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MTB advocates will deliver petition, request planning funds at Parks budget hearing

Posted by on January 6th, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Ventura Park Pump Track grand opening-19

Portland kids deserve more places to ride off-road.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Almost one year after Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz quietly destroyed hopes of new singletrack bicycling opportunities in Forest Park (at least in the short-term), off-road advocates plan to deliver a strong message to her at an upcoming budget hearing.

Their request? Find the money to fund a citywide mountain bike master plan that would address Forest Park trails and other cycling opportunities like family-friendly pump tracks in local parks.

It’s an idea proposed by Fritz herself and one they feel will finally break the logjam that’s preventing the Parks Bureau from moving forward on any significant projects that improve access for bicycles.

“Show up and tell Commissioner Fritz that the time is now to fund that plan and start moving forward on making Portland more off-road biking friendly.”
— NWTA call to action.

In February 2014 Fritz announced via a blog post that, “I believe that a citywide Master Plan for cycling recreation is needed prior to embarking on individual projects.” That was a blow to advocates who had spent years working in good faith with Fritz’s predecessor (Commissioner Nick Fish) only to have promises broken and processes derailed.

Some off-road advocates feel the call for a master plan (made first by Parks Director Mike Abbate in a letter to the president of the Northwest Trail Alliance on January 21, 2014) and claims of budget woes are just more stall tactics. They say the current Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan does not prohibit the creation and use of singletrack and they cite several examples where Fritz has found Parks funds for projects she personally cares about. There’s also some concern that advocating for the master plan would effectively halt any projects in the pipeline.

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Regardless of those reservations, advocates plan to support Fritz’s idea and put all their weight behind the citywide master plan at a public hearing on Wednesday. With that plan in place, they figure there will be no more excuses for City Hall

“Show up and tell Commissioner Fritz that the time is now to fund that plan and start moving forward on making Portland more off-road biking friendly,” reads a call to action sent out by the NWTA this week.

Andrew Jansky with the NWTA says they plan to ask for $200,000 for the planning effort. Most of the money in Parks’ 2015-2016 budget is spoken for; but there’s still room for Fritz to use discretion and fund other priorities.

The NWTA launched a petition on Moveon.org back in November urging City Council to create a “citywide master plan for recreational cycling” that they say is, “decades overdue.” The scrappy organization with about 1,000 members has collected over 2,500 signatures so far.

NWTA staff and members plan to present that petition at Wednesday’s hearing. A key argument they’ll try and make is that too many kids lack safe places to ride bikes in Portland parks. They’re hoping for a large turnout of people who value mountain biking and off-road cycling in all its forms — from pump tracks to singletrack.

If last month’s huge show of support for bike trails in Metro’s North Tualatin Mountains project is any indication, they won’t be disappointed.

    Portland Parks Budget Dialogue
    Wednesday January 7, 2015
    6pm-8pm
    Ladd’s Addition
    St. Philip Neri Church (Carvlin Hall, 2408 SE 16th Ave)
    Facebook event here

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AlexTrailLoverwsbobJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)Eric Recent comment authors
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Nick
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Nick

Thanks for posting this. There was a strong showing at Skyline Grange last month and I hope the turnout for this is equally impressive. Portlanders are ready to build and maintain sustainable mtn bike trails in the city we love.

wsbob
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wsbob

“Almost one year after Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz quietly destroyed hopes of new singletrack bicycling opportunities in Forest Park (at least in the short-term), …” maus/bikeportland

The people that have destroyed hopes of perhaps ever having Forest Park used for mountain biking, are mountain bike enthusiasts. Reading their mean and rude comments to bikeportland stories about this issue leaves no surprise that many Portland residents apparently do not want this park used for mountain biking.

Whether you like Fritz’s action on requests made to use this park for mountain biking, the commissioner apparently has the backing on this issue, of an apparent vast majority of Portland residents that don’t want this park used for mountain biking, rather than the contrary.

Figure out some decent way to turn that support in favor of mountain bike enthusiasts requests, and you may get somewhere, eventually. Lacking an actual vote of the Portland electorate on whether use of Forest Park should be made for mountain biking, consider circulating a petition to pose the question, as if the intention were to get sufficient votes according to city or state requirements, to qualify for a vote on the ballot.

TrailLover
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TrailLover

It is indeed to time to hold the city’s feet to the fire and to shine light on their many broken promises and missteps regarding off-road cycling. Funding the master plan is one important element.

But the master plan is also a two edged sword. As the article mentions, the master plan is partially a stalling tactic to halt progress in Forest Park. No master plan is going to magically reveal some nonexistent parcel of city land where significant singletrack could possibly be shared or developed. Yes, there are potentially some nice, badly-needed, small-scale opportunities at Gateway Green or Riverview, but it doesn’t take any deep thinking to know that Forest Park is where singletrack access or development should be happening RIGHT NOW.

So, yes, fund the master plan. But let’s not pretend that we haven’t known for the past 30 years exactly where Portland’s off-cyclists should be riding singletrack.

Fritz
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Fritz

Portland Parks has surely done park user survey on the use of mountain biking in general and single track in particular. I often wondered why this data never emerges in these discussions. Is it because the results are not what some people want to hear???? either elected officials or single-track advocates?????

I think some information would shed some light on this sometimes overly divisive debate, perhaps fostering smarter advocacy and more civil discussion.

What objective information do we have about what the most Portlanders say they want from their Parks System with respect to single-track mountain biking?

How about a little investigative journalism on the part of Bikeportland.org looking into this question?

Bikeportland.org leans pretty strong toward the pro-single-track camp… which is fine… but in on this issue I think your mission to accurately investigate and inform needs to trump your advocacy agenda.

Fritz

Brian
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Brian

This is long overdue as there are quite a few off-road (for lack of a better term) needs not being in the city, despite the space and collective resources to do so. We lack skills parks for all ages, longer XC/trail loops, intermediate/advanced trails, etc. It’s time for our local government to work *for* us.

davemess
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davemess

“Find the money to fund a citywide mountain bike master plan that would address Forest Park trails and other cycling opportunities like family-friendly pump tracks in local parks.”

Where could we find this? Oh I don’t know, possibly the parks bond we just passed 2 months ago (of which only 50% of the money is actually planned/spoken for).

John
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John

I wish everyone the best of luck, but I woudn’t be surprised if the rules aren’t changed again, goal post moved, etc…

If it were someone else in charge of parks, I’d say we have a pretty strong case and a good chance of seeing some results, but with this particular councilmember I’d sooner expect another lecture about riding on sidewalks downtown. At least she’s not in charge of Transportation. Or Police — can you imagine weekly Ladd Circle stings?

Brian
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Brian

When this petition began I was hoping to see 1,000 signatures. The count currently stands at 2,563! Very impressive. Numbers matter. When NWTA began their membership total was about 135, and they are now nearing 1,000 members. The momentum is undeniable and the local government must positively respond to our needs.

RH
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RH

New Zealand has amazing singletrack. They did it in an environmentally respectful way and is maintained properly. This could be done in forest park too!

TrailLover
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TrailLover

I think it’s important to keep in mind that unless tomorrow night reveals otherwise, the city’s failure to deal effectively or creatively with singletrack demand is generally not the fault of the Parks Department itself. PP&R directors (Mike Abbate at the moment) have generally been hamstrung by incompetent or feckless command from across the street at city hall. Amanda Fritz (on her way out of office) is just the latest parks commissioner to mishandle this matter. With the backing of uninformed bicycle opponents who are happy to mislead and inflame the public in order to protect their monopoly access to trails, Fritz’s tenure has marked yet another frustrating chapter.

Yes, it’s sometimes disappointing that the PP&R director and staff haven’t demonstrated or asserted greater knowledge of the state of the art of recreational trails management, but it’s my belief that if they were asked, allowed and properly funded to do their jobs as professional land managers, they couldn’t help but act in favor of greater singletrack bicycle access because the inclusion of cyclists in trails networks is the current gold standard in conservation and trails management. In order to deny better accommodation of bicycles in Forest Park (and other city lands), they would have to ignore or willfully oppose the experience and science that is now largely standard in their field of work. I think that’s beneath them.

TrailLover
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TrailLover

Everyone should attend tonight’s meeting. But if you can’t, it’s apparently ok to send comments via email to cynthia.castro@portlandoregon.gov. Impossible to say if or how the email comments will impact the process but hopefully it’s better than nothing. Stay constructive.

Oliver
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Oliver

If anyone’s interested, here’s another picture of elk looking quite distressed due to the presence of bicycles

http://tinyurl.com/qhwc7mz

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

I’m quite interested to see what direction this ends up going. I think if the master plan is approved they’ll quickly see that there aren’t many other places to look than forest park. If they spend 200k on paperwork and come up with nothing, that will look very bad. However if they don’t approve the plan, I’m afraid their policing efforts on trails are going to get problematic. You’ll start to see the open protests mentioned in the comments as well as simply bikes riding trails anyway. The easiest solution for them will be to designate some trails multi-use and hope for the best. We all know it would work perfectly fine.

Ryan francesconi
Guest
Ryan francesconi

As stated above by someone, the wildwood is likely pretty boring for actual mountain biking. It’s not the hardcore that are missing out here. It’s all the kids and older folks who don’t have anywhere safe and beautiful to ride in Portland.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

As Ryan just noted, there have been a few comments here about simply starting to ride the Forest Park singletrack as some kind of “civil disobedience.” First, I’m not sure it really qualifies as civil disobedience unless you’re announcing your specific intentions and inviting enforcement and sanction as a public demonstration. Otherwise it’s just doing what you want and hoping you get away with it. Maybe there is a role for true civil disobedience but that needs to be orchestrated.

More important maybe is the fact that simply starting to ride the trails illegally – or even legally if the park were suddenly open to shared-use – might also make no sense. Few people seem to be arguing that the entire trails network is already tailor made as a shared use trails system. There are places that may need maintenance, improvement, modification, signage or, as some have pointed out, maybe even some un-sanitization to make them better trails not just for cyclists but for any trail user who isn’t looking to experience the “wilderness” from a dirt sidewalk.

As it is today, much of something like Wildwood may be unnecessarily fast and too boring to be of much appeal to many in the MTB community. It could be made more technical, slower, probably more sustainable and could appeal to a wider range of trail users of all kinds. But it’s not even clear how much, if any, of Wildwood or other existing trails could or should be part of an ultimate shared use network in the park. That would all be determined by a process that the city has been denying for 20+ years.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Another option to follow up on this is via the survey that I received from Parks & Rec yesterday. They’re asking for additional feedback on budget priorities and provided the following survey monkey link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=6pgk_2bs_2fGvTUVkx9_2bfRnJSQ_3d_3d

Deadline for feedback this way is January 13th at 4 pm.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

Is Jonathan’s link working for anybody? I think NWTA is working on a way to get more people on these survey distribution lists.

Alex
Guest
Alex

That didn’t work, but this one should:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPRbudget