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Guest Article: Urban mountain biking in Portland – What it could be

Posted by on May 2nd, 2013 at 10:36 am

Typical “flow” singletrack on the Beginner Trail in
Lebanon Hills.
(Photo used with permission of
Dakota County Parks, Minnesota)

This article is written by Joshua Rebannack. Joshua contacted me after he read our recent coverage of mountain biking in Forest Park. As a way of helping Portland see a different vision for urban, off-road bicycling access, Joshua wanted to share how the issue has evolved in riding areas around Minneapolis, Minnesota. — Jonathan

My name is Joshua Rebennack. I’m a “Dirt Boss” at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails and a member of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew. I am writing this guest article in response to some of the controversy surrounding the possible inclusion of mountain biking at Forest Park.

Below I’ll discuss an example trail in an urban setting, Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minnesota, and the lessons the citizens of Portland can learn from it.

While it might seem an odd choice comparing a West Coast location with Midwest, there are more similarities than one might think. Both Portland and Twin Cities (including Eagan) are at similar latitudes. While Portland prides itself on its rainfall, actually, the Twin Cities receives somewhat similar amounts of precipitation, though far more of it in snow. They both have similar political climates. And both are biking hot- spots.

Urban Mountain Biking Example – Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan, MN

A berm on the Intermediate Trail at Lebanon Hills
(Photo: Used with Permission of Dakota County Parks)

Lebanon Hills is a 2,000 acre park located in Eagan, MN. Originally a Dakota County park, urban and suburban sprawl have now surrounded Lebanon Hills on all sides. The park is bordered directly by single-family housing developments and commercial properties.

In the 1990s, the only section of the park with any official mountain biking access was the Northwest corner of the park. The “mountain bike trail” was a 2.5 mile long loop of rutted gravel and dirt roads. In 1998, however, Dakota County decided that it needed a Master Plan to address long-term usage of the park.

As the Master Plan committee was assembled, Dakota County included stakeholders from every recreational activity the park could accommodate. That included mountain bikers, represented by the president (at the time) of the nascent off-road trail advocacy group Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC). It took a year to assemble all the stakeholders, and an additional two years of committee meetings to hammer out the final Master Plan. In regards to mountain biking, it was decided to move from the old double-track to singletrack. In the end, the final plan for mountain biking at Lebanon Hills had the following components:

  • Mountain bike trails would be completely segregated from other trails to mirror the previous usage and prevent future biker/hiker conflicts.
  • One way trails would allow the narrowest singletrack tread.
  • The area for the mountain bike trails would be limited by definable boundaries to allow Dakota County to monitor the trails more easily and to prevent riders from finding their way onto other trails.
  • A 1/2 mile test loop would be built first to prove that mountain bike trails could be built sustainability and that users would be responsible in using them.
  • All abandoned, illegal, and sub-standard trails would have to be reclaimed.

Difference between legal and illegal mountain biking.
– Click to enlarge –
(Joshua Rebannack)

All of these features, and the willingness of MORC to build the trail and fund the construction, helped Dakota County green-light singletrack at Lebanon Hills. Construction started on the 1/2 mile test loop on June 25, 2002.

The test loop was a resounding success. Even with constant traffic, the sustainable trail design choices proved themselves. Additional trail mileage was put in nearly as fast as it could be approved: in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011. By 2006, Lebanon Hills became completely singletrack as the last of that old rutted road was reclaimed.

While it would be easy to talk about mountain bikers feelings on the trails, what really matters in context of the current debate in Portland is the land manager’s reaction to the trails. In a question and answer email Katie Pata, Park Operations Coordinator for Dakota County, explains her feelings:

“I’m in charge of day-to-day park operations for Dakota County, especially for Lebanon Hills Regional Park, our biggest and busiest (over 500,000 annual visits) park. Lebanon Hills Regional Park is home to nearly 12 miles of single track mountain bike trails and a new state-of-the-art mountain bike skills park. This successful trail system was built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers with careful but creative oversight by Dakota County. As the land manager, it’s our job to ensure public lands are cared for and managed in way that’s sustainable, in line with our mission and in the best interest of the public. MORC’s commitment to sustainable trail design and making mountain biking a new, accessible recreational opportunity for Dakota County residents and beyond has proved to be invaluable.”

The Skills Park at Lebanon Hills attracts all ages.
(Photo: Used with Permission of Dakota County Parks)

As is typical of mountain bike trails in Minnesota, the trails are built on municipal land, but MORC takes the burden of maintaining them. “The mountain bike trail system is made completely possible by a dedicated group of volunteers with [MORC],” Pata continues. “Volunteers meet weekly in the summer months for trail building and maintaining. They are also on call to help with downed tree removal and even winter [mountain bike] trail grooming. Without [these] volunteers and the expertise, partnership and support they bring, Lebanon would not be what it is today. We have great topography and soils that make it easier to have the type of trail system we do, but really what makes the gears turn is an active, dedicated respectful group of mountain bike enthusiast volunteers.”

But doesn’t the amount of riders and the pressure they place on the park and its forest lands create greater impacts? Actually, the opposite has turned out to be true. Again, Pata explains,

“It sometimes seems like because many know the Lebanon Hills mountain bike trail system is maintained by volunteers, users take better care of it — not riding during wet conditions and not littering.” That sense of belonging extends, not just to adults, but all riders. “Mountain biking is connecting with teens who are sometimes under served in an overall park system. Mountain biking not only brings in a new user base in teens and young adults, it brings a sense of community strength, pride and awareness with its close ties to volunteerism and trail stewardship.”

As of this writing, Lebanon Hills is one of 18 urban or suburban mountain biking trails in the greater Twin Cities Metro area. Two more are in the process of getting approval. With the continued expansion of light rail and bike greenways, it’s increasingly possible to bike from your home to a mountain bike trail in Twin Cities Metro area.

Potential Lessons for Urban Mountain Biking in Portland
So in the final analysis, what are the lessons for Portland? Well, Portland isn’t the first city to grapple with question of urban mountain biking and it won’t be the last. The trick is to look at those places that have come before and see what answers they had to the questions urban mountain biking raises. I would argue strongly that there is no better place to look for those answers than Minnesota. Minnesota has shown that issues concerning mountain biking, real or imagined, can be designed around. The trails in Minnesota, both urban ones like Lebanon Hills, and rural ones like the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails, are considered the best in the Midwest because of those design choices. Most importantly, Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists, with their land manager partners, have proved with over a decade of trail stewardship that ecologically sustainable, fun, and land manager friendly trails are not only possible, they can be the norm.

Pata was asked “If you were speaking to the citizens of Portland, what would you say to them?” I think there is no better way to end this article than with her response:

“Mountain biking has found a re-birth over these past years and I see it continuing to grow in popularity It’s common to have 300+ riders per day on our trail system in good weather conditions — most come for their hour or two hour ride and head home — it’s their daily workout. Many neighbors to the park have said they chose to move here because of the trail system at Lebanon Hills. Local businesses, including our own campground, have definitely benefited — it’s not only a city draw, but a state and even regional draw.

Mountain biking is opening doors, especially for teens who can’t find a good fit with traditional organized group sports like football, volleyball or basketball. I’ve seen kids barely walking on strider bikes and families with tandem bikes. It’s a sport for everyone with a bike. And if you don’t have one, hopefully there’s a bike demo trailer or bike shop nearby that can rent you one or use one for free. It’s a lifetime skill and a pasttime, something that crosses generations. It has a strong community building component — where cyclists love to ‘talk shop’ after a ride, share helmet camera videos, grill out or hit up the local eatery, and more. Overall, working with the mountain bike community is a highlight of what I get to do and model of example how to cost-effectively manage a public recreational opportunity.”

Browse the archives for more guest articles and reader stories. If you have something to share, please get in touch.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Metropolis Cycles
    Metropolis Cycles May 2, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Where’s the “like” button for this article?

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  • Brian May 2, 2013 at 11:16 am

    HUGE thanks to Joshua. How do we insure that our decision-makers read it, and how do we get them in contact with the land manager referenced above?

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  • Joshua Rebennack May 2, 2013 at 11:25 am

    @Brian – I would suggest calling or emailing those who feel should read this. As to getting ahold of Mrs. Pata, Dakota County Minnesota has website with a contact form.

    If you are with a bike club and would like more information about Minnesota and urban/suburban mountain biking, drop me a line at snowboyjwr[at]gmail[dot]com.

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    • Brian May 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Will do. I am an active member of the Northwest Trail Alliance. I am originally from Wisconsin, and hope to make it to your trail networks some day. Thanks for all of your hard work, and time put into this editorial.

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      • Joshua Rebennack May 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

        Please get in contact with me. I may be able to give the NTA some help.

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  • Granpa May 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

    I would be the first person to decry the use of Portland’s natural parks as thrill rides for adrenaline addicts. BUT with the constraints outlined in the article I would support and use the off road trails.

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    • Joshua Rebennack May 2, 2013 at 11:37 am

      That was EXACTLY what I was trying to bring out. Wrong or right, some think of urban mountain biking as the unleashing of the Hoards. But it is not.

      The Lebanon Hills “style” constraints are used throughout MN. Even my home trail, Cuyuna, is 90% one-way singletrack, preferred use.

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    • Eric May 2, 2013 at 11:38 am

      I decry the use of (Public) Forest Park as a giant off leash area for dog addicts. And I decry the use of (Public) Forest Park as a giant area for hiking addicts to say “This is my park, not yours, get off my trails”. And I decry the use of (Public) Forest Park as a…

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      • Joshua Rebennack May 2, 2013 at 11:57 am

        One of the things that has allows MN to be putting in mountain bike mileage left and right is that all the users groups work together pretty well. At Lebanon Hills, the XC and hikers helped the mountain bikers. And now the mountain bikers (MORC) help those groups.

        The worst thing for Portland is if it turns into a California-style us vs. them civil war. Part of the reason I wanted to write this article is because it felt like that is where Portland is headed.

        Most people with concerns or fears about mountain biking on public land just need some (gentle) education and shown that it CAN work and work well. They are not awful or stupid people. They just don’t have all the facts. Lets teach them those facts, not start a flame war.

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      • Granpa May 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        Mountain bikers have earned a reputation as being incompatible with other trail users. Your angry reply to my post, which acknowledges that reputation but supports the trails development strategy, smacks of self righteous entitlement and everyone else, be damned. I have seen horses spooked and mountain bikes blast past startled pedestrians. I have seen sensitive vegetation crushed by oblivious riders and I think we all remember the dog that was killed by a cyclist on the Leif Eriksen Trail. From the tone of the response it is easy to imagine that I would get a big FU if I were to point out these transgressions. By your logic all PUBLIC facilities should be open to all. You may think it a splendid idea if motorcycles used the public Springwater Trail to bypass traffic, but rightfully, there are restrictions. Restrictions are in place for the common good, and it won’t be an angry anarchists with a sense of entitlement and disregard for others that persuades decisions makers to change those restrictions.

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        • Eric May 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm

          WSBOB, is that you?

          I figured it wouldn’t be long before a response like this one was posted.

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        • Brian May 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

          Hey Granpa,
          How many mountain bikers have you encountered in your lifetime, in your best estimate? How many negative incidents, as you described, have you witnessed?

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        • Alex May 2, 2013 at 3:10 pm

          Uh – where are you getting this information? There are soooo many shared trails where mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians share peacefully and don’t have problems, both in the city and in the country. I think his reply was pointing out that your response to mountain bikers in general is angry (i.e. writing someone off for being an “adrenaline junky” does not have a positive tone). If you are going to call out someone for their “angry” reply, I would suggest that you first consider how your tone could be construed as angry itself.

          His point wasn’t so much that everything should be allowed on all trails, but rather that a single person (or small group in this case) “decrying” the use of public land shouldn’t set policy. I didn’t take what he was saying as there shouldn’t be limitations, but that the public should decide, not just a few rich people who live around the park.

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          • Granpa May 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm

            If readers of this blog feel that my posts accuse them of being adrenaline addicts then perhaps the shoe fits. My statements were that mountain bikers have that reputation.

            Regarding the validity of my claims that I have seen it… I have.

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            • kgb May 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm

              You seem to have anger issues and a the unfortunate bad habit of stereo typing large groups of people. I see bad behavior from all groups and good behavior from all groups this is because we are all people.

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            • Joshua Rebenack May 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

              @Granpa – I would like to apologize for those commenters that have been insensitive to your opinions. That is not the way to be respectful.

              I would like to let you know, that yes, I’m an adrenaline junkie when I mountain bike. I like working hard to get to the top of hill and pause and be filled with adrenaline at the sublime beauty of nature. I like having to stop my bike as a flock of turkeys crosses the trail. And yes, I do like blasting down the trail and feeling the wind on my face.

              But I want to experience this in a way that is safe for me, for others, and respects Mother Nature. Done correctly, mountain biking can meet all those criteria. I know its not everyone’s cup of tea. But I think we can all agree that we need to decide how to handle public interests as calmly as possible.

              Again, please understand those that make rude and offensive remarks are not the majority of mountain bikers. And if you would like to meet some nice mountain bikers, Minnesota is full of them.

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            • davemess May 3, 2013 at 9:33 am

              Mountain bikers seem to have that reputation amongst a select demographic of people in Portland. And frankly in most other “outdoorsly” locales in the US they have no reputation at all. They’re just another trail user/outdoor enthusiast.

              People will always find ways to demonize people they find threatening or disagree with. Sad but true fact of life.

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            • Alex May 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

              That’s the problem. I don’t think it fits.

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        • f5 May 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

          Who seems angry? Sheesh.

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  • Brian May 2, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Also, timely article as the City begins forming the committee to decide what to do with the Riverview area.

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  • Brian May 2, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Unfortunately, this is how the conversation in Portland typically goes. Labeling and inaccurate generalizations are the norm. Hopefully we can get beyond that, as adults in your area seem to have been able to do, and move forward with a more constructive conversation that is solutions-oriented.

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  • Champs May 2, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I really can’t find anything comparable about the locations of Forest Park and Lebanon Hills. Even Sauvie Island is closer to most Portlanders.

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    • Allan May 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      I agree. Looking at a map the only thing I can say is: wow that’s far away

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    • Joshua Rebennack May 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Its true, there is no way one could do a 1:1 comparison of Forest Park to any existing urban mountain biking trail system. But that was not the intent.

      The intent was to show how another group of individuals with similar circumstances (forested public ground surrounded by a city, concerns about usage, etc.) figured out how to do mountain biking and do it well. They came up with a series of design options that have served them well. (And, I’m suggesting, could serve Portland well too.)

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      • Champs May 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        OK. I meant no disrespect, we’re just coming at it from different viewpoints.

        There’s also some sour grapes from living in Uptown. You hear ridiculous things like “the velodrome in Blaine isn’t too far” (YES IT IS), and then you think about the pathetic number of bike-accessible crossings upriver from St. Paul. I know more about Delano than Eagan.

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    • Ethan May 3, 2013 at 8:36 am

      You are so right. If you know that area, you’d know that the park they’re describing would be located somewhere in Yamhill County. Hardly the in-town location with lots of competing users that we have with Forest Park. Not in any way comparable, and a shame, since it’s so misleading.

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  • Chris I May 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I don’t think this is really a fair comparison. Lebanon Hills Regional Park is 20 miles from downtown Minneapolis. For Portland, this would be a discussion about having a park like this in Scappoose, Hillsboro, or Gresham. If we are talking about Forest Park, a better comparison might be Stanley Park in Vancouver, or Mission Trails in San Diego.

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    • Joshua Rebennack May 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Those trails are also good comparison trails. I wish I was more familiar with them because I might have used them instead.

      On of the 18 urban mountain bike trails in Minneapolis, Theodore-Wirth, is 3 miles from downtown (it was featured in a 2007 NY Times article here: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/04/27/travel/escapes/27adventurer.html?fta=y&_r=0). However, I chose Lebanon Hills because 1) its the largest in mileage (12 miles) and 2) unlike Theodore-Wirth, it is primarily forested.

      Also, take a look at Lebanon Hills with a satellite view and I think you will see its VERY much in the city. All the cities around Minneapolis/St. Paul have grown into one big city.

      But, as I said above, its not about if Lebanon Hills or Theodore-Wirth or other trails are a 1:1 comparison with Forest Park. What matters, and what the residents of Portland should take notice of, is that the residents of the Twin Cities metro came together and made mountain biking happen (18 times now). Its possible.

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      • Paul Souders April 9, 2015 at 9:37 am

        “the residents of the Twin Cities metro came together and made mountain biking happen (18 times now). Its possible.”

        One of the most pernicious things about the steady demonization of mountain bike(r)s in PDX (or Marin, or Boulder CO etc.) is that it pits natural allies (hikers, bikers, horse riders) against each other. In the 90s I biked a lot in the midwest and upper Rocky mountain states and all these uses were considered widely compatible. We should all be fighting TOGETHER for BETTER trails.

        This was well written and entirely relevant, if not perfectly analogous. Thank you.

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    • Manville May 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Take a look at Richmond VA; trails downtown along the james river. It doesn’t get any closer. It can and should be done!!!

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  • Ned Turnbuckle May 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Debating locations is pointless because the process is the same. You get the necessary parties together and come up with solutions. The process that has happened for the trails in MN has pretty much been the same for all the trails we have here. Forest Park is certainly Portland. We have city trails here too.

    1. Theodore Wirth Park MTB trail. It is in the city limits of Minneapolis (population ~ 385,000)


    It’s about 4 miles now and has been approved for further expansion to ten miles of trail. That expansion starts this spring/summer.

    2.Battle Creek MTB trail. St. Paul MN. (Capital city across river from Minneapolis)

    It’s about 4 – 5 miles now. Not sure of expansion.


    We also have trails on DNR land up in lake country and the burbs and even further out burbs. All of the trails have gone through this same similar process. As trails have grown being able to create more trails has gotten easier because of the track record and real examples of different land users being able to coexist. I would skip on the location worries and worry about getting the right people to the table and figuring out how it can work so you coexist.

    BTW Joshua, Cuyuna is awesome.

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  • GlowBoy May 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I’ve ridden Lebanon Hills. It’s a great trail system. The one-way concept took a moment to get used to, and I think it does encourage a bit of a hammerhead mentality among some, but it does make the system feel far less busy than it actually is. As Jon pointed out there are over a dozen trail systems within the MSP metro area, whereas we have zero.

    And it’s not THAT far out there – 20 miles from downtown Mpls might seem a long way away, but it more like 12-15 miles from the Lebanon trailhead to downtown St. Paul, as well as to St. Paul’s westside and south Minneapolis where much of the region’s bike culture is concentrated. Among the staggering sprawl that is the Twin Cities, Eagan is not even in the outer ring of suburbs. The network of bike paths and lanes in the south central suburbs is pretty good, and you see lots of people arriving at Lebanon by bike.

    A better analogy than Forest Park would be the new large park acquisitions being done by Metro in our own suburban areas, several of which are ripe for MTB trail development. BTW in my pre-election discussion with Tom Hughes (Metro President) he seemed VERY receptive to this idea. We need NWTA to work with Metro and get going on THIS, and forget for now about tilting at the windmill that is Forest Park.

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    • Ned Turnbuckle May 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      Portland is also 145 sq miles. Minneapolis is only 54 sq miles. MPLS has a higher population density. It also appears that Theodore Wirth is actually closer to downtown MPLS than Forest Park is to downtown Portland. Equally true for Battle Creek and St. Paul.

      If you really want to make comparison beyond the sq miles of Portland and Minneapolis the MPLS metro area has over 3.7 million people. Portland’s metro area is about 2.6 million. But like it’s pointless.

      I went back and looked at the piece on the actual trail troubles. We had the exact same problems in Minneapolis. The situation is very similar. Years ago NO BIKING signs started popping up as trail poaching progressed. An organization was formed Minneapolis Off_road Cycling Advocated (MOCA) and the process was started where the necessary parties were approached and the advocacy began.

      First there was pilot trail (test trail like Joshua spoke of happening at Lebanon Hills) that was built with an agreement that if it worked and park users got along we could build more. Like I said we have been approved to add more mileage now and it will be 10 miles long.

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    • Brian May 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Arleady on it Glowboy. The meeting this past Tuesday was entirely dedicated to METRO, and the upcoming levy. Let me know if you want to get plugged in.

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  • velo May 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    As a former Portlander now living in the Twin Cities I heartily agree with this. I would also add that getting to where the Twin Cities is now has taken a lot of work and hasn’t happened overnight. MORC’s work has been instrumental to building the relationships and show that mountain biking can be a “big kid” when it comes to access and community involvement.

    I grew up in the Twin Cities and in the later 90’s early 2000’s access and availability wasn’t nearly as good as it is now. This is a solvable problem, it takes effort and time. I’d love to see Portland develop a solid mountain biking scene, because it definitely seems possible.

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  • matt f May 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you Joshua. It makes sense to just look at what other cities have done and how they’ve done it. Hopefully this article will contribute to opening more minds like Granpa’s.

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  • Manville May 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Awesome!!! Thanks for that.

    I moved from Richmond, VA. Although Portland is a far better “bike city”, Richmond has 18miles of singletrack downtown. It is shamefull that the #1 bike city and park city in the country has 1/2 mile of single track in its parks. Time for a seachange!!!

    Free Forrest Park !!

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  • TrailLover May 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Lebanon Hills does indeed seem to be a great success story. We should all be lucky enough to visit there someday. Hats off to all the folks who came together to make it happen.

    The one major feature of the Lebanon Hills “solution” that gives me pause is the segregated trails. While separate trails for separate uses can be an effective trail management tool, it’s unclear from the article exactly why a segregated system was adopted. Apparently there was some historical inertia in that direction and, as Joshua points out, there were concerns about preventing future hiker/biker conflict. But it’s unclear how much hiker/biker conflict – real or imaginary – had been happening in the past or could realistically be expected to occur in the future.

    Segregating trails effectively reduces the total mileage available to each user group. If you’re doing a lot of new trail construction where there previously had been less total trail, then separate trails can still give each user group a net gain. But significant new trail construction seems unlikely at Forest Park so if existing trails were to be segregated – and I would hope the cyclists don’t get completely screwed in the process – then hikers will be giving up significant miles of trail. That’s hard to sell, especially when nobody has even made the case for why Forest Park – or virtually anywhere else – really needs separate trails for separate uses.

    I grew up sharing trails very successfully with bicycles, horses and boots and, in my experience, the community was brought much closer together by virtue of the sharing than I think we would have been by waving goodbye to each other as we set off on our own separate trails.

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    • davemess May 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      Sightlines!!! That’s the major problem I see. Many places that have actively shared trails have the luxury of having great sightlines, so conflicts are never really a surprise (think place like Utah, NM, Colorado, and a lot of CA, dry places with less three and less foliage). OR (and maybe MN, I don’t know enough to make a guess) have the issue that almost all of our trails are very heavily foliaged. Many of them also dip and dart around little drops and corners. You sightlines are just terrible, and it’s hard if not impossible to know/see a person (whether they be bike or ped.) coming the other way, or even one you are overtaking.
      To me, having separate trails (esp. one way bike trails) takes much of this danger element out. If your sightline is only 20 feet, even going a pedestrian 10 mph downhill does not help you avoiding dangerous interactions on blind corners.

      Frankly I think most objecting hiking groups would embrace a separated trail system, as many seem to use the dangers of trail sharing as their most potent argument.

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    • Joshua Rebenack May 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Allow me to answer your questions:

      Segregated use was chosen because the previous trails where that way. Also, there was fear by the hiking community that should the trails be built as multi-use trail that hikers would be run down like a scene out of a Mad Max movie. Plus, the mountain bike community felt that segregating the trails would lead to a more “flowing” trail. In the end, that was solution they came to. As I’ve said above, most mountain bike trails in MN are segregated or preferred use (designed for mountain bikes but you can hike them/trail run them). Even my home trai, Cuyuna, which is rural in nature and is 25 miles of singletrack built in an abandoned iron mine is preferred use.

      As to segregated use cutting trail mileage in half, I tend to disagree. I think if you look at the mileage of hiking and equestrian trails at Lebanon its probably pretty comparable for all users. Other trail systems in the Twin Cities have different user groups and hence different amounts of usage. Theodore-Wirth, for instance, shares the park with a gold course.

      I think the idea that “new trail construction” isn’t likely in Forest Park looks at the process of building trails the wrong way. Often its more ecological to build trails to IMBA specs and abandon old trail than it is to use non-conforming trail that will erode or show impacts. The idea is that as you expand mileage of trail that is sustainable, you abandon and reclaim trail that is not.

      I’ve glad you have had positive experiences on multi-use trails. Unfortunately, some have not. Doing segregated trails works for Lebanon Hills because they have 500,000 visits a year. If even 1/2 of 1 percent of those people are jerks, the amount of negative interaction they could have could still involve thousands of people. Segregated trails pretty much eliminates this.

      As to different user groups not mingling, all trail-head facilities are shared. At Lebanon Hills, especially in the winter, the fire pits are multi-user group coming together moment.

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  • RWL1776 May 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Long Live PUMP and their Founder Theo Patterson!

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  • pfeif May 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    I remeber riding Lebanon Hills back in the early 90’s when I worked in bike shop in Eagan. Our shop was just down the street on Cliff road. Between Terrace Oaks and Lebanon it was great to have two good trail systems such a close distance to each other.

    Keep in mind these trails are in Minnesota and they are used in the winter as cross country ski trails. Most of the other regional trails that are mentioned are used as ski trails as well and are located outside of Mpls.

    One comparison between lebanon and forest park is that both have expensive neighbor hoods surrounding them with a lot of polictial pull. Yes Lebanon is in the burbs but its a quick drive to the core as there more freeway options into downtown, Cedar Ave, 35W and 35E

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    • Shawn May 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm

      We don’t mountain bike on ski trails anymore. We haven’t for a long time. We build and ride single track and usually it’s no wider than 18 inches. In the winter we also ride mountain bikes on them. I can assure that there aren’t any skiers there. We were riding ski trails back in the 1990’s but that was 20 years ago. We only build and ride single track now. No one rides ski trails.

      Some of the MN MTB trails do allow dogs and bikes. Some allow runners. Not are all MTB only specific. Usually it’s due to the amount of available land that can be developed for recreational use. They are all one way trails though.

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  • wsbob May 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Several people commenting to this thread…Champs…Allan…Chris I …have noted differences between Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan, Minnesota, and Forest Park within Portland city limits, in Oregon…primarily, distance to the park from the city.

    Glowboy says Minnesota’s Lebanon Hills is 12-20 miles from the city. Here in Oregon, Stubb Stewart is 30.

    Forest Park, at 5000 acres, is a uniquely large nature park, conceived of as, and created specifically to be a nature park, adjacent to the city. It’s not a mountain bike park.

    If mountain bike enthusiasts are prepared to acquire land adjacent to Portland, designating it specifically to be a mountain bike park, applying whatever user constraints they wish to the use of the land they acquire, they’re welcome to do that.

    Or, if numbers of requests from residents of the Portland Metro area, of their elected officials, for mountain bike specific parkland, efforts would probably be made to meet those requests. If there were in the Portland Metro area, or even amongst the area THPRD’s district includes for example, significant numbers of resident requests being made to either Metro (the regional governing-planning agency for the Portland Metro area.), or THPRD (Tualitan Hills Park and Recreation District)…active efforts to acquire mountain bike specific public park land would likely have occurred, or be ongoing.

    I’ve long suspected there have been very few such requests. Just last weekend, I talked with someone from THPRD: this person confirmed there have been very few requests for the park distict to acquire mountain bike specific parkland.

    Only a very small percentage of residents within the Portland Metro Area seem to favor using nature parks for mountain biking. Despite mountain bike advocates’ efforts to be granted official use of Portland’s Forest Park for mountain biking, there appears to be very little public support for using this nature park, or any nature park in the area, for mountain biking.

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    • Shawn May 2, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Just want to point out the use of anti-moutain biking buzz words like “nature park”. Parks in the middle of a city are not wild life preserves. You locate those in areas surrounded by other land that doesn’t have freeways and big neighborhoods and city traffic and…. The parks in the city are actually for people to play in.

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      • wsbob May 2, 2013 at 10:52 pm

        “…Parks in the middle of a city…” Shawn

        Forest Park isn’t in the middle of the city. It’s on Portland’s perimeter, effectively bordered by the city…actually, the NW Portland neighborhood, on just it’s east side, with the river on the north, and growing suburban neighborhoods to the the west and south.

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        • davemess May 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

          So Bob, it is surrounded by housing and “the city”.
          We’ve already hashed over the “nature park” argument multiple times. Why do you feel the need to bring it up again?

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    • TrailLover May 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      WSBOB’s ritualistic repetition of his favorite term, “nature park,” doesn’t really bother me. A “nature park” is EXACTLY where I want to ride my mountain bike. Thankfully, my cycling is totally consistent with all the values that could ever be associated with a “nature park.”

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    • kgb May 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      “Only a very small percentage of residents within the Portland Metro Area seem to favor using nature parks for mountain biking. ”

      You just made this up!

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    • Joshua Rebenack May 2, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      Again, as I and others have pointed out, mileage from the Minneapolis doesn’t mean its not a city. The city of Eagen surrounds the park on all sides. Check it out on Google Earth.

      Also, as many have pointed out, the point was not a direct comparison of Forest Park to Lebanon Hills. The point was that a) a similar type of property is able to have and maintain sustainable mountain biking and b) the process of allowing mountain biking led to design choices that could make mountain biking less controversial at Forest Park if adopted.

      Not wanting to speak for mountain bikers in Portland, just speaking as someone who enjoys Forest Park when I visit, mountain bikers DO NOT want to turn Forest Park into a mountain biking park. We like the trees and scenery. We just want to have the opportunity to ride our bikes through the park in fun and sustainable manner. We would like equitable trails on public lands designated as parks, in this case, Forest Park. We would settle, however, for minority trail access on some lands. Singletrack mountain biking is nothing like what many see on Red Bull competitions. Its a narrow tread, about 18″ wide max that meanders through the scenery.

      In some areas mountain bike clubs have purchased land for trails. But in many areas the cost of urban or suburban land makes that impossible.

      Lets play out a hypothetical for an moment. Currently the 12 miles of singletrack at Lebanon Hills is contained within about 190 acres, being a little less than 10% of the total park area of Lebanon Hills. If tomorrow we decided to copy Lebanon Hills lock, stock, barrel, and put it in Forest Park the total area that would have mountain bike trails would be less than 4% of the total park. And lets please remember that is area that contains trails, not the actual area of the trail itself. (For 12 miles, the on ground area covered by the mountain biking trails is about 95,000 sq. ft. or 2.1 acres of actual trail assuming a 18″ tread.) Is the ability to place trails on 4% of the total area of Forest Park too much to ask for?

      That is part of the frustration that I see played out on BikePortland regarding Forest Park. Mountain bikers are not asking for 100% of Forest Park, they just want some singletrack trail access.

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      • wsbob May 3, 2013 at 12:01 am

        “…mountain bikers DO NOT want to turn Forest Park into a mountain biking park. …” Joshua Rebenack

        Mountain bikers apparently want to use Forest Park for mountain biking. They have not detailed a specific type of mountain biking for which they seek to use this nature park. Not having clearly defined the type of mountain biking they seek to use the park for, it follows that they haven’t offered any ideas by which to constrain use of the park to a specific type of mountain biking.

        So it is that people coming to the park, anticipate, expect to enjoy, or possibly have to deal with aggressive types of mountain biking.

        However small an area you’re thinking of, your hypothetical comparison of the amount of mountain bike trail in Minnesota’s Lebanon Hills park, made as a plea to use Forest Park for mountain biking, runs up against the incontrovertible fact that Forest Park was created to be a nature park…not to be used for vehicular recreation, even human powered vehicular recreation. Forest Park was created to serve as a place for people to get away from exactly the kinds of human activity that mountain biking is part of.

        Mountain bike advocates don’t seem to be seeking to use this nature park for simple bicycling…something like a pedestrian on wheels; if that were the case, and that was the type of bicycling people had been using the park’s trails for, albeit unauthorized,…with due consideration and courtesy for people traveling the park on foot…I think it’s entirely possible that little resistance would have risen towards official authorization to use the park for this type of bicycling. Rather than to simple, pedestrian style bicycling in a nature park, it’s to mountain biking in a nature park that resistance has risen, and persists.

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        • Joshua Rebennack May 3, 2013 at 6:50 am

          Unlike previous responses, I’m going to respond in part since your reply covered a lot of ground.

          “…They have not detailed a specific type of mountain biking for which they seek to use this nature park. Not having clearly defined the type of mountain biking they seek to use the park for, it follows that they haven’t offered any ideas by which to constrain use of the park to a specific type of mountain biking.”

          Based on the current standing of the issue and what the Portland Parks & Recreation outlined in their “Forest Park Single Track Advisory Committee Report, July 2010” ( http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/312553 ) mountain bikers *HAVE* outlined the type of mountain biking they want: natural surface singletrack. That design, by default, limits the type of activities that the trail could support. If you thread is 18″ or less mountain biking becomes a more wheels on the ground experience more than a vertical (jumping) one.

          “…So it is that people coming to the park, anticipate, expect to enjoy, or possibly have to deal with aggressive types of mountain biking.”

          That is where good design comes into play. I’ll be honest, I’m not excited with the Single Track Advisory Committee Report. I think it just kicks the can down the road and creates a situation that will create some on-trail conflict. But every place handles urban mountain biking differently.

          I’m not sure what you meant when you talk about ‘aggressive types of mountain biking’. I assume you mean free ride, something that just isn’t possible on singletrack.

          “…However small an area you’re thinking of, your hypothetical comparison of the amount of mountain bike trail in Minnesota’s Lebanon Hills park, made as a plea to use Forest Park for mountain biking, runs up against the incontrovertible fact that Forest Park was created to be a nature park…not to be used for vehicular recreation, even human powered vehicular recreation.”

          If that is your understanding, that certainly isn’t the Portland Parks & Recreation’s understanding. And they are the land manager for Forest Park. Again, going back to the Forest Park Single Track Advisory Committee Report, they seem to be under the impression that mountain biking fits fine into the realm of Forest Park. Since they are the land managers, they would be tasked with understanding and following their own rules. I can’t speak for them, but I’m pretty sure they have had a staff lawyer or two look at the relevent documents and let them know if mountain biking would be allowed under whatever charter the park was dedicated with.

          If the Portland Parks & Recreation have decided that mountain biking is an allowed use, we are past the question of “Should we do that here” and onto the best way to do that. As I agrued above, I believe that Minnesota has found the magic formula to doing urban mountain biking trails very well in a way that is considerate to all users.

          “…Mountain bike advocates don’t seem to be seeking to use this nature park for simple bicycling…something like a pedestrian on wheels; if that were the case, and that was the type of bicycling people had been using the park’s trails for, albeit unauthorized,…with due consideration and courtesy for people traveling the park on foot…I think it’s entirely possible that little resistance would have risen towards official authorization to use the park for this type of bicycling. Rather than to simple, pedestrian style bicycling in a nature park, it’s to mountain biking in a nature park that resistance has risen, and persists.”

          Mountain biking is a human on wheels. There is no difference mechanically between a bike traveling down a road and one traveling through the woods. Its a human using 2 simple machines (pulley and wheel) to propel themselves.

          I would propose that the resistance is coming from those that really don’t understand or choose not to understand what mountain biking really is. Look at the pictures in the article. Or go to the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail site (cuyunalakesmtb.com) and look at those pictures. Do those pictures reflect anything other than humans traveling through the woods?

          I would suggest that if you are ever going to be in MN, please contact me and I can arrange tours and maybe some sit-down time with land managers so you can see what mountain biking really is. I would like to believe that it would change your viewpoint on urban mountain biking and mountain biking at Forest Park. If you use the contact form on cuyunalakesmtb.com, that will be forwarded to me.

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        • TrailLover May 3, 2013 at 9:02 am

          As Joshua is uncovering yet again, WSBOB’s post are, in a word, disingenuous. It seems completely obvious to me that WSBOB has a personal objection to sharing Forest Park singletrack with anyone on a bicycle. Whether that objection is based on a lack of understanding of what off-road cycling in an environment like Forest Park actually consists of, or it is based on the simple impulse to insulate his existing, individual experience of the park from any type of change at all, he seems unwilling to be fundamentally honest about the basis of his position.

          Instead, we keep seeing a range of manufactured arguments including assigning imaginary designations like “nature park” (as if cycling was somehow inconsistent with such a designation); throwing around buzzwords like “vehicular recreation”; and blaming overactive cyclists for not being active enough about what they want (plainly false).

          But WSBOB does state that if cyclists were asking for “pedestrians on wheels” (which is essentially all that the cycling community has in fact ever asked for) then, in WSBOB’s opinion, “it’s entirely possible that little resistance would have risen.” Great. Let’s test out exactly how little resistance there would actually be right here on the pages of bikeportland. WSBOB, please post here your personal endorsement of “pedestrians on wheels” on the singeltrack trails of Forest Park.

          Although I’m perfectly happy with the expression “pedestrians on wheels” if that is somehow more palatable to you, you may want to use the language that everyone else uses and understands, which is “cross country” or “XC” cycling. I’ll even write your next post for you. It goes something like, “I, WSBOB, hereby fully and enthusiastically endorse the inclusion of those members of the Forest Park community who would like to experience all that Forest Park has to offer in the form of cross country cycling. My friends on mountain bikes, who I like to refer to as pedestrians on wheels, have every right to share the public lands in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner. I look forward to working with my wheeled friends for the celebration and preservation of one of the greatest nature parks in the world. Sincerely, WSBOB.”

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        • Alex May 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm

          I don’t want to come to the park and deal with aggressive types of running (trail running) or aggressive types of dog-walking (off-leash) or aggressive types of littering (dog poop inside plastic bags).

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  • TrailLover May 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Davemess: First, I think it’s been pretty clear that it’s not so much “groups” that have opposed to bike access in Forest Park as it is a few hard line individuals. Second, your suggestion that those people might “embrace” separate trails seems unlikely. There has been virtually no interest from those opponents in improving bicycle access in any way.

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  • Wintheday May 2, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Just go ride the trails you want, Hikers don’t own the park.

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    • Joshua Rebenack May 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm


      Illegal mountain biking does more to harm trail access than anything else. Rules are rules, whether or not we like them.

      If you are riding illegally in Forest Park, please stop. You are making it harder for any legal riding anywhere in Portland.

      Please use that time and energy to work for mountain bike advocacy.

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      • Wintheday May 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

        Yes but that could take years. I can go ride the trails this afternoon if I wish. Hikers don’t own Forrest Park!

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  • Hugh Johnson May 2, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    We could have this if Portland wasn’t so full of selfish people.

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  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin May 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    In un-bike-friendly Atlanta we actually have a good bit of legal dedicated mtb singletrack on public lands, and there are a surprisingly large number of hikers, including families, and runners using these trails too, even though it means they have to quickly get out of the way when a mtb is approaching.

    So, the trails built and maintained by mountain bikers are actually a big plus to all the hikers that don’t mind yielding the right of way, because they get to use trails that wouldn’t otherwise exists.

    By the way, the direction of the trails change daily, and the hikers must go in the opposite direction of the bikes. There are very clear official looking signs at the entrances so everybody is on the same page about trail etiquette.

    Were moving to Portland this June and the nearby trails are going to be the biggest thing that I am going to miss about Atlanta.

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  • RW September 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Even Austin TEXAS has better urban singletrack than shamefully smug PDX

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    • Paul Souders April 9, 2015 at 9:39 am

      So does Lincoln NEBRASKA

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  • MoSurreus August 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    NYC has three dedicated mountain bike areas in city parks, two of which are generally agreed to be good. Pretty sure it’s the biggest and, I think, most densely populated city in the country, and it definitely has one hell of a bureaucracy. Portland needs to catch-up.

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