Joe Bike

A year later and amid controversy, Fish vows to keep Forest Park trail promise

Posted by on February 25th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Off-road trails roundtable discussion-100

Commissioner Fish in front of a map of
Forest Park at a roundtable
discussion last April.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Exactly one year ago today, newly elected City Commissioner Nick Fish made a bold proclamation about the future of mountain bike access in Forest Park. Following an unprecedented groundswell of community enthusiasm and activism calling more bike access in the 5,000 acre urban natural area, Fish told me, “I think there is a need and there is a demand and my job is to see how we can make that happen. I’m not interested in delaying this.”

Fresh off his election to City Council and as the newly appointed commissioner in charge of the Parks bureau, Fish said he brought a “fresh look” at the situation. He continued:

“My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do. I assume everybody comes to the table in the good faith. I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of single track trails.”

Following that statement, Fish and his staff threw themselves helmet-first into the issue. The commissioner convened a mountain biking roundtable which led to the formation of the Forest Park Single Track Cycling Committee.

Bikes are currently allowed on
0.3 miles of trail in Forest Park.

Now, after an unauthorized mountain bike trail was discovered in Forest Park, there is new scrutiny on the issue. Commissioner Fish, whom I spoke with this morning, says the illegal trail will make the committee’s work tougher, but he has not wavered in his promise to find more riding opportunities in the park.

How will this illegal trail impact the process?

“It clearly makes it harder because those participants who have been skeptical all along will cite that as evidence to support their position… But this is not going to derail the effort.”

The effort might not be derailed, but the illegal trail has already delayed the process. And, as everyone who has followed the health care debate on Capitol Hill knows, delay can be deadly for new policies.

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour

Doing it the legal way.

Tonight’s committee meeting was supposed to include up or down votes on specific proposals for trail access options that had been worked on by committee members for several months. Now the agenda has been changed. According to Fish staffer Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong, tonight’s meeting will focus on “What management practices we need to have in place in order to support the addition of new trails and prevent illegal trails from happening.”

For members of the committee that have expressed opposition to increased bike access in the past, this illegal trail might add fuel to their fire. But so far, Fish sounds like he won’t allow them to paint this “unfortunate incident” with a brush that marks the entire discussion:

“The argument that this trail should preclude any further discussion or movement on single track opportunities is tantamount to saying that since drivers that run through red lights we should ban driving.”

People who don’t share Commissioner Fish’s enthusiasm for more bike access in the park will be happy to delay concrete decisions (think of it as the Forest Park filibuster), but Fish hopes to stay the course. A public open house to view new trail access recommendations is tentatively scheduled for April 22nd. With luck, off-road trail advocates hope they’ll be riding new trails by late summer.

To stay true to that timeline, Commissioner Fish, the Director of Parks Zari Santner, and the committee members must be able to move beyond this illegal trail and get back to the important work of coming to a compromise.

The charge of the committee is to find where and how bike access can be increased, not if it should be increased.

As Fish said in a letter to the committee yesterday, “We know there’s a demand for single track trails, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to meet this need.” Thankfully, the committee is full of very smart people who know the way — now it’s just a matter of heading down the right path.

— For more coverage, view all stories in our mountain bikes in Forest Park tag.

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

  • Avatar
    Nick V February 25, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I feel bad for Nick Fish. Kind of like asking a guy who was just mugged to loan you some money. I wish him luck!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Blah Blah Blah February 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I would hope this does not affect the outcome of furthering mt bikes in Forest Park. The people who built this trail do not represent all mt bikers, we’re not all a bunch of meat headed huckers

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    a.O February 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Fish’s assumption that “everybody comes to the table in the good faith” is obviously not true.

    The reason there is still no trail is that there is a vocal minority of Portlanders who simply refuse to share the park and who dig in their heels and are very effective at employing delay tactics every time anyone makes a push for change.

    Look at the latest example: Why did the agenda item of how to prevent further illegal trails have to cancel the “votes on specific proposals for trail access options” instead of simply being added to the agenda?

    Because people in charge of the committee want to keep delaying as long as possible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Matt F February 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    If they don’t want people building illegal trails, then give them legal trails. If they want people to build illegal trails, then don’t give them legal trails. Simple as that…

    And it drags on, and on, and on…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Matt F February 25, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Oh, and thanks Jonathon for continuing to cover the issue.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Charley February 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Hey Commissioner Fish,
    I’m one of many mountain biker who’d love to have singletrack in Forest Park, and who really appreciate your work on this subject. Now it’s our turn to help you: let’s put our backs where our mouths, and help clean up the damage done by the kids on the North side of the Park. Let’s have a rehab work day.
    Charley Reneau
    PS- if a rehab work day is dumb idea for this area (too many boots, or any other reasons), please let us know what we CAN do.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Nick V February 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Matt F #4,

    That could be construed as a threat, which wouldn’t help the cause.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) February 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm


    I also thought a big “Let’s repair the Trail” event would be cool… but then realized it would be a bad idea because the location of the trail should not be publicized far and wide.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Kris Schamp (Northwest Trail Alliance) February 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Charley (#6), Jonathan:

    Over the past week, Northwest Trail Alliance has been in close communication with Portland Parks & Recreation on follow-up actions to decommission the rogue trail and restore the area.

    On Saturday May 1st, Portland Parks & Recreation and Northwest Trail Alliance will host a joint work party, lead by Dan Moeller (PP&R), with Northwest Trail Alliance providing the volunteer work force.

    For more details about the work party or to sign up, go to:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    redhippie February 25, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Cut two miles of trail for every one “rehabilitated”. How long until the park masters wake up and realize the reality of the situation. What else can they do? Chase shadows? Ban bikes? Where is the money to pay the rangers? The only thing they can do is token efforts. The builders had the right idea of developing a movement. Slow, relentless, civil disobediance until they wake up.

    For years I have only carried a pruning saw to help clear the existing trials. From now on I carry a pack shovel and will work to keep the trails open and improve them.

    Want me an those like me to stop. Simple. Stop being selfish and open trails. Start with opening firelane 7 for a start. Improve the lower section to prevent erosion.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    a.O February 25, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    @ #8: Maybe some small donations instead to fund the PPR staff or a contractor?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Barney February 25, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    What a coincidence, an illegal trail is discovered in Forest Park which illustrated that the needs of a very active users group is not being met. Then suddenly, the powers that be are willing to move forward quickly with talks and action to provide additional mountain biking opportunities in Forest Park. It sounds like the trail has done more to break the log-jam than any amount of talking!

    Good job “unknown trail builders” for jump starting the process, and good job Mr. Fish for recognizing the problem and and moving the process forward quickly. I believe that most users of the park will find that mountain bikes are quite compatible with the desired uses and users of Forest Park.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Zaphod February 25, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Barney #11

    The illegal trail has just given some publicity to ongoing and successful NWTA work to get singletrack in FP. We’ll see success here not due to but in spite of the illegal trail. It’s coincidental that so much is happening this year.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob February 25, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    “….“I think there is a need and there is a demand…”

    “We know there’s a demand for single track trails,…” remarks from Commissioner Fish in the bikeportland story above.

    Commissioner Fish says repeatedly…’a demand’. I would imagine many people reading might like to hear more from him in terms of how he quantifies that demand in numbers or percentages of Portland residents.

    ‘Roughly speaking’ would do for moment…whatever figure he happened to have had in mind that led him to offer the statements he used that phrase in.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    martin February 25, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I am absolutely shocked that the majority of commenters on this site seem to be able to justify this vandalism. It saddens me that anyone in my city feels that they are above the law to such a degree that they feel desecrating a relatively pristine section of Forest Park is okay. I liken this act of recklessness to the two persons allegedly responsible for shooting up the Cape Meares lighthouse.
    Shame on you. I had always had a great level of respect for cyclists (I’m more of a bus/pedestrian person), because I always figured you were doing your part for the environment. But if the cycling community can be accurately represented by some of the comments I’ve read here over the last 12 hours then you are no better than people that throw their cigarette butts on the beach at Sauvie Island. Or the dog owners that think Mt. Tabor is their pets’ personal toilet.
    You should all be coming out against this desecration, but instead you defend the action. Where is the outrage from your side? On the one hand I want to hope you never get any MTB trails in Forest Park because of this, but on the other hand I am just deeply saddened and disappointed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Avatar
      calvin September 13, 2011 at 8:12 pm

      Martin, you make it sound like these trailbuilders bulldozed a strip mine in the middle of forest park when you say they “desecrated” a “pristine” section of the park. Really, though, a mountain bike trail is no different from a hiking trail in the amount of damage it does to the environment. Properly built ones have better drainage than your average hiking trail, too.

      I’m not voicing my support for illegal trails, I’m just surprised at the horror people like you show towards an illegal clearing of a narrow lane through a forest. Also, saying that you hope that bikes will never be allowed on the trails in forest park is a low blow to the many people who have worked hard to try to make that happen. I find your comment rather patronizing.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob February 25, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    martin, as just another person reading and commenting on this weblog, I appreciate your having bothered to comment your feelings so honestly about the tone and content of a number of comments made in this particular thread in reference to the illegal trail constructed in the North Management area of Forest Park.

    I specified ‘a number of comments made in this particular thread’ because my sense from having read comments on a lot of other threads on this website, is that the ones you’re referring to on this particular thread seem to come from people that hold quite an extreme viewpoint favoring provision of single width trail, a.k.a. ‘single track’ in Forest Park.

    Elsewhere, on this website, or weblog, you’re likely to find viewpoints expressed in comments that are considerably more moderate and representative of the public at large than they are in some of the comments above. My impression is that easily, the majority of those people condemn this illegal trail construction, and are very interested in seeing that a workable, manageable means of providing single track for bike use in Forest Park is arrived upon, as is feasible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    trail user February 25, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I just rode up Leif Erickson from Thurman to St. John’s bridge and the real danger is all the giant piles of horse poo randomly left all over the road. Why aren’t the equestrians cleaning up their mess? During the rains, the poo mixes with just about everything.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jim February 25, 2010 at 11:58 pm


    I agree, Martin. I’ve ridden that park since the MTB came about. It’s always been a great place for an off-road work out on Leif and the fire lanes.

    MTBers, get quality single track elsewhere. Plenty out there. This is a special city park unlike any in the United States, in the world. It must be protected on all fronts.

    The people who did this are ***deleted by moderator***. ***deleted by moderator***. ***deleted by moderator***.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    JM February 26, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Wow. Moderator? JM, thanks for bringing that to my attention. I have cleaned up several comments. Folks, please keep things above the belt. The less time I spend dealing with comments, the more time I can spend reporting on this issue. Thanks. –Jonathan

    I’m thinking about flipping my drop bars to antler style, and zip tying some milk crates to my rack. Sort of the bottle collector look. Because being considered a “cyclist” in Portland is seriously starting to suck. Hop on a bike these days and you immediately get corn holed into the most selfish, myopic “community” around. Cyclists are people and people are different. Some stop at every stop sign and some build rogue trails. Us vs. Them solves nothing.

    I support Nick Fish for his efforts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    SpinningTires February 26, 2010 at 4:45 am

    This issue has me all but wanting to flee portland once and for all. Here I thought I was living in a diverse, forward thinking society until this one sided story came about.

    To paint this story the way it was painted is INSANE. But all the FAT A$$ people sitting on their couches judging others based on hyped up, sensationalized reporting will be heard instead of the real users of this worlds environment.

    Fox, Katu, Opb, Dan Moeller… should all be COMPLETELY ashamed of themselves.
    The old let’s hop on the bandwagon instead of researching & reporting again, why would I be suprised I suppose.

    God f-ing forbid it be shed in a light that has a positive outcome.

    Don’t get me wrong, not the right way to go about doing things, but at least it got done.

    AND PROPERLY if I may add. Look at the video of that trail. Techniques were used that you see on every legally built trail in the US. Erosion WAS considered.. not mentioned though was it?

    Decades to recover. If Dan Moeller thinks that it will take decades to recover he SHOULD NOT BE in the position he is in. This is Oregon. That trail will be complete history in 5-7 years.

    And we want to throw the term pristine around???

    Hey, let’s tear down riverfront to put in space ship pods to bring 50 people to work everyday while DESTROYING gorgeous vistas of the mountains. Pristine.

    Pristine. Let’s rape all the land from the river to the coast to build McMansions & cul de sacs. pristine.

    So the rights of roadies & fixies get financial gain from the city while MTBr’s get slanted stories like this while being promised for years our voices are being heard?

    This city is twisted.

    Time for a little civil unrest in my opinion.

    And hey, city at large… WHY NOT EMBRACE THE TRAIL THAT IS ALREADY IN PLACE???????? We are being promised something, something is NOW there. Would it not be hypocritical to build a trail later on & “destroy” more “pristine” land?

    Jim, above me there. ***deleted by moderator***

    I build legal trails at some of the best riding spots in the country… shoulder to shoulder with Dr’s, police officers, scientists, and I myself am an arborist. To cast accusations like you have on a public forum is just stone ***deleted by moderator***.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    too perfect? February 26, 2010 at 6:30 am

    With how anti bike some of these people are you wonder who really built that trail… It all seems a little too perfect that it was discovered immediately before this meeting.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Bjorn February 26, 2010 at 7:55 am

    #17, I totally agree, mixed use trails that are going to allow horses should require horse diapers:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Nick Fish’s promise to improve and expand access for bicycles in Forest Park might be harder to keep than he […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob February 26, 2010 at 11:47 am

    People that bring their horses into the park should be hauling their horse poo out with them when they leave. I’m not sure how common it is, but some national parks already require that humans haul out their own poo.

    There was an article written about this some time back, but I haven’t relocated it yet. I also recall reading somewhere, that horses taken into certain back-country environments are required to feed their horses approved grain that’s documented free of invasive species plant material.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    lil'stink February 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    As a longtime cyclist and mtb’er I had to hang my head in shame when I heard the news. This is the sort of rogue action that casts a shadow over the rest of the off road community. I don’t think the fact that this may break a logjam should be cause for celebration.

    Curious if the folks at Oregon Field Guide or local news outlets drove their big news rigs to the trailhead. Lets save the environment, protect FP, just as long as we don’t have to inconvenience our fat butts to do it.

    It’s not like we are living in the Utah desert, where a wrong footstep can leave an imprint for decades. I don’t buy the environmental concerns. That isn’t to say I don’t care; but rather that I feel confident that they will be taken into consideration and can be mitigated with proper trail placement/building/maintenance.

    I think it comes down to not wanting to share, that certain user groups feel threatened for whatever reason. Of course, not wanting to share probably wouldn’t fly with the city or the public. So it becomes a matter of environmental concern, or user conflicts, or wanting to maintain the beauty of the park. To give up the fight now might be to admit that this was the case all along.

    Just build a trail for the cyclists already. It will probably be the best built, best maintained trail in the park.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jim February 28, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    To Spinning Tires,

    Accusations? Are you privy to what was deleted? The only accusation I made was that they were “punks juiced on beer and bong hits.” While I’m happy you have company when building legal trails, hopefully, what are you talking about?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    wsbob March 1, 2010 at 11:40 am

    lil’stink, what sense do have, of what the ‘environmental concerns’,you refer to are?

    Some people, bridling at resistance to greater provision of more miles of off-road biking single track in FP, seem to believe that such concerns related to mountain bike use there, are merely trail erosion issues.

    Indications are quite clear that the environmental concerns in this situation are quite a bit broader than the single issue of trail erosion…which in most instances, is a simple engineering issue, that can be resolved.

    Bikes access to the park poses the potential for far greater numbers of people in the park over a shorter period of time, at much faster speeds than foot travel has allowed. If I’m not mistaken, this is part of the environmental concern many people have with regards to the park and the natural environment experience it can provide for city residents.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    spinningtires March 1, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    @ Jim.

    Yes, sir, I was privy to seeing your accusations that those who built these trails were beer swigging bong hitting misfits.

    I saw it before the mods apparently.

    In all honesty, what irks me about comments like yours is that since this is not your style of riding the rest of us are derelicts.

    We have asked, and begged, and asked some more to be considered for land use. Many hundreds of people have spent many hundreds of hours trying to be heard, and it is going nowhere.
    I know of a $50K check that was written to support in the asking, and it did nothing. I have attended meetings and seen ZERO results.

    All the while millions are being spent on road cyclists… because that’s the mayor’s chosen bicycle use.

    And for things to be slanted the way they were to the public is disgusting.

    If anybody with ANY sense of proper trail building were to see any of the pics or videos, it would be agreed that whoever built those trails did so with GREAT care for the drainage & environment.

    Heros if you ask the thousands who would utilize such trails.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jim March 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Spinning Tires,

    Cry me a river or a stream like your “heros” who blocked one (according to the stories), so they could cross it–how intrepid. Falling trees troubled me but damning a stream! If you’re an Oregonian, you know it’s all about water here. Millions are spent on road cyclists because so many people use bicycles for transpor-fill in the blanks-tation. By the way, I’d like to amend previous accusations. Not beer. Apparently, it’s now Red Bull and bong hits–the bong fashioned from a spent suspension-fork blade, no less. HEROS? Good God!!!

    One more thing, I’ve been a mountain biker sense the sport’s beginning and a road cyclist long before. Tell your trail-building buddies to go find the real stuff. That’s a city park, emphasis on “city.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    spinning tires March 16, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Well Jim. You summed up my entire argument in your first statement mate:

    “according to the stories”

    What you really just said was, “according to the propaganda that was copy & pasted between the news outlets”

    If you had any clue to proper trail building you can clearly see in the video that a “DAM” was not built. Rocks were rearranged to both provide stability & ensure water flow over the top of them, no grade change was made. Pretty basic fella.

    In addition to that, the “falling of trees” that you are continuing to clammer on about were later described by the biologist as 2 cedar saplings of 1″ diameter caliber… a bit of a stretch would you not say?

    But no, continue mouthing off like you know something because that’s what your evening news anchor tells you to do.



    But I do CONDEM the way the story was projected, very off base. And the biggest issue i have with that is the basic HYSTERIA it creates with non-thinking droids such as… well.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar