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.

Joel Thompson
Guest

Thom, I am in Tualatin and would love to be involved in any helpful manner for this proposed area. Is there a FB page or web address with more info?

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.

Alex
Guest
Alex

While this is true, I did overhear a conversation between someone from metro and a local where the local was making a leap from new hiking trails to not seeing nesting eagles near him. Regardless of what causes it, overcoming the very vocal locals ideas about what impacts animals will be difficult.

I hope metro is as scientific as they can be and don’t use science as a political tool to block usage (look at Timberline, FP, etc).

davemess
Guest
davemess

Seems like some like to believe that putting any kind of trail will automatically kill all wildlife in the area.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

What is a little bit sick to me is that trails’ impact on wildlife is subject to approximately 1 million times the scrutiny that sprawl’s impact on wildlife is. Where are all the studies on Metro’s UGB widening in Souther Cooper Mountain’s impact on wildlife? I’m sure replacing habitat with suburbia has thousands of times the impact of a trail system, yet it’s outdoor recreation that bears the heavier burden to avoid impact on wildlife.

Cuyler Abrams
Guest
Cuyler Abrams

+1 I’m in the process of creating a IMBA/USFS trail impact calculator in Google Docs. While I’m getting the run-off curve numbers to work, in case you were wondering, every mile of mountain bike trail has construction impacts equal to about 300ft of suburban road. And unlike a suburban road, the impacts are basically gone after a few growing seasons.

Many of the same people who are like, “Oh think of the animals,” or, “Save Forest Park,” live in developments that have ongoing impacts thousands the times of the impact of a couple dozen miles of mountain bike trails.

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.

dave
Guest
dave

Or, reach out to equestrians and win them over to our side. We can view a user group with similar desires and lots of money and resources as a threat, or an opportunity.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

It’s worth a shot.

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.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Same with Jebediah Smith State Park in Northern Cali. The resident Elk herd hangs out near the campsite. Metro publicly stated last night that they are science-minded, which means having actual data to back up decisions if they are going to exclude off-road cyclists in a recreation area.

davemess
Guest
davemess

You don’t even need to go out of Oregon to look for examples. Check out the herds of elk hanging out in golf courses up and down the coast.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

They walk right through the campgrounds at the Grand Canyon.

I am sure they’ll shy away from anywhere the bikes go fast, but the trails could also provide routes through the thick undergrowth.

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.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

WSBOB’s repetition of the term “nature park” is nonsense in two important ways. First, there is no such official land management designation carrying the weight of any specific management goals or associated policy. But, more importantly, even if if we do accept the “nature park” reference to which WSBOB would like to attach so much implication, there is absolutely nothing about off-road cycling that is inconsistent with a “nature park.” Virtually every piece of public open space at the local, regional, state or federal levels would qualify as a “nature park” under WSBOB’s imaginary designation and those places routinely accommodate cycling. There’s “nature” to be found in every one of them. But WSBOB believes that if you repeat something enough times people will eventually begin to believe it. Not me.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Forest Park as a “nature park” was perhaps one person’s idea, but it wasn’t everyones when it was created. I know you like to latch on to these ideas, but that is not what the history shows. Please quit making things up and presenting them as fact. People then much like they are today – everyone has different ideas of how the land should be used and what it is suitable for.

“is a result of its lands having been conceived and established for the purpose of providing a nature park for Portland and visitors.”

Which is politics, not science. His statement is fine and reflects reality. Also, what you say is not historically accurate.

“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.”

Please tell me what those indicators are. As I have noted before, when this has gone to the public and not highly politicized groups, they have shown support for more bicycle access. I would be very interested into seeing what you are referring to.

mran1984
Guest
mran1984

Lobby for better schools. You have never shown any true concern for a natural area. If so, why not discuss the impact of development? Walk the talk instead of driving it. Your view of history is comical. I don’t buy what you are pushing either. Let’s vote on it! There is a road right through Forest Park… A ROAD! It was built for vehicles. Does this part of your nature park simply not count? To quote George Clinton,” Let’s take it to the stage”!

davemess
Guest
davemess

I’ll repost this, since you didn’t reply to it last time:

Yet the city disagrees with you. Simply repeating untrue statements does not make them true.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/103939

Check out page 73. “Recreational use of Forest Park is passive: that is walking, running, hiking, biking and equestrian trail use.”
Then on page 75. a titled section “Bikes allowed”

Also might want to check out this city-sponsored map:
https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewFile&PolPdfsID=81&/Forest%20Park%20Mountain%20Biking%20Map.pdf

Bob how do you explain the city’s own disagreement with your claims? Are you suggesting that the city of Portland just doesn’t understand their own assets?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Yet the city disagrees with you. …” davemess

Dave, the city doesn’t disagree with me. Biking is vehicular recreation, plain and simple, and as a result, bike use in the park is not allowed on other than road width routes through the park, which are few in number and length relative to trail and area of the park. Basically, the entire 5000 acres is, and always has been a nature park, accessible primarily by footpath. This is part of Portland history, reported in newspapers and other publications, for decades. I think too, that Portland residents, always have, and continue to widely acknowledge and support sustaining Forest Park’s status as a nature park.

The only people seemingly wanting to change that status, are mountain bike enthusiasts seeking to make a case for allowing the park to be used for mountain biking. They’re obviously not willing to make inquiries of sources more knowledgeable on the parks’ legacy than myself, that would confirm the futility of the case they’ve vainly been trying to make for years.

Public interests and values do change though, and maybe a majority, or something approaching a majority of Portland residents interests and values with respect to use made of their Forest Park, has changed to a willingness to have the park be used for mountain biking. To answer the question of whether this is so or not, is why, after years of mountain bike enthusiasts failing to have use of the park offered for mountain biking, I suggest putting the question to the public by way of a vote.

This bikeportland story is about planning types of use for the newly acquired North Tualitin Mtn lands. I suggest efforts to have Forest Park used for mountain biking, be set aside for the present, focusing instead on allowing some of the North Tualitin Mtns to be used for mountain biking.

This is potentially an opportunity for mountain bike enthusiasts to put their best face on mountain biking, and locally to Portland, show that mountain biking can be compatible in natural areas used together by people on foot, and by people riding bikes.

davemess
Guest
davemess

I am providing publicly available, hard evidence, written by the city of Portland:
“Check out page 73. “Recreational use of Forest Park is passive: that is walking, running, hiking, biking and equestrian trail use.”

Then how do you explain this statement in a CITY-written document pertaining to Forest Park?
The City CLEARLY categorizes cycling and hiking in the same breath regarding Forest Park (whether you agree or not).

The city also CLEARLY does not classify it as a “nature park”, as the city has other “nature parks”, and Forest Park is not listed in that category. You can argue all you want that “historically” it is one, but the truth is that it is not categorized that way today by the city government/parks dept.

Alex
Guest
Alex

“Biking is vehicular recreation, plain and simple, and as a result, bike use in the park is not allowed on other than road width routes through the park,”

That is false. Have you been down firelane 5? That is not road width or even close to it. How about the bottom of firelane 1? There are parts that I don’t think you could get a car through or it would be real tough.

“The only people seemingly wanting to change that status, are mountain bike enthusiasts seeking to make a case for allowing the park to be used for mountain biking. They’re obviously not willing to make inquiries of sources more knowledgeable on the parks’ legacy than myself, that would confirm the futility of the case they’ve vainly been trying to make for years.”

I have had many arguments, provided citations and yet here you are just making things up again. There is nothing about “nature parks” (not that FP is considered one) that would disallow mountain bikes. Quit making things up. The public, when it was asked, came out and voted in favor of allowing more mountain bike access. Please provide record where it didn’t, until then, please stop spreading FUD.

“This bikeportland story is about planning types of use for the newly acquired North Tualitin Mtn lands. I suggest efforts to have Forest Park used for mountain biking, be set aside for the present, focusing instead on allowing some of the North Tualitin Mtns to be used for mountain biking.”

Thanks for the suggestion, but we can work on many fronts.

“This is potentially an opportunity for mountain bike enthusiasts to put their best face on mountain biking, and locally to Portland, show that mountain biking can be compatible in natural areas used together by people on foot, and by people riding bikes.”

We have proven this sooooooooo many times. This opinion just goes to show how little time you have actually spent around mountain bikes – we share trails and get along with other users all over the country. I have travelled all over the western half of the US and Portland is the one exception where hikers really hate sharing trails.

Finally, please look at the future of environment and the health of society. Whatever hang-ups you have, I would prefer to curb obesity, cut pollution and promote healthy choices that get people outside so they learn how to cherish and keep our forests healthy. Don’t steal this from people.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Well written.

I made a promise to myself last year that I wouldn’t’ engage Bob anymore (after he refused to conceded that most drivers view the speed limit as a speed minimum), but I stupidly decided to go against it on this one. Should have stuck to my promise.

Zimmerman
Guest
Zimmerman

I think it’s important that wsbob’s opinion be challenged consistently with reality every time he starts presenting his opinion as fact. Keep up the good fight.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Yes, I’m fine with others doing it. I’ve just decided that for me it’s not worth the emotional frustration. Clearly we’re not going to change his mind.

Alex
Guest
Alex

It’s not about changing his mind – we all know that isn’t going to happen. It is about not letting him change anyone else’s mind or for him to use this as a forum to spread lies and FUD. He doesn’t have a pulse on the city like he thinks he does – truth be told, most people don’t care either way about mountain biking in Forest Park. Most people – runners, hikers, cyclists – that use the park I have talked to really only want separated traffic on trails. I would personally prefer this option as well.

I think the worst part about the arguments against expanding or changing to single-track (besides the ones I mentioned above) in Forest Park is that the current trails are placed where they are most environmentally damaging and also are the most dangerous to share. The firelanes don’t drain well, they basically run straight up and down the hill and get horribly muddy in the winter as the result. I can only imagine the run-off from them is really bad. Leif Erickson has a ton of usage but also allows cyclists to carry the more speed than single-track for longer distances and for people to walk/run/cycle 3 deep (or more), which also exacerbates the issue. I, personally, would love to give up cycling access on Leif Erickson and the firelanes for some real single-track.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

Alex’s comment points out the utter hypocrisy, cynicism and mismanagement that defines the trail system in Forest Park. Concerns, justifiable or otherwise, regarding bicycles generally revolve around three main issues: bicycle speed/safety, erosional impacts and crowding/user experience. Yet the current policy limiting bicycles to Leif Erickson and a few other fire roads guarantees that all of those potential issues are aggravated to the greatest possible degree. Somebody failed Land Management 101.

mran1984
Guest
mran1984

Do not ever refer to me as an enthusiast. A lobbying enthusiast typically projects his dishonesty without much effort.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

WSBOB just likes to make it up as he goes along. He is undaunted by the fact that his pet terms, “nature park” and “vehicular,” mean nothing – or the opposite – of what he would like them to mean.

The Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan clearly uses “vehicular” to refer to motor vehicles and it clearly describes passive recreational trail uses as walking, running, hiking, biking and equestrian.

WSBOB thinks we should put the question to the people. But he’s been reminded over and over again that the city did exactly that when they surveyed park users in 2012 and discovered that more cycling access was the number one priority of park users.

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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