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City releases Forest Park cycling actions: No new bike access

Posted by on September 30th, 2010 at 9:59 am

PUMP's Forest Park mountain bike tour

Riding in Forest Park.
(Photo © J. Maus)

As we hinted at yesterday, City Commissioner Nick Fish and Portland Parks and Recreation Director Zari Santner have released their much-anticipated set of actions they’ll take to address off-road cycling in Forest Park.

The decision includes no new or improved access to existing singletrack trails and no commitment to build new ones.

In their announcement today, Commissioner Fish and Director Santner wrote, “Further restoration and maintenance work is needed in the park before recreational use can be expanded.” With that being said, they have committed to move forward with the following within the next year:

  • The design and implementation of a new vegetation monitoring program
  • Development of a new outreach and education plan to increase knowledge of trail etiquette and safety

“My interest is not in studying this to death, it’s seeing what we can actually do… I am committed to finding ways to significantly expand our current inventory of single track trails.”
— Commissioner Nick Fish in February 2010

Within the next two years, Portland Parks will:

  • Expand the Recreation User Study
  • Secure funding to develop, implement and complete a wildlife study
  • Work with partners to improve one to two fire lanes or utility corridors that are currently open to cyclists (“The bureau will work with partners to improve the cycling experience on existing fire lanes, including adding switchbacks, re-greening the lanes, and enhancing existing loops.”)
  • Proceed with permitting applications for additional trail recommendations based on the outcome of completed studies

Missing from these lists are shared or outright access to existing singletrack trails or construction of new ones — which is something Commissioner Fish promised to off-road cycling advocates at the outset of this process one year ago. Fish told OPB today that Portland is “not ready” for new bike trails in Forest Park. That statement comes despite the fact that two recent surveys show that a majority of people want new trails and improved bike access.

The “actions” announced by Commissioner Fish put the completion of studies front and center. These decisions are in stark contrast to what Fish said back in February:

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

In a prepared statement in today’s announcement, Commissioner Fish said:

“We recognize that off-road cycling is a popular recreational sport. People who enjoy singletrack riding also care about the environment and are committed to being good stewards of our natural areas… The decisions we reached are based upon what we agreed is best for Portland’s largest natural area.”

“We agree” actually means what Commissioner Fish, Director Santner, and those who opposed improved bicycling in the park agreed to. There are many people in Portland who understand that it is possible to improve bike access by sharing existing trails and creating new ones, without harming the ecology of the park.

In an effort to make this disappointing news a bit easier to swallow, today’s announcement also included “a commitment to expanding off-road cycling access throughout the Portland metropolitan area.” Here’s a list of those commitments as expressed by Parks Director Zari Santner (emphasis mine):

  • With the support of Mayor Sam Adams, PP&R will take the lead role in managing Gateway Green and prioritizing singletrack cycling in this new park [More on that here]
  • PP&R will work in partnership with the NW Trail Alliance to construct two new temporary skills parks.
  • With the support of Commissioner Randy Leonard, PP&R and the Portland Water Bureau will improve the recreational experience for pedestrians, equestrians, and bikers, while also increasing natural area protections at Powell Butte Natural Area
  • The City will continue to work with Metro and Intertwine partners to provide more single track cycling opportunities in the Portland region

These other efforts are certainly appreciated, but this entire process was based around improving bicycling opportunities in Forest Park. There is currently only 1/3 of a mile of singletrack trail that is open to bikes in the entire, 5,000 acre park.

I’ll have more on this story, including an interview with Commissioner Fish, later today.

For more background on this issue, browse our extensive coverage here.

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

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Zaphod
Guest

The frustration here is that this mirrors similar issues with mode split on our streets. We get a smaller piece of the pie than our numbers would naturally dictate. But instead of getting say ~6% of funding or X% of trails, we get comparatively little.

Malex
Guest
Malex

I think this is a new headline, and I like it! It expresses the (frustrating) bottom line of Fish’s announcement.

Singlespeeeeeeeeeed
Guest
Singlespeeeeeeeeeed

This is sadly what I expected. Much to the detriment of the park in my opinion. Alienating a large user group, who would be happy to jump in and help maintain is bad business. I guess we’ll just have to keep riding on the firelanes dodging loose dogs. Awesome!

single track
Guest
single track

this is an example of spineless pols. i’ll just continue to ride where i see fit, and I wont be hurting anyone’s “former clear cut”.

***portion of comment deleted – I will not tolerate even veiled threats of violence. thank you ***

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

Gotta preserve something.

Wanna ride dangerously? Ride the freeways.

I don’t place making trails in Forest Park on par with advocacy for bike infrastructure/bike lanes. The former is for fun, and the latter is for transportation. If they were really looking for exercise, they’d run through the park which is almost as fun and less dangerous to other users. One can get some pretty good speeds running downhill.

Eric
Guest
Eric

All that work for this? Seriously?

I’ll make sure to get my email removed from the Forest Park Conservancy email list since I don’t plan on providing any more of my time to help them pull ivy, repair the walking trails or anything else they request help with. I did that in good faith and hopes that this process would lead to a better outcome for mountain bikers, but I guess not.

Just glad that Parks will be doing so much to support singletrack elsewhere, temporary skills parks, improving the experience at Powell Butte, and working to find other singletrack opportunities. Whoops, forgot to turn on my sarcasm tag.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Hey, please try to interview Frank Selker as well. I have a feeling I know what he might say but considering the amount of time and money he put into this it would be nice to see what he thinks.

dirt_merchant
Guest
dirt_merchant

no surprise here. maybe turn our collective focus to the Greenway project, and perhaps get a trail or two there before I am infirm?

Steve
Guest
Steve

So the poaching will
continue/increase…good luck with that PP&R.
Short-sighted and a definite loss of a vote.

Howdy-Doodoo
Guest
Howdy-Doodoo

See what you did? Now my mountain bike is crying.

This process is painfully drawn out. I get it but geez. We could only ride on it a few months a year anyway due to rain…it’s all yours the rest of the time. Throw me a friggin bone here.

The trail etiquette and safety campaign MUST include how bikes fit in the mix a la IMBA (yield to everyone) even if bikes are still currently regarded somewhere below dogs.

Temporary skills park? Guess I’ll drive to Sisters.

Thanks for not sharing a resource I pay for. Knotheads.

Jason
Guest

Assuming the Commissioner and Director are elected positions, I think that the cycling community would do well to support new individuals for these positions in the future.

doper
Guest
doper

Ugh.

Not unexpected, but entirely disappointing.

so…when’s the first monthly FOREST PARK CRITICAL MASS ride? sign me up!

Voting is cool.

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

guys guys guys guys

they make big bright lights for this at night

f5
Guest
f5

I’m looking forward to seeing the NWTA’s response to this and what type of renewed efforts for public outreach and education come about.

single track
Guest
single track

That was not a veiled threat of violence. I apologize for the lack of foresight before i hit send. my intent was to highlight the great number of off leash dogs in the park and that bikes and bikers create no more of a problem than off leash unruly dogs.

for the record, I’ve run (on foot)into belligerent dogs as well.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

thanks single track. we all know that if dogs were human they would have been outlawed from the park long ago. too bad bikes are as quite and fluffy.

Matt F
Guest
Matt F

Very disappointing.

single track
Guest
single track

Nick Fish-

You can wear your silly ball cap under your helmet for photo ops all you want but you just lost my vote.

Alex
Guest
Alex

I am just going to start riding wildwood, during the day and when I feel like it. At this point I am convinced I am not doing any more harm than the hikers, no one is out there enforcing anything and their is really no relationship worth fostering with people who are against it.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Alex (and others),

While I understand and share the frustration and disappointment, I would absolutely not recommend poaching trails. It’s illegal, it will make progress even more difficult, and it will just be bad all-around if/when you get caught. Also, you might want to know that Parks has already hired a full-time park ranger who is just waiting to catch you. I think the best use of energy is by calling Commissioner Fish and his Council colleagues and letting them know how you feel about the decision.

k_t_w
Guest
k_t_w

I’m done. Let’s poach.

DK
Guest
DK

Hey Nick, nice work by you and your committee. A ton of time and talk for little-to-no tangible result.

WEAK!!!

Did the biking demographic help elect you to your current seat? Wonder how that will work out for you over the long-term.

DK
Guest
DK

#19
#20
Agreed.

Let the civil disobedience begin. After all, this is our city too and we’ve already excercised our patience and good faith in waiting for the committee’s results.

Now that we see said results, I think NWTA should do an organized group ride on Wildwood in protest of the city’s in-action to address their dirt-loving constituents. It should take place in the daytime, on the weekend, during prime-hiking hours, with a press release! Perhaps once a week, until the committee amends their recommendation? Ownership is 9/10ths after all.

So disappointing.

Dave
Guest
Dave

If cyclists can’t get their fix in FP and have to drive to Browns Camp, or Hood River, or even further, that means more cars on the road, and more pollution. Which has an environmental impact on the entirety of FP, not just the areas with trails. Wonder if that will be included in the new studies?

What saddens me is the number of people who seem to want to manage FP as though it were some pristine wilderness – the implication being that perhaps it’s as close to wilderness as they’ve ever been. It’s not even remotely so. It’s second growth former clearcut, full of joggers and dog crap, in the middle of a huge metropolitan area. It’s not the Amazon, it’s not Opal Creek, it’s not even Mt Hood National Forest. It’s a city park, and the citizens who pay for it have a right to use it. If you want to save the earth, go work on brownfields in Oregon City, or river restoration out at T5. Unfortunately, those things aren’t pretty, and don’t give crabby old hippies a place to pretend they’re getting back to nature without getting to far from the Volvo.

BigRedBike
Guest
BigRedBike

How does someone get elected to Commissioner? Public land is for the public, Not just the whiners on the council. I won’t preach to the choir any more than that, but honestly I’m going to ride where I want. I won’t hurt anyone, litter or cause unwarranted erosion. A knobby tire track in the forest park single track is the only voice I have with deaf political figureheads like Fish. Nick Fish is a

On a completely different topic. The building at L.L. Stub Stewart and proposed improvements there are looking wonderful for the local cycling community. It’s probably 20-ish minutes from P-town and going to be a great addition to Oregon’s trails. Visit http://www.nw-trail.org

BURR
Guest
BURR

this just means that there will be continued poaching of the existing hiking trails by cyclists.

DK
Guest
DK

#22
I humbly disagree Jonathan.

I think it is time for the mt. biking community to stand up and be counted. Traditional channels have been slow and the results less-than-desirable. Why waste more time calling Nick? He already knows what we want and hasn’t been able to deliver even a sliver of it. We need visible numbers of constituents, with a clear objective, to state publicly that we are unhappy with these results and the powers to be need to come back to us with something more paletable. …In short order.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I guess this means Portland is loosing it’s Platinum status? 2 miles of singletrack on 35 acres(2 years from now) at Gateway Green isn’t going to cut it.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Jon,

I appreciate your concern. I am willing to pay the fine if I get caught. I disagree with how this whole thing has been handled and I don’t believe I am setting anything back. There is nothing to set back at this point, it is at its lowest point; the hole isn’t getting any deeper.

I just recently got back from a 10 day trip to California trip where I spent time mountain biking from Santa Barbara all the way north to Shasta Lake area. Most of the single track I rode was accessible from downtown, very heavily used and the trails were in good condition and children weren’t dying from mountain bikers running them over. Cyclists/hikers/horseback riders were all friendly to each other. On top of that, I think I saw more wildlife in those parks than I have ever seen in Forest Park and I have lived directly across the street from the park for years at a time (not currently).

When I came back to Portland, my frustrations were heightened by my experiences just south of us. This update was definitely the tipping point. I guess the pipeline that is going through Forest Park also struck a wrong chord with me. Trail sharing works, the only thing that needs to change is attitude.

Expanding access could have been handled in a way as to not overburden the park and cost effectively. Putting things off for 2 more years means that nothing will get done for another 10. By that time I will be in my 40s. I am not going to sit idle for another 10 years only to be told no again. I want to be happy with my life here in Portland and this is a big part of it. Their plan is no plan and my plan is to ride my bike.

This is eerily reminiscent of how skateboarding was treated in the 1980s, and probably by the same people. I think we should give it the burnside treatment and just start using it without permission. It is part of our city’s history.

Scott
Guest
Scott

It’s interesting that now Zari Santer wants to work with mountain bikers at Powell Butte. After this back in June http://forums.mtbr.com/showpost.php?p=7073499&postcount=6

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

Critical Knobby Mass – You know what pisses off the oppressor the most? Let’s ride bikes on the legal trails. Or.. Imagine 100 pedestrians walking their bike on a trail just for hikers and horses.

The NWTA has some spine, but the BTA is more of a lap dog than watch dog, more of raise funds, not a fuss.

A new group of active transportation folks is forming in Portland. Join us. We’re having a social party, having a beer and sharing ideas as we fill out our ballots. A voting party.

http://www.activerightofway.org/
mailing list on the right.

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

Just sent this message to Fish:

Dear Commissioner Fish,

I was very disappointed to hear that you announced today that there would be no new mountain biking access in Forest Park.

I am not a mountain biker and frankly it doesn’t affect my life one bit that Portland lacks good in-city mountain biking opportunities. Nevertheless, I think this is an important issue for our city. We cannot truly be a platinum-level cycling community if we continue to ignore the demand for mountain biking opportunities that do not require a car and a long drive. Mountain biking is a green, healthy activity and one that the City should embrace and promote.

It is frustrating to so many Portland residents that hikers (including ones with dogs) have unlimited access to the amazing community asset that is Forest Park, while mountain bikers have no singletrack access. If you are serious about balancing access and restoration, why not talk about banning dogs and limiting the amount of hiking in the park?

Creating a singletrack access implementation plan would have opened up a tremendously positive and motivated group of volunteers who could help build and maintain trails, address habitat and invasive species issues, and provide positive peer leadership about responsible use. Mountain biking facilities can be designed to promote responsible use by cyclists. Continuing to refuse to allow access to responsible users means that only irresponsible and/or angry users will poach trails in the park.

I felt like your statements in the past on this issue showed true leadership and vision, and I thought the outcome would be a breakthrough on this historically difficult issue. I feel you have gone back on your commitment to providing a solution to this issue, caved to certain special interests that do not represent the whole city, and wasted the goodwill and time of responsible cycling advocates who participated in your process.

Yours,
Jessica Roberts

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

DK,

I absolutely agree that a more direct and clear show of numbers is in order… i just have some reservations about doing that illegally by riding trails where bikes are not currently allowed. I think just as big of an impact can be had with a huge group ride and related activism at trailheads and on existing fire roads and trails.

I should have a statement from NWTA president Tom Archer shortly.

thanks for keep this discussion productive.

Stig
Guest
Stig

1. Provoke.
2. Get the reaction you need (the poaching).
3. Free to continue to marginalize the group with the evidence and media coverage you need as they argue and fragment.

This isn’t a movie. The bad guys win again.

Sasquatch
Guest
Sasquatch

Good decision. I’m an avid cyclists and love biking on FP’s designated bike trails. No disappointment here, as I also love to enjoy the natural beauty of the park as a runner and walker.

Jason
Guest

A number of us have discussed this in the past, and I personally like the suggestion of a “Critical Mass,” independent of any of the official advocacy groups, with the intent of walking bikes down the length of the trails.

My suggestion was to remove the front wheels of the bikes, and strap them to our hydration packs. Then it would be clear what the intent was. My concern would be attempting to control the frustrated masses with a “f*ck it” attitude, and trying to keep the statement political, and not emotional. Perhaps Portland’s media would actually cover an event like this.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

So when’s the first CRITICAL MESS RIDE???

Let’s get dirty!

Ao
Guest
Ao

critical mass on leif

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

Why did I see this coming a mile away?

Thanks for nothing.

Time for better lights on my singlespeed mountain bike.

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

We gotta go to city hall in full riot gear(mtb gear). Who’s gonna pay attention to us up in Forest Park? We need reps from local mtb sellers. We need big redbull and mountain dew signs, blaring music, and painted sponsor vehicles at the trail-head. We can make this work guys! It’s a party, come one come all! We can take over Forest Park if we try hard enough and not get pushed around. Let’s set some things on fire(our cigarettes) and cut down some trees(weeds and invasive ivy).

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

October 16, Forest Park Day of Stewardship:

http://forestparkconservancy.org/BookingRetrieve.aspx?ID=91555

Jessica Roberts
Guest
Jessica Roberts

re: trail abuser #40, “We need big redbull and mountain dew signs, blaring music, and painted sponsor vehicles at the trail-head.” Is this a joke?

ColoradoMtBiker
Guest
ColoradoMtBiker

I doubt that the new Forest Ranger rides a mtn bike or he would empathize with the mt bike community. That said, he is going to have a hell of time trying to catch ‘real’ riders to ticket them. Illinois hired 10+ rangers to patrol Palos only to have a judge throw out nearly all citations that were issued.

Eric
Guest
Eric

re: Patrick #41

Thanks, but no thanks. Been there, done that. I spent my entire “Forest Park Day of Stewardship” back in ’08 utilizing my 10+ years of building sustainable mountain bike and multi-use trails to fix a horribly designed, built and “maintained” hiker only trail to help build goodwill for the mountain bike community. A lot of good that did.

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

How else are we to attract attention for our plight? Cry softly in the corner? Look at how MTB parks have been implemented throughout the country. Big names, big sponsors, big attention. Who’s gonna back us up when the other side brings guns to a fist fight? We need big guns, and that’s corporate attention/sponsorship. Trek/Specialized/Monster Energy Subaru WRx’s, not nerds in fluorescent clothing. We’ll get bulldozed if we appear too weak. It don’t work if we don’t have money.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Write the League of American Bicyclists and tell them to remove our platinum status. That will get the city moving.

spazdance
Guest
spazdance

There are definitely trails in FP which bikes would not mix well with hikers. “Poaching” these trails will only lead to situations where people might get hurt and tempers will flare.

Personally, if I were on a trail with my family and I knew bikes were not allowed, there would be no expectation of mixed-use right-of-way politeness.

MtnTom3005
Guest
MtnTom3005

I say we all just poach the trails. Time for some Civil Disobedience.

shannon
Guest
shannon

So disheartening….and so disappointing.

Please note that like Jessica@32, we should ALL be writing Comm. Fish to express our disappointment on this unfortunate decision.

Our vocalization is important.

jered
Guest
jered

Critical Mass in forest park.

ooooh is it right or is it wrong…

Malex
Guest
Malex

Nick Fish’s email is nick.fish@ci.Portland.or.us