Hundreds of local mountain biking lovers are piling signatures into a new petition saying Portland is “decades overdue” on writing a plan for “how to meet the overflowing demand for recreational cycling access.”
The petition, which picks up a suggestion from city Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz, was created by the Northwest Trail Alliance, which focuses on building and advocating for mountain biking routes. It’s the latest overture in a years-long debate over where to designate new mountain biking facilities in the city and surrounding lands.
At the center of that debate is Forest Park, the huge hilly, wooded and largely undeveloped area northwest of the city. After taking over the Parks and Recreation Bureau last year, Fritz rebuffed an effort to add a new mountain biking trail there.
In her blog post explaining that decision, Fritz wrote that “a citywide Master Plan for cycling recreation is needed prior to embarking on individual projects.”
Northwest Trail Alliance President Kelsey Cardwell said in an interview Thursday that after months of sharing their objections to that decision, the group decided to change course and urge the city to take up Fritz’s suggestion, which the group estimated would cost $200,000.
“We wanted to keep the conversation positive,” she said.
Whatever the reason, the idea has caught fire among mountain biking fans. Cardwell forwarded the link to four Northwest Trail board members Wednesday morning and asked them to share it. The proposal drew 298 signatures on its first day and was up to 551 by 4 p.m. Thursday.
Here are some samples from the comments people left, from David Messenheimer of Portland:
A city with our parks and our outdoor-oriented population desperately needs in town trails to ride. Let’s stop forcing cyclists to drive over an hour out of town just to ride trails.
and Max Miller of Portland:
The problem and solution are identical. Build trails. If the city does it, we all win. Pdx allready houses a veritable militia of trailbuilding resources. Why not be the west coast capital of urban off road cycling opportunities. Why not put a bike park in forest park. Mt biking is the fastest growing action sport and women’s and kids segments are exploding. A Pdx off road cultural renaissance could create massive economic gains for the city as well.
and Sean Corey of Vancouver, Wash.:
I speak for many others when I say I would love to volunteer to build and maintain LEGAL and environmentally conscious trails in Portland City limits!
and Ian Ness of Beaverton:
If there were more off-road cycling trails available closer to Portland, I believe we would benefit from increased revenue from people wanting to visit the city for its off-road cycling! But for now, all of that business is going to Hood River and the Mt. Hood communities.
and Susan Sherman of Portland:
Unbelievable that in the wonderfully progressive and vibrant city of Portland, we have to drive an hour to ride single track. Let’s make a change!
and Ryan Francesconi of Portland:
The need for off-road recreational trails open to bikes is obvious. Take this example: I was riding my road bike in Washington Park one day and was stopped by a mom who had two kids with her. All had beginner mountain bikes. She asked me if there were any trails there which they could ride, pointing to the Wildwood. ‘Sorry, no. There are no trails here you can ride on. In fact, it’s illegal to ride your bike in Washington park except on paved surfaces like this road here.’ ‘But there’s nowhere to learn how to ride with the kids besides the road?’ ‘No. Your best option is to drive 45 minutes to Cascade Locks.
and Patrick Fink of Portland:
Portland is one of the few cities on the West Coast which has not realized the boon that mountain biking brings to the community. Look to Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver, BC and Whistler, and you’ll see that it’s an untapped industry. It’s time to move past the stagnant land management policies that have mired Forest Park and limited its uses. For every dollar spent expanding riding opportunities there, many more will come in to local businesses well beyond the biking world. The tourism behind mountain biking is enormous. Worried about costs? There are other models than pay-from-the-pocket. In Squamish, BC, the local riders foundation supports a full-time work crew that builds and maintains trails without municipal money. Worried about land management? Look to Sandy Ridge, Duthie Hill, or Galbraith mountain to see how small areas can be managed to provide world-class cycling opportunities. That there is no good mountain biking here is absurd. We are in the same forest that supports Whistler’s destination riding economy.
and Melissa Chernaik:
It’s time, friends.
Cardwell said the energy for progress among advocates comes from a widespread feeling that Portland has no good places to mountain bike. She described a recent conversation with a stranger in a restaurant.
“He had just moved to town and gotten rid of his mountain bike because it wasn’t needed here,” Cardwell said. “Another gal I met recently said she doesn’t even bother bringing hers to Portland. She’ll leave it in Bend. … People who are new to town all say the same thing. We just want to be working toward a place where we’re not all saying that.”
There’s strong evidence that mountain biking, including mountain-bike tourism, is a fast-growing economic force. In a press release about the petition Wednesday, Northwest Trail Alliance observed that “Sandy Ridge, a trail system an hour outside of Portland, will see between 80,000 and 90,000 visitors in 2014, up from 32,000 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Land Management.”
Cardwell said they decided to address the call to the entire Portland City Council out of a feeling that direction needs to come from the city’s top leadership.
“We don’t feel like we have a champion within Parks,” she said.
Cardwell added that trails advocates also want to show the city that they’re “ready to sit at the same table and talk to any and all groups that want to be part of that conversation.”
“A lot of our members are in support right now of Forest Park being what’s going to meet the growing demand,” she said. “But there are a couple other opportunities. … Basically we just need a plan that’s going to meet the needs of a group that’s felt shut out.”
If you’d like to add your voice, here’s the link.