Support BikePortland

Commissioner Fish: New Forest Park singletrack ‘in the next 9 months’ – Updated

Posted by on October 17th, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Family trip to Stub Stewart State Park-20-87

Biking in Forest Park is finally
set to improve.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation, has just emailed stakeholders a progress report on bicycle access in Forest Park. The statement includes a commitment to build a new, bike-specific singletrack trail in the park within the next nine months.

The update comes two years after Commissioner Fish and Parks & Rec issued a list of “management actions” to move the issue of bicycle access forward. That report was considered a disappointment by off-road biking advocates who had worked within the process for years to improve trail access in the 5,000 acre park because it didn’t include any firm commitments to expand or improve singletrack opportunities.

The management actions, according to Parks, were aimed at getting a better grip on the ecological health, user demographics, and management resources before expanding trail riding options. With those things completed, they are now poised to move forward. There are no more excuses to not improve bicycling in the park.

“PP&R is currently seeking permits to build enhancements parallel to Fire Lane 5 that will result in a true singletrack experience for cyclists in Forest Park.”
— Commissioner Fish

One of the actions Parks committed to was looking into “re-greening” existing fire lanes that are already open to bicycles. Instead of actually open existing trails or create new trails for people to ride on, the idea was to make fire lanes more interesting. However, last week the Fire Bureau told Parks & Rec that they would not allow the improvements because of the need for emergency access (why it took two years for that decision to happen is unclear).

Here’s how Commissioner Fish put it in his statement released late today:

“As part of these actions, we had hoped to improve the riding experience by revegetating portions of firelanes already open to cyclists. After completing a concept design for firelane improvements and sharing these plans with the Fire Bureau, we learned that limiting access for emergency vehicles had unintended consequences. Our team agreed that we needed to change our approach by focusing on singletrack that’s designed especially for cyclists – from the get go.”

That last part is important. Fish is saying that instead of trying to retrofit fire lanes to make them more fun to ride on (something mountain bike advocates were never too excited about, but figured it was better than nothing), he plans to start the process of building a completely new trail designed specifically for mountain biking.

Here’s more from Commissioner Fish:

“In partnership with Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA), PP&R is currently seeking permits to build enhancements parallel to Fire Lane 5 that will result in a true singletrack experience for cyclists in Forest Park. This project has the added benefit of re-routing a steep section of the firelane that is particularly susceptible to erosion. We expect to complete this project in the next 9 months; it is the first of several trail projects we hope to complete in the coming years.”

This is of course not the first time Fish has caused optimism among mountain bike lovers who have longed for years for more close-in riding opportunities. In early 2009, Fish said of mountain biking in Forest Park, “I think there is a need and there is a demand and my job is to see how we can make that happen. I’m not interested in delaying this.”

A lot has changed since Fish made that statement.

The Northwest Trail Alliance has played a huge role in working with the City to push the Forest Park issue forward. There’s a lot more to report about their efforts and about what’s in store for the future of mountain biking in the park. I will update this post by tomorrow (Thursday) morning with a full statement and response from NWTA Advocacy Director Tom Archer. Stay tuned.

UPDATE, 8:06 am 10/18:
Advocacy Director of the NW Trail Alliance, Tom Archer, has responded to Commissioner Fish’s statement:

“We’re pleased with the announcement yesterday, in particular with Park’s commitment to complete the first trail project within a defined timeline. Our long-term goal has always been to create a compelling, sustainable singletrack experience in the Park and this is a step in the right direction. We’ve been working closely with Parks over the past two years to figure out a path forward, and this announcement clears the way for a couple promising projects. Together, the Firelane 5 and Yeon trail projects [a new multi-use trail and trailhead project Fish says they will fund through a new Parks bond measure] will add a significant amount of new singletrack, and once completed, will provide a new access point to the park, with the intent of re-directing some of the current traffic away from the Thurman Gate.

The FL5 project is fairly well defined and Parks has committed to initiating the permit process right away. NWTA has committed to delivering the resources to build the FL5 project, and it’s we will be engaging our partners immediately to collect the required funding. It’s our intent to utilize the resources of NWTA’s Trail Development Partnership Program to deliver the project, similar to what we’ve done at Stub Stewart State Park and Cascade Locks. This would allow the project to be built economically, and engage our partners, and supporters in the process. The Yeon project is more significant in terms of required resources due to length and terrain. I expect we’ll work on refining that concept while we work on FL5.

We’ll be providing more specifics on the projects in the next few weeks. In the meantime, those interested in contributing to the project can make contact via”

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Molly Cameron October 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    This is huge news!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jocko October 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    To Quote LBJ

    “Its about damn time”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • raul October 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Excellent, looking forward to build and ride some sweet single track in Portland. This is huge for the Portland Cycling Community, finally will truly be a Platinum City.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • michael downes October 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Fantastic news! Can’t wait to hear the details……..

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian October 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you Mr. Fish, and to all of you who have worked long and hard throughout the years. Tom Archer!!!! I (and many, many others including my 3 year old son) look forward to all of the benefits of a living in a mtb-friendly city.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris October 17, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    This is really excellent news, and I’m excited to hop on a NWTA work crew to help out. Our local single-track options have been diminishing recently due to logging up Rock Creek Rd. I worry, however, that we’ve been here before.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Zaphod October 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Fantastic. A well designed trail will be vastly superior to the near-fall-line route of a firelane. If opposition arises, it should be noted the net ecological and economic gain when weighing new trail impact (minimal) against vehicle miles *not* taken because in-town options exist. I’m pretty excited to volunteer to help build this and then enjoy the fruits of this labor.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Charley October 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Two years ago, after getting a nasty email from me, Commissioner Fish asked me to “keep the faith.” He deserves big credit for seeing this through. I’m excited!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt Perry October 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Zaphod hit the nail on the head. Less driving, more recreation, increased safety, better for soil and water quality. I’d imagine it will be fairly low cost with an army of mtb volunteers. It’s a win-win for everyone. Great news! Thanks Commissioner Fish!!

    Thinking to the future, this could serve as a great example for decommissioning the rest of the eroding fall-line trails…. to avoid ecological damage AND increase safety AND make the trails more fun, simply by reworking the firelanes using modern trail construction techniques.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan Kaufman October 18, 2012 at 6:41 am

    This is a great opportunity for Portland in many ways. Let’s make this succeed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian Gerow October 18, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Shovel in hand!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eric October 18, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I want to be excited, I really do. But we’ve heard this before. Commissioner Fish says “in the next nine months” and I fully expect some interest group (city club, friends of something, etc) to raise some new found concerns “in the next eight months” and Fish to back down accordingly. Buy some lights. At once the sun goes down all the trails are open to mountain bikers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tyson Hart October 18, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Let’s be honest the moment this opens it’s going to be obsolete. I applaud the effort, but we need a network of trails. It’s gotta start somewhere, but we need to continue to press the commish to get more so traffic and erosion on this trail don’t become an issue for the haters…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • john October 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I started out cycling age 14, as a mountain biker, in michigan. I quit mountain biking in oregon because it is simply so abysmal in comparison. The terrain has a lot to with it, east coast or midwest trails can be fast, rolling, super fun, whereas trails in the Pacific NW can be all climb or all downhill.

    My hope is that whoever is designing this has ridden single track beyond the NW. Thank God they didn’t just turn a steep fire road into a “trail” , what one could also call: grind then brake, or workhard then scare, slip then flip, type of cycling.

    I would say need at least, to start with, 30 minutes of nice rolling trail. It will take a lot of careful planning to do this right (remember your 7p’s).

    I think it perhaps the best way to get teenagers interested in bicycles, through mountain bikes… Some proper trails can be quite thrilling and fun. Not having to drive to ride is huge also.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dennis October 18, 2012 at 9:11 am

    This is fantastic news!

    On a side note, in the photograph, am I the only one that notices that his front brake is disconnected at the calipers?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • rwl1776 October 19, 2012 at 10:10 am

      He’s trying to add some excitement to his boring ride on Leif Erickson…

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Scooter October 18, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Shovel is ready. Thanks Mr. Fish.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GlowBoy October 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

    This is great. I wasn’t holding out much hope for this. I’d really like to see is more of a longitudinal countour-line trail, such as we had previously proposed for one of the already “heavily impacted” portions of the park, but this is a VERY welcome start.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt Forness October 18, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Is this really finally going to happen?! Or is there going to be some other excuse coming that will indefinitely delay it yet again?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark McClure October 18, 2012 at 11:41 am

    They should build on the powerline area that goes from Skyline to half way down Springville Road. Then westside riders could have a great downhill on their cruise back home.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • tobin October 18, 2012 at 11:55 am

    the new trail should be called SHRED TAPE!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave October 18, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Que anti-bike birdwatcher trolling in 3, 2, 1…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Hudson October 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Let’s hope that in the meantime, nobody tries to build another illegal trail in FP and (figuratively) derails this entire process.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rwl1776 October 19, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Excellent work NWTA. Keep us all informed of upcoming trail work events, and I’ll be there. The legacy of PUMP lives on!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Larry October 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    This is a disaster. Current users, most especially dog people, ravage this wonderful park with carelessness. Bikers will do what they have always done in this park and tear it up.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • f5 October 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Remember your words the next time you’re up there and see cyclists doing trail maintenance.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Brian October 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

        ….and pulling ivy. When cyclists were beginning to be included in Park discussions a few years ago, about 40 of us rode out to Linnton and pulled ivy on Parks Day for three hours around a hiking-only entrance trail.
        The inclusion of mountain bikers means a lot of “free” labor towards the overall health of the Park, and it is indisputable that the Park needs help.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • James October 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Let’s work together, check out this video that makes some great points:

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • James October 19, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Sounds almost believable. If so, please think of Duthie Hill Mountain Bike Park when designing the trail. They did so much on a small piece of land in King County.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • flywater50 November 19, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Just more natural area wreckage to be left behind, right bikers?
    Thanks go to Erik whose 10/18 post confirms what we already know about the bikeportland folks: your way is the only way, day or night, destruction is no obstacle to your single issue lives.
    Good luck with that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0