Judging by the huge crowds that packed into the Holiday Inn in Northwest Portland last night, it’s obvious that bike access in Forest Park is an issue many people care about.
People from all user groups lined up many rows deep to view maps and a list of proposed actions to improve and expand bike access in the park. They also placed colored dots on a list of “management actions” to help the City assess the relative importance of each one listed (I’ll post a separate story once all the materials from the open house are available in electronic form).
Throughout the hotel, people sat in silence filling out the comment form and survey that was passed out by Portland Parks staff (it reminded me of a college library). Inside the main room, committee members stood near poster boards answering questions and pointing out trails on the maps.
The wide range of opinions on this issue were clearly apparent. One man I overheard talking to a parks staffer was incensed that the process was not more transparent and was afraid that not enough Portlanders are even aware the issue is being discussed. He also said the whole process was meaningless because Commissioner Nick Fish had already “promised to give those bikers what they want.”
On written comments, many people advocated for more singletrack trails for bikes and especially for trail-sharing on Maple and Ridge Trails. Other comments said the 1995 Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan must be updated and the park must have further user studies done before any expanded bike access can occur.
I made my way over to Emily Roth, the natural resources planner with Portland Parks and Recreation. Roth has been the facilitator of the committee process and I asked her about what to expect from here on out. She explained that the committee will review all the comments and surveys that come in and will meet again in May to come up with their final recommendations (they will meet again in June if necessary).
Once the committee agrees on their final package of recommendations (they can only forward things that have consensus support) they will forward them to Parks Director Zari Santner and her boss, Parks Commissioner Nick Fish. Fish and Santner will then review the recommendations, making changes if they choose to, and then forward them to the Bureau of Development Services. BDS will analyze the recommendations and report back to Fish and Santner as to what type of land use reviews will be required to turn the proposals into reality.
Roth made it clear that Parks will only move forward with trail options that require a Type II land use review. This could become an important issue to watch in the coming weeks because there has been no clear determination from BDS yet as to whether trail-sharing — an issue that has divided the committee — would require a Type II or the more involved Type III land use review.
The committee began their work under the assumption that trail-sharing would only require a Type II review, but after BDS was contacted by committee members who are opposed to trail-sharing, BDS said a Type III review would be required.
Last night Roth told me that the Type III determination by BDS is only a “casual interpretation” at this point and a final determination won’t be made until BDS analyzes the final package of proposals.
I spent the open house talking at length with Roth and committee member Les Blaize and didn’t chat much with other attendees. If you were at the event, please chime in with what you heard and how you felt about it in general.
Stay tuned. There’s a lot more to report on this issue. Next up I’ll post the materials from the open house and the link to the online comment form.