– Video/Slideshow below-
(Photos © J. Maus)
Despite their recent setback, the push by advocates for improved off-road cycling opportunities in Forest Park has not wavered. That fact was made clear by Tom Archer, President of the Northwest Trail Alliance, while speaking in front of an estimated 150-200 people who showed up for the “Share the Park” rally and ride on Leif Erikson Road in Forest Park Saturday morning.
Archer said his group’s focus on Forest Park remains. “It will remain a focal point for us.” Archer has already started working with Parks and Commissioner Fish’s office on a plan to “re-green” two fire access roads to make them into narrow bike trails. “When the studies are done, we’ll hopefully be in a position to put in a land-use application and we’ll continue to push and lay groundwork for other things in the same period.”
The event came three weeks after City Commissioner Nick Fish and Parks Director Zari Santner decided that the 5,000 acre urban park is not ready for new or improved trail access for bicycles.
Speaking to the crowd on a sunny and crisp fall morning (watch a video of his speech below), Archer joked about what it will take to make progress on this issue. “I will take this weather as a sign from above that our mission here is being looked upon favorably. Sometimes I think it’s going take some form of divine intervention to get more places to ride in this park.”
“I will take this weather as a sign from above that our mission here is being looked upon favorably. Sometimes I think it’s going take some form of divine intervention to get more places to ride in this park.”
— Tom Archer, President of Northwest Trail Alliance
Getting more places to ride is important to 46-year old Daniel Greenstadt who showed up to the rally towing his 8-month old daughter Gigi in a trailer behind him. He said he supports more single track trails in Forest Park because he wants to share them with her when she grows up. “I want to be able to enjoy the same experience with her that turned me into a conservationist years ago… which is riding on narrow, intimate, wooded trails.”
The event took place during Forest Park Conservancy’s annual Day of Stewardship where people work in the park removing invasives and doing trail maintenance. The Day of Stewardship had about the same turnout of volunteers as the rally, which underscores how many people feel that by excluding bikes from trails, the City of Portland is also turning away scores of willing volunteers.
Portland State University professor Robert Sanders showed up to remind the City that, “We’re here and ready to help with all the problems the park has.”
On Saturday morning the mood was positive and smiles came easy (typical on a sunny fall day before a bike ride), but several people I talked to were not optimistic that much would change in the coming years. Looking 1-2 years ahead — the period of time Commissioner Fish says it will take to do the requisite wildlife and user surveys in the park before any decisions about trail access can be made — Daniel Greenstadt said he won’t get his hopes up because, “The fundamental political landscape will not have changed.”
On a more positive note, it’s clear that this issue has galvanized off-road cycling advocacy in Portland. In dealing with Forest Park and other local trail access issues, the NWTA has matured immensely in the past year. With continued support from the community, hopefully the organization will continue to grow. When we look back at the City’s recent decision, we’ll likely (hopefully) see it as, not the end of the road, but the beginning of the trail.
— For background on this story, browse our archives. Watch Tom Archer address the crowd in the video below…