Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Forest Park activists to City Council: “Wilderness” at risk and biker crackdown needed

Posted by on June 27th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Marcy Houle testified to City Council that
Forest Park’s “wilderness values” are at risk.

Just 16 days after Commissioner Amanda Fritz was put in charge of the Parks Bureau, people who are opposed to improving bicycle access in Forest Park have begun to pressure her to crack down on illegal riding and limit any policy changes that might result in more riders in the park.

Noted anti-bike activist and author Marcy Houle — who claimed back in March that trails in Forest Park were being “ruined by cyclists” and then teamed up with friends at the NW Examiner newspaper on a biased, hit piece against mountain biking — and local pediatrician Catherine Thompson, addressed Mayor Hales, Commissioner Fritz, and the rest of City Council during the citizen communication period before last week’s meeting.

Houle implored Council to take on a “renewed commitment and excitement” toward making Forest Park the “urban wilderness” she says it was originally conceived to be. Houle read quotes about the park from three of its founders who envisioned it as a place where Portlanders could enjoy the “peace, solitude, and beauty of an urban wilderness.” Houle (who wrote a book about Forest Park titled, One City’s Wilderness) used her three minute testimony to express her concerns that the “wilderness values” of the park are in jeopardy.

Houle read Council members the goal laid out in the 1995 Forest Park Natural Resource Plan and said she wants it posted at every trailhead in the park. That goal reads:

“Forest Park is an unparalleled resource where citizens can experience, peace, solitude, and passive recreational use without degrading natural resources.”

Houle never mentioned bicycling in her testimony; but given her history of opposition to the bike access issue, her intentions are obvious. Houle feels like the more people who see Forest Parks as a pristine wilderness, the easier it will be to prohibit the expansion of bicycle access (after all, federal law currently forbids mountain bikes in officially designated wilderness areas). It’s also a tried and true tactic of people opposed to mountain biking to portray it as an extreme sport that is inherently at odds with “wilderness values.”

Catherine Thompson

Houle’s intentions also came into focus when the person who followed her to the microphone was Catherine Thompson. Thompson is a local pediatrician who said she was speaking up for “safety” in the park and then went on to single out bicycle riders. “Many groups have been writing letters concerned about safety,” she said, “It kind of started with the singletrack committee” (a reference to the Forest Park Single Track Advisory Committee set up to consider new bike access in the park.)

Thompson continued: “People were anticipating safety issues if singletrack occurred, and really, what I’ve discovered as I’ve spent time in he park is that’s happening right now and I really think it’s a crisis… Pedestrians need to be safe and feel safe and that’s just not happening now… 92% of the users of the park are pedestrians and right now they don’t feel safe.”

It’s worth noting why Thompson focused her testimony on how “pedestrians don’t feel safe.” She very likely remembers that Commissioner Fritz (who know holds the power to dictate the future of bike access in Forest Park), once ranted against bike sharing in Portland because of what she felt was “dangerous behaviors” of people who ride bikes. “Daily,” Fritz wrote in an email to a constituent about her stance on bike sharing, “I see cyclists riding on the sidewalks, endangering and harassing pedestrians.” A few months later, Fritz got the police to step up enforcement of sidewalk cycling law.

After painting a picture of people riding bicycles in a way that endangers hikers, Thompson called on City Council to erect new signs in the park listing the ordinance that forbids people from riding bikes on certain singletrack trails. “Until signs are up, rangers can’t do any enforcement,” she said. Thompson claimed that she spoke to a Forest Park ranger and learned, “He hasn’t excluded a single cyclist during his entire tenure.”

Thompson also said she and Houle have begun circulating a petition “casually” and so far 250 people have signed it. She didn’t say what the petition says; but she told Council members it “gives some information that people aren’t feeling safe in the park.”

So to recap: Houle and Thompson are telling our city government that Forest Park should be managed as a pristine wilderness; that there’s a safety crisis in the park due to people riding bicycles illegally; and that park rangers need to crackdown on these lawbreakers and kick them out of the park so that everyone can feel safe.

We’ll let you know how/if Commissioner Fritz responds; but I sure hope she’s hearing other perspectives on this issue.

You can watch Houle and Thompson’s testimony here (begins at about 12:00 minute mark).

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 June 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    No problem, let’s just build some bike only singletrack trails.

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  • Charley June 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Every minute Ms. Houle spends trying to curtail bike riding in this park is a minute she’s wasting. Instead of using her considerable energy and talents on *real* threats to the health of the park (global warming, ivy infestation, under-funding, and dogs chasing after animals and pooping everywhere), she’s satisfying her personal animus against people who ride bikes in the park.

    Just think about that: riding a bike in a park is somehow an ecological tragedy. Riding a bike in the park, for crying out loud. I can’t think of many more wholesome, healthy, activities than riding a bike in a park. Ms. Houle has lost all sense of proportion.

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    • Charley June 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Also, Big Oil and Big Timber love this: environmentalists fighting other environmentalists instead of fighting moneyed extraction businesses. Nothing distracts environmentalists like a good old not-on-my-trail circular firing squad.

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      • Charley June 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        To give a more specific example: she’s using her valuable time on this dumb fight. . . meanwhile, the Port of Portland is gearing up to pave over much of the remaining wildlands on Hayden Island. Can anyone be this blind, unless they’re just blinded by animus?

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        • Oliver June 27, 2013 at 3:02 pm

          Her property doesn’t abut Hayden Island.

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          • A.K. June 27, 2013 at 3:14 pm

            Indeed. If Washington Park is such a pristine wilderness, than by golly all those roads and houses should be removed! Think of the damage they have caused!!

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        • Dan June 27, 2013 at 3:38 pm

          But Charlie Forest Park is her backyard.

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      • was carless June 28, 2013 at 10:58 am

        Please do not label people like this environmentalists, they are in fact self-serving, politically connected capitalists who wish to maximize their property value for future resale. Everyone else be damned.

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    • longgone June 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      Mr. Maus should have saved the “embarrassment” moniker for Marcy Houle today, instead of SW Barbur Blvd.

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    • Wolfie June 28, 2013 at 7:50 am

      It might be good to remember that “dogs pooping everywhere” is, in fact, quite natural. They were once wolves that pooped everywhere. Singling them out is just as asinine as singling out bikes.

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      • lazyofay June 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        When my friends and I gather in one spot to ride bikes, we do not leave shit lying everywhere. Just a thought.

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  • Todd Hudson June 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Doesn’t Marcy Houle live in the west hills near Forest Park? That’s a major conflict of interest.

    And no, FP isn’t a “pristine wilderness” and Houle hyperbolizes – it’s a former clearcut tract. It’s full of English Ivy. There’s homeless camps and abandoned cars in it.

    And there’s plenty of room for mountain bike singletracks to be built responsibly.

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    • Spiffy June 27, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      she’s listed as living on Sauvie Island… a little over 2 miles to Forest Park, as the crow flies…

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      • was carless June 28, 2013 at 11:01 am

        Yeah, but you have to drive by and look at FP on your way to the Pearl. I shudder at the horror of innocent yuppies having to imagine dirty cyclists riding through the most pristine piece of nature during their drive from Sauvie Island to the Pearl Bakery!!

        /sarcasm tag off

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        • Ken July 1, 2013 at 8:30 am

          Thanks for the sterotypes. What you’re missing is that there are plenty of people in the Pearl (and other “yuppie” areas) who would love to see more legal single track in FP. Nice job alienating a group that supports your position!

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  • Haywood June 27, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    By the 1860’s, the hill that is Forest Park was completely denuded of all foliage; prior to the Great Depression, it was to be a luxury gated community. Hence the manhole covers on some of the firelanes. So, an urban park was really third choice. Wilderness, indeed.

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    • Alex June 28, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Don’t forget they drilled for oil there and the opening ceremony was held at a drilling site…

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  • Chris I June 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    It seems like there is so much space. They can’t squeeze in a few downhill singtracks anywhere? The northern section seems to have a lot of space. Perhaps they can hand over a few of the worst ivy-infested sections to the NWTA to build some “bike only” downhill trails, where pedestrians won’t be at risk? The invasives would have to be cleared out as part of the trail building process.

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    • davemess June 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      No man, we need uphill trails as well!

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    • was carless June 28, 2013 at 11:02 am

      No, we can’t. That would hurt property values on Sauvie Island.

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  • Eric June 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    In response to the 1995 goal: is walking considered and active or passive form of recreation? When I think of passive recreation I think of taking a nap on the couch.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      And what about running?

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      • Dan June 28, 2013 at 10:54 am

        Runners make me feel unsafe. And lazy.

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    • lazyofay June 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      I think about heating opiates in a spoon.

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    • RWL1776 June 28, 2013 at 10:33 am

      In my years as a PUMP member, I came across a description of passive vs. active recreation, and it has nothing to do with the action of the person recreating, but it is about the facilities required to do so.

      Active requires a physical facility to be built, like a baseball field, a swimming pool, skate park, etc.

      Passive requires no such physical facilities, such as hiking, bicycling, kite flying, bird watching, etc.

      I have a document at home that describes where I found this information.
      I will post it later.

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  • Zimmerman June 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I have never been happier about my move to Seattle.

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  • Peter W June 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Whenever I ride on Skyline I’m shocked by the housing developments up there. If you’re looking for threats to wilderness, start by recognizing the ridgetop McMansions where woodlands have been replaced by wealthy motorists.

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  • Bjorn June 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Houle is a liar, she offered to show people damage she claimed was caused by mountain bikers in the park earlier this year, I contacted her to see it and she did not respond. At this point I don’t even think the photos she was showing around were taken in the park.

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  • Alex Reed June 27, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Noting (accurately) that Forest Park is already degraded, then arguing, “So why not allow mountain biking too?” doesn’t strike me as a line of reasoning that’s going to be popular in Portland. The obvious rejoinder is, “So let’s disallow mountain biking and work harder to restore Forest Park ecology.” Much better to talk about how wildernessy the mountain biking experience is and how hard NWTA etc. will work to improve the health of the park.

    I’m a hiker and backpacker, currently not a mountain biker – but I still think it’s a shame that mountain bikes are excluded from federally designated wilderness. That’s a conversation that we need to have nationally. At a local level, I think we need to argue that responsible mountain biking is consistent with wilderness values in Forest Park.

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    • davemess June 27, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      Most people are arguing that it is not in fact “pristine wilderness”. And that Mountain bikes don’t do any more damage on properly built/maintained trails than do hikers/runners/dogwalkers (actually probably less than dogwalkers).

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    • wsbob June 27, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Re; “…mountain bikes are excluded from federally designated wilderness. That’s a conversation that we need to have nationally. …” Alex Reed

      Whether mountain bikes should be excluded from federally designated wilderness, is a conversation that probably should be discussed nationally.

      “…Houle feels like the more people who see Forest Parks as a pristine wilderness…” maus/bikeportland

      Maybe Houle hopes people will see Forest Park in its current state, as a ‘pristine wilderness’, but I doubt it. I don’t think she considers the tract of land that’s Forest Park as currently being a pristine wilderness, or expects others to either, but do believe she and other Forest Park advocates consider the park a natural area, and hopes people will recognize the unique function this park provides people with, as a singularly large natural area located adjacent to the city. Also, that from its conception, it was created with the idea in mind of it serving as wilderness, an idea that has carried on throughout he park’s history.

      “…It’s also a tried and true tactic of people opposed to mountain biking to portray it as an extreme sport that is inherently at odds with “wilderness values.” …” maus/bikeportland

      In part, mountain biking is in fact, an extreme sport that may be inherently at odds with wilderness values. Many examples of this are in print, on the web, television, etc. Of late, for example, a commercial has been running, showing a mountain biker riding in a place with red rocks…Arizona, New Mexico? Don’t know…; shows him jumping from the trail, up against the vertical rock face. That kind of thing leaves a very bad impression of mountain biking.

      There are different types of mountain biking…some very aggressive…some laid back and easy going. Insufficient discussion has taken place about what specific types of mountain biking use of Forest Park may be limited to…if use of the park for mountain biking came to be granted…and how limitation to specific types of mountain biking would be successfully, agreeably managed.

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      • TrailLover June 27, 2013 at 8:16 pm

        wsbob, your comment implies that the cyclists are somehow resistant or deficient in wanting to talk about the type(s) of riding that might be desirable or appropriate in Forest Park. You’ve got it upside down. It’s folks like Marcy and the politicians she has cowed who are not engaging in that discussion. Marcy does not want to entertain ANY conversation about bicycles in the park. So if you think the lack of dialog is a problem, please point the finger in the right direction.

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        • lazyofay June 27, 2013 at 10:06 pm

          Well said TrailLover.
          For the record, wsbob is a resident of Beaverton who comments often on keeping trails in FP off limits for off road cyclists.

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        • Alex June 28, 2013 at 11:51 am

          Yes, he clearly knows what they have proposed but he purposefully forgets. I have this discussion with him before and have pointed him to reference materials before. The ironic thing is that the firelanes that are actually open to cyclists are straight up and down and are way higher speed than anything the cyclists want to go in.

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      • davemess June 28, 2013 at 7:19 am

        Bob mountain biking “types” and “uses” are directly related to the types of trails built. If you don’t want DHers don’t build huge gaps and monster drops. It’s not rocket science. If you build the trails a certain way you attract a certain crowd. No one has discusses the types of trails because they’re just trying to get to the point of being able to build trails! You have to stand before you can walk!

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      • Alex June 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

        Your arguments never cease to amaze me; they are both illogical and just dead-ends that will never have resolve. I remember once you suggested people could walk their bikes on wildwood…obviously not very well thought through both in terms of practicality and the damage it does to the trail.

        Passive recreation includes biking. wsbob and Marcy are trying to make the case that it isn’t. This is used in all sorts of legal documents from around the country. She and you simply want to define how you want people to act in this space. “Environmentalists” like you her the worst kind – they tend to be small minded and pick fights with other people who are very concerned with the environment and want to enjoy the park and wilderness in a peaceful, relaxing way.

        Please write your city council members to get more access to FP or try to meet with them. We need to put more pressure on them. Where is the NWTA? What actions are they taking to combat this? Can you please set up people to come in and talk about access to FP with the city council?

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      • RWL1776 June 28, 2013 at 10:27 am

        “if use of the park for mountain biking came to be granted”. It HAS been, since the 1995 Forest Park Plan was adopted. Read the entire document some time.

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      • RWL1776 June 28, 2013 at 10:44 am


        Here’s a link to the 1995 Forest Park Plan for anyone who wants to educate themselves as to what the current rules are, and the future plans. Buried in there somewhere is a statement about letting the Northern section revert back to nature 100% by just letting it go, no maintenance and no trails for anyone.

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    • MTBandHIKER June 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      As a mountain biker, hiker, and someone who works for a conservation organization I have mixed feelings about allowing any mechanized equipment in Congressionally designated Wilderness areas. That said, Forest Park is NOT a federal wilderness and would never qualify as such. It’s great, we all love it, but it provides far from a true wilderness experience. It is 100% an urban park..not an urban wilderness. All responsible users, including mountain bikers should be allowed to play in it…with the caveat that we all are responsible for the trails we ride, hike, or otherwise enjoy. We need more people pulling ivy, more adults educating kids (and other adults) about the environment, and more people engaging in healthy exercise outdoors. There are a lot of perfectly sound and logical ways to avoid hiker/biker conflicts. Let’s have a discussion about that rather than a discussion about banning one user group or another. Come on Portland…we can figure this out!

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  • Joe Adamski June 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    My experience is the citizens communications time at start of Council is generally where folks with time on their hands and an axe to grind get 3 minutes.. and I cannot think of too many times where it has borne fruit. When Parks Director Abbatte makes it an issue, then it’s time to circle wagons. That said, Parks serves the interests of ALL users, not a select few.

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    • davemess June 27, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Have you ever seen Parks and Rec?

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  • jeff June 27, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I run 6-15 miles in the park at least 3 times a month…was there last night off Leif and the Wildwood…I didn’t see any damage caused by “bikers” anywhere…

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  • Sunny June 27, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Forest Park is creepy without bikers as a lone hiker could be kidnapped and dragged off into the forest in the less traversed parts of the park. More eyes in the forest keeps it safe for everyone.

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  • Matteo June 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I am with Jeff on this, except I run up there quite a bit more (3-4 days a week on average), since I live just a few blocks away, and I have NEVER seen or witnessed any damage caused by bikers. In fact, it’s the hikers & runners like myself to blame for damage when things get wet and muddy- trying to traverse the trail and slide out of control. Wildwood gets WIDER when the hikers & runners try to go around the puddles of mud. I’ve witnessed this over the past year since moving up there; if only I had taken daily photos of this over many, many sections.

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    • longgone June 28, 2013 at 8:57 am

      @ Jeff and Mateo…
      I appreciate honest input by people who appear to be enjoying the park in other manners…and not hating cyclists, just to hate.
      Certainly ANY use or over use of the park is bad, especially when conditions are wet.
      That being said, cyclists are more than likely to use the park less,than people on foot in the wet periods, because it is more difficult to ride for extended periods.
      As a competitive off road motorcyclist AND an off road cyclist (who moved to Portland with 6 Mtn. bikes, but now owns only 1 !), I found Houle’s photographic evidence of “damage” to FP quite amusing to say the least.

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  • davemess June 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    This is one of the main reasons that I voted against Fritz. I think she is definitely (with her previous statements) too likely to be swayed by these types of people.

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  • Brian June 27, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Having a discussion on here is great, but we all need to also inform OUR elected officials about our solutions/suggestions/etc. Thank her for her great work as Commissioner, and then let her know what you would like to see Parks do (ie. follow through on obligations to improve riding in Forest Park, such as Firelane 5). Even just a couple of sentences will help. In my opinion, we should be positive and focus on solutions and what we as a user group can bring to the table, rather than address Ms. Houle. She is on the fringe and does not represent the beliefs of most people.

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  • gutterbunnybikes June 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Lol…..they’ll never win 100%….This has been a skipping record issue for at least 20 years.

    Let me get my Grandpa pants on….Use to be about the only time you even saw bikes other than messengers in the Downtown (early mid 90’s) area was when we were all headin up to FP on the week ends. Check the tires at Fat Tire, head up the hills take the fire lanes, come back down hose off at Fat Tire (and get the parts that might have broke on the trails there too) and get a burritto at Alcapolco’s.

    Makes me miss my old MT. Bike and Firelane #3 though (stoopid developers took that one away). Makes me wonder why they don’t bring up the developers as a hazard to the park ever…..

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    • matt f June 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

      zah? Firelane 3 is still rideable…Firelane 2 ain’t…

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    • RWL1776 June 28, 2013 at 10:23 am

      gutter: it’s been 25 years, 1988 is when PUMP was formed, because at that time is when citizens first started organizing a ban on bicycles in Forest Park. We can thank Theo Patterson for his efforts at that ciritcal juncture, and for organizing the Portland United Mountain Pedalers. Because of that group, PUMP, you have been able to ride your bikes in Forest Park. North West Trail Alliance has since been passed the baton, and are making great strides towards increasing access in FP.

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  • Eastsider June 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Houle and Amanda Fritz are an embarrassment to Portland. This will be the first test of Amanda Fritz as commissioner of the parks and unfortunately I don’t have very high expectations, given her history of anti-bike, pro-wealthy interests and opposition to the forward thinking policies that make Portland a great place to live. She voted for cars and against pedestrians on a narrow one block stretch of SW Ankeney Street in downtown; she voted against the environment and pedestrians and for wealthy homeowners in requiring infill development to fulfill outdated parking mandates; she opposes pedestrians and responsible park funding by favoring motorists that drive to Washington Park and park for free, despite it being an urban park with more than ample bus and light rail service. She’s proven ineffective on every major issue facing city council and always sides with wealthy, entitled motorists. Something tells me she’s not going to be able to comprehend the very simple concept of someone riding a bicycle on a designated trail through the forest without it destroying the environment.

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    • Maggie June 28, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Cyclists seem to endure prejudice from many groups, and mountain bikers are even more stereotyped. I’ve been ruminating on something I’d like to throw out for comment. A recent visit by a New Hampshire MD pointed out that baby boomers transformed the ritual of child birth from a medical procedure (on medical units) to upscale birthing suites. Because he is a hospice / palliative doctor, he proposed that, perhaps, the baby boomers will apply sufficient market force that death and dying will merit suites, as well. I mention this because my hope is that baby boomers will transform how mountain bikers are perceived. I have no data to support this (so tear me a new one!) but my guess is that the face of mountain bikers — in the aggregate — has changed considerably even over the last 10 years. As for me — my knees don’t allow me to hike in Forest Park. As far as I’m concerned, mountain biking makes it ADA accessible!!

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      • Bike Free Forest Park and PCT June 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

        Every public space is not suited to be opened to every person of every ability on any kind of mechanized device that suits them. Portland needs a wilderness area in the city more than a womb-to-tomb mountain bike park.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm

          No one is advocating to open Forest Park to “any kind of mechanized device that suits them.” Riding a chain-driven bicycle is compatible with Forest Park’s ecosystems and its other users. No one can prove otherwise. It’s that simple. We either give into anecdote and fear and ignorance, or we get creative and embrace solutions that will serve the public and make the park stronger in the long run. I hope we do the latter.

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          • wsbob June 29, 2013 at 12:11 am

            “…Riding a chain-driven bicycle is compatible with Forest Park’s ecosystems and its other users. …” maus/bikeportland

            Use of Forest Park single width trail for mountain biking, a form of vehicular recreation…would not be compatible with the purpose for which the park was created to serve, and the purpose for which it has been and still to this day is supported as, by apparently what is the vast majority of Portland residents: a vast natural area adjacent to the city.

            Forest Park definitely is a natural area park and not simply an ‘urban park’, as compared to other more conventional types of urban parks across the city. The park’s uniquely large size and almost entirely natural, dense, wooded character, given it’s location next to a major metropolitan city, certainly qualifies it’s being described as ‘wilderness’, despite lack of any particular effort to have the park fall within federally designated wilderness specs.

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            • Fire Dragon June 29, 2013 at 3:15 am

              “certainly qualifies it’s being described as ‘wilderness’…”- wsbob

              wsbob– No need to speculate whether Forest Park qualifies as a Wilderness or not. The US WIlderness Act has clear criteria on what areas qualify. Proposed wilderness areas need to have: 1) minimal human imprint, (2) opportunities for unconfined recreation, (3) at least five thousand acres, and (4) to have educational, scientific, or historical value. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilderness_Act

              Does FP qualify? Criteria 1: since nearly all of FP is second growth forest, it clearly doesnt meet criteria 1. Criteria 2: unconfined recreation? Really? Criteria 3: At 5100 acres, FP just squeaks by on this one. Criteria 4: i guess this one is in the eyes of the beholder.

              As someone that works on wilderness preservation as career, I can tell you that Forest Park would have a real hard time mustering congressional support for wilderness area designation. What it is in fact is a large, multi-use natural area in a major urban area. Does that mean it shouldnt have mountain bike access?

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              • wsbob July 2, 2013 at 11:03 am

                “…What it is in fact is a large, multi-use natural area in a major urban area. Does that mean it shouldnt have mountain bike access?” Fire Dragon

                Forest Park is a large, natural area, conceived of and created to serve the purpose of providing people in the Portland area with ready access to wilderness environment adjacent to the city.

                Federal Wilderness Act criteria isn’t required to be met for Forest Park to be popularly and commonly regarded as wilderness…which I think is how the majority of Portland residents over generations, having known about the park and that know of it today, do think of Forest Park as being: a nature park; and due to it’s singularly large expanse given its location adjacent to the city…a nature park that to them is very much wilderness like. I think wilderness-like, is probably how they wish to keep it.

                My guess about the bottom line, is that the majority of this city’s people, would not choose to allow Forest Park’s function of providing natural area of a wilderness character adjacent to the city, to be diminished by use of the park for mountain biking.

                Any type of mountain biking that use of the park is proposed for, should in character, be subordinate to the park’s fundamental purpose.

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              • VTRC July 2, 2013 at 11:51 am

                So you’ve made the decision to create a definition of wilderness, apply it to the park, decided that bikes in the park would “diminish” that wilderness, and expect people to go along with all of that?

                We’re ready to have an honest conversation, let us know when you are.

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              • davemess July 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

                And he lives in Beaverton.

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              • davemess July 2, 2013 at 12:30 pm

                again bob, you don’t need to guess: they have done polls of users and a majority want expanded bike access.

                Until you can actually give us some hard sources (not just a wikipedia page) on the “wilderness” designation of forest park, your argument is just not sound.

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              • TrailLover July 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

                WSBOB hides behind his casual assessments and assertions regarding what “the majority of citizens” would or would not want because he knows that when he states that “wilderness” (whatever personal, amorphous definition he is using) is incompatible with bicycles he has no basis for that assertion beyond his personal distaste for encountering bicycles. While he’s entitled to have personal issues with bicycles, it seems sad that WSBOB apparently would choose to allow a cyclists to ruin his “wilderness” experience. But it’s his choice not to try to overcome that personal objection. It’s the responsibility of the rest of us not to let folks like WSBOB exercise their inner demons at the expense of the rest of the citizens who are perfectly capable of sharing at least some portion of whatever “wilderness” experience they are looking for in Forest Park.

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            • TrailLover June 29, 2013 at 8:10 am

              WSBOB: No amount of effort would ever place FP into federal wilderness designation. I don’t mind you using the generic term “wilderness” (maybe it gives FP something to aspire to) but your fanciful assertion that cycling is somehow at odds with those wilderness values is baseless. It’s ok to just state your personal inability to cope with bicycles.

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            • Alex June 30, 2013 at 9:36 am

              The park was created with many different intentions in mind. You just cherry-pick the issues you want to favor and claim they the “one true reason” FP was created.

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          • matt picio June 29, 2013 at 8:49 pm

            Human-powered “chain driven”, yes. There are lots of chain-driven bikes out there which use amplified means of motive power.

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        • davemess June 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm

          This sounds like Bob, he usually uses phrases like “mechanized device”. So anyone with an ipod or cell phone should be a no go, right?

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          • matt picio June 29, 2013 at 8:53 pm

            No – those are electronic, not mechanized. Mechanized equipment are things like bicycles, wheelbarrels, chainsaws, etc. There is an exemption for wheelchairs if the person is mobility challenged.

            “Mechanized device” has a very specific meaning in Wilderness law (which is Federal). Many people use it to extend the arguments to lands which are perceived as public but which are not subject to Federal protections.

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      • davemess June 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm

        They seem to mainly be stereotyped in Portland. Most other major cities (especially ones with the sterling (although questionable) reputations for great outdoor opportunities) don’t have the stereotypes of mountain bikers that some in Portland do. They coexist, very peacefully and pleasantly in many other locales. We seem to be a bit unique to this.

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  • Drew Lunn June 28, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Cycling does have quite an impact on natural environments. I ride my bicycle every day, and yes, it is a mountain bike. I do however feel that cycling should not be allowed in nature parks. What most people don’t realize is that bicycles cause a great deal of damage to trails. Also, I have personally seen animals and plants killed by cyclists on Powell Butte. I almost got ran over myself trying to take a picture of a slug (an endangered one that the cyclist smushed with her tire as I dove off the side of the hill to avoid collision).

    I cycle because I like to have less of an impact on the environment, not because I want to increase it. There are those here in Portland, as is evidenced by the posts here, who care more for their cycling experience, than they do for the earth. All I can say is this; educate yourself and stop being self centered. The sport of cycling wasn’t invented so you can feel good about the way you look in the mirror.

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    • davemess June 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      Good thing I pretty much have this link in my bookmarks now (thanks Portland!)


      Also, the recent trail “mitigation” or whatever they want to call it has done far more damage to any plant or animal than bikes at Powell Butte. Don’t even get me started on the reservoir they are putting in on the top!

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    • matt picio June 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      “Cycling does have quite an impact on natural environments.” Sometimes, yes – it depends on how much cycling, and what type. Hiking has quite an impact as well. So do dogs, horses, and frat boys from local colleges.

      Perhaps rather than defining activities we want to prohibit, we should start listing BEHAVIORS we wish to prohibit, and adopting a strong social and enforcement stance. Some high-impact activities might warrant a permit system, with funds collected allocated directly towards mitigation and restoration.

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      • Alex June 30, 2013 at 9:38 am

        Really it matters more how the trail is developed and maintained…

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  • RWL1776 June 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

    This cyclist rides my bike in the woods so I can “experience, peace, solitude, and passive recreational use” further away from hikers.

    And when they start cracking down on the #1 documented problem, dogs off-leash and dog waste in the forest, then we can take parks department seriously.


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  • RWL1776 June 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Houses were still within Forest Park up until the late 60’s, and they were removed because it cost the city too much $ every year to fix Leif Erickson so the homeowners could access their houses. In the 70’s they still allowed vehicle traffic on L.E. once a week. After that, it was shut down to vehicles.
    Manhole covers: A former PUMP member used to work for a local phone company. He says those are for access to the phone lines/utility tunnels under the park, and powered repeaters are required every 1/4 or 1/2 mile or so, which is why you see them up and down Springville.

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  • Larry June 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

    The attitude of many if not most off-leash dog owners is exactly the same as too many bikers: “F*** you, I pay taxes.” Likewise both groups destroy animal habitat and do direct harm to animals. Both groups deny this reality and have been successful in getting their selfishness supported by the city.

    Off-leash dog owners used to be ticketed by the rangers and animal control and compelled to pay their fines (they could appeal). However, the city park bureau administrators are careerists first and like to be liked (on the ground, park workers understand the damage being done). They rescinded the ticketing power of the rangers and suspended other dog enforcement approaches.

    I’ve often seen dogs come tearing down a Forest Park Trail a full full 5 minutes before the owner. No one picks up the dog crap or keeps the dog from chasing any and all wildlife. This is true to of the mountain bikers.

    Admittedly the bikees are not as frequently encountered and generally don’t crap on the trail and they recognize no master other than personal convenience. Too seldom have I seen a bike precede its rider down the trail.
    Most often the bikees appear on trail from nowhere, popping out at oblique or perpendicular angels to the main trail and crossing it to thunder down the other side with a happy-go-lucky “Fxxx you!” as they pursue their meditation and peaceful wilderness experience.

    Portland! It’s the coolest!

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    • Velograph June 28, 2013 at 11:36 am

      WOW. WOW. WOW.

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    • Alex June 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Cyclists don’t destroy habitat. If you are going to make that claim, citations are needed. Cyclists have a much smaller gait and a smaller footprint on the trail than hikers/runners. Also, I would say hikers should be included in that group – they act like they own the park and no one else should be allowed to use it. Which is worse? I think both are false narratives. It seems that Marcy, you and the like are like the tea party – just making things up that support their arguments regardless of what the truth actually is.

      I have never heard a cyclist saying “Fxxx you!” on a trail before – all of my encounters with hikers have been pleasant and I spend more hours than most on trails. We are a very nice bunch of people overall.

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    • dave June 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      It’s true. Every time I try to go up and try to poach the Wildwood trail on my downhill race rig, I end up getting distracted chasing squirrels and finally just take a crap in the trail and drive home.

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  • Alex June 28, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Can we please start an opposing petition that shows support of adding more cycling to FP? How can we get this going? We should counter her tactics at every step of the way.

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  • kgb June 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    “People were anticipating safety issues if singletrack occurred, and really, what I’ve discovered as I’ve spent time in he park is that’s happening right now and I really think it’s a crisis… Pedestrians need to be safe and feel safe and that’s just not happening now… 92% of the users of the park are pedestrians and right now they don’t feel safe.”

    Oh really? Where and how did you make this “discovery” of this so called crisis. A crisis!!!! How many people have been injured this year in the park? How many was that again?

    We do have a crisis of obese children maybe as a pediatrician she should be focused on that but maybe all those fat children fattn her bank account instead of distrubing her peaceful walk on Leif Erickson (because we all know encountering someone riding on Wildwood or most other off limits trails is extremely unusual).

    I call complete BS on these statements. She should be ashamed of her self. How are pedestrians not safe? Many of the pedestrians I see are walking on the wrong side of the trail on the inside of a blind corner. Not exactly the behavior one would expect from a terrified pedestrian.

    Seriously folks, there is plenty of park for all of us, dogs included. We should be using the park to increase our joy of life and the world we live in not arguing over who loves it more. It is not a pristine wilderness area, it is a park and it should be developed and used to increase the standard of living for all. If you want to hike in pristine wilderness you just may have to leave the city limits but you shouldn’t have to do that just to go for a walk in the woods.

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  • chris June 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I’m gonna get hated on here, but I’ve had the s@^% scared out of me several times in FP. Usually on LE, when folks take blind corners at 20+ mph. This has also happened on the WT twice, too, as there was no room to pass.

    That being said, the dogs are by far the worst problem. I walk my dog on leash, and get funny looks from the 90% of owners who don’t.

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    • kgb June 29, 2013 at 7:06 am

      First everyone should take extra care on blind corners on LED. Sorry you were startled but this still presents zero evidence that a crisis of any type exists. The good doctor talks about people feeling safe, well did they feel safe on their drive over to the park because I assure you that was the most dangerous part of their outing.

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  • Dan Porter June 28, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    I’m gonna get hated on here, but I’ve had the s@^% scared out of me several times in FP. Usually on LE, when folks take blind corners at 20+ mph. This has also happened on the WT twice, too, as there was no room to pass.

    Chris – I don’t disagree that cyclists go fast on LE. The thing is, LE is so wide that it invites higher speeds. You can’t go 20 MPH on single track. You can barely go 8MPH on single track. If there was dedicated or at least shared (‘but be warned bikes are on this trail’) single track that paralleled LE there would not be an issue with high speed. I don’t like the comparison that because people speed on LE they will therefore speed on any new trail that is built. Leif is a dirt road. Not a trail.

    People go fast on the Firelanes also, but that is because they are steep downhill chutes. Again, not single track.


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    • longgone June 30, 2013 at 10:15 am

      People need to think of LE for what it is…A Fire Road!
      That means kinda’ not meandering about in the middle,or opposite side if you believe people are descending.
      It is simple really.
      Oh, and keep your ears open too….
      You can hear tires on gravel at speed from a good distance…Take out the ear buds perhaps as well ?? I’m talking to you runners and dog owners.

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  • Dan Porter June 28, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    On a related note – where is the outrage from the ‘keep Forest Park a Pristine wilderness area people’ regarding the Forest Park Marathon that is occurring on August 17th?


    “The Forest Park Trail Marathon and Half-Marathon is a challenging, fun and rewarding running event benefitting the Forest Park Conservancy. The full marathon route traverses 26.2 miles of Forest Park’s legendary 80+ mile trail system. The half marathon (13.1 miles) is available for runners not ready to commit to a full, and is open to walkers as well. ”

    How is this activity not consider a threat to ‘wilderness values’ as well as not being environmentally destructive? Even on a dry day it will cause trail erosion, spread ivy spores, scare wildlife, etc. God forbid that it rains within a week of the event.

    I’m actually not opposed to this event – I’m just opposed to the hypocrisy.

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    • BURR July 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      They have a permit – official permission – so it’s OK.

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  • Joshua Rebenack June 30, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    So a little while back I had a chance to write a guest article on this issue and Mr. Maus was kind enough to post in ( http://bikeportland.org/2013/05/02/guest-article-urban-mountain-biking-in-portland-what-it-could-be-86191). I had hoped that it would be a good chance to show how other places had solved the “problem” of urban mountain biking.

    A few things:
    * It still amazes me that the primary concern is about biker/hiker interaction, namely in the negative sense. This fear can be address easily with segregated or preferred use trails.
    * To the “mountain bike trails tear up the nature” concerns: There is some impact, but given IMBA’s hard work in trail design, most of that impact is during construction. The trail I work on (Cuyuna) in north-central MN is machine cut trail that is only 3 years old. But if you didn’t know that fact you would probably think it was much older because its only the tread (18″ wide) that looks disturbed.
    * It amazes me that so many who are anti-mountain biking do not know what real mountain biking looks like. They refer to Red Bull commercials or some such thing. Here is an idea: get to know what you are talking about BEFORE you talk about.
    * While I’m not one to advocate for mountain biking to ever get political, I wonder what the Portland Council would do if one meeting was packed wall-to-wall with mountain bikers who respectfully expressed their desire to see mountain biking come to Forest Park sooner rather than later. Politicians by and large go where the strongest wind takes them. If you are Councilman X, which makes the most impact: a couple of people rambling on for 3 minutes or 400 organized, efficient, and respectful members of the public.
    * To WSBOB, Marcy Houle, et. al.: If you think mountain biking will be awful for Portland and Forest Park, I personally invite you to come to MN. I will rent a bus and we can go and see what urban mountain biking is like. We can talk to land managers and officials about the impacts of mountain biking. And I pretty much guarantee you that on your return to Portland you couldn’t get out to Forest Park with a pick-axe fast enough to put in mountain biking trails.

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    • TrailLover June 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      Sadly, Joshua, all the information and success in the world is not likely to influence Marcy and WSBOB. While they may be partly ignorant of modern recreational trail management issues and science, they are, more importantly, doctrinaire in their approach to the issue. They already have access and exposure to a lot of good information about trails management but it has had very little appeal to them because it contradicts such strongly held personal convictions.

      But there are far greater numbers of more fair-minded (albeit perhaps less vocal) members of the community who will eventually prevail. The less time spent bothering to address the fanatical minority, the more time the rest of us can spend discussing and advancing practical and constructive ideas and solutions.

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