Back in February, dogged by intense media attention and reprimand from Portland Parks & Recreation, mountain bike advocates were forced to defend an illegal trail that was discovered in Forest Park.
Now comes word that a pair of Land Rover SUVs were caught illegally driving on a trail in Forest Park and it’s likely that you haven’t even heard about it.
According to Stephen Hatfield with the Forest Park Conservancy, on March 17th one of their board members, Barbara Nelson, was running on the upper section of the Saltzman Road fire lane when she heard a strange sound. Hatfield says, “She happened to hear some activity over the side of the trail and she looked over the edge and there were two Land Rovers on a connector trail – a short piece of single track.”
Hatfield says the Land Rovers must have gotten around the closed gate on Saltzman Road just below Skyline Blvd. and they were trying to drive down the trail. “As to why they were trying to do it I have no idea.”
Hatfield thinks one of the vehicles got stuck in a hole and the second one was trying to winch it free. He also says that Nelson tried to engage the drivers and they initially tried to lie to her. “Their initial response was, ‘It’s cool, we’re with Friends of Forest Park and we’re doing maintenance and there’s nothing to worry about.”
Nelson called them on the lie (not only is she a board member of the Conservancy, but they haven’t been known as the Friends of Forest Park for years), and they quickly admitted they were busted. According to Hatfield, Nelson called the Conservancy office and they dispatched their trail crew to check it out. Meanwhile, another runner called the cops.
But, says Hatfield, “By the time our trail crew got back and over there they [the Land Rovers] were gone and the cops weren’t able to find them.”
Portland Parks & Recreation says they’re still waiting to confirm that the incident actually occurred. As of this morning, Parks spokesperson Beth Sorensen says “We only have reports of those vehicles as hearsay, third-hand. We don’t have any specifics. We’d love to have more info.”
Hatfield says a police report was filed in the case. When I mentioned that to Sorensen she hadn’t heard of it and checked with Parks’ security director Mark Warrington. He said it hadn’t come across his desk yet.
Dan Moeller, the natural resource supervisor for the Parks bureau says he didn’t notice any major damage from the incident. He also pointed out that Parks trucks sometimes travel near there so it would be difficult to distinguish those tracks from the illegal Land Rover tracks.
In the end, Hatfield says, “It just further indication of the lack of enforcement and lack of full-time staff in the park able to enforce this kind of thing.”