of trails, including some single-track.
The U.S. Forest Service has begun the official, 30-day public comment period on the ‘Preliminary Assessment’ of the Timberline Mountain Bike Trails and Skills Park Project. The project would include watershed restoration projects and the development of 17 miles of lift-assisted downhill mountain bike trails and a skills park in the southern portion of the existing Timberline Ski Area on Mt. Hood (about 55 miles east of downtown Portland).
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Not surprisingly, there is already a debate taking place about the proposal. Back in July, we strong opinions on both sides of the issue following the initial project comment period.
One of the loudest voices against the idea is Portland resident Dennis Chaney. Chaney is a board member of Friends of Mt. Hood and he’s concerned that the bike trails would pose a risk to the environment. In a February 2nd Sandy Post op-ed he wrote, “The ski lift base that would be used in this proposal sits in the watershed for two critical habitat streams.” Chaney also refers to downhill mountain biking as “…arguably the most damaging recreational activity we can bring to an alpine environment.”
It’s worth noting that the proposal includes significant soil and watershed restoration projects. In their recently released Preliminary Assessment (download it here), the Forest Service determined the restoration projects that come with the mountain bike park development would actually leave the mountain in better shape than it is now. Here’s an excerpt from their “Soils Report”:
“… the restoration actions have been modeled and evaluated to reduce sediment risk by a two to one ratio, a substantial improvement over the current condition. In addition, the restoration actions are scheduled to occur either slightly before or concurrently with the proposed trail construction, thereby offsetting potential impacts in both time and space. The restoration projects are in fact, so essentially important to offsetting the impacts of the proposed trails that they themselves are included in the proposed action. Proven effective in other locations on the mountain, it is with the highest confidence that they will be fully effective as designed.”
Northwest Trial Alliance President Tom Archer says his organization supports the proposal. Reached via telephone today, he told us, “There’s a need for it and we feel it’s better to have these types of activities in a controlled environment where they can be managed.” As for environmental concerns, Archer said, “We think the design has been done in a way to minimize potential impact to environmental resources.”
Archer was part of a large group of stakeholders that took a walking tour of the proposed trails back in September. He noted that the park’s designers, Gravity Logic, have made environmental concerns a top priority. “They made a lot of adjustments [to trail routing] to avoid particularly sensitive areas. There won’t be any in-water crossings, it will all be bridged.”
The comment period last summer was to demonstrate the “need” for this project and the USFS received enough supportive comments to move forward. Now they are looking for comments on their preliminary assessment in order to complete the Environmental Assessment and “help guide the final decision.”
If the project moves forward, trail construction would begin this summer. Read the preliminary assessment documents here and direct your comments to Christy Covington and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be an open house on the project on March 17th, 4:00 pm at the Zig Zag Ranger District Headquarters (70220 E Highway 26).