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Riverview property holds major mountain biking potential

Posted by on August 10th, 2012 at 8:49 am

Riding and working at Riverview property-6

Volunteers gathered at the Riverview property
for a work party yesterday.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday I rolled out to southwest Portland to get a closer look at the Riverview property — and I am now even more optimistic about its potential as a riding area. Riverview could become what is now major missing element of Portland’s bicycling ecosystem — a fun place to ride singletrack that doesn’t require two hours of driving.

The City of Portland purchased the 146 acre parcel from Riverview Cemetery back in May. The property is in a heavily wooded area bordered by Lewis & Clark College (to the south), the cemetery (to the north), Highway 43 (to the east), and SW Palatine Hill Road (to the west). For years, the land has been used by nearby residents, Lewis & Clark College students, people without homes, and people who weren’t afraid to ride their mountain bikes on the technical, steep, and private trails (thankfully, trespassing laws were never enforced by the owners).

Now that it’s owned by the City, Riverview is no longer a secret.

Riding and working at Riverview property-7

PP&R’s Jeff Hough.

Portland Parks hosted a trail work party yesterday as part of an effort to stabilize and clean-up the area while a formal recreation/trail plan is drafted. About two dozen volunteers showed up and most of them were rounded up by the Northwest Trail Alliance, a non-profit group that has worked for years to improve local riding opportunities. Portland Parks staffer Jeff Hough led the work party. He said their goal was to clean out a culvert near a creek down near Highway 43.

“As more people find out about these trails, there are more users,” Hough told the crew. “Our goal is to make the existing trails more sustainable before there’s too much erosion.”

Before everyone showed up for the work party, I did some exploring of the trails on my mountain bike. The descent from top to bottom was steep, challenging, and fun. The trail snakes and swoops between trees and roots. At the bottom, I climbed back up on a different trail. The ascent provided another kind of challenge (one without as much oxygen!). Once near the top I traversed trails that took me south on a narrow ridgeline that crossed a flowing creek (via some old logs strewn over it) and then popped out at a parking lot for Lewis & Clark College. As I rode, parts of the trail were completely overgrown with ivy and there were several spots that were full of trash and what looked clearly like former homeless encampments.

Riding and working at Riverview property-1

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Riding and working at Riverview property-9

Despite this unpolished appearance, my first impression of the place was. Wow! I was at the trailhead in just 30 minutes from my office downtown (it’s a straight shot south on Terwilliger). Even in its very rough state, Riverview is already the best mountain biking in Portland. With more work parties and a more sustainable and well-built trail system, it could become even better. (The flat, upper section could provide some excellent trails for more novice riders.)

At just 146 acres, a few miles out of the city center, and with no TLC over the years, Riverview is certainly no Forest Park; but maximizing its potential would give citizens an exciting new place to hike and bike. It will be interesting to see how the politics and the planning of this new parcel evolve in the coming months (hopefully not years). Whatever happens, I’m confident that people who want to ride mountain bikes on the trails will have a seat at the table and will be given an opportunity to keep these trails — and new ones yet to be built — accessible.

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  • ME 2 August 10, 2012 at 8:57 am

    This place looks great and I can’t wait to try it out. Warning sarcasm intended:

    I hope this becomes a mountain biking only destination so when hikers cry foul and want access, we can say sorry this place is being loved to death so we can’t allow access to hikers because you could cause more environmental damage.

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  • grumpcyclist August 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Nice informative article, thanks for this.

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  • Jeff August 10, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Yeah, this would be fantastic. I really want to be able to ride/TriMet to trailheads, and I’m excited about the possibilities of Riverview. It’s really beginning to seem like Forest Park is always just going to be reserved for hikers and their dogs, and I’ll be happy for any scraps we can get at this point.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 10, 2012 at 9:42 am

      It’s really beginning to seem like Forest Park is always just going to be reserved for hikers and their dogs, and I’ll be happy for any scraps we can get at this point.

      Hey Jeff,

      I realize there’s reason for being glum about Forest Park, but I don’t agree with your outlook. I think it’s just a matter of time before PP&R realizes that bike access isn’t the boogey-man that certain people make it out to be.

      I also think that Riverview, if planned properly, could serve as a model to show everyone that it is absolutely possible to create a fun trail-riding area that is not only open to shared-use but that preserves and protects the environment around it.

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      • Jeff August 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm

        I hope so. I’m sure you talk with a lot of those guys, and have a good feel for the direction policies are going. I will be very curious to see how things go with Riverview — I guess I’m feeling pretty cautious after the Forest Park talks seemed to come to nothing a couple years back, and then Mt. Tabor was signed “no bikes” just last year.

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  • stan August 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Great post. Any knowledge about future work parties and plans for/ progress on developing a master plan for Riverview?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 10, 2012 at 9:44 am


      Stay tuned for more about future work parties. There are definitely more planned. I’ll also be covering the master plan effort closely.

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  • Craig Harlow August 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Wow, those photos are inspiring. I’m excited to head over there with my kids, and I’m wondering if someone’s already drawn up a map–even a rough one–that shows the existing trailheads and routes?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 10, 2012 at 9:43 am

      Not that I know of Craig, and I doubt it. Like I said, this is a very raw and emerging site that has been nearly secret/very unofficial for many years and is only now coming into the public eye.

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  • basketloverd August 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

    on the trail head shot can you tip the camera down and to the right?

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  • Chris I August 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

    The imminent opening of Milwaukie Light Rail, the new Sellwood Bridge, and the proximity of the Springwater Corridor will make this location highly accessible in the near future. I hate using my car to go on rides.

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  • GlowBoy August 10, 2012 at 9:42 am

    This is fantastic. Finally some real mountain biking IN Portland. I was thinking about this spot as I rode through the cemetery a couple days ago. I didn’t know they’d put up signs officially allowing bike access. I may have to go ride there tonight.

    My fear is that we will learn there is SO much demand for it that the trails might quickly get crowded and overused.

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  • wsbob August 10, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Plans seem to be set for Riverview to be an opportunity for people using the land for riding their off-road bikes, to show people visiting the park on foot, that together, riding trail can be compatible with people walking trail.

    Also, how complementary bikes as a mode of transportation, can be towards sustaining the experience of a natural area for all visitors to the park, regardless of their mode of transportation.

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  • PDXMTBER August 10, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Riverview sounds really great! I see potential parallels to Rocky Butte in NE Portland, which is another hilly mostly publicly owned ~200+ acre park that comes with some existing trails…why stop at one new riding area in Portland. Show the Eastside some love!

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  • dan August 10, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Plans seem to be set for Riverview to be an opportunity for people using the land for riding their off-road bikes, to show people visiting the park on foot, that together, riding trail can be compatible with people walking trail.

    Or an opportunity for downhillers to infuriate hikers and confirm for them that bikes don’t belong in Forest Park. Given the general low level of courtesy / respect for other road users I see other cyclists demonstrate, I think this outcome is at least as likely. Oh well, at least we’ll have Riverview.

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  • Zaphod August 10, 2012 at 11:09 am

    This is an exciting development. Do keep us informed on future work parties.

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  • forest August 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Or an opportunity for downhillers to infuriate hikers and confirm for them that bikes don’t belong in Forest Park. Given the general low level of courtesy / respect for other road users I see other cyclists demonstrate, I think this outcome is at least as likely. Oh well, at least we’ll have Riverview.

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    well, to be fair, i heard a xc racer in eugene last night talking about riverview who said that it didn’t have enough “elevation gain” – if that is somewhat accurate then there shouldn’t be too much interest in riding there from the gravity rider set.

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    • phreadi August 11, 2012 at 8:57 am

      I’m sure some gravity bikers will ride there but I think it’s safe to say it’ll lean more towards your average trail riding MTB’er. Especially now that things are somewhat official and there will be more usage and less secrecy, the freeriders won’t be able to build stunts like the large-scale gap jumps that used to be over one of the stream ravines. I could be wrong, but I also think with how short these trails are (for now at least), shuttling this site as freeriders and downhillers typically do would be a lot of effort for minimal reward. too much waiting at the bottom while their shuttle truck is stuck in Taylors Ferry traffic, etc. Hopefully shuttle-bikers won’t cause the cemetary to close it’s gates more often.

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      • Brian August 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

        DH’ers and FR’ers also ride/push up. Black Rock and Duthie are great examples of amazing places to ride with no shuttling available. I’m hoping it provides something for all riders (flow, tech, fun climbs, etc), especially since the younger mtb’ers lean towards more jumping/FR stuff from what I have observed. Why not just follow Seattle’s lead: http://evergreenmtb.org/wiki/index.php?title=Trail:Duthie_Hill

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  • davemess August 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Jonathan, what route did you go back up? I was riding there a few weeks ago and got to the bottom (at 30), and there seemed to be about 3 choices.The W and NW were REALLY steep (definitely had to hike on a SS). I went a little ways up the SW trail, but it was VERY overgrown with thorns. I didn’t see the “camp” at all, did you take this SW trail?

    I’m not a huge fan of steeps and drops, so more traversing trails with slightly less down grade would be great! Also so decent climbing trails, seems like every around Portland is catered to the downhill crowd, with either a road climb up, or no real option to climb up. Almost seemed like this area was just set up for shuttling previously, as the climb up was nasty (unless I really missed out on that SW trail).

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  • Sunny August 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Tryon Creek State Park to the southwest is where all the hikers go.

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  • Sunny August 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    This map was posted back in May of 2011 when Riverview sold to the city: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-zyhnkpexVvQ/TcKtG9ZbC5I/AAAAAAAABKw/ECnVPOz0ao4/s1600/ianmap_big.JPG

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  • GlowBoy August 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I would second davemess’ request for more lateral countouring trails so it isn’t all up or down like the firelanes in Forest Park. Sometimes it’s fun to just cruise around the woods without constantly grunting your way uphill and bombing your way back down.

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    • phreadi August 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Generally speaking I think it’s also a lot more ecologically sustainable to have a trail oriented more along the contours than perpendicular to them. you don’t get runoff washing out the trail into a riverbed like I think happens near the bottom of the trails currently.

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  • Brian August 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    It was a great trail party as we built actual singletrack in the middle of the city! That is only the second time in my 15 years here in PDX that I have done that (first being FL 5 in Forest Park). We ended with almost 40 people showing up to help by the end. That is a tremendous turnout for a weekday trail party. There will be more trail parties happening soon, and I would love to see 100+ people show up to really make a statement to the City and Parks. We need ALL advocates of cycling to show support and help influence the decision-makers. Better mountain bike opportunities within PDX benefits everyone.
    I would like to see XC trails (green trails) as well as more advanced lines (blue and black diamond) for the gravity set and advanced trail riders. There is ample space to provide for all types of riding. Other cities provide for both, and we can too.

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  • bclarson August 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Maybe the cycling community should start a “Riverview Conservancy” (maybe through NW Trail). Similar to the Forest Park Conservancy but with advocates for shared use (i.e., MTB) trails within the park.

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  • GlowBoy August 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I rode there yesterday. I took the (I think) northernmost trail down, and it wasn’t very steep at all except in the middle section where it does get steeper. There are significant erosion problems there due to poor drainage, but now that these trails are legal we can actually take care of them and remedy the problem.

    Then closer to the bottom, the trails seem to merge together, and that’s where begins the new trail that serpentines back and forth across the “main” trail. It’s a great route already, and will be even better once it’s fully built and bedded in. I helped a little with the bedding-in. Great job guys! This is going to be absolutely fantastic.

    I’m not quite as concerned about having more trails that contour laterally as I was the other day. The trails aren’t as steep and all up or down as I remembered. Maybe because when I rode it before, I was on my cyclocross bike in the dark.

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  • Dabby August 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I would not hold my breathe waiting for jumps and gravity lines.
    There are inclination guidelines in use.
    Had conversations regarding flow in these woods while ripping out Ivy (thank you England), and I see these trails being fun, but staying multi use and fairly low key.
    That being said i cannot wait to go back and work in the South Woods some more…..

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