For first time, Metro proposes ‘bike-optimized’ trails in a natural area

metrotual-bigcrowd

Time to weigh in.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

In an unprecedented move, Metro has proposed singletrack trails in a natural area that would be built specifically for bicycling. Calling them “bike-optimized” trails, Metro unveiled the concept at an open house for the North Tualatin Mountains project at Skyline School last night.

Using money from voter-approved bond measures, Metro is now ready to develop 1,300 acres spread across four separate parcels just north of Forest Park between Skyline Road and Highway 30. From the outset, Metro hinted that singletrack trail riding would be considered as they designed the trail plans for the parcels. Last night they made it official.

“We’re going to take an approach based on science and shaped by public feedback to offer them meaningful ways of interacting with nature. We feel we can protect habitat and allow for public access.”
— Dan Moeller, Metro

In addition to the biking trails that made news last night, Metro also announced that they will conduct a region-wide inventory of dirt and singletrack cycling opportunities.

At an open house last night Metro shared two or three concept plans for each of the four different parcels: Burlington Creek Forest, 339 acres; Ennis Creek Forest, 350 acres; McCarthy Creek Forest, 403 acres; and North Abbey Creek Forest, 211 acres. In three out of the four parcels there was some combination of trails that would either be shared or separated hiking/biking trails.

If Metro were to build all the trails they showed last night, there would be 9.2 miles of biking-specific singletrack across three different parcels (Metro is not proposing any bike trails at the North Abbey Creek site).

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Detail of trail concept for McCarthy Creek parcel.
Download all the trail maps shown at the open house

Metro’s plans come in stark contrast to the City of Portland’s current stance on mountain biking. The City’s Parks & Recreation and Environmental Services bureaus have prevented the development of new bicycle trails, or improved access on existing ones, in properties like Forest Park and River View Natural Area.

Perhaps hoping to clarify their different approach to cycling, prior to the open house Metro invited the media to a special briefing on the topic. At the briefing (I was the sole media person in attendance) Metro Natural Area Programs Interim Director Dan Moeller explained that his agency “has heard loud and clear” about the demand for off-road cycling.

“In developing our sites, our first priority is to protect wildlife and water quality,” Moeller continued. “We’re going to take an approach based on science and shaped by public feedback to offer them meaningful ways of interacting with nature. We feel we can protect habitat and allow for public access.”

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Moeller spoke of the “rich conversation with new partners” Metro has engaged in around the Tualatins Mountains project and their planning process for Newell Creek Canyon in Oregon City. However, that conversation has also revealed that not everyone around the table is speaking the same language. To remedy that, Moeller announced that Metro will conduct a regionwide inventory dirt and singletrack trail riding opportunities. Moeller said they’ll create a “glossary” of facilities to shore up persistent public confusion around, for instance, the difference between a fire road and a singletrack trail.

The inventory would also include driving distances to various types of off-road riding experiences to help Metro assess where gaps and opportunities exist and inform how they develop natural areas.

Mindful of the City of Portland’s Off-Road Cycling Plan effort, Moeller was careful to point out that Metro’s work will be “just an inventory – not a plan or a process.”

“We want to create a common language,” he added, “And to say, ‘This is where it is, and these are the experiences you can have there.'”

As the open house got started there were several dozen attendees. It was a mixed crowd of residents, people wearing bicycling apparel, and Metro staff. There were also two Metro Councilors in attendance: Sam Chase and Kathryn Harrington.

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Metro planner Robert Spurlock gave a brief presentation and underscored an important point: Metro is not going to build all the trails represented in all the concept plans. He said what they do end up building will be the product of environmental analysis, budgetary constraints (they have about $500-750,000 for trail development), and public feedback.

Ecological preservation will be paramount, but it won’t be the sole factor Metro considers. Metro Natural Resource Scientist Kate Holleran said she already knows there will be conservation trade-offs with any type of access into the land. “But for us, equally important to conservation of the land is getting people on the site. We want to be as honest and transparent about what those impacts will be and then let the public and our leaders decide what to do.”

“We need places for singletrack. It’s a great and growing sport.”
— Marcy Houle, author and wildlife biologist

Last night I learned that at least two Metro staff members have gone through a sustainable trail-building course put on the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Holleran seems to understand the importance of not just allowing cycling but designing the trails specifically for them. “There is a lot we can do with trail design,” she shared with me, “That can minimize impact on water quality and wildlife.”

No matter what happens next, Portlander Ryan Francesconi, who rode his bike to the open house, is thrilled by the prospect of new trails. “It’s exciting that they’re even considering it,” he said.

And even Marcy Houle, the woman who fought tooth and nail to prevent the City of Portland from improving bicycle access in Forest Park, sounds supportive. At last night’s event she said she thinks these new trails could, “Take the heat off Forest Park.”

“We need places for singletrack,” Houle said,”It’s a great and growing sport. My only concern, as a biologist, is that it doesn’t pinch off this important wildlife corridor.”

Metro expects to have a recommended trail plan by early fall (after another open house this summer) and construction could begin in 2016 with trails opening by 2017.

If you missed the open house, you can submit a comment form online.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story included the wrong data for singletrack mileage. We regret the error.

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spencer
spencer
7 years ago

NWTA could build it for the cost of drinks and snacks, all 18 miles mapped out. Use the volunteer force we have already developed. This is promising for Mountain Biking and ALL trail users. We can share appropriately and safely.

Bjorn
Bjorn
7 years ago
Reply to  spencer

Agreed, did Metro say anything about allowing volunteer labor to help defray costs?

Case
Case
7 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

During the December meeting I asked Dave Elkin, the project lead for the NTM, about the process in which they would vet prospective builders in the event mountain biking is approved. He said they would put additional weight behind those organizations who have the requisite experience AND are local. I think the NWTA certainly fits the bill there. This is a great opportunity to defuse some of the rising enmity between mountain bikers and other trail users. I left the meeting in pretty good spirits.

Ryan
Ryan
7 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Yes.

m
m
7 years ago

A long way from Dunthorpe. Not a coincidence.

Adam H.
Adam H.
7 years ago

We’re going to take an approach based on science and shaped by public feedback to offer them meaningful ways of interacting with nature. We feel we can protect habitat and allow for public access.

As opposed to Amanda Fritz’s approach of FUD, NIMBYism, and general anti-bicycle sentiments?

davemess
davemess
7 years ago

Wow, such stark contrast to the weird River View open house on Monday night (you know where we can’t even TALK about cycling).

Does anyone know much about Houle’s credentials as a “biologist”?

Charles S
Charles S
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

She is a wildlife biologist with a masters degree and decades of experience in the Portland area, author of a wildlife and vegetation study of Forest Park (published by the Oregon Historical Society). Or at least, that is what I get when I google marci houle biologist.

Case
Case
7 years ago
Reply to  Charles S

She seems only to really have a specific thing for Forest Park, I say let her have it and let’s move on. Also, she was quite friendly, though her consistent insistence that people listen to her side of the Forest Park story was a little off putting.

Alex
Alex
7 years ago
Reply to  Case

Forest Park is big enough to share. It is ridiculous that there is virtually no single-track there.

Brian
Brian
7 years ago
Reply to  Alex

And if it’s not, convert a hiking trail or two to mountain biking. No harm done to the Park, wildlife, etc. The pressure needs to be applied even harder on FP.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Charles S

a masters degree in Biology? and is her job a biologist?
I mean I almost have a PhD in a biological science, but I don’t claim to be a “biologist”.

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcy_Cottrell_Houle

All right, I’ll accept that she’s a biologist.
(man that page is a publicist’s dream!)

rick
rick
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

That was a disappointing meeting.

Case
Case
7 years ago
Reply to  rick

What was disappointing about it?

Todd Hudson
Todd Hudson
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

Whenever I hear someone say “I’m a scientist”, my ears burn a little…

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Todd Hudson

what if we actually are a scientist? I usually say that just because it’s an easy thing for people to understand. If I say “I’m an immunologist”, I even get a lot of blank stares, or some kind of debate about vaccinations.

wsbob
wsbob
7 years ago

News from the meeting, sounds good.

Moeller’s mention that “…Metro will conduct a regionwide inventory dirt and singletrack trail riding opportunities. …” sounds like a good idea.

“…Metro Natural Area Programs Interim Director Dan Moeller explained that his agency “has heard loud and clear” about the demand for off-road cycling. …” bikeportland

It would be helpful if Dan Moeller could say more about from what parts of the metro region, the agency has been hearing people request opportunities for mountain biking.

There are many thousands of acres across the metro region yet undeveloped, possibly some of which could offer opportunities for mountain biking, in addition to those an inventory would find already are offering this.

spencer
spencer
7 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

I agree, there are many acres that are ripe for expanded trails, and many existing trails that could be shared peacefully.

Alex
Alex
7 years ago

I am glad to see something come through for mtbers in Portland. It is long overdue. I do wonder how this will affect the mtb master plan – since it is outside of city limits, I hope not greatly.

I hope this doesn’t take any heat off of Forest Park – and I don’t really see why it should. I think somehow the Elk and the Salmon will survive the impact of a bicycle in the woods (much the same they do a hiker in the woods).

Thank you Metro for taking a science based approach and also listening to what the public is asking for. The actions by Portland city council have been disheartening at best and sneaky, underhanded and arbitrary at worst.

Bjorn
Bjorn
7 years ago
Reply to  Alex

Nothing has come through yet. I am happy to see them moving the right direction but having been through the whole Forest Park thing the last time around I will believe it when my tires hit the dirt. Houle and her ilk could still be working some side plan to derail the whole process with a lawsuit at the last moment etc…

Alex
Alex
7 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Well said and I agree 100%.

Terry D-M
Terry D-M
7 years ago

Oddly, I rode down the dirt trail of Powell Butte today for the first time…..THANKS OBAMA……..we were watching the plane land. I am proud that this uncoordinated road cyclist made it to the Springwater without hitting any hikers. Definately….I worried about the hikers …..

rick
rick
7 years ago

Thank you Metro.

Tait
Tait
7 years ago

“… they will conduct a region-wide inventory of dirt and singletrack cycling opportunities.”

I would like to see this inventory when it’s done. Will they publish it? (And can bikeportland please cover it when they do?)

Terry D-M
Terry D-M
7 years ago
Reply to  Tait

Its Metro…they publish everything.

Thom Batty
7 years ago

Thanks for at least mentioning Newell Canyon. That area is one of the focal points of the Oregon City Trail Alliance, and we would love access to single track in Oregon City. As it sits it is nothing more than a homeless camp and a dumping ground for old shopping carts, both of which are worse for the natural environment than bike trails.

MNBikeLuv
MNBikeLuv
7 years ago

Excellent! 2 things:

1) A bit over 1300 acres and only a shade over 11 miles? I know out west you don’t do mountain bike trails as tight as we do out east, but that is spread out.

2) Why do people continue to think that mountain bike trails “pinch off” wildlife? Most ruminant (deer, elk, etc.) trails that are regularly used are as wide or wider than many mountain bike trails. Do they think that critters come to screeching halt when the forest or grasslands change?

Brian
Brian
7 years ago
Reply to  MNBikeLuv

Or that wildlife don’t use the trails we build? I’ve encountered bear,one mtn lion, elk, coyote, and plenty of deer on trail. Sometimes animals like the path of least resistance.
METRO could use their dollars to build their trails, and then ask NWTA to supplement with additional trails of differing skill level. I am hopeful that we will actually see a variety of trails that appeal to a variety of skills levels, perhaps even some roots or rocks to ride. I’m getting a little burnt out on not having anything remotely interesting to ride now that RVNA is closed, and don’t get me started on having to drive 45-60 minutes to ride something with my five year old. Even he realizes how asinine that is, and HE’S FIVE YEARS OLD!

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Sounds like it’s time to dust off the SS rigid!

davemess
davemess
7 years ago
Reply to  MNBikeLuv

I have to imagine it’s more about the stopping of plants more than animals? That’s the only thing I can think of. I’m with you on the animals. i’ve had way to many encounters with deer to think that they give a crap about a 1-2 foot wide dirt path.

Rob Chapman
Rob Chapman
7 years ago
Reply to  davemess

I’ll bet you are correct about the spread of plants being the real issue Dave. You can add moose, caribou, Dall sheep, bears (black, brown and grizzly), snakes, wolverines, bobcats and mountain goats to the list of critters that love single track trails, at least if seeing is believing.

Unfortunately I think the ship sailed a long time ago on stopping invasive plants. Let us build trails and I’ll go out and pull ivy and cut down blackberries (I’ll bring my friends with me).

Matt F
Matt F
7 years ago

This is great! More movement after decades of none. Very exciting

rv
rv
7 years ago

m
A long way from Dunthorpe. Not a coincidence.Recommended 6

m
A long way from Dunthorpe. Not a coincidence.Recommended 6

There are plenty in Dunthorpe who ride River View and have dug there. And who are currently working hard to open it again. Your issue is with the Collins View locals. A few. Not many. But calling out Dunthope when people there are trying to help is not… well thought out.

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

Very encouraging. Hats off to Metro. I stand ready with my Trailboss.

Ray
Ray
7 years ago

I think maybe you could make the argument that it could increase the spread of invasive plants, but that is a weak argument. Your much more likely to spread seeds from a hiking boot than from a bike wheel (we all clean our bikes, right :)? Also, the only animal that may be effected is small salamanders or something along those lines, a species that needs continuous ground coverage to move. That being said, hiking and running trails would have similar effects. I also am a wildlife biologist with my masters degree….

Hank McCurdy
Hank McCurdy
6 years ago

Mountain biking is like cigarette smoking. A small minority of people think it is pleasurable and that they, therefore, have “smokers’ rights.” Just because they want to do it doesn’t mean they should.

Elliot Michael
Elliot Michael
6 years ago

As a mountain biker and long time resident of the McCarthy Creek area, I am very concerned about the prospect of the mountain bike trails. Over the years I watched as Elk calve in the meadows where a proposed entrance would be for the planned trails. I voted for Metro’s bond issue with the understanding that it would be purchasing land for conservation and wildlife habitat. Creating mountain bike trails in such a sensitive habitat is self defeating.
This is one of the largest wildlife habitats in the area for Bobcat, Elk, coyote, Owls and numerous other species that depend on such areas to thrive. We must think twice before we devastate an opportunity to preserve a close in wild habitat.