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River View bike ban might not be permanent, Fritz says

Posted by on March 11th, 2015 at 9:23 am

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Amanda Fritz

Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz has taken a lot of heat over the past week for the decision she made along with Environmental Services Commissioner Nick Fish to ban biking at River View Natural Area as of March 16th. The decision was made abruptly and came as a huge shock to many advocates who were working in partnership with the City of Portland to restore the 146-acre parcel and hoped to see biking access improved and officially sanctioned at the end of a public process.

We are working on the story and hoping to understand more about the decision from the commissioners, advocates, and other insiders this week.

In the meantime however, it looks like Commissioner Fritz has already heard from so many concerned Portlanders that she has issued an update about the decision, saying that there’s still a chance the city will reverse course. Here’s what she just posted to the official River View Natural Area website:

A message from Commissioner Fritz regarding the recent changes at River View Natural Area:

The decision to prohibit mountain biking for now at River View was made in partnership with Commissioner Fish and the Bureau of Environmental Services, with due consideration of the reason for dedicating ratepayer dollars to purchase the site to protect water quality. We are not saying River View will never be used for mountain biking, rather just not now, before the citywide assessment of appropriate places for cycling is funded and completed. I encourage you to participate in the upcoming City Budget process, to urge funding for the citywide Master Plan for cycling that Portland Parks and Recreation and I have proposed in our requested budget allocations.

-Amanda Fritz, City Commissioner

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Besides giving the public a ray of hope that the ban might eventually be reversed, the key part of this comment is, “with due consideration of the reason for dedicating ratepayer dollars to purchase the site to protect water quality.” This is a reference to the 2011 lawsuit filed against the City of Portland for what the plaintiffs said were purchases made with water ratepayer funds for parcels and projects that had nothing to do with water quality. A judge ultimately ruled in favor of the City of Portland, but the courts are still monitoring the purchases.

The largest target of that lawsuit was the $6 million the city paid to purchase River View. While it seemed obvious to assume that lawsuit is what scared Fritz and Fish into the abrupt bike ban decision, they had previously maintained that it had nothing to do with it.

The initial memo about the decision (PDF) she and Fish released on March 2nd said nothing about the lawsuit and focused entirely on their “abundance of caution” to protect the parcel’s streams, ecosystem, and fish habitat.

The insinuation that bicycling was somehow in conflict with conservation goals — something that has never been proven by any city studies — was salt in the wound for bike advocates.

What’s even more confusing is that we’ve since heard from high-level sources at the Parks Bureau that the lawsuit had nothing to do with the decision and that it’s more general antipathy toward mountain biking that exists among some Parks and Environmental Services staff as well as influential advocates that have pressured the city to prohibit bicycling. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of all this.

Either way, Fritz’s acknowledgment that this decision is not final is a hopeful sign — but I doubt it will do much in the short-term to alleviate the frustration and anger that her handling of the issue has caused so far.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Dan
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Dan

I believe her!

/s

Madison Wellington
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Madison Wellington

Hallelujah! Hopefully they will reconsider this after so many people have been speaking up about it. I know I emailed her personally urging her and Comm. Fish to re-consider that decision. Portland needs more local mountain biking! None of us have cars, so mountain biking that can be ridden to is crucial on my eyes!

jeg
Guest
jeg

The antipathy toward mountain bikers is well earned. We need separate usage trails for this to work, and a sea change in the entitlement and roughshod of the mountain biking community. I’ve been nearly killed multiple times by mountain bikers breaking the law.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Even with the lawsuit and salmon, there is no reason to close the area to bikes. Without any clear science requiring it, they closed it anyway. Now, its going to be much harder to open again politically with hiker type groups now feeling something (bike free trails) is being taken from them.

I’d give them a <5% chance of opening it again.

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

If city doesn’t fund the mountain biking plan, or maybe before, we as a community should look towards filing our own lawsuit against the city for more access.

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

The environmental argument is laughable.

What are the water quality environmental impacts created by mtbs on trail vs hikers on a trail?

It is the trail construction and its proper use that impacts the amount of erosion and subsequent Total Dissolved Solids in water bodies. How does a trail discharge more or less sediment with hikers vs bikers? If it is more, then build the trail better.

Is it nutrient or bacteria loading caused by folks and their animals going to the bathroom. How would this differ from hikers or the people who live in the woods or in the pirate fleet anchored just off shore.

Can anyone explain what the exact environmental impacts are that result in this closure?

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

OT:

Who put up the Yellow signs that can only be read in one direction on Powell Butte? With new names that do not match the signs at the entrance.

bjorn
Guest
bjorn

Of course they are saying it isn’t the lawsuit that has them worried. How would it look in the court to have a quote from Fritz like: “We improperly used funds to buy this land and we are worried they will notice so we banned mountain bikes to try to help cover our impropriety.”

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

I’m pretty tired of Amanda Fritz treating people on bikes as “the other” who can be pushed to the margins and subjected to the broad brush of collective punishment. Her tone and in this case, her actions, show very little interest in dealing with bike issues in good faith. I am VERY interested to see who might challenge her next time around.

This latest “ray of hope” convinces me of nothing other than the fact that she’s felt the heat. We should keep that heat up.

Michael Whitesel
Guest
Michael Whitesel

According the Portland Parks, “Portland is home to more than 152 miles of completed regional trails”. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/42336

How many miles of dirt trails do we “entitled” mountain bikers enjoy? Well, we have an amazing ½ mile of trail on FL #5 in Forest Park and maybe a mile or two at Powell Butte.

Well according the the Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report 2014 http://outdoorindustry.org/images/researchfiles/ResearchParticipation2014Topline.pdf?207, bicycling in general is way more popular that hiking. While mountain biking specifically is growing three times faster.

Looking at the rates of participation, at worth mountain bikers should have access to ¼ of the trails that hikers have access to. That should translate to 38 miles of dirt trails for access by mountain bikers. BTW, this is referencing a nation study. I suspect participation rates in Portland are higher. And that they’d be higher still if there was proper access locally.

Youth (rank)
2. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) 23.7% of youth, 19.2 million participants
5. Hiking 13.1% of youth, 10.6 million participants

Adult (rank)
3. Bicycling (Road, Mountain and BMX) 13.1% of adults, 27.4 million participants
4. Hiking 11.4% of adults, 23.8 million participants

Participation (6:+)
Hiking (Day) 34.4M
Bicycling (Mountain/Non Paved Surface) 8.5M
Bicycling (BMX) 2.2M

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Regardless of whether the RVNA is opened to Mt. bikes, the community needs to self-police bad behavior. Shred shaming, erosion guilting and wildlife harassment harassment should be imparted on those who are poor stewards of the land and bad ambassadors of the sport. It is easy to picture the salute one would get by trying to impose good behavior on a sparking adrenaline addict, but if the sport is going to be accepted as not destructive, then those with the most to gain/loose need to educate their brethren.

http://onthisdayinfashion.com/?p=12729

Eric
Guest
Eric

Sounds like a lot of the same from past Forest Park conversations. Not now…maybe in the future…not now…maybe in the future. Keep trying to kick that football Charlie Brown. One of these days Lucy might actually let you kick 😉

Rick
Guest
Rick

Dog poop causes far more damage than mountain biking.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…This is a reference to the 2011 lawsuit filed against the City of Portland for what the plaintiffs said were purchases made with water ratepayer funds for parcels and projects that had nothing to do with water quality. A judge ultimately ruled in favor of the City of Portland, but the courts are still monitoring the purchases.

The largest target of that lawsuit was the $6 million the city paid to purchase River View. While it seemed obvious to assume that lawsuit is what scared Fritz and Fish into the abrupt bike ban decision, they had previously maintained that it had nothing to do with it.

The initial memo about the decision (PDF) she and Fish released on March 2nd said nothing about the lawsuit and focused entirely on their “abundance of caution” to protect the parcel’s streams, ecosystem, and fish habitat. …” maus/bikeportland

Apparently, money was made availabe to buy parcels of land on condition that their continued function was to be able to preserve water quality. City officials involved in and responsible for overseeing the purchase arrangement, may have had various ideas about the range of uses, in addition to water quality preservation, that the city could possibly use the land for.

Questions about what those ‘various ideas’ are, and how consistent they are with the conditions of purchase, may be where the hitch is in terms of allowing the land to be used for mountain biking, in addition to water quality preservation.

Could be, but I kind of doubt Fritz and Fish were “…scared…” in to declining to move forward at present, to allow the land to be used for mountain biking. Sounds much more like they’re carefully vetting the city’s purchase arrangement before signing off on use of the land for mountain biking. Seems like questions about whether the land, according to the purchase agreement, could be used for mountain biking in addition to water quality preservation, should have been raised and answered, before the purchase rather than after. Otherwise, Fritz and Fish seem to be doing just fine, so far.

Evan
Guest
Evan

“I encourage you to participate in the upcoming City Budget process,”… I encourage you to participate in the upcoming Election Process, let’s get some new leadership in city council!

TrailLover
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TrailLover

Based on “an abundance of experience” with Commissioner Fritz, kicking and screaming is the only way she will ever accommodate bicycles on Portland city trails. Even the yet-to-materialze Mountain Bike Master Plan that she now touts wasn’t even on her funding radar until she was begrudgingly forced to include it by an overwhelming outpouring of community demand at the public hearing in January.

Her suggestion that bicycling might be allowed at River View at some point in the future is pure backpedaling after she botched yet another opportunity to help Portland move forward on an issue that the city has been bungling for 20 years. The commissioner is not to be believed regarding any promises or hints of future improvements at River View or elsewhere.

As evidenced by her current plea for community support for the funding of the Master Plan, it is the commissioner’s own bad actions that are the greatest threat to the Master Plan moving forward at all.

Geoff Grummon
Guest
Geoff Grummon

Jonathan and Michael – thank you for continuing to cover this story. I look forward to hearing more about how this decision was influenced by city staff members and anti-mountain bike advocates.

maccoinnich
Guest

Off topic, but that photo of Fritz always reminds me of Marge Simpson in “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield”.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Team Robot…. awesome!

spencer
Guest
spencer

allow existing uses the the RVNA. enough said. study it as its used. NOTHING occurs in a vacuum. keep the pressure on !!!!!

Brian
Guest
Brian

We need people from our Parks and Rec to visit some of these systems. Most people are visual learners, and I think they need to see what we are talking about. I’m happy to get the Kickstarter for plane tix up and running.

MNBikeLuv
The prevention of accidents on a trail, shared or otherwise, is about trail design and user interaction design, not the setting of speed limits.
First, you can cut the speed down by designing the downhills to be tight, twisty and choked up. That way you “design in” a maximum speed.
Second, you can do some simple things, like adding directionality to the trail so that user group interactions are always face-to-face. That makes impacts far less likely.
Third, most urban systems avoid such issues by not not having extended downhills, placing higher speed/higher skills areas off by themselves, or going fully segregated for urban trails. Or all three (like they do here in the Midwest).
Seriously, if any commentor thinks urban mountain biking is impossible or dangerous or damaging to the environment in an urban environment, come to MN. We will do a tour. And after they talk to park managers, elected officials, neighbors and other user groups, as well as going for some MTB rides, I will *guarantee* that person will return to PDX wanting some urban MTB trails. We you see it done right, all the “concerns” melt away.
Recommended 1

Dan
Guest
Dan

wsbob
Brian…Forest Park is unique with respect to all other Portland parkland, natural or otherwise. This distinction obliges a bias that must be acknowledged and factored into any decision regarding the use of this parks’ land for recreation. As such, mountain biking as a form or vehicular recreation, is not compatible with that park’s fundamental purpose to the Portland public.

Hmm….let’s look at the Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan, and the “Goals for Trail Management” contained within. Among the 10 goals listed is Goal 2: Provide Opportunities for Passive Recreation:

“Forest Park should offer the citizens of Portland Opportunities for outdoor recreation in keeping with the Park’s resource values. Forms of recreation must be appropriate for Forest Park and must be passive in nature. Examples of passive recreation include walking, running, bicycling, riding horses, walking with pets, and observing fauna, flora, and other natural history features. Opportunities should be created for these activities which implies the need for appropriate facilities as well as controls on the level and location of the allowed uses.”

Duncan Parks
Guest

Fritz is alluding to the court case judging the legality of using ratepayer dollars to buy River View. Couldn’t one make the case that pursuing an essentially made-up resource plan banning mountain biking – rather than pursuing the priorities the TAC identified as threatening water quality – be seen as a reckless disregard for the goal of preserving the resource? If the TAC says A,B, and C threaten water quality into the Willamette, and Fritz and Fish do D, shouldn’t *that* be a cause for concern from the Judge?

Dan
Guest
Dan

What did I say? I’ve been stuck in moderation for 4 hours…

Eric H
Guest
Eric H

“Who bought the land? Taxpayers. Mountain bike enthusiasts didn’t buy the land. Why not? Did they even try? Would have been great if they did. But they didn’t. …” wsbob

Hi Bob – I’m a taxpayer in the city of Portland and a mountain bike enthusiast. Help me square that dilemma up.

TrailLover
Guest
TrailLover

“Who bought the land? Taxpayers. Mountain bike enthusiasts didn’t buy the land. Why not? Did they even try? Would have been great if they did. But they didn’t. …” wsbob

The local tether ball enthusiasts didn’t buy Wilshire Park, the local basketball enthusiasts didn’t buy Mt. Tabor, the local hiking enthusiasts didn’t buy Forest Park. We the people bought or preserved those places and we the people like tether ball, basketball, hiking, mountain biking and a host of other wholesome activities. Maybe scraping flat a 12,000 square foot pad for a basketball court is inconsistent with the other goals for River View but nobody…nobody…let alone the experts supposedly managing this project has presented any evidence to show that an existing use like mountain biking is inconsistent with the other purposes of the land.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

From the wayback machine: (http://bikeportland.org/2010/02/23/unauthorized-bike-trail-damages-pristine-habitat-in-forest-park-29920)

a.O February 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm
Rick, I will bet you $100 that Jim Labbe, Bob Sallinger, Nick Fish, etc are all saying the same bullshit about how they support access and blah, blah, blah for the next five years and somehow it mysteriously just won’t get done and on Feb 22, 2015 there will still be no legal singletrack in FP. Care to put your money where your mouth is?

5 years later, still no singletrack, and we’ve lost more with RVNA.