Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Off-road bike trails figure into new property acquired by Parks Bureau

Posted by on May 4th, 2011 at 9:10 pm

River View Forest will soon be
owned by the City.
(Photo: City of Portland)

Calling it the “largest land acquisition in recent decades,” two City bureaus (Parks and Environmental Services) teamed up with Metro to purchase 146 acres of natural area known as the “River View Forest” in Southwest Portland. The $11.25 million deal was announced Monday and was approved by City Council yesterday.

The privately owned land, which is adjacent to and south of River View Cemetery off of SW Macadam Ave, is currently home to a large network of unofficial bike trails that have been ridden for many years. Once the City of Portland becomes the official land-owner (which should be finalized later this summer), what does the future hold for mountain bike access?

As we know from recent experience with Forest Park, that is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Red shows approximate location of River View property.

City Commissioner Nick Fish (who oversees the Parks Bureau) said in a statement on Monday that the purchase, “puts a finishing touch on a chain of green spaces extending along Portland’s west side from Forest Park to the north all the way to Tryon Creek State Park at the southern border of the city.” Fish also said that, “We’ll be working with the community to create a plan for the area that includes ample opportunity for enjoying the space – hiking trails, environmental education programs, and more.”

“I still live in Portland largely due to this tract of land.”
— Erik Tonkin, veteran mountain biker and co-owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair

According to well-known local bike rider, professional racer, and co-owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair, Erik Tonkin, this area has been a popular riding spot for many years and is known colloquially as the “LC Trails” (for nearby Lewis & Clark College” or “The Cemetery” (for nearby River View Cemetery). Tonkin tells us the trails fall into the classic private/public grey area. The land was owned by River View Cemetery but they didn’t actively enforce a no-bikes policy (similar to the paved roads through their cemetery).

Tonkin says he’s very grateful that River View Cemetery and Lewis & Clark College have “generously looked the other way while some of us have recreated on their land.” Tonkin has ridden the trials for 18 years and adds that, “I still live in Portland largely due to this tract of land.”

The trails as they exist today are only suitable for very skilled riders, Tonkin says. They are “nearly always muddy” and are cut into steep sections of the hillside. “The challenges would be vast to make an off-road bicycling trail system… but I can’t imagine a place where I’d like it more.”

Northwest Trail Alliance Advocacy Director Tom Archer says his group has heard from many people who enjoy riding in the area and he hopes Portland Parks keeps off-road biking access on the table as it begins to develop a plan for River View Forest.

In an email to BikePortland he wrote; “This is a great opportunity to formally expand mountain biking in the Portland Parks system, to work with Parks and other stakeholders to improve the current condition of the property and demonstrate that mountain biking can be compatible with long-term environmental stewardship.”

According to Commissioner Fish’s office, it will be several years until a formal public process to develop a trail plan is underway. The first order of business, says Fish policy coordinator Emily Hicks, is to evaluate the 146 acres and begin native species restoration.

Once the public process begins, Hicks says the new natural area “will include recreational trails.”

Will off-road bicycling be permitted on those trails?

“We’ll make sure that all user groups are involved in the process,” Hicks tells us, “including our off-road biking community.”

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  • Charley May 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    FINALLY!!!! I’ve heard about secret trails in SW Portland. Now I know where they are. It’s been like a giant secret for all these years.

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  • captainkarma May 4, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    I hope there will be a path through there somehow to get through to PCC from the new Sellwood bridge. *That* would be so mightily awesome, I don’t even care what else happens.

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  • davemess May 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Those trails could fill a gaping hole in Portland biking infrastructure, let’s hope the city does the right thing.

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  • Burk May 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Great googly moogly!

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  • kiel johnson
    kiel johnson May 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    One of my friends at Lewis and Clark built a mud hut in those woods and lived there until someone from the cemetery came and bulldozed it down.

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    • Patrick Croasdaile May 5, 2011 at 6:37 am

      I remember stumbling around those woods all the time. There was this really disjointed system of trails. There were dirt jumps, but just like your friend’s mudhut, they were bulldozed as well.

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  • Bjorn May 4, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I’m not so sure about that headline, to me the statement from the city sounds more like step one try to ban bikes step two start a process to consider readmitting them. Frankly if some of these trails are 18 years old I am not so sure that the property owner can stop people from using them at this point. My understanding is that 7 years of use creates a right of way.

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  • Mike bodd May 5, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Good luck with that.

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  • jonny a May 5, 2011 at 6:35 am

    he lives in Portland due to that tract of land? i feel like he’s kind of missing how awesome the rest of Portland is. try moving somewhere else and then you’ll realize how much.

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    • davemess May 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

      He is a pro mountain biker! Of course that would figure into his equation of where to live. And frankly Portland is a pretty sad place to live as a mountain biker.

      Would you continue living in a city that has nowhere for you to do your job?

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      • Brad May 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

        Wha?! You mean people ride bikes other than Dutch cruisers and vintage fixies? People use bikes for reasons other than getting coffee or going to work? Whoa! You’re blowing my mind here!

        Erik Tonkin and Sellwood Cycle Repair are two things that make Portland an awesome place for cyclists to live, jonny a.

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  • Ian Crozier May 5, 2011 at 7:06 am

    I am so excited for this, I only wish I was still living in town to it myself. I spent a great deal of my time as a student at Lewis and Clark exploring and enjoying these trails on foot. A partnership between the school`s environmental programs and the city could produce great results. This forest is full of all sorts of beautiful and myserious things. Here is a rough map of the trails in the forest I made a few years ago: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zyhnkpexVvQ/TcKtG9ZbC5I/AAAAAAAABKw/ECnVPOz0ao4/s1600/ianmap_big.JPG

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  • rwl1776 May 5, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Does anyone remember Cooper Mountain in the SW? It had bike trails there, and when Metro turned it into an official park, bikes were kicked out. Yes, PUMP was involved with that planning process too, but Metro and the neighbors decided against bicycle access, despite people having ridden their bikes their for decades. We’ll see if bicyclists get kicked out of this area too by the NIMBY’s.

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    • Brian E. May 5, 2011 at 8:00 am

      I was one on the people who rode those trails for years and years. The trail system extended onto neighboring properties, maybe 3X as large as the current park.

      As much as it sucks to have lost those miles of narrow single track… The new use for the park land is probably the best. There are too many users out there now for mixed use.

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  • Brian E. May 5, 2011 at 8:06 am

    I’d like to document the illegal hiking trail that has been put in at the base of Saltzman. It runs up the creek from HWY 30 towards FL2. No possible way it has been used by Mountain bikers.

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  • lisa May 5, 2011 at 11:54 am

    FL 2 is nowhere near Saltzman.

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  • Brian May 5, 2011 at 11:59 am

    He mentioned that it is a trail that runs “towards FL2.” Go for it Brian E. Get a camera in there and document the damage. Send it to some news media outlets and see what happens.

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  • L May 5, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Funny. Same thing was said in the comments section here about the illegal trail discovered last year that was clearly made by mountain bikers. “Bikers didn’t’ do it, hikers did it.” Once the photographs came in, it was patently obvious that the trail was indeed constructed by bikers. Good luck.

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  • GlowBoy May 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    “My understanding is that 7 years of use creates a right of way.” -Bjorn

    Not when it comes to bikes. We have precedent after precedent (locally, statewide and nationally) of bikers being kicked off trails that they had used for years, with little if any public process. Just happened a few years ago at Oaks Bottom, and I’m sure it will happen at Mt. Tabor before long.

    I just recently “discovered” (i.e., rode) the Riverview trails for the first time this winter, after having heard about them for years. They’re great trails for the more advanced rider.

    My first reaction when I read about the city’s acquisition was “awww, crap.” I’m not optimistic about continued access, and not just because of the city’s track record. The cemetery may indeed have looked the other way but the trails were/are officially posted as closed … so, officially, getting bike access will require a change in status, which will be an uphill battle. Also, given the steep, often-muddy nature of the trails and the likely surge in usage, many if not all will be deemed unsuitable for public bike access due to erosion and/or safety concerns.

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  • dwainedibbly May 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    This would be a great opportunity for the City to make amends for locking the MTB community out of Forest Park last year.

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    • Howard May 5, 2011 at 10:26 pm

      This is a classic false overstatement that does nothing to foster meaningful dialogue. Mountain bikers are simply not locked out of Forest Park. I ride their legally all the time.

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  • David Noble May 5, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    The fact that River View Cemetery does not have the necessary staff to daily, or even weekly, police 175 acres of forest land should not be viewed as “looking the other way”, or giving tacit approval for trespassing. This is still private property; it is posted as such; and our staff do, from time to time, canvas the property for trespasssers, who are asked to leave, whether hiking, biking or camping. The fact that we have agreed to allow bicycling on a portion of our paved roads, during specified hours, does not mean that we have opened the forest area for use. It is unfortunate that the City of Portland has not been willing to create opportunities for this form of recreation on publicly-owned property. But the appropriate response to that problem is not to trespass on private property. Rather, it is to put more and more pressure on city officials to do the right thing and make accommodation for your sport on public property.
    David Noble, Executive Director
    River View Cemetery Association

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    • Alex May 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      We would really love your help to open up Forest Park to more opportunities. There are a few very vocal people that very noisily shutdown and hamper any sort of progress in public meetings. The more people we can get supporting it, the better! Your land would be relieved of some of its use and could more easily be managed as a result. I really would like to work with as many people as possible to get this situation resolved, but when you have people like wsbob and Marcy Houle throwing temper tantrums and creating barriers it becomes a real struggle to make progress in any sort of real way.

      I urge you to write Nick Fish and the city council to show your support of opening mountain biking in Forest Park!

      Thank you.

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  • NS May 6, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Thanks David, well said. It is now up to the neighbors of this property (of which I am one) to lobby the city to provide trails that serve all users, including cyclists. I for one will be advocating strongly for mt bike trails, as will several other neighbors.

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  • f5 May 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

    ..and I live less than a mile away and had no idea this was there.

    Access coordinates please?

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  • EQ May 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    f5: did you NOT see the message right above yours? It’s an ILLEGAL trail on PRIVATE property. Sheesh.

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    • f5 May 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm

      No I did not. It was being written as I was writing mine.

      ‘sheesh’ yourself.

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  • Matt May 6, 2011 at 3:51 pm


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  • marshmallow May 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    The thrill of riding secret illegal trails goes out the window when everyone knows. I propose a sign that reads ‘trespassers will be shot by order of multnomah county sheriff’ to bring back some of the excitement…then have loud firecrackers go off if a rider is spotted. A minute later, ambulance sirens. maybe some dead corpses from the cemetery’s unclaimed corpse program. One could go from riding the trails to funeral with dearly beloveds in the span of a couple hours, all in one spot. A money maker for sure.

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  • JPDX May 9, 2011 at 9:23 am

    If Portland is so bike friendly then they really need to get with the program and offer mountain biking access too. Not all bikers are spandex wearing roadies.

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  • Lents Guy May 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    yeah, not all bikers in Portland are spandex wearing roadies. some of us are spandex wearing mtb’ers!
    but seriously “”We’ll make sure that all user groups are involved in the process”. involved in the process doesn’t mean any specific group will be listened to. Some groups, as we all know, are more important than others. In case you don’t know that I’d suggest re-reading ‘Animal Farm’.
    But, it would be great if people who aren’t mtb’ers would realize that mtb’ing and nature do co-exist quite well thank you. And mtb’ers do care about the environment. I know I do.

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    • Jeff May 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      Agreed. I’m a full-time transportation cyclist — don’t own a car, don’t plan to — who dearly loves and misses regular mountain biking. I’m desperate for some nice singletrack that I can ride to or at least take Tri-Met to… Powell Butte is wearing pretty thin.

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  • Diego May 10, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Hate to break it to you guys, but the city has NO intention of allowing bikes on that property. Read their grant proposal for obtaining funding for the land (link below). Most of it will be a fenced off wildlife refuge with limited access for research projects (which is what the college would want anyway). Trails will only be available on the flat part of the land up at the top.

    So get in your “mountain biking” while you still can.

    (Or as I would call it, “riding a motorcycle-sans-motor down a muddy hill” — I ride by this area regularly and more than half of the people I see going into that area with bikes have enormous downhill rigs that you couldn’t ride back up those hills to save your life)

    Here is a link to the grant application, thankfully cached by Google.

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  • JPDX May 17, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I noticed that from Capt. Fishpants. Says something about wildlife viewing and hiking trails. Like we need any more of this in Portland. Everywhere I go there are nature paths and hiking trails for viewing the abundance of wildlife in Portland (yha right).

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    • wsbob May 17, 2011 at 12:37 pm

      Portland’s a bit unique in that it has a 5000 acre nature park, plus a number of other, far smaller in size nature park’s located about the city. I wonder though, if the combined acreage of all those nature parks together is even 10 percent of the land within Portland’s borders that’s dedicated to residential, commercial and industrial use.

      Probably not. That makes a huge number of residents dependent on a relatively very small amount of land by which to experience nature close to where they live.

      Just recently, the Washington County Visitor’s Association released an updated version of it’s earlier published bike map. It show a huge area running from Gaston on the west to inner SE Portland on the east. Natural area designated parks are clearly indicated on this map, and it’s rather shocking to note how small a total area they represent to the overall land represented on the map, and to the land area occupied by the cities.

      A simpler way to get a sense of how development has overtaken natural areas, is, next time when riding over Sylvan, cruise over and look southwest down into the valley from Raab Rd (located west of the intersection with Scholls Ferry, just south of Hwy 26).

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      • Alex May 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm

        “Portland’s a bit unique in that it has a 5000 acre city park” – ftfy

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        • longgone May 28, 2013 at 10:29 pm

          wsbob says…. “A simpler way to get a sense of how development has overtaken natural areas, is,……. to remember Portland’s number one nickname from 1897, “Stumptown”.”

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  • a.O May 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Equally shocking is that someone who is neither a Multnomah County resident nor a mountain biker has such a vast array of anti-mtn biking posts here on bikeportland about mtn biking in Portland.

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  • flywater May 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    “…this area has been a popular riding spot for many years and is known colloquially as the “LC Trails” (for nearby Lewis & Clark College” or “The Cemetery” (for nearby River View Cemetery). Tonkin tells us the trails fall into the classic private/public grey area. The land was owned by River View Cemetery but they didn’t actively enforce a no-bikes policy (similar to the paved roads through their cemetery).

    Tonkin says he’s very grateful that River View Cemetery and Lewis & Clark College have “generously looked the other way while some of us have recreated on their land.” Tonkin has ridden the trials for 18 years


    You all make me sick. You have trespassing on private property, for years and claim the land owner looked the other way? There is some kind of gray area? There is no gray area when it comes to property ownership. Private property is, well, private. I guess Tonkin won’t mind if we come over and camp in his back yard, it being a gray area?

    You all are like the so called Tea Party! Rant, rave and throw tantrums. You are common criminals, abusing nature and people. How will you react when Commissioner Fish decides the best thing for this land is to restore it as a natural area, without the erosion and destruction that single track perpetuates? Another rash of illegal trails in Forest Park?

    Do us all a favor and go away.

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    • Jered May 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Ahh buddy, do you need a hug?

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    • Alex May 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      I love the idea that you are throwing a trantrum trying to compare a bunch of forest loving hippies riding bikes through woods to the tea party in a ranting, raving way. The irony is not lost here…

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  • Lents guy June 7, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I hate to burst your bubble flywater, but single track trails – for the purpose of hiking and/or riding mountain bikes on – do not perpetuate ‘erosion and destruction’ – unless they are poorly designed or improperly situated.
    So, I think you be calling the kettle black here when you call some of us Tea Partier types…

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