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Off-road biking supporters pack Metro meeting on Tualatin Mtns project

Posted by on December 3rd, 2014 at 11:38 am

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“How many of you are from the cycling community?”
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Any doubt that there is vast pent-up demand for more single track mountain bike trails in Portland vanished last night when a sea of supporters swamped a Metro meeting on the North Tualatin Mountains project.

Around 200 people crowded into the Skyline Grange last night to tell Metro that they want this project to include single track trails specifically built with cycling in mind.

At one point, Metro Parks Planner Mark Davison stood on a chair to address the crowd. When he asked “How many of you here tonight are from the cycling community?” it looked like nearly every hand in the room went up. One of those hands belonged to Chris King, founder and owner of Chris King Precision Components. King’s company employees over 100 people making bicycle parts in a factory only about 9 miles from where these new trails would be built.

Each attendee at last night’s meeting was given a comment card and three dots. The dots were numbered one through three and people placed them on a list of activities in order of priority. By the end of the meeting there was no more space next to “Mountain Biking”.

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Metro Councilor Sam Chase listens to Andrew Jansky, an off-road cycling advocate who works with the Northwest Trail Alliance.
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Filling out comment cards.

The event was the second of four meetings intended to introduce the public to the project and gather input about what types of activities people want to do on the 1,300 undeveloped acres of land situated across the street from Forest Park’s northern boundary. The land is split into four parcels and it was purchased by Metro via bond measures approved by voters in 1995 and 2006.

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Bob Umberhandt has only lived in Portland for a year. “I’m from Richmond, Virginia,” he shared with me as he filled out a comment card, “And it’s kind of embarrassing how few mountain bike trails there are in Portland. Having to drive to ride is frustrating.” Umberhandt, now a resident of St. Johns, brought his two young daughters (ages seven and nine) to the meeting as well. “My girls want a place to ride too,” he said.

Umberhandt’s official comment was short and to the point: “Let’s make some trails for bikes!”

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While the support for cycling overwhelmed the meeting, there were also a few voices who voiced concerns about how the project will impact elk populations. (It’s important to note that, unlike the discussions around mountain biking in Forest Park, because the Tualatin Mountains property is undeveloped, there are no existing hiking trails and therefore no entrenched advocates for hiking.)

During a brief Q & A session, one woman (I regret not getting her name) said, “I realize the mountain bike community is here in force, but how will the presence of elk be balanced with that?”

Davison responded by saying the agency is bringing in elk experts to assess the parcels and that all decisions will be weighed against those findings. At this point, Metro is asking people who live in the area to tell them where they’ve seen elk herds. A poster board asking people where elk have been spotted had several dozen dots placed on it.

Asked point-blank whether their plans will include mountain bike trails, Metro staff was strategically coy.

Metro’s Project Manager Dave Elkin said “We’re simply here to listen.”

And Davison said on several occasions that “Metro is a science-based organization” and as such, all decisions on how the land is developed will be made with an eye toward “protecting resources first and foremost, and then providing access in a way that doesn’t [negatively] impact the resource.”

That type of framing bodes well for mountain biking hopefuls. It’s important to remember that the current policy in Forest Park is the result of politics, not science. Contrary to what some advocates who oppose improvements to bicycle access have convinced Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz of, conservation goals and bike access are not mutually exclusive.

(UPDATE: For more on the elk issue, see this comment below left by longtime bike advocate John Campbell.)

Even with the elk issue looming, mountain bike advocates remain very optimistic at how this process will turn out. The fundamentals of this discussion (versus the one around Forest Park) are much more in their favor, and last night’s strong show of support only adds to their outlook.

— For those of you who missed the meeting, you can leave an official comment via this online form. Learn more about this project on Metro’s website and send feedback directly to project manager Dave Elkin via email at dave.elkin@oregonmetro.gov.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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Thom Batty
Guest

I was impressed at the turnout for this meeting. Also worth noting, Travel Oregon was represented as well. The need for urban mountain biking is recognized by our state tourism bureau, beyond the issue of bikes=fun is bikes=tourism dollars.

Jonathan, if I make sure you have the dates, will you come to Oregon City to cover the Metro Newell Canyon meetings? We are trying to get MTB access down here as well.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Aren’t recreational areas in general and mountain bike trails in particular a resource?

ODF documents state that they are sensitive to disturbances by motorized vehicles, but since bicycles are not motorized….

Also, if anyone has seen how the herds behave at either Dean Creek or especially at Orick, CA. They might be liable to question how sensitive to motor vehicles they actually are.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

The questions brought up about the Elk seemed to be focused on the impact the already heavy commuter traffic flow through these areas is having on them, and how this will be managed with any new plan implemented.
Cornelius Pass was the main road mentioned, one which has been actually extensively worked on to provide for Heavier traffic flow.
I heard no statements at this meeting about Elk being directly affected by MTBing. Whether that thought is somewhere in there is yet to be seen,
While I could see the “supposed” impact that MTB’s may have on the elk populations coming up in the future, it has, and will be again, shown that MTB’s and wildlife can very comfortably coexist. Hiking, which occurs at a slower and more “hang around “pace, would have an actual heavier impact on the Elk, IMO, than MTBing.
After conversations with Metro at this meeting and the last, I am confident that studies/conversations on this matter will be handled well.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Thanks for the coverage Jonathan, and thanks to everyone for showing up. It is tremendously rewarding for those who put in so much volunteer time for these projects when the community rallies and supports their efforts. It feels like we have developed a strong, cohesive, energetic mountain bike community and I am proud to be a part of it!
I would encourage everyone to leave a comment with specific feedback about what you would like to see, even if you filled out comment cards at the meeting. Give your input as much as possible, and convince others to do the same. Do you want a uni-directional, advanced trail or two? Do you want to see some advanced features with signed ride-arounds for beginner riders? Do you want longer loop options? Flow trail? Blue/green/black diamond trails? Tech climbing trail? Think big and make your voice heard.
Cheers!

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

It’ll be important for advocates to keep the pressure up on several fronts:

1. Critics and Metro may try to discard cycling advocacy voices under the guise of “balancing the conversation”. Don’t fall for it. Cycling uses have been historically underrepresented so this is a time to restore balance in our favor.

2. The pro-horse lobby is wealthy and has deep ties to governance. Work now to identify those forces and counteract them before we get too far down the road.

Tom
Guest
Tom

The bike haters always use the herbivore argument as a scare tactic, but never provide any data to support, as if they are all-knowing when it comes to animal behavior and only they can speak for the animals. They claimed the Alaska pipeline would wipe out the Caribou, but the population only doubled and studies show they actually like to hang out around it (for shelter maybe). Not that I like pipelines (hate them), but just to show how wrong people can be. When I visit Estes Park Colorado, the Elk herds just walk through the middle of town, sometimes down the middle of the road. You see them sleeping in front yards. They seem completely unfazed by the presence of the town, like its not even really there.

Spencer
Guest
Spencer

i managed to make it to the meeting at 7pm. it was awesome to see the impact of so many who want MTB’ing in Portland. WE CANNOT STOP HERE. WE MUST RIDE METRO TO THE FINISH. We must be vocal, we must participate in EVERY public input meeting, we must see this through. Encourage everyone to join NWTA, buy the family memberships. Have your kids participate. Have you’re bike friendly relatives participate. Get everyone to comment on the process at their site.

Barney
Guest
Barney

As Spencer said above: Join the NWTA!!!

Individual user support at meetings is important but, organizations representing the larger group with a single voice is crucial! Join the NWTA, they are your voice when you can’t be there.

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

There will be a volunteer tree planting on Feb 28th. I think having a large group of cycling folks show up at that would really help show that we’re committed to more than just bike riding out there.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…(It’s important to note that, unlike the discussions around mountain biking in Forest Park, because the Tualatin Mountains property is undeveloped, there are no existing hiking trails and therefore no entrenched advocates for hiking.) …” maus/bikeportland

Acquisition of the North Tualitin Mountain land parcels apparently was not made specifically for the purpose of establishing a nature park, as the Forest Park lands were. This leaves North Tualitin open to consideration of broader uses as planning proceeds.

“…It’s important to remember that the current policy in Forest Park is the result of politics, not science. …” maus/bikeportland

Jonathan, you can present that statement as your impression of what current policy relative to the use of Forest Park is. My impression, which I believe park history and its policy supports, is that Forest Park policy effectively confining vehicular recreation only to roads in the park, is a result of its lands having been conceived and established for the purpose of providing a nature park for Portland and visitors.

Many generations of Portland residents have steadfastly supported Forest Parks’ status as a nature park, and its’ being free of vehicular recreation on its trails (that is, bike use on its trails.). Indication are, that support, broadly across the city’s population, continues to this day.

North Tualitin planning may come to include trail for mountain biking. There may not be strong opposition to mountain biking on these lands.

By the way, Forest Park lands and North Tualitan lands, both are in the Tualitin Mtn range.

Cuyler Abrams
Guest
Cuyler Abrams

I think what you’ll find is that those that extol Forest Park as being a “nature park” are doing so because that is what they want Forest Park to be, not what it is. What I mean by that is, you can show them city definitions of what Forest Park all day long and they would argue the original intent was something different. Its like Martin Luther and Catholic church: the church cared about where it was, Martin Luther said he cared about where it was supposed to be. You’ll never convince the “way its supposed to be” crowd.

Jeremy Jones
Guest
Jeremy Jones

Bump for this idea!!

Hazel
There will be a volunteer tree planting on Feb 28th. I think having a large group of cycling folks show up at that would really help show that we’re committed to more than just bike riding out there.
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