Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Work party will help repair illegal Forest Park trail

Posted by on April 30th, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Illegal trail in Forest Park-18

Parks staffer Dan Moeller on
the illegal trail back in February.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A work party scheduled for tomorrow will work to decommission a rogue bike trail that was discovered in Forest Park back in February.

The event has been jointly organized by Portland Parks & Recreation and the Northwest Trail Alliance. Volunteers will restore the natural habitat around the trail in hopes of minimizing future damage due to erosion or the introduction of invasive species. On the trail itself, crews will cover up the surface with brush, take down jumps and stream crossings, and remove a cribbing wall that had been constructed.

When the trail was discovered it set off major headlines and proved to be a distraction to an ongoing process led by the Parks department to improve and expand cycling access in the park.

At a recent open house on cycling in Forest Park, I asked Portland Parks natural resources planner Emily Roth whether or not the illegal trail had impacted discussions on the cycling advisory committee she oversees: “I don’t think it did. There’s so much illegal activity that goes on the park… Once we all got it [discussing the trail] out of our system, by the next meeting we just moved on.”

But contrary to Roth’s quote, the timing of the trail’s discovery (just as talks were heating up about many bike access issues) will have a lasting impact on this issue well into the future. The incident brought the lack of enforcement in the park into stark relief and for some in the committee, it was used as fodder to caution against any new trail access for bicycles.

I’ll have more reporting on the situation in Forest Park next week.

For more information on tomorrow’s trail work party, visit NW-Trail.org.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • SkidMark April 30, 2010 at 7:49 pm


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  • Peter May 1, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Must….break….the Law!

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  • Tom Archer May 1, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Skidmark-fun for who- the very small number of people who might have actually ridden this trail? For the rest of us bikers who want to create legitimate riding opportunities, this has been nothing but a negative distraction. I’d rather create opportunities that ALL mountain bikers can enjoy -including our kids. If we want to sustain our sport into the future – illegal trail building is not the answer.

    I know, others will whine that things aren’t happening fast enough, we never get what we want, etc. But you can’t complain unless you are actively engaged in advocating for access in a legitimate manner.

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  • Bob May 1, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Is it work, or a party? This story is very confusion.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 1, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I second Archer’s comment (#3). The unauthorized trail distracted from the discussion regarding shared trails. In addition it gave ammunition to the anti-shared trails camp.

    If cyclists want the advantages the system such as legal protection and use of parks; than cyclists have to respect the established processes in place.

    Kudos to those that make it to the project. Hope you get some good karma out of it.

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  • Jon May 1, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    when this blew up I started to take note of all the illegally created pedestrian trails created in the city. Any time I ride my road bike up the roads in Washington Park I literally see hundreds of paths that pedestrians have created to short cut down extremely steep hillsides and switchbacks. None of these comply with any of the grade requirements or is any any way legal. You see a lot of this when you hike the trails in Southwest Portland near OHSU also. I understand the uproar about this trail, but why not a similar uproar about all the illegal walking paths in our parks? Why the double standard?

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  • wsbob May 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Jon…because they’re walking paths and not vehicle…as in ‘bike’…paths.

    And please be more specific about the location of the “…literally hundreds of paths that pedestrians have created to short cut down extremely steep hillsides and switchbacks. …” that you speak of. Your description seems to refer to types of paths that can be seen by car driving west on Jefferson out of Portland when passing the Washington Park Reservoirs.

    A call to the Portland Parks would probably confirm it, but my guess is that those and others you have seen elsewhere are use paths created by illegal campers. That type of use of the park is subject to ongoing efforts to stop it.

    I was glad to read Tom Archer advising against ridiculing restoration of an area of Forest Park that was subject to somebody’s independent decision to place an off-road bike trail wherever they felt like doing so in the park. That advice was smart, and so was encouraging the planning and construction of trail that is usable by off-road bikers that includes kids as well as skilled off-road bikers.

    Regarding this trail though: Is it not true, that the type of off-road biking it was designed for is the type that an as yet undetermined number of off-road bikers are wanting to have within riding distance within Portland, and in Forest Park if at all possible?

    One last comment, different point:

    “…The incident brought the lack of enforcement in the park into stark relief and for some in the committee, it was used as fodder to caution against any new trail access for bicycles. …” maus/bikeportland

    How could the construction of this illegal trail not validate (rather than be used as ‘fodder’)caution against any new trail access for bicycles? An raised sense of caution for the health and well being of the park and the people that depend upon it for a readily accessible experience in a natural setting is how the committee responded to news of the trail’s construction.

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  • Minnow May 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Jon, those trails you see in Washington park aren’t on an active elk trail like the rogue trail was.

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  • Lisa May 1, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Jon @6: And you know that those trails are not used by bikers and only by pedestrians?

    Ask any of the parks people about all the illegal bike trails in Washington Park.

    The illegal trail was built by miscreant bikers who decided they wanted what they wanted and to heck with anyone else. It was utterly selfish and it in no way represents all mountain bikers. But to equate that trail with shortcuts around switchbacks or social trails is a real stretch.

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  • tony May 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Well, let the users/voters decide…if there is an “illegal” trail….maybe the users know best……maybe that should be a new trail.

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  • Bjorn May 1, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    The timing was completely manufactured by anti-cyclists. The trail was known about far in advance of the announcement which was timed for effect. The way in which the discovery of the trail was handled torpedoed any illusions that non cyclists were acting in good faith during the ongoing discussions.

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  • Coaster May 1, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    The illegal trail is a sign of pent up demand. It should be taken out as a message to those who built it. But it is also a message to the community; there is a lack of facilities and the process of providing them with options has been tedious.

    I believe in the process, but there must be a shorter term solution as well. I don’t think it’s forest park either. That is a long term effort. These are kids with shovels. Give them an empty hill somewhere so they can dig to their hearts content. Like under a freeway somewhere? They just want to jump and ride their bikes and there is no where ‘legal’ to do it… Look at ‘The Grotto’. Slightly different style of riding, but its the same story. Burnside Skatepark? Give them an empty plot so they can build there own ‘Colonnade’ like Seattle.

    Even when we do finally have real mountain biking trails in forest park. It won’t be the kind of trails those kids want anyways…. and another illegal trail will pop up…

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  • Charlie B May 2, 2010 at 9:03 am

    @wsbob #7
    What does “as yet undetermined number of cyclists” even mean?

    I believe the cycling community came out in pretty strong numbers to comment on the Committee’s proposals a couple weeks ago. Perhaps once the responses have been tallied, the Committee will then undertiminate cycling in Forest Park?

    And how, exactly does the illegal trail “validate . . . caution against . . . ” Why cannot mountain bikers “depend upon [Forest Park] for a readily accessible experience in a natural setting”?

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  • f5 May 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Good lord WSBOB pay attention. We don’t need you spouting off inaccuracies any more:

    Regarding this trail though: Is it not true, that the type of off-road biking it was designed for is the type that an as yet undetermined number of off-road bikers are wanting to have within riding distance within Portland, and in Forest Park if at all possible?

    No. NO. it’s not just the same type of trail wanted by the cycling community at large…the illegal trail was a freeride/dowhnill style trail with built with bermed corners, jumps and stunts. the trail committee and most mountain bikers at large want simple singletrack, much like what is already there.

    Remember that thread a while back? The one where 3 or 4 people already answered this question for you telling you directly that they want what is akin to x-country skiing? contour-line trails? Does this ring a bell wsbob?

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  • ugo May 3, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Did anybody noticed that you can fill out the Forest Park Survey as many times as you want?

    And to bad that this trail could not be used, it is already there after all.
    Isn’t this the way the trails started at Rocky Point…
    If you can not ride on existing trail just ride next to it and make your own.

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  • Tom Archer May 3, 2010 at 5:56 am

    We had a good day on saturday. About 10 of us worked to decommission a good portion of the trail. Plant growth is already occurring in disturbed areas and I believe the area will recover within just a few seasons.

    Special thanks to our IMBA reps Jill VanWinkle and Chris Bernhart who provided some training on proper decommissioning techniques, and to Parks staff Dan Moeller and Rachel Felice for providing tools, shuttle and refreshments. Still some work to do to complete the project, but it will probably happen in the fall.

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  • f5 May 3, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Tom — thanks for the update, will there be opportunities for people to sign up for future decommissioning work parties?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 3, 2010 at 8:23 am


    I’m curious if Forest Park Conservancy, hiking groups, or other park advocacy group have a similar work party event planned with the Parks bureau. Any idea?

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  • SkidMark May 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Who’s utterly selfish? Mountain bikers have less than a mile of singletrack in Forest Park/Washington Park, hikers have the rest. What if it was the opposite situation, would that be fair?

    It seems fairly obvious that if there was singletrack available for mountain bikes, these “illegal” trails would not need to be constructed.

    I see the act of creating these trails as civil disobedience.

    I guess mountain bikes are supposed to have street tires and fenders and you are only supposed to ride them to and from work while wearing a yellow jacket.

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  • Jackattak May 3, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Jesus, Skidmark…

    Hate the environment much?

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  • wsbob May 3, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Charlie B #13…by way of a number that represents a percentage the Portland or Metro area population, how many off-road bikers would you suggest will be coming to Forest Park for off-road biking as single track becomes available there?

    You also ask:

    “…And how, exactly does the illegal trail “validate . . . caution against . . . ” Why cannot mountain bikers “depend upon [Forest Park] for a readily accessible experience in a natural setting”?”.

    My thought is that caution is validated because of the type of riding for which that particular trail design was created and how it may represent what signficant numbers of off-road bike enthusiasts would like to have available at a close-in metro area location, if not Forest Park itself.

    How many people does this particular interest represent? Hard to say really, since very little effort has been made (and kgb….wherever you are…this is where surveys and studies can be sometimes helpful…)to determine how many.

    Mountain bikers can certainly depend upon FP for a readily accessible experience in a natural setting…in fact, they already do on many miles of legal roadway, as is well known. Enjoying that experience on single track in the park seems to be the question…and specifically…what type of single track that might be; For the purpose of different styles or levels of mountain biking, there’s more than one type of single track.

    Coaster #12 has the right idea. The message is fairly clear that off-road bike enthusiasts are looking for more than a meandering trail in a close in urban nature setting. It might be able to be found if off-road bike enthusiast went to the right places and asked. They could build it themselves, by hand with shovels, rakes and hoes, as Coaster suggests, rather than the gas, diesel, whatever fuel it uses…single track building machine reported on recently over at the NWTA website.

    Congratulations f5! In responding to points raised in comments to this story, you seem to have progressed from outright name calling, to responding in a generally insulting manner. That’s a slight improvement over your ongoing display of infantile babbling. If you keep working on it, one day, you may be consistently able to raise a constructive objection without soiling yourself.

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  • f5 May 3, 2010 at 11:43 am

    #21 WSBOB:

    I find your seemingly-intentional skewing of the facts and misinformation equally as insulting.

    But let’s not get too Meta, let’s keep the discussion to the actual topics, yeah?

    So how about the notion that you’ve been told repeatedly just what type of trials people desire — in fact I believe it was the moderator in a previous thread that pointed out that this illegal trail was indeed a jump/bermed corner/stunt-style freeride and downhill type of trail, and not run-of-the-mill singletrack. This is clearly not what the advisory committee is not endorsing.

    What of it, wsbob?

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  • Minnow May 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Bravo, Bob!

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  • SkidMark May 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Jackattack, seriously, riding a mountain bike off-road makes me anti-environment. My bike has no engine (and no suspension, or gears).

    There is no reason not to modify the existing trail to have drainage and whatever other environmental considerations there might be. It doesn’t even sound like I would have the abilty to ride the whole thing, if it is truly a freeride trail. Obviously there is a demand for such a thing within the city. Not everyone wants to car-top to ride a mountain bike.

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  • Brian May 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    f5 and others-I recommend the behavioral practice of “Extinction,” which is the refusal to reinforce a behavior with the desired outcome of reducing/eliminating the unwanted behavior. Ignore and it will go away.

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  • naess May 3, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Skidmark #24 – no, riding a mountain bike off road does not make you “anti-environment”, condoning, nay encouraging, the rampant and random destruction of select areas of portlands largest natural area does.

    also, comparing illegaly produced mountain bike trails to a sit in or even chaining oneself to a tree/door/car/ whatever? really?

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  • SkidMark May 3, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I know that the fire roads (logging roads at one point) aren’t random but how are they not “destruction”? Is it destruction because it’s a trail for “extreme” mountain biking and not nature hiking?

    I’ll simplify it: the city refuses to create any singletrack mountain biking trails year after year, so some mountain bikers get together and make a trail. Others just ride illegally on hiking trails during the day or after dark. Why? Because asking nice didn’t work, year after year.

    I wasn’t comparing it to a specific type of civil disobedience. No I suppose it isn’t as moral or noble (or smug) as the activities you describe but it’s not quite blowing up a logging truck (think of the environmental impact of the burning fuel and tires).

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  • Frank Selker May 3, 2010 at 9:50 pm


    I appreciate that in a recent forum posting you said you are trying to get an understanding of what mountain biking is.

    I encourage that research, but
    I’d also ask why you’ve been raising all sorts of objections for over a year, many without support of facts or misrepresenting what cyclists actually seek or how we feel, without such an understanding?

    I could answer most questions you have ever raised, but it clearly would make no difference: Your position was clear long ago – you don’t want us there. It’s a legitimate preference (that I don’t happen to share)and please consider your vote counted by all present.

    Frank Selker

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  • wsbob May 3, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Frank, I think your accusation is completely unfounded.

    In fact, I’ve probably read every comment posted to bikeportland stories on this subject; listened as such, carefully to every word that off-road bike enthusiasts have said about what they’re seeking in FP, and thought about them with equal care.

    I think that anybody that wants to check will find that most everything I’ve said supports the idea that off-road biking in Forest Park on single track could be workable, if specific guidelines for the type of off-road bike riding permitted on it were clearly specified and incorporated into park regulations. If that is, Portland residents know well what they’d be getting, and want it available there.

    Maybe the park trail advisory committee is or will be working on specific regulations once details about which trail or area for a single track trail for off-road biking in the park will first be made accessible.

    Why would I and other people be having concerns…’raising objections’ as you put it to the prospect of increased off-road bike access to single track in nature parks including Forest Park? If you don’t know then perhaps you should be listening closer to what you and other off-road bike enthusiast for this type of access have been saying to persuade people it’s such a great idea.

    Off-road bike enthusiast commenters to bikeportland stories on this subject, that favor access to single track in FP, have not been helpful in educating the readership about the specifics of which type of off-road biking in the park they have in mind.

    (Since they haven’t, for anybody that doesn’t know, that wants to start to know something about mountain biking/off-road biking, and which of it might be sought for Forest Park, wikipedia’s page is an easy introduction:

    Mountain biking/wikipedia

    An excerpt:

    “…Mountain biking can generally be broken down into multiple categories: cross country, trail riding, all mountain, downhill, freeride, street riding, dirt jumping and trials. The vast majority of mountain biking falls into the recreational XC and Trail Riding categories. …”)

    Off-road bike enthusiast commenters to bikeportland stories on this subject, have not offered much in the way of guidelines for the type of trail use they’re seeking. They seem not to respond well to ideas such as posted top speeds…passing procedures such as shouldering a bike to allow a person on foot and a person with a bike to share single width trail together. Instead, they suggest partitioning the park; alternate day use, etc., etc..

    My personal feeling about off-road bikes in nature parks such as Forest Park, as you put it “…you don’t want us there…”. First of all, ‘us’ as in ‘us versus them’ is a divisional tactic which I don’t think belongs in discussion over this issue. This is a ‘we’ situation.

    Second, though I’m not personally enthusiastic about off-road bike riding in nature parks, that’s of small importance in the overall scheme of things. If this activity is how the general public wants to use this resource, it should definitely take the necessary steps to make that happen.

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  • Tom Archer May 4, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Jonathan, If you are asking if any of the other groups plan to work on the rogue trail, the answer is I don’t believe so. Of course, FPC does regular maintenance on other trails throughout the park regularly

    Tom Archer

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  • Jackattak May 4, 2010 at 8:32 am

    @ Skidmark –

    I was referring to your obvious condoning of illegal trails (comment #1).

    They cause erosion. Proper trail use is one of the first thing any Boy Scout, kid with their Dad in the woods, soldier, or general outdoors-y type person learns about being outdoors and enjoying nature.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

    That’s interesting Tom. Don’t other groups see themselves as stewards of the park as well?

    What bothers me is that by doing a work party with Parks, it looks like NWTA is admitting some level of complicity in the illegal trail… which we all know is not the case.

    Too bad. Would have been great to see Forest Park Conservancy work to promote and turn volunteers out for this and/or do their own work party.

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  • Lisa May 4, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I believe that any work done on decommissioning the illegal trail is work that is headed up by and done with direction and leadership by Parks and not by FPC.

    I don’t think there is a need to be divisive about “who is doing the work and who is not.” Many folks work on being stewards of Forest Park and indeed FPC has Stewardship days as well as regular trail maintenance work days throughout the year. Just like NWTA has days where they work on trail maintenance on FL 5 and in other places.

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  • Frank Selker May 4, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Thank you to Tom and NWTA and good point Jonathan.

    Frank Selker

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  • Charlie B May 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    wsbob, how many interactions have you personally had on singletrack encountering mountain bikes? Shouldering a bike to allow a hiker to get passed is invariably not necessary. I know you just threw that out there as a practical example, but I think the reason you have not heard much by way of a response from mountain bikers, is that largely these encounters are benign and require less thought in practice on the trail than you seem to be applying from your desktop.

    As to your previous comment on an “as yet undetermined number of cyclists,” I was actually poking a little fun at your butchering of the language 🙂

    Quite simply, I believe that bikes are legitimate park users, have some access to singletrack already (FL5) and by rights should have a more equitable share of them. From what I understand that is exactly what the committee has been tasked to do. However, there are elements of opposition that have made this about “us vs. them.” Specifically the whole illegal trail imbroglio. Legitimate and lawful park users and mountain bikers in general were lumped as one into what a selfish few were responsible.

    My stake is that I hope to see the sport of mountain biking continue to grow faster than video games and for that to be a success and for our children (the future) to grow up active and healthy, there needs to be as much compelling outdoor activity to motivate and inspire as is possible.

    Tennis anyone?

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  • Will May 4, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I love your last paragraph, Charlie B, well said.

    To engage the youth or today in healthy outdoor activities can only lead to a healthier and more environmentally aware future for society.

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  • wsbob May 4, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Charlie B…Hah! Sorry I didn’t get your jibe at my linguistic goof-up. Writing and coming up with coherent sentences is actually hard work for me, so I figure I’m guaranteed to make mistakes from time to time despite my best efforts to avoid them.

    What you wrote in your first paragraph about my suggestion that off-road bikers be prepared to shoulder their bikes upon approaching other trail users is somewhat correct. It’s not just my imagination let free at my desktop though that brought me to this suggestion. I’m drawing on my experience riding on the multi-use path within the nature park in my area.

    I’d be happy to talk about that experience with you, but it would probably take me an extended explanation…which I probably shouldn’t spend time on right now. There’s a thread in the forums, ‘general discussion’ category if you ever care to talk about it more there.

    In a very general sense, despite what others here seem to be convinced of, I think bikes in nature parks can be o.k. . I would say that ‘they basically are out in the nature park out my way.’…but as I said before, some explanation is involved to qualify that. Some other time.

    Too many lethargic, electronic obsessed kids…that’s for sure. I look forward to seeing close in off-road bike opportunities that would draw these people into the real, natural physical world. Just not only in nature parks.

    The need for off-road bike opportunity close in should be a great argument for drawing more parkland into the metro area park inventory…not segmenting an existing expansive nature area to provide for vehicular recreation…which is exactly what off road biking is.

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  • Jackattak May 5, 2010 at 8:47 am

    What’s all this talk about kids being cooped-up inside?

    It was just announced yesterday that Oregon has the slimmest children in the US.

    You guys are a fickle bunch. We have it so good yet the complaining only drones on. Not saying there can’t always be room for improvement, but sheesh…

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