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City Budget Office denies Parks’ request for Gateway Green and off-road cycling plan funds

Posted by on March 19th, 2015 at 9:13 am

BAC Bike Ride East Portland-19

Riders in Gateway Green, a future bike park.
(Photo J Maus/BikePortland)

Portlanders itching for more places to ride bikes in the dirt will now have to work extra hard, thanks to a report from the City Budget Office (PDF) that recommends zero funding for two Portland Parks & Recreation projects we’ve been following very closely: Gateway Green and the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan.

Does this mean those two projects won’t be funded? No. The report is just one factor Mayor Hales and City Council will use to decide where money should be spent. But the CBO recommendation does underscore the difficult politics around these two projects and it means anyone who wants to see them become reality will have to make sure their voices are heard in the coming weeks and months.

We reached out the Budget Office, Commissioner Fritz’s office, and supporters of these projects to learn more about what this all means…

Each budget cycle the City Budget Office (CBO) reviews each bureau’s budget requests and issues a report that is then passed onto the commissioners and the mayor. The CBO refers to its work as, “timely, accurate, and unfiltered information and analysis regarding budgeting, forecasting, and fiscal policy issues.” As part of the review, the CBO looks at a range of factors before deciding whether or not a specific project should be funded. Those factors include: how strongly the project aligns with adopted plans, priorities, and policy goals (like equity and maintaining existing assets), whether or not there’s a more suitable revenue source, how important the requested funding amount is relative to the entire project, and so on.

Parks has requested $250,000 in “one-time” funding to help with the ongoing development of Gateway Green (the total phase one project cost is $5.4 million). The project will build a network of bike trails, a bike skills area, and other new outdoor recreational opportunities on a 36-acre parcel at the confluence of I-84 and I-205. This past fall, we reported on an exhibition cyclocross event held on the parcel that gave an exciting glimpse into its potential.

Parks’ $250,000 ask would help the non-profit Friends of Gateway Green raise $1 million by 2016, a fundraising goal teed up by a Metro Nature in Neighborhood Grant they won back in July.

Unfortunately, the CBO does not think this a worthy funding request. Here’s their reasoning:

“The completed Gateway Green will primarily serve cyclocross riders but also include pedestrian trails, a children’s play area, and a field house for environmental education classes. With the planned access improvements, the park will serve 413 households within 1⁄2 mile of the park to the west of I‐205.

While this project does increase park access to households, other bureau capital projects would provide greater increased access to a broader group of residents. As such, CBO does not recommend funding for this project at this time.”

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It’s important to note that this funding request is not tied to any actual capital construction. If it was, the CBO says System Development Charges could be a possible source of funds.

We asked Friends of Gateway Green Chair Linda Robinson for her response to the CBO recommendations. “What it means to me,” she said, “is that it will be very important for folks to show up at the budget hearings this spring and advocate for this one-time funding for Gateway Green!” While Robinson will obviously be pushing for this funding, she told us her group has other options they are pursuing in case in doesn’t come through.

The Parks bureau has also requested $350,000 for the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan. This plan has made headlines recently because Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz says it must be completed before off-road biking access is added or improved in any city park. Bike advocates have strongly supported the funding of this plan, but their willingness to support Parks in the request has been seriously tested after the recent decision by Fritz and Environmental Services Commissioner Nick Fish to ban biking at River View Natural Area.

Here’s why the CBO doesn’t think the plan is a wise use of city funds:

“The cycling community has expressed strong interest in expanding off‐road cycling options; however, the current focus of the bureau’s current capital plan reflects its most pressing needs: maintaining assets and expanding access to underserved resident [sic]. Because this project is not included in capital plans and the bureau has other, higher priority capital needs, CBO does not recommend funding this project.”

Advocates for off-road biking have expressed concerns to us about the information the CBO used to reach their decision. For instance, the CBO cites an estimated cost of $120,000 to $300,000 per mile for building trails while one trail building expert we talked to said the actual cost would be closer to $50,000 per mile. The CBO analysis also mentioned that the plan “may identify four to six miles of new trails.”

According to City Budget Office analyst Ryan Kinsella, both of these figures came directly from the Parks bureau. “They did caveat their estimates as being ‘low confidence’,” he shared. While the direct costs of single-track construction can vary anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000 per mile, he said the “soft costs” like staff and design time would double that amount.

While the CBO review of these project is a respected voice in the budget process, even City Budget Director Andrew Scott calls his reviews nothing more than, “a starting framework for Mayor and Council deliberations on the budget.”

Commissioner Fritz’s Policy Advisor Patti Howard put a positive spin on the recommendations. She told us that since they came out earlier this month, “revenues projections have increased significantly so there are now more funds to be allocated.” She also added that Fritz and Commissioner Fish still support both of these projects and urged citizens to speak up for them during the budget process.

Even so, simply having the support of Fish and Fritz will not be nearly enough to get the Off-Road Cycling Plan fully funded. As Scott, the CBO chief told us, “Even in a year with a surplus, there are far more requests than available funding, so we’re comparing requests like the off-road cycling master plan against requests for housing, firefighters, street paving, etc.”

From here, Council will hold work sessions on the budget with CBO staff and public hearings are scheduled for April and May.

After those hearings, Mayor Hales will release his proposed budget and the final budget won’t adopted until late June. Stay tuned.

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Matt F
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Matt F

just gotta keep pushing

Cab
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Cab

Fritz seems passive aggressive with this off road issue. It seems simple right now. She is the main obstetrical to Bike growth. For whatever reason she just doesn’t like them. Off road is the easiest target, so she is hitting them as she can. I don’t think there is any negotiating with her. Time to get the Mayor involved as this is more and more a personal issue for her.

Nick Skaggs
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Nick Skaggs

It’s not red tape.
It’s *platinum* tape.

Go, team!

dave
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dave

It wouldn’t be so galling if it didn’t read like the recommendations were written by someone with no clue what they’re talking about. 413 households? $300,000 per mile trails? Did they even try to look into this, or did they just copy/paste a couple numbers from the Big Book of Roundfile Criteria and call it good?

I’m completely convinced now that this process won’t move forward without the kind of sustained civil disobedience that kickstarted the cycling community here in the first place.

Matt
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Matt

I find it weird that all these off-road courses require any city funding at all.

Really all off-road folks need is a sign-off to be able to make trails in an unused area, they’ll take care of the path building and maintenance. Austin Texas is a great example of a city that has an expansive mountain biking trail network without costing a single cent for the city. Yet they also stay away from preserves or protected parkland. Saying there’s any ‘funding’ required is just a veiled way of saying, “No, we don’t want to, but can’t give you a single good reason as to why.”

Scott H
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Scott H

I emailed the League of American bicyclists asking them to revoke Portland’s platinum designation. The community program contacts are on their cite http://bikeleague.org/content/staff

City hall shouldn’t be able to all but attack the biking community and tout platinum status.

TrailLover
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TrailLover

Just to reiterate, Fritz is asking the community to support a $350,000 master plan process that “may identify four to six miles of new trails,” each of which will cost $50,000 to $300,000 to build. Those figures, of course, completely ignore the long-standing offer from the cyclists to design, build and maintain those trails.

But how many miles of ride-able singletrack would this plan actually create? I didn’t even know we were talking about “new trails,” but that’s because the city has never entertained a genuine discussion of exactly what the options may be for new trails and/or existing trails re-designated as shared use.

Now we’re being told that it will take $350,000 just to answer some rather simple questions. Well, if that’s the only pathway to some kind of improvement, and we believe the process won’t be corrupted like all previous MTB initiatives, then maybe it’s worth supporting. But, in the end, are we talking about four to six miles of new trail PLUS X miles of existing trails re-designated as shared use? Are we going to see a grand total of 15-20 miles of bicycle-friendly singletrack that ALL Portlanders can enjoy? It makes a big difference in terms of how much singletrack demand this initiative can possibly satisfy. Are we being asked to spend $350,000 to aim at too low a target?

Maybe Fritz could count on more support for her Master Plan idea – and maybe the CBO would change is funding recommendation – if Fritz could show some real leadership that pointed to a goal of 15-20 miles of singletrack (new and/or old) and took into account the gigantic financial savings that the cycling community is offering to deliver.

bjorn
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bjorn

Benton county has 1/10th as many residents as Multnomah county, but their new trails are expected to draw 15000 riders this year:

http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/team-dirt-launches-funding-push/article_a8851eb7-b3ad-5574-8f9c-9fa231e4f798.html

JR'eh
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JR'eh

You give the city too much power. Just ride around them as if they are a pickup in a traffic jam.

davemess
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davemess

The completed Gateway Green will primarily serve cyclocross riders but also include pedestrian trails, a children’s play area, and a field house for environmental education classes. With the planned access improvements, the park will serve 413 households within 1⁄2 mile of the park to the west of I‐205.

While this project does increase park access to households, other bureau capital projects would provide greater increased access to a broader group of residents. As such, CBO does not recommend funding for this project at this time.”

This sounds like they didn’t even read the proposal?!?!?!!
Primarily cyclocross riders?
I don’t think they’re really comprehending that a park that features biking will draw lots more people than a 0.5 mi. radius. Because you know, they could ride their bikes there…….

Jeff TB
Guest
Jeff TB

$350k master plan = Fritz stall tactic. Nothing will happen for years, if at all. Obviously its better to ask forgiveness than seek permission. Just get on your bike and ride. If you still feel like pushing a little, send letters to the League of American Bicyclists and tell them what you think about Platinum status.

Mike
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Mike

Sounds like a MTB themed critical mass around city hall every day from 4-6 is in order.

Brendan
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Brendan

This whole thing feels like a lesson in the frustrations with government I’ve been hearing all my life from the Right. I consider myself a democrat but in this case our government is 100% obstruction to progress. Unless they are representing the voice of some silent majority against mountain biking trails but if that exists,they sure have been silent.
Please just step out of our way and let us build some trails.

Rob Chapman
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Rob Chapman

Maybe we should tape tennis racquets to our bikes? We may be able to trick Amanda out of some “emergency” funding that way. I know exactly 0 people who play tennis, while a large majority of the people I know in Portland ride bikes.

Can we please get rid of the at-large council system already?

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/09/portland_tennis_center_bubble.html

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Take back Forest Park. Ready?

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

It’s a $350,000 imaginary dangling carrot, another way to stall out the process while keeping the mtb’ers quiet. PDX MTB’ers have been working within the system, begging, volunteering, stewarding for 20 years…and for what? I honestly can’t wait to get a ticket for riding my bike where I’ve been “banned” (singled out/dicsriminated against & disrespected).

Frank
Guest
Frank

I totally agree regarding Gateway Brown: Spending over $5 million on that site is insane!

Cut that by a factor of 10 and let NWTA volunteers loose, and it would be just as good. We don’t need a bridge over the freeway. We don’t need expensive consultants – or cush bathrooms. Basic bathrooms and we can build trails.

But they won’t be great whether free or $5 million – the site is what it is.

I sometimes think MTB’ers are building ourown prison when helping with it. Fritz, Fish, and other haters always say “…but they’ll have Gateway Green.” Expect that for decades if it is built.