Trespassing in Riverview Cemetery could lead to loss of access

Posted by on October 15th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Vandalized gate where someone has illegally
trespassed onto River View Cemetery grounds.
(Photo: River View Cemetery)

Once again, bike access through River View Cemetery could be in jeopardy. The cemetery’s Executive Director David Noble says he suspects that someone has cut through a gate and is riding on the private property after the 11:00 pm closing time.

The cemetery is on private land which is governed by a Board of Trustees. Its owners are aware of its importance as a bike route, and they tolerate public bicycle access despite years of safety concerns (which we first brought to light in 2006). The route itself provides a very popular connection from Highway 43 near the Sellwood Bridge to many destinations in southwest Portland (map).

In November 2009, after the issue flared up again and there was a public outcry over speed bumps installed to slow riders down, the board ruled to maintain bicycle access. They then worked with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and the community to raise $5,000 and install a fully-signed bicycle route through the cemetery with the aim of keeping bike traffic on specific roads. That, and a series of other measures, showed that River View had gone out of their way to accommodate people riding through on bicycles.

In the last two years everything has been going well. Until now.

river view cemetery

The smoothness and solitude of the
cemetery make it a popular place to ride.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Today, River View Cemetery Executive Director David Noble emailed to say that, “Apparently there are bicyclists who do not like the 11:00 pm closing time and have taken matters into their own hands.” He attached a photo of a chain-link fence up near SW Palatine Hill Road that has been cut and vandalized. Noble says he suspects it was done by, “someone cutting a large enough hole for a person and a bicycle.” He suspects the vandal is on a bicycle because he feels the fence would be easy to climb over (without a bike). Noble also added that in recent weeks his security staff have reported seeing people riding through the cemetery after 11:00 pm. When they were chased by security, they fled. That’s, “Behavior that someone wouldn’t likely engage in unless they knew they had done something wrong,” says Noble.

“If we are unable to catch the guilty person(s) and if the problem persists, I would not be at all surprised to see our Board of Trustees enact an all-out ban on bicycling in the cemetery 24/7.”
—David Noble, Executive Director River View Cemetery

Noble says this recent development is “very upsetting” and that “we are talking about criminal behavior.” He said they will step up security patrols and they have notified the police and nearby residents in hopes of finding the people who are trespassing at night.

And the bottom line for all of us who enjoy riding through the cemetery is this: Noble says, “If we are unable to catch the guilty person(s) and if the problem persists, I would not be at all surprised to see our Board of Trustees enact an all-out ban on bicycling in the cemetery 24/7.”

That would be a huge loss for the community.

Hopefully they find this culprit and the trespassing ends. Spread the word if by some rare chance you know of, or have heard of, whoever is doing this.

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62 Comments
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    Alex Reed October 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    This sounds like bad behavior by the bicyclists in question.

    It’s worth noting the underlying cause of the tension in Riverview – the failure of the City to provision safe, comfortable facilities for people on bikes. If there were no safe car routes through the same area, you can bet you’d see people wanting to drive through Riverview at all hours of the day and night.

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      sabes October 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Logical fallacy.

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        Alex Reed October 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

        Explain?

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          Opus the Poet October 16, 2012 at 4:14 pm

          Unless there is a second way in/out those “cyclists” were most likely homeless looking to bed down for the night.

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    peejay October 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I understand the board’s reaction, but it really is punishing the rule-abiders and not affecting the rule-breakers. Those who are trespassing are already getting around a locked gate, so they will likely keep doing it.

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    daisy October 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I ride through Riverview all the time and this would be terrible! But it’s frustrating how quickly they jump to the conclusion that a cyclist cut the fence. Honestly, I’d find it just as easy to put my bike over a fence as cut through it.

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    Duncan Watson October 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I worked at a Cemetary for 5 years. I suspect it is more likely a couple looking for a quiet place to have adventurous sex than a cyclist. You wouldn’t believe the number of condoms I used to find in the Cemetary I worked in. At the very least the supposition that it is a cyclist who cut the fence seems a bit premature

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      Nat October 15, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Before the bike route was established I used to ride down the road that cuts to the right immediately after the top entrance and turns into gravel…

      One summer weekday at about 5:30, broad daylight, I came across a pair going at it on a blanket next to their parked car where the gravel starts down there. They couldn’t even take the time to move off the road!

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      Sunny October 15, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      well that’s kind of like necrophilia

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    Indy October 15, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    SW Taylor’s Ferry needs a dedicated bike lane, or something bike friendly needs to be put in this area. I end up carrying my bike up Custer Street (just north of this point) to get up to Barbur, but it sure would be great to have alternatives without stairs…

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    Burk October 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I totally agree with PJ. My guess is these are people sneaking into the cemetery to bomb down the curvy cemetery roads at night. Closing the cemetery will have no impact on them at all and more importantly won’t stop the vandalism.

    As someone with family buried at River View as well as someone who loves to ride through it the vandalism concerns me on a few fronts. I would be happy to help out in some capacity to help stop it. Maybe the BTA could get involved again? Host a night ride through the cemetery?

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    Matt G October 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    The argument that criminal behavior is a reason to stop all lawful and approved use of the roadway falls on its face. The cemetery appears to be looking for a scapegoat. If there were bikers on the roads doing unlawful things during approved hours, bikers being unsafe, or unruly, I might be more sympathetic. Arguing to close the path because someone is trespassing after hours is silly. If the Board cannot tell the difference between criminal miscreants and the hoards of bikers who support the cemetery and help keep the lanes open through dialogue and dollars, then they appear only interested in justifying their desire to close the lanes. If they do, the city could/should consider forcing an easement through the cemetery. This is not really a “nice to have” issue; it’s a basic access issue.

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    Sean S. October 15, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Looking for a scapegoat? Maybe. Regarding the city to consider forcing an easement is absolutely ridiculous. The cemetery is private property that has worked with the public and is facing problems regardless of the cause. How would you like it if someone suggested the city force an easement through your back yard? A better solution would be to get the city to improve CITY access routes on CITY property if this closes.

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      matt picio October 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      Good point, except that it’s not a backyard. There’s a huge difference between the two cases. That said, there is a private property issue, and there are alternatives to “forcing an easement” which should be explored.

      I’d really like to know who owns the property between the cemetery and the college, and whether that could have something done for bike/ped access.

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    Allan L. October 15, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    A webcam might help.

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    GlowBoy October 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    As a plot-owner in Riverview myself, I urge the board to NOT ban bikes.

    As has been pointed out by several people already, the after-hours behavior causing problems is ALREADY illegal.

    Banning bikes from using the cemetery before 11pm won’t do the slightest thing to stop the late-night riding. But it will have a big negative impact on the numerous people for whom this is the only safe route down (or up) the hill.

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    Spiffy October 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    hahahaha! there’s too much laughable content to even compose a serious response right now… hehehe!

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    Scott October 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I would personally support a donation by cyclist to repair the fence and/or purchase video equipment to assist in catching people who are breaking the law. It sounds to me like the folks at Riverview have been very accomodating to cyclist and I appreciate it.

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    John Lascurettes October 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Security cameras? Do we have confirmation on exactly who is coming through the hole or cutting it in the first place? Supposition does not a guilty party make of cyclists.

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      Scott October 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      I’m not sure what you are saying. Are you saying people are not coming through the fence or …? I didn’t imply they were cyclist if that is what you are assuming in your response. In my post at least I just said people. Whatever reason they have for doing they should be apprehended.

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        John Lascurettes October 16, 2012 at 12:49 am

        Scott, I wasn’t replying to you at all; I was replying to the story and the cemetery’s reaction to the cut fence. I was simply saying that there’s no reason to automatically jump to this being cyclists.

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    Sunny October 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Going up, I prefer Custer to Riverview because it’s less steep and zigzagging — Taylors Ferry on the way down if it’s not raining. Curveless Custer is shorter.

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      Paul Souders October 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      I assume you turn onto either LaView or Fulton before switching back to Custer. This is an OK shortcut for OHSU or Hillsdale, but is way off-route for riders to/from Lewis and Clark. I’m a “strong/fearless” rider and don’t ride this way. I certainly wouldn’t do it with a trailer full of kids (which I do all the time through the cemetery.)

      As Alex said at the top: there are precious few safe routes connecting SW to [anywhere else], so we need to defend the ones we have.

      Also: how do we know this hole was cut by “cyclists?”

      FWIW I commute through the cemetery almost daily for the past five-plus years. I can count on one hand the number of unsafe/discourteous cycling behaviors I’ve seen. Contrast with the drivers who think they’re getting a rush-hour “shortcut” around Taylor’s Ferry…

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        Sunny October 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        There are stairs that go up to Custer from Taylors Ferry, part of the southwest trails network.

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    Dan Kaufman October 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    How much for a plot and can I link my purchase to keeping access open to cyclists?

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    peejay October 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    The assumption is that all cyclists are the same. It’s “cyclists” who are trespassing, thus they must be punished by banning them from the property. “Cyclists” must all be in such good shape, because they keep riding all day and night. Yeah, the same ones.

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      Chucklehead October 15, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      All SUV drivers are the same, too.

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    dmc October 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    The closure of the cemetery to bicycle access is most likely inevitable.

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      matt picio October 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Most likely, so is CRC. The apparent inevitability of a particular course of action doesn’t mean one should stop working towards a desired outcome. The Mount Hood Freeway was once viewed as inevitable.

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    Sunny October 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    What is needed is a trail through the newly acquired city property that is currently used for MTB.

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    dwainedibbly October 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Is there any proof at all that points to bicyclists being the ones having done this? I think it was kids who want to come to the cemetery at midnight to drink & fornicate. Or maybe it was zombies trying to get out.

    Let’s face it: they just want to find an excuse to ban people on bikes.

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      Chucklehead October 15, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      They don’t need an excuse. It’s private property.

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        dwainedibbly October 16, 2012 at 5:41 pm

        Technically correct, of course, but they may be trying manage public opinion.

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    Zaphod October 15, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Best quote of the day
    “maybe it was zombies trying to get out”

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      q`Tzal October 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Guerrilla marketing for the 3rd season of The Walking Dead?

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    Sunny October 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    how ’bout a big dog?

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    Terry D October 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    They have had conflict with speeding cyclists and other bike related issues ever at least 1999 when I came to town.

    Every few years another issues comes up and they same topic of closing access is discussed. So far compromises have mitigated each issue but eventually the city will need to invest in a high end route westward on city property.

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    resopmok October 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I don’t understand the knee-jerk reaction. They are having trouble with people at night, what does closing it during the accomplish to help prevent problems at night? Could people not still try to break in at 11p while the path is closed at 8a? It makes no sense at all.

    Catch the criminals, don’t punish everybody because you’re upset.

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      resopmok October 15, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      *during the day

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    Harvey October 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    You guys, it is not rogue cyclists, but usually drunk college students from Lewis and Clark. The security on that campus has gotten so tight that is has forced innocuous college late night bicycle adventures off the 56 acre campus and in to neighboring communities.

    As a community, we should rally agains the L+C administration to loosen their fascist security policies, and let kids be kids. What safer place to do it other than a closed protected campus.

    Instead, now shenanigans are taking place off campus to the detriment of the late night peace of the dead. That said, watching Scott Pinkerton do a backflip off the Pamplin mausoleum was priceless.

    Let kids be kids, and they will leave the dead alone.

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      q`Tzal October 15, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      “Boys will be boys” is not a valid excuse for anything.

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    Kevin Wagoner October 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Ugh…is there anything we can do (besides follow the rules)? It was be terrible to see this disappear.

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    Ian October 16, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Being a recent LC graduate myself, I say 10 to 1 it’s LC students, but it’s hard to know what to do about it. The entitled, oblivious, adventurous, fearless feeling these undergrads have is unlikely to be deterred by messages from on high. They’ve got to have a campus-wide discussion about it I supposed, so that the guilty parties really do have to internalize that it’s not cool what they are doing. It’s a shame that everyone else who doesn’t pull this kind of shit will have to participate too for it to be effective.

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    Morgen October 16, 2012 at 8:55 am

    If I was on the cemetery board and I was reading both this and the other thread, about closing access with the gate near the club, I would be extremely alarmed by the responses and start to seriously discuss closing the access permanently.

    It sounds like the board voluntarily reached out to this forum to talk about a problem they are having and instead of gratitude for access, and offers of assistance they are recieving a lot of negative comments, talk of “forcing” an easement”, etc. The idea that someone might consider trying to get an easement based on the fact that they are currently allowed access would be an incredibly good reason for the board to stop current use from a legal position.

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    drew October 16, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Makes more sense to go after the criminals than just ban a method of transportation. I doubt any board member seriously believes banning bikes will reduce criminal activity at the cemetery. May I suggest that the possibility of a bike rider seeing somebody kicking over a gravestone would discourage such activity.

    If this is an effort to talk tough to the “bike community”, it will work just as well as trying to do the same thing to the “car community”. There is no bike community; criminals will use whatever transportation mode suits them at the time.

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    GlowBoy October 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

    “I would be extremely alarmed by the responses and start to seriously discuss closing the access permanently.” … “they are recieving a lot of negative comments, talk of ‘forcing’ an easement”, etc.”

    Cherry-pick much? That’s definitely not the dominant tone of the comments on this thread.

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      Morgen October 19, 2012 at 6:05 am

      You misunderstand what is required for a lawsuit / government action, etc. Even in our democracy they are rarely put to popular vote. It takes one person to decide to take legal action, it takes one person to start a petitition, etc.

      The easiest example to point out are the various copyright/trademark laws. Why do lawyers write cease and desist letters to every possible violater? Because the laws say that if you do not defend your copyright/trademark that it reverts to open market and you no longer CAN defend it.

      This is similar to the right of way issues here. There is absolutely legal precident to enforce an easement simply because there has been continual use or permission for a period of time. When a number of people start talking about their entitlement to access on private property that you are responsible for it doesn’t matter that it’s only 5% of respondents. It still must be taken seriously.

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    Redhippie October 16, 2012 at 10:04 am

    It would be helpful if there was more information from the security guards on what the cyclist looked like. For example, punks on bmx, night shift resturant types on huffies, hipsters on SS, Freeriders with lights etc. Until you identify who is involved, all this hand wringing is kind of pointless.

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      Mike October 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

      If they are on a bike after 11, what does it matter what the cyclist looked like? The place is closed.

      If this was a person in an automobile, would we be asking for the type? Redneck in pick up or lawyer-type in BMW? Not likely.

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        Oliver October 18, 2012 at 10:08 am

        Disagree. A description of the vehicle is usually the first thing asked for when a crime is reported.

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    Zach October 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

    As a recent Lewis & Clark grad that used this bike route every single day (rain or shine), this is near and dear to me. I’d agree with one of the other LC posters on here that it’s a 10 to 1 chance it was an LC student; that said, nearly all LC students that bike commute that I know and knew are super respectful of the cemetery and really value the ability to use the route. I’d agree with a bunch of the other posters that assuming this was a cyclist might be jumping to conclusions.

    For anyone who has actually had to hop the fence during legal hours (because Riverview does sometimes close the gate early or not open it in the early morning at the right time), you know that it’s really not that big of a deal to do it with a bike if you have to.

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    Roger Averbeck October 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Alternate route, albeit out of direction for L & C students:

    http://goo.gl/maps/yomzQ

    Cemeteries are too scary at night anyway…

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      Adam Robins October 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      I often go that way, using Fulton Park instead of LaView.

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      Nat October 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I use this route on my way home except continue on Nevada and you wind up in Willamette Park, good connection from there to the bridge along the river.

      BTW, there’s a meeting tonight regarding that connection from the park to the bridge: http://www.sellwoodbridge.org/?e=278

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    J_R October 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I gave money to the cemetery when the speedbump and sign issue arose two years ago because I ride that a few times a year. I’m sympathetic to their problems, and I’ve stepped up to help.

    If access is cut off for bicyclists through the cemetery, I think ALL access should be cut off to Highway 43. The Sellwood Bridge project is underfunded, so elimiating the access would simplify the traffic signal and road connections for the project and save money.

    Seriously, I think this is an over-reaction to a vandalism problem that may not have much to do with bicyclists.

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    Brodehl October 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

    It will cost the cemetery more money to enforce their no cycling ban than to fix their fence. Probably a good reason bicycles are even allowed access in the first place. Once the new Sellwood bridge is finished with top tier bicycle facilities traffic through the cemetery will increase. I used the cemetery to get to PCC sylvania for two years and always appreciated the quality pavement and signage Riverview provided. Maybe cyclists need to form an awareness group and work with the cemetery in some capacity. At least write a letter to show our appreciation.

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    Adam Robins October 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    I have often ridden my bike through Riverview in a safe and respectful manner (no speeding, now hot-dogging it through a funeral in progress, and CERTAINLY no gate-cutting or after-hours nonsense). Taylors Ferry is simply not safe in its current configuration, and though I more often would go up Corbett (steep!) or up that funny little bunch of roads that land one at Fulton Park Community Center, it would be a real loss to lose access to the quiet roads of Riverview Cemetery.

    Something that the board has perhaps not taken into account is that there are some people out there, myself included, who use a bicycle as legitimate transportation AND who have relatives buried in their cemetery. It would certainly not be out of the question for me to visit the graves of my grandfather or great-grandfather by bicycle.

    I am not convinced that a cyclist cut the fence, but I would hope that we as cyclists remember that we are guests on private property there and keep our disruption to a minimum.

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    Steved October 20, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    If the board bans all cyclist 24/7 because they suspect a cyclist vandalized the fence to gain access after hours, then it could lead to more vandalism and break-ins 24/7.

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