We’ve finally heard a response from Commissioner Nick Fish on the decision to prohibit bicycling at River View natural area. His policy director Jim Blackwood just emailed us the following statement:
“River View provides a link for local wildlife to Forest Park, and includes special habitats including wetlands, interior forest, and waterfront areas. The area is an important resource for sensitive and threatened wildlife habitats. The Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) provides technical advice on the restoration and maintenance of the watershed.
When the City acquired River View, substantial funding came from Bureau of Environmental Services’ ratepayer dollars – so we must ensure the uses of the natural area match the BES mission to protect the watershed.
Portland Parks & Recreation is working on a Natural Area Management Plan that balances recreational activities and the area’s unique environmental needs. Parks will complete the Plan, and make a final determination – including a recommendation regarding bike use – for the future of River View.
During my service on Council, I have worked hard to identify new opportunities for off-road bicycling, including a unique partnership with the Northwest Trails Alliance to build the Ventura Pump Track in Southeast Portland, the acquisition of Gateway Green in East Portland, and exploring cycling options for Forest Park.
Commissioner Fritz and her team at Parks are committed to completing a Citywide Off-Road Cycling Plan to identify cycling opportunities within our parks. I am joining her in requesting funding in next year’s budget to complete that work. I am optimistic that Council will support the $350,000 request.
I believe Portland can find a balance – providing recreational areas for hikers, runners, and cyclists while protecting our environment.
Commissioner Nick Fish”
This statement doesn’t do much in terms of answering the many questions that remain about how Fish and Commissioner Fritz reached their decisions and why the process has been so severely mishandled.
The fact also remains that BES has taken the extreme step of excluding a specific type of activity in the name of ecological protection when there is no basis for that decision and other types of activities are able to continue.
What also stands out about this statement is that Fish is putting the rationale for the ban more squarely onto the 2011 lawsuit. We have heard from many sources that the lawsuit concerns are not valid because the judge has already ruled in the city’s favor and said the River View purchase is legit.
UPDATE, 3:40pm: Matt Grumm in Commissioner Saltzman’s office followed up with us to clarify the lawsuit issue. He said, even though the judge ruled in the city’s favor regarding the River View purchase, there are “ongoing settlement negotations” and agency directors and commissioners might very well might have reason to be “nervous about the possibility of the parcel being pulled back into the lawsuit.”
Why Fish and Fritz haven’t just framed their decision about biking in terms of the lawsuit from the get-go remains a mystery; but it appears that if they’d done so, we could have avoided much of the frustration that’s being felt.
Follow all our coverage of this story here.