjorn. Forest Park has neither the jaw-dropping kodak views, or the conspicuous designation that national park status attaches to a park with attendant hordes of tourists.

    At any rate, knowledge of the anticipation and expectations of people that might likely find their way to Forest Park, and who those people might be, if substantially more single width trail were made accessible to off-road bikes seems to be vague at best.

    Portland, in various forms having come to be known as a ‘bike city’, has active lifestyle type visitors/tourists coming to town, interested in everything the city has to offer in that respect. Though they may not be coming to town specifically to ride on Forest Park trails, if substantially more single width trail were open to off-road bike riding, it’s probably a safe bet that many of them would be making a beeline to those trails for biking.

    The city, always nurturing its tourist industry, might think of some financial benefits that promoting the availability of single width trail access in Forest Park could produce. If they did that, expect more people on trails. Also factor in word of mouth. So, at this point, it may be a little difficult to know very well just how much of an influx of riders into Forest Park, access to single width trail by bikes might produce.

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  • BURR October 29, 2009 at 12:05 am

    people are already riding on the trails in the park anyway. wouldn’t it be better to legitimize the use of park trails for cyclists and properly manage the trails for this use instead of ignoring or resisting it? It’s not going to stop, there aren’t enough resources to police all the trails and the limited resources that are available would be better spent accommodating cyclists rather than prohibiting them from using trails in the park.

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  • BURR October 29, 2009 at 12:08 am

    if the management plan was adopted in 1995, it’s probably time for an update.

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  • SkidMark October 29, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Dave M : There is only 1/10th of a mile of singletrack trail open to bicycles in Forest Park, and there have been several trail maintenance days. So the answer might be “more than their fair share”.

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  • DaveM October 29, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Several days work, only on the 1/10 mile of singletrack trail, and they have done more than their fare share at that?

    Thank you for the honest answer.

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  • Bjorn October 29, 2009 at 4:54 am

    #12 speaking of the Sierra Club I don’t think I can even support them anymore. Everytime I see anything with them talking about bikes it is all about how we need to have more wilderness and that no bike access is a super important part of wilderness designation that can’t be changed or the world will end, oh and they are sure that cyclists will find new places to ride even as hundreds of miles of trails are made off limits… The sierra club is as anti off-road biking as AAA has been for on road biking.

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  • pancho October 29, 2009 at 6:04 am

    All this squabling makes me sick..

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  • Get Some October 29, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Good piece, BikePortland. It’s good to be vigilant on these kinds of important matters. The status quo always dies hard, and this will be no different.

    The fight will be tense at times, but bicyclists will prevail. I wouldn’t sweat a few cranky rich property owners who have enjoyed the tremendous luxury of treating our park (we all contribute to Portland Parks & Recreation) like their private backyard.

    The ecological stewardship argument is their only potentially viable claim and the mountain bike advocacy community is well versed in response. MTB riders have faced this argument all over the country for the last 20 years.

    The most laughable claim is this notion of religious devotion to the management plan. Imagine a company’s business plan that doesn’t get updated in the face of a change in market forces. That’s a company headed over a cliff.

    That’s what’s happening here. The bike advocacy community in Portland is much broader and more effective today than in 1995.

    Time to update that business plan, Portland Parks & Recreation. And cranky property owner: time to share the toys. They’re not yours, they’re everybody’s.

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  • Anonymous October 29, 2009 at 6:56 am

    Lez Blaize….”Why can’t everyone be content with what they have”

    If my property afforded me private access to a 5000 acre park maintained by public dollars and volunteers I’d be more content with what I had too.

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  • Charlie October 29, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Hyperbole:”But it is important to recognize the fact that nearly 30 miles or 35% of allthe trails in Forest Park are already available for mountain biking. In other words, overone-third of all routes throughout the park are presently being used by cyclists.”Marcy, Marcy, Marcy, those are “roads.”  Leif Erickson is a road.  The Firelanes are doube-track “roads.” There is user conflict because the usage is focused on Leif Erickson.  Get cyclist access to other parts of the park and spread out that intense presence.  Most runners/walkers and dogs concentrate on Leif Erickson also.  We (the cyclist community) already “share” this “road” but are often faced with walkers four and five abreast and dogs (off leash) running loose.  I have been sneered at while slowly and with warning asking pardon to get around groups of walkers taking up the entire lane.  I have no illusions that access to singletrack in Forest Park will be forthcoming any time soon and that is regrettable.  Even when we do get access, it will not be my first choice for a true mountain biking experience because I have tasted the higher goods and know how lame Forest Park really is when it comes to the kind of mountain biking that is well worth a drive of one to four hours.  BUT, I have kids that are not ready for those “epic” trails.  I would love to be able to take them on a mountain bike ride without a day-long commitment driving to legal and open singletrack trails.  Perhaps Marcy is one of those who thinks that children should not be seen or heard and are better off left in the house plugged into a video game so as not to further damage our precious resource? (That’s hyperbole too.)-Charlie

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  • Will October 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

    DaveM, there have been quite a few trail parties just this year (not on the bike legal singletrack) and the cycling community has made up more then 50% of these groups. So, honestly, yes the bike community has been putting in their dues in the stewardship department.


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  • f5 October 29, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I personally belive it’s too bad there so much narrow-mindedness and short-sightedness affecting what some groups are focusing on as threats.

    Probably the biggest single threat or important issue facing Forest Park is IVY, and not the addition of a few trails or sharing a few current trails with bikes.

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  • beth h October 29, 2009 at 10:04 am

    As someone who lives car-free and is growing more interested in dirt riding, I have to say that it almost NEVER occurs to me to ride in Forest Park. If I take transit and go multi-modal, it’s a schlep from my house on the east side. And there are PLENTY of unimproved alleyways and side streets for me to play on, where potholes, gravel and other technical challenges abound.

    There’s also the Gateway Green project which will feature lots of off-road riding opportunities (some folks are already utilizing the pump track out there).

    Off-road riding in the city doesn’t have to be only in lush, green places. Look for wacky conditions where you can find them. I do.

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  • Jim Labbe October 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

    The Oregonian’s article overstates this conflict by suggesting there is an impasse.

    But there are two outcomes that would be tragic for the Park and Portland.

    One would be that we get embroiled in a big divisive fight between groups that should be working together to expand and enhance the park system AND the legitimate goal of appropriately expanding single-track in Forest Park is delayed or becomes highly political and potentially leads to…

    The second potential tragic outcome of adding new single track in the wrong places and in the wrong way to the detriment of the park’s natural resources and the safety of more vulnerable users (remember those?). This would include a serious expansion in recreational use of the park without the long overdue increase in public and private resources to manage those increased impacts.

    Managing those impacts would mean more and better signage, information for park users, and implementing a key recommendation of the 1995 Forest Park Management Plan to assign a dedicated park ranger to Forest Park with the authority to enforce park rules and cite those that violate them.

    The Off-Road Cycling in Forest Park White Paper that the Forest Park Conservancy put together with Audubon, Northwest Trail Alliance, and others, outlines a sensible and responsible way forward.

    I trust Nick Fish and Park Staff will take its thoughtful and deliberative recommendations seriously in moving forward.

    Jim Labbe
    on-leave from Portland Audubon

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  • NE To LO October 29, 2009 at 10:14 am

    If they will not give us some singletrack, I will continue to use it anyways (I am always courteous to other users, and yeild to walkers).

    I love me some poached eggs with Maple syrup.

    Firelane W isn’t even that crowded once you pedal the 5 miles out to Firelane 5.

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  • Jim Labbe October 29, 2009 at 10:18 am

    The intended link wasWhite Paper on Off-Road Cycling in Forest Park.

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  • Raleigh October 29, 2009 at 11:16 am

    There are plenty of legitimate objections regarding expanded bike use on trails in FP. By choosing to ignore reasonable objections or worse, to portray those who disagree with us negatively sends a message that bikers are not a bunch that can be reasoned with. There is nothing wrong with asking why we aren’t content with what we have. The health of the park should be paramount to all park users. If people see that bikers share their concerns as well we might start getting somewhere. Parks everywhere are being ‘loved to death’ and I’m pleased that ‘rich property owners’ with ‘religious’ sierra club fervor are working to support FP. They certainly deserve every benefit of the doubt in this discussion. When we extend that we may start receiving it as well.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) October 29, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Hey Raleigh,

    i couldn’t agree with you more. hearing reasons against more bike access is part of the process and no one expected that more access would be granted without hearing opposing voices.

    I just hope the opposition is based in fact and sincere disagreement on the way forward…. not on outright discrimination without listening to both sides.

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  • Kt October 29, 2009 at 11:28 am

    It seems like Ms Houle has some valid concerns, but the way she’s pushing them out there is not the most appropriate or best way to do it.

    For instance, an environmental impact study of the users of the forest and their impact on the forest vis a vis erosion, etc would be a good thing, and would actually help determine where the best places for singletrack trails would be.

    Sounds like the Forest Plan written in 1995 needs to be updated, but in this now-contentious environment, I’d be hesitant to take that on without full involvement by representatives from all modes.

    I haven’t been up to Forest Park in a really long time; is there singage at the entrance points about sharing the roads? Pedestrians, equines, canines, mountain bikes– everyone needs to share. A 30-foot wide road should be wide enough for everyone, if common sense and sharing were employed.

    Anyway. This is an interesting story, I’m interested to see what happens.

    And speaking of trails, did anyone else see the article in today’s Metro section of the O about the Fanno Creek Trail? Also interesting.

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  • Mr DeJerk October 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    It seems to me that the most reasonable way to get this going is by doing that said survey.

    I’d love to have such a playground, but not without being 100% sure that there won’t be a negative impact on the park.

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  • pancho October 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Why cant we all just get along??

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  • Michweek October 29, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Well, if we let more bikes on the paths, then does my dog get to go on more paths too? I’d say a 70 lb border collie is equivalent to a 20 lb bike with a person on it. Both thrash, create erosion etc.. If there isn’t even enough money to cover some basic survey’s then where will the money come from to maintain these bikes paths so that they have the smallest impact?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) October 29, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I think what some folks are missing is this….

    The reason Commission Fish (and others) are excited about more bike access is because he understands what a major boost it would be in stewards for the park.

    Forest Park needs help. It needs donations. It needs more people in Portland who care about it.

    With more access for bikes, comes thousands of new potential members of Forest Park Conservancy, donors, stewards, etc….

    Also, the fact is that no surveys have been done on the vast increase in hiking and running. If bikes are excluded due to that reason, it seems to follow that there should be a cap or limit to the number of hikers.

    As for dogs, etc…. If people who care about that can make a strong case, identify partners, create a coalition, garner support from national agencies and key decision makers and move their issues forward… than hell yes, let them get more access.

    So, Michweek, no. You don’t deserve more access simply because (if) bikes get more access. Do the tremendous amount of heavy-lifting it takes to get your concerns and aspirations taken seriously and then good luck!

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  • Kris October 29, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Here is the link to the Oregonian article about Fanno Creek, that Kt (#33) referred to:

    There are some interesting parallels between the discussion about the expansion of the Fanno Creek Trail and the debate about increased bicycle access in FP…

    Developing another section of multi-use trail along Fanno Creek will surely have some environmental impact, disturb some wildlife habitat, and decrease the serenity of the place that some neighbors have enjoyed for years. Neighboring poperty owners have probably used the same arguments when the Springwater Corridor Trail was developed and we should expect similar reactions when the development of the North Portland Greenway gets underway.

    The question is: should these concerns – which seem valid at face value – be enough reason to forego the development of transportation and recreational opportunities that have a very positive impact on our overall environmental footprint (read: more riding, less driving) and the livability of our region?

    The good news is that there are plenty of level-headed people and advocacy/stewardship groups on the Advisory Committee who are looking at the bigger picture; who understand that there are both positive and negative impacts associated with increased bicycle access and overall use of FP; and who are committed to figure out ways to manage and mitigate any negative impacts.

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  • Steve October 29, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    The best solution would be for involved parties to work with IMBA and whatever PUMP is now called to design an auxillary trail system whose primary use is designated for bikes but is also open to hikers as a secondary user-group. It should be designed according to IMBA standards to minimize impact to Forest Park and built by volunteers to minimize the use of public funds. This would allow for a great use of our potential resource (the park), would minimize dissenters and user conflict, and would save a lot of CO2 emissions because mountain bikers would not need to drive an hour-plus (I’m not including Scappoose) to get to decent singletrack.

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  • Jeme October 29, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Jonathan, I think what you’re missing is this:

    A place that is set aside as a wilderness area should be used by as few people as possible with as little impact as possible. If we were running short on money to keep the Bull Run area pristine, would it be OK to let the ATV crowd in there to help find some more “boosters”? Certainly not.

    The folks who want to ride singletrack in Forest Park are exactly like the greedy developers that want to built golf-course developments on farmland: They have a special interest in exploiting the commons and they will do so to the detriment of others.

    If they want to put their funding toward a single-track course within the city, that’s fine. But doing it in our reserved wilderness area just is not. Let them build their trails in one of our hundreds of planned, developed parks instead of violating an undeveloped area for their preferred form of goofing off.


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  • f5 October 29, 2009 at 3:10 pm


    Jonathan isn’t missing anything. Forest Park isn’t designated wilderness. It’s a city park.

    The FP ‘manual’ calls for recreation and bicycling specifically as cited in the article and by multiple comments preceeding.

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  • Paul October 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I would love to be able to bike singletrack in Forest Park. As it stands now I would need to rent or borrow a car and drive miles to find a decent trail. Let’s see what we can do to convince folks. I highly doubt since the advent of mountain biking that our forests are having an erosion epidemic.

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  • sabes October 29, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    I find it sad and pathetic that cyclists are using the “oh no, but we don’t have access to the park!” excuse. Really? You can’t hike the trails on foot? I hadn’t realized that people who owned mountain bikes couldn’t hike the trails. If that’s the main part of your argument, then I say we keep the mountain bikes off the trails.

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  • Jocko October 29, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Once it starts back up go and check out the NWTA weekly Forest Park ride. It usually happens on wednesday at 5:30 at the top of Thurman. Riding in FP is fairly fun, but as it now stands its more of a workout than an enjoyable Mtn. bike ride. Leif Ericson is a boring road and the fire lanes are straight up and straight down and thus are erosion machines. What I would suggest is making the far North end of the park the Mtn. bike area. Few people hike or run on the section north of Germantown road so it seems a perfect place for some more single track. Oh yeah Forest park was logged 80 years ago as well, just saying.

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  • johlah October 29, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I’m concerned about about the impact on the park AND I’m a biker–but the health of the park comes first for me–erosion issues are real–people SHOULD be concerned–and as a hiker who spend s a huge amount of time in the park–I honestly don’t want to share the trail with bikers–again I’m an avid biker– but
    aren’t these legit concerns?

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  • Atbman October 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    For examples of how forests and mountain biking can get along, try: and look up Forestry Commission Scotland and Wales for their trails.

    Brings in tourists by the 1000 and all without damaging the environment / ecology

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  • Charley October 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I agree with f5: Forest Park isn’t a wilderness, it’s a City Park.

    And, as it’s a 5,000 acre city park, you can’t tell me that there isn’t room for a bike trail. We have room for swimming pools, skating areas, and baseball fields in our other parks. Sure, Forest Park is special, but it’s real real big!

    I also think that some of the folks who are worried about the environmental impact of building a dinky trail in this big park should be focusing more on big, important problems like clear cutting 40 miles of Mount Hood National Forest for a liquid natural gas pipeline (the Palomar project).

    Or maybe they should worry about people with off-leash dogs. I’ve been bitten in Forest Park before by an off-leash dog. They poop everywhere and chase wildlife. . . environmental impact, anyone?

    Every use has an impact. So, if we wanted Forest Park to be a wilderness, why not keep people out entirely?

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  • Will October 29, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Johlah, yes, erosion is real and absolutely should be a concern, but, if your argument is that mountain biking should not be allowed on trails is BECAUSE of erosion, then we are on the same page.

    Having said that, a trail built correctly, built so that it sheds water and does not channel water, that crosses the fall line instead of following it, is a trail that is built for sustainability.

    Creating a trail that has the smallest impact and requires the least upkeep is in everyone’s best interests. This is not how many of the current trails in the Park were built, and regardless of the user groups (even without any users) these trail will be destroyed by the hand of mother nature.

    Having an active group with a solid understanding of trail stewardship and sustainability, a group that has demonstrated time and time again that they are more then willing to show up, put not only financial backing, but a commitment to maintaining and stewardship in terms of personal effort and time.

    Honestly, without exception, every single trail party I have attended was predominantly mountain bikers, and all of these have been on multi-use trails.

    I have seen so many posts started off with “I’m an avid cyclist” or “I’m a mountain biker as well” and then quickly followed by a biased and close minded rant (sounding one who have never subscribed to riding a bike.) If you are going to start off the post with an attempt at finding a common ground, it would be a breath of fresh air if you followed that up with even an attempt to have an open conversation about the topic at hand.


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  • johlah October 29, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    what is biased or close minded about my post?!?? I stand by my post which wasn’t intended to shut down open conversation any way-I stand by my concerns–that’s all they are– concerns–don’t see what the big deal is… am I only permitted to be mindlessly rah rah about this subject?

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  • Will October 29, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Sorry Johlah, very poor communication on my part. I was responding to your concern about erosion and then I launched into my own rant about other posts, please forgive me 🙂


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  • boring ride on a mtb October 29, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Sorry folks,
    Unless manmade features/stunts are built Portland’s Treasure will be mediocre mt biking at best. This is because of the shape/geography of FP. The firelanes and roads like Saltzman aren’t fun on a mountain bike because it is too easy and lasts about a minute. Kinda like skiing on a small ski hill. A cyclocross rig is the right tool for fun biking in the park as it allows one to get deeper into the park without driving out there. There is no feasable way to get significant singletrack built in the park unless it is way out and even then it will be limited. Have you poached wildwood on a mntn bike? It is boring, even at night. Ride cyclocross and run. Take the mntn bike to the mountains.

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  • Daalan October 29, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    I have a Solomonesque solution to the situation. Lock up the park, allow NO ONE, hikers, joggers, walkers, or bikers, in until it can be decided who can use what trail and when and which section. Then if it can’t be decided then draw a line right down the middle with each group getting an equal share of the trails/fire lanes/paths in the park; with each group managing their section of trail(s).

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  • October 29, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    hey! i am currently working on a project for PSU which is collecting the data the city wants! i am desperately trying to get some volunteers to help do the surveys! i have spoken with people from PP&R and members of NWTA. both are very interested on the counts we get.

    if there is anyone willing to give up a few hours on saturday or sunday mornings, 9-noon, please email me! we started our counts last week and plan to continue for the next 4 weeks. if this pilot data looks promising, the city may continue with it. certain city officials have told me, “get the data. get the volunteers to get the data. now is the time to show us your cause is worthy.” no joke. and, no, i am not going to give out any names on that one.

    let’s rally and show the city we are serious about trail access and we are serious about protecting the park’s environment as well. last i saw, mountain biking was considered an environmentally friendly sport! it’s not, however, when i have to get in my car and drive 45 minutes to go do it! ridiculous!

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  • wsbob October 29, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Forest Park is a nature reserve or park, though it certainly falls under the very broad description of ‘city park’ that many other of Portland’s groomed lawn, tennis court equipped parks also fall under.

    Is Forest Park ‘wilderness’? For many Portland residents and Metro area residents as well, I’m sure Forest Park’s abundant natural growth and wildlife is as close to wilderness as they’re able to get for the most part. So, it seems important to respect this distinctive regard they hold for it and if anything, help to enhance that quality of ‘wilderness’ that Forest Park offers to metro area residents, rather than introduce new uses that will diminish that wilderness character.

    On this weblog, I’ve heard bikes referred to as ‘vehicles’ by advocates of increased bike use. That one word succinctly sums up why there has been substantial long term and continuing resistance to off-road bikes on single-width path in Forest Park. Sharing this type trail with people on their feet is great. Sharing this type trail with people riding two-wheeled off-road vehicles, and all the problems those vehicles produce is not so great.

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  • October 29, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    oh yeah, and please don’t confuse me with the MARCY who wrote the book on forest park! just my luck….i rarely ever find anyone with my name (spelled the same way, especially) and wouldn’t you know it? it happens to be the same as the woman who has done everything she can to oppose off-road cycling in forest park. awesome for me. guess we’re evening the score….one MARCY on each team now! haha! 🙂

    just wanted to clarify……thanks!

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  • Charlie October 29, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    “The folks who want to ride singletrack in Forest Park are exactly like the greedy developers that want to built golf-course developments on farmland: They have a special interest in exploiting the commons and they will do so to the detriment of others.”

    This is perhaps the single most offensive thing I have ever been called.

    What are you people so afraid of? We are not running off to debauch your daughters.

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  • Bryan October 29, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    First off i thank the people advocating for getting single track open to bikes in forest park. it takes alot of time and energy and i for one appreciate it.

    being a new father, riding my bike in places that take an hour to drive to is quite difficult and costs money for gas. i hope one day where i can take my daughter on some fantastic single track in forest park to enjoy the thrill of riding a bike in such a wonderful place.

    to those people who think that bikes erode trails more than hiking, please do some research. you will find that there is no proof and that they do about the same amount of damage. check out there is plenty of information on there.

    also check out the book put out by imba called “trail solutions” it is a wealth of information on building sustainable trails. it can be done. Forest Park is plenty big for everybody.

    the issue seems to be one, hikers dont want to give up what they have. love this quote (thick sarcasm) “I’m content, why can’t everyone be content with what they have.” -Blaize. One of the dumbest quotes i have ever heard. Two, conflict issues, hikers dont want to be spooked or hit while walking in nature. this is probably the only idea i can understand. generally speaking this is not a problem with most trails out in the wilderness because there are less people. However i could see this being a problem in FP with some of the high use trails like wildwood. there are solutions, we can all get along, work together, and share FP.

    to all the people who dont want bikes on single track in FP or new trails. Open your mind, do some research and try getting on a bike and ride some trails, you may just like it.

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  • wsbob October 29, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Don’t mean to depart from the exciting Forest Park discussion, but briefly responding to Kt’s question:

    Kt #33, regarding your comment about the O’s article on the Fanno Creek trail extension in Beaverton…I just got back from reading the article. It was interesting. The following excerpt caught my eye:

    “The trail will be less than one mile in length, but will serve as part of a “freeway” system for bicyclists, said Hal Bergsma, planning manager for THPRD. The link will connect sections of the existing Fanno Creek Trail, which is 15 miles long and winds from the banks of the Willamette River in Southwest Portland, through Beaverton and Tigard into Tualatin.” ‘Proposed Fanno Creek Trail extension upsets Beaverton neighborhood’ Bill Oram/Oregonian

    Length and continuity the trail will provide with the completion of this section of the trail is all good, but the idea of the trail as a ‘freeway’ for bikes seems like stretching the capacity of what that trail’s dimensions can handle.

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  • pancho October 30, 2009 at 9:01 am

    the more I read the negative comments the more I’m getting PISSED OFF!! People Against the use of Bikes in FP are letting there ***deleted by moderator*** Ego’s get in the way. You make no sence.
    Your personal bias and your comments are disturbing. ***deleted***

    I cannot believe that they cannot look beyond there own bais and look at the big picture.
    Your Bias is boarder line RASCIST!!
    Why can’t we all just get along. The anti bike movment in this city is really F#@Ked up. Parden my french. I suppose you all hate french fries too.

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  • pardon my sarcasm October 30, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I think the city has a lot of gall to ignore the residents’ voodoo-flood analytics-chicanery and instead choose to listen to actual professionals.

    The real crime is that the lady now has to wear underwear when the shades aren’t drawn. Oh what is this world coming to, when naked seniors can’t treat public lands like their own private nude beach? The horror.

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  • Joe T. November 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Fyi..I’m in no way supporting this Pov:

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  • jj November 1, 2009 at 10:39 pm


    Go take a hike on Maple or Wildwood in December, and get back to me when you can tell me how to reconstruct that trail so that mtn. bikes won’t absolutely tear it to shreds.

    These are very narrow, very twisty trails that already have serious water and erosion issues in the rainy season.

    And while many mountain bikers are responsible, all we need are a few dozen who will ride the trails as thrill seekers–and you all know those are out there–and these trails will be toast.

    This is NOT about how theoretically a trail might or might not be more or less damaged by cyclists. It is about the reality of a narrow, dirt single track trail in a very wet climate.

    I and the rest of the running, hiking, and walking community will fight this to the bitter end.

    The mountain bike community should find an appropriate area–Powell Butte for instance, or out near Vernonia–where a designated mountain bike area can be created.

    Putting one in Forest Park will be a disaster.

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  • michael November 2, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Forest Park IS a city park, but one set aside as an environmental haven. That’s why it’s unique and must be protected.

    Logically, if mt. bikers demand their fair share as taxpayers, what will stop the motorcyclists, the ORV enthusiasts. the mud bog jeep drivers from demanding their fair share?

    We could very easily wreck this urban treasure by opening it to users who can’t go slowly and savor the quiet.

    In the words of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, “Who will speak for trees?”

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  • Charlie November 2, 2009 at 11:24 am

    I must say, I do agree that there is a logistical problem to overcome the issue of mud.  It is true that the soil composition for the majority of FP is prone to conditions that are easily damaged by users.  But to say it cannot be done, or that it shouldn’t be done is shameful.  It has been shown that trails can be built to withstand the kinds of environmental challenges we face.  Where we find the resources to build such a facility is another matter.

    Logically, Michael, the mountain biking community asserts that we are different than motorized users and should be considered on-par with low-impact non-motorized users.  You know, like horses. 

    It would be nice if the community would embrace cycling with a welcoming tone to enjoy our prized park and join the collaboration to find a way to make it work instead of a “fight . . . to the bitter end.”

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  • wsbob November 2, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    “Logically, Michael, the mountain biking community asserts that we are different than motorized users and should be considered on-par with low-impact non-motorized users. You know, like horses.” Charlie #64

    Horses on trail out on the plains and in forests are a long established tradition in the history of this country and many others. Hearing it advised, from someone that considers themselves a member of the mountain bike community, that they “…should be considered on-par with low-impact non-motorized users. You know, like horses.” …is the opposite of what I’ve read other people from the mountain bike community expressing here on bikeportland.

    Of the comments from bikeportland commenters expressing an opinion about horses on trail, incidental to questions raised about whether off-road/mountain bikes should be allowed access there, horse use on trail has been regarded with dismissive remarks, alleging…their smell, the waste they leave, the erosion they produce, the danger of a horse out of control…and so on.

    In terms of the use of horses for travel in Forest Park though, whatever problems of incompatibility with visitors walking trail on foot that exist do appear…appear to be minuscule or non-existent compared to that associated with the use of off-road/mountain bikes on single width trail in Forest Park.

    Part of the reason for this is probably that people riding horses in Forest Park aren’t riding their comparatively larger animals on single width footpath, or trying to gain access to these trails that are the most compatible for people traveling on foot.

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  • RWL1776 November 2, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    jj (62):

    how do you suggest I get to Powell Butte or Vernonia, load my bike onto my car and DRIVE there? How green is that? This is exactly what a majority of local mountainbikers do not want to do: drive a fossil fueled vehicle to a place where we can ride a narrow, twisty, fun singletrack trail.

    How do a majority of hikers/runners get to Forest Park? They DRIVE.

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  • Charlie November 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    The horse comment was meant as sarcasm. Apologies for not making that clear. It was as out of place as making a leap from mountain bikes to jeeps and orvs. There is a pretty wide spectrum of legitimate non-motorized trail use from hiking to running to biking to horseback riding.

    To some the Park is an exclusive resource and that may be the biggest hurdle to overcome. The good news is that reasonable folks are looking at sound science and will come to some reasonable conclusions for allowing access. It won’t be perfect because it is a limited resource, but some degree of trail access for mountain bikes is inevitable. And on that day I hope we can share a pint and shake hands at The Bitter End.

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  • Atbman November 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Try for how mixed use can work.

    And bear in mind that the UK has about 2% of the US land area with about 20% of your population. If we can manage forest land for the benefit of all, then surely the US can.

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  • michael November 2, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Mt. bikes are already allowed in Forest Park!
    They can use the Leif and fire lanes. They are not allowed on the Wildwood trail, nor should they be. It was not designed for mt. bikes or horses. It was designed as a foot path.
    In the northern section of the park are less used trails that would be perfect for mt. bike use. Hikers and runners would stay away, like at Dog River on Mt. Hood. I’ve never seen hikers on that trail.

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  • pardon my sarcasm November 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    @#68 Atbman:

    I think a mountain bike skills park is something that I would assume all parties here can actually agree on that would NOT be appropriate for Forest Park, but better suited for some city park/infill land.

    It’s worth pointing out to all those apprehensive about bikes in FP that really no one from the cycling community is advocating a mountain bike skills park. Those have more in common with skateparks or playgrounds than they do with nature trail experiences like hiking, trail running, or trail riding…which is what we all seem to be after.

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  • Bryan November 2, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    #62 JJ

    I was going to address some of your concerns but sounds like you don’t even really want to communicate about it, and i really dont want to type for an hour.

    so i will just leave it at this, there are ways to build sustainable trails no matter what, even if they are tight and twisty (which most single track is by the way). building more trails in forest park or opening up some trails to bikes at certain times will not destroy the park but make it more enjoyable for many more people.

    there are solutions to some of your concerns, but the attitude of “fight this to the bitter end”, saddens me because you dont want to work with your fellow Portlander but just stamp your feet and say no.

    I hope one day when i am riding my bike on single track in forest park and i move to the side of the trail to let you pass, that you say hello back with a returned smile.

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  • […] studied the park for 28 years (and who some might recall as the woman who jolted the committee by sending a letter to the media in opposition to increased bike access last fall), was the first person to raise the specter of reconvening the committee. Houle feels […]

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