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With River View access in the balance, NW Trail Alliance urges attendance at council meeting

Posted by on January 13th, 2016 at 10:28 am


Map of the trail alignment in the River View Management Plan. Cycling advocates say if this trail alignment is adopted by City Council tomorrow the chances for bicycle access in the future are doomed.
(Map: City of Portland Parks & Recreation)

The Northwest Trail Alliance, a non-profit devoted to improving off-road cycling access in the Portland region, is urging its members to attend this Thursday’s City Council meeting. The group is concerned that if the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau passes the River View Natural Area Management Plan in its current form, there will be no future for bicycle access in the 146-acre parcel.

NWTA President Kelsey Cardwell sent out an email to members yesterday telling them, “I urgently need your help.” A resolution to adopt the plan is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting at 2:00 pm in city council chambers.

The River View plan has been plagued by controversy and uncertainty ever since the Portland Parks Bureau abruptly prohibited cycling at the parcel last spring and then took the strange step of not allowing the plan’s advisory committee members to discuss cycling at all.


The process that developed the management plan was so flawed that the Trail Alliance appealed to the State Land Use Board (their case was ultimately declined).

Because no input about cycling was considered in the planning process, Cardwell and other off-road cycling supporters say the plan features a trail alignment that isn’t compatible with cycling (some say it’s not adequate for hiking or running either). Parks says cycling is on an “interim prohibited” status at River View pending the completion of the city’s ongoing Off-road Cycling Master Plan — but advocates are worried that once the River View plan is adopted it will take a bureaucratic and political miracle to open it up again to re-consider bike access.

Back in April Mayor Charlie Hales fast-tracked $350,000 in funding to develop an Off-road Cycling Master Plan. That plan’s goal is to inventory and assess all the potential sites — including River View — for off-road cycling in Portland.

The Trail Alliance wants city council to either delay adoption of the River View plan until the site can be assessed through the Off-road Cycling Master Plan process. Or if that doesn’t happen, pass the River View plan with an amendment that either strips out the trail alignment or includes a clear statement that it will be possible to re-consider cycling access at River View once the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is completed.

“We universally agree that the public process was rigged and lacked transparency,” Cardwell wrote in her email to members. “Let’s ask our councilors to do what’s right and make amends. Help us start the off-road cycling master planning process off on the right foot.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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39 thoughts on “With River View access in the balance, NW Trail Alliance urges attendance at council meeting”

  1. Avatar Mike Quiglery says:

    No way does mountain biking belong in River View. Forest Park, perhaps. River View NO!

    1. Avatar Granpa says:

      It sounds like you are on the fence with this issue, please elaborate why you are inclined to deny mountain bike access according to the map shown? You will note on the map it avoids springs and creeks, except for bridged crossings. The trails hug the perimeter of the property where the human impacts are most pronounced and the looping switchbacks check speeds so that downhill shredding would not be possible.

      FWIW, I am not a mountain bike rider and something of a bleeding heart environmentalist

      1. Avatar Matt F says:

        Why does Mike Quiglery not want mountain biking in River View you ask? It’s because he doesn’t want mountain biking in River View.

        I’m being serious here. This is the same reason that all the other folks who don’t want mountain biking in the Portland vicinity. There is no other reason…its not environmental concerns or wildlife habitat concerns or trail conflict concerns…its because they don’t ride so they don’t want mountain biking in these parks. That’s it.

        1. Avatar Dan A says:

          In that case, I vote NO on everything that I don’t personally take part in.

        2. Avatar Granpa says:

          You may be correct in your assumptions about Mike’s views, but then again you may be projecting what you assume are his views. I was hoping to get a response from the original poster, not from an unauthorized spokesperson.

    2. Avatar Spiffy says:

      “No way does mountain biking belong in River View.”

      why not? I’m assuming you have good reasons… so far nobody has presented any good reasons to prohibit it…

      activists just want it considered along with all the other uses… if studies show that it’s not good for River View then they’ll look elsewhere…

    3. Avatar Brian says:

      I’m curious as to why FP would be acceptable and not River View. Thanks in advance for the follow-up.

      1. Avatar ac says:

        likely reason: NIMBY

    4. Avatar 37Dennis says:

      Then perhaps we shall just ride it just to spite those who oppose us.

      1. Avatar Trailuver says:

        And just the attitude that moved this once supporter to that of non support. So sick of watching trails poached and ruined for all. I vote FP (sans the fire lanes and Leif) and RVNA remain protected from more deforestation and destruction.

        1. Avatar davemess says:

          Except that just punishes the people who are following the rules and trying to go through the proper channels. The people who poach are still going to do it.

          To me the best option for all is to give them a place to ride so there is much less desire to poach trails (most trails in Portland are very enticing for riders, give them some trails that are and it’s likely they won’t waste their time with the “boring” stuff).

        2. Avatar xanthoptica says:

          The efforts of those of us at the meeting were not to legalize poaching trails…and remember, of course, that it was the City’s arbitrary closure that turned some determined riders into poachers. Closing trails isn’t going to do squat to solve the “illegal” problem.

    5. Avatar Mark smith says:

      Fear is the path to the dark side.

  2. Avatar rick says:

    public process

  3. Avatar davemess says:

    I know it is during the working hours, but it is really annoying that so much city business happens during the middle of the day when so many people cannot attend.
    I wonder if this is one reason so many older/retired people are politically active? Because they have the time.

    1. Avatar xanthoptica says:

      Yes, and the bias against cycling that comes with that age bias was pretty obvious in the public comment today…at least with the folks who showed up early and got their names on the top of the list.

  4. Avatar Matt says:

    All this fight for just 4 miles… I suppose if you loop it over and over it might feel like a trail.

    1. Avatar Granpa says:

      And here is the rub, it sounds like if you get 4 miles you are not happy with it. Would 8 miles be enough? 16? It is being sold as recreation for and training for kids, but serious riders scoff at a mere and insignificant 4 miles.

      1. Avatar davemess says:

        At this point most riders in Portland will take what they can get (or had).

    2. Avatar Alex says:

      Yes – because it was basically the last 4 miles of something close to a real mountain bike trail in Portland city limits. Also, I think if you look at the history of this piece specifically, you might understand the uproar a bit better. Hard to be a very active participant in a discussion and then be cut out right at the end and never told why. People get bitter.

  5. Avatar Zaphod says:

    Anyone who has gone on a real mountain bike ride know that it’s not the same thing as the fiction portrayed in the media. The closest equivalent is trail running in terms of speed and impact. Any environmentalist worth their salt would see that local opportunities for mountain biking will reduce car trips to other trail systems. Both Riverview and Forest Park could easily be made into a destination or at least a good local stash. Would it cause any impact that is worth mentioning? The trailhead parking is already overrrun and beyond capacity for Leif. The only thing I imagine is that the nearby businesses would thrive just a bit more as cyclists need to dine, drink coffee, buy bike things etc. It would be near 100% positive and hikers will continue to experience solitude and peace on the endless miles of trails set aside just for them. That said, most interactions between cyclists and hikers are friendly greetings and a mutual nod to the joy of being outside. There are exceptions that the naysayers are sure to point out but that’s a rare thing. The more stewards we have for these parks, the better everything will be. A lot more trail maintenance, invasive plant removal, etc. can be had with many hands.

  6. Avatar Charley says:

    Alright, this might ruffle some feathers here, but I think it can be a healthy debate.
    First, some bona fides: I’m a mountain biker and a NWTA member. I’ve ridden at Riverview, and, since I live nearby over the river, was really looking forward to enjoying both the new Sellwood Bridge and a new, improved trail system. I showed up to the community meeting months ago to chew out PP&R for shutting us out of the process (I was the guy in the suit asking “who will be the next generation of conservation voters?”), and wrote a letter to Commissioner Fish that earned me a “calm down” reply.

    Second, the angle: I’m reading both in NWTA communiques and on bikeportland that the big problem with this current plan is that since it’s not made with bikes in mind, it won’t be good enough if and when (fingers crossed) bikes are allowed back in; in that case, the plan cannot be approved because we’d presumably have to go in and alter things at a later date.

    Here’s the rub: the trail plan is identical to the original plan, the very original plan, which was, if you recall, submitted with bike access in mind. Go back and look at the original document from before Commissioner Fritz pulled the rug out. The only change is the removal of “mountain bike” from the list of uses. The trail alignment is identical, the mileage is identical, the design specs are identical. The only difference is that bikes are no longer welcome. This is the plan that the ecologists came up with for having the least impact on natural values while still providing great recreational values.

    This was the trail plan we were going to get access to. It’s not amazing. Not Duthie (love it), surely not Sandy Ridge (love it), and not even I-5 Colonnade Park (love it, too). It ain’t bad, though, and it’s a heck of a lot better than nothing. Had we been offered that improved system of flow trails, we’d have been fools not to take it (uphill and downhill both on all the trails, better rideability for new and younger riders, more sustainable design, proof-of-principal that we can fit in and belong in a healthy way, yadda, yadda, yadda). I like challenging trails, rock gardens, some drops, sure, but PP&R isn’t going to reproduce the Gunsight Ridge Trail for us in the West Hills. Their interest is in kids on bikes, people having a good time on sustainable trails, and so on. We could do a lot worse. I’m not privy to NWTA’s internal workings (I’m on two not-for-profit boards right now, and have two jobs, so I’m just too busy to make it into leadership and make meetings), so maybe there’s some jujitsu going on that I don’t know about. It could simply be that they would have advocated against the original plan, even if bikes were allowed. Could be, they’re taking a maximalist position now just to make a compromise more likely (like, asking for a true bike park in hopes that we’ll just get access to 4 miles of flow trails, period). If they think that works, then I wish them the best! I just. . . feel like the original plan was okay, and was a likely model for increasing access in other places like (ahem) Forest Park.

    I’m not able to come to the meeting tomorrow (I’ve got work), but if I could, I’d say this:
    This plan for the park is fine. Except one glaring, inexcusable error: Commissioners Fritz and Fish trashed an inclusive public process to remove cycling from the list of approved activities in the Park. There’s no scientific evidence against allowing bikes, and the community listening process clearly showed that there is very high public interest in allowing them. A unilateral decision by one commissioner or two, made at the eleventh hour, cannot be allowed to derail months of serious, careful ecological and community planning. At stake is the community involvement model itself: who would bother to volunteer to take part in any community planning if the outcome could be the subject of such whim? The plan, as it is now, cannot be approved. Only when the Commissioners respect the process, and, at the very least, allow the process to finish with all uses in mind, can this plan be approved. Any other outcome now is a rejection of both the science on the ground and the community planning process. Please don’t reject either. Vote no.

    1. Avatar Brian says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful post, Charley. I served on the PAC as the NWTA rep and here are my personal concerns regarding the Plan as is. #1-not having bikes allowed in the potentially adopted Mgmt Plan will make it more difficult to have them “amended in” later on. #2-if the trails are not originally built with cyclists in mind, they may not be done in a way that is best for multi-purpose use (again, making it more difficult to have bicycles added in to the plan), and they may not be built in a way that is interesting for bicycles (wood chips, uninteresting design, etc). I, too, am not expecting jumps/drops/rock gardens, but there are ways to keep trails interesting for cyclists without making them Sandy Ridge.
      Had I been given the option to vote for this plan, and it included bicycles, I am sure I would have voted in favor of it (assuming that the plan explicitly stated that design would include interesting features for bicycles, much like paving it wouldn’t be interesting for hikers/runners).
      Hope this helps clear things up a bit for you.

      1. Avatar Charley says:

        Yes, that does clear a few things up. I should restate that I would recommend a “No” vote, too.

        1. Avatar Brian says:

          Yep, I caught that. Just wanted to make sure there is some transparency with how I did/would vote as the rep.

    2. Avatar snowden says:

      Alright, this might ruffle some feathers here, but I think it can be a healthy debate. First, some bona fides: I’m a mountain bik…

      You’re correct that the lines on the map are the same, and that the end result might be OK for some of the riding population. The problem is that if this master plan is approved, it’s highly unlikely that bikes will ever be allowed on these trails. BES was successful in taking bikes off the table during the planning process. They threw out a variety of excuses (environmental concerns, an “abundance of caution” and the pending lawsuit), but make no mistake there is a deep bias against bikes within the upper echelon of the BES Watershed group. There was some serious backroom shenanigans that went on during this process.

      Furthermore, there was an agreement amongst the parties that bike use would continue to be allowed until the planning process was completed (and it was allowed AFTER the purchase by PP&R, Metro and BES). Parks and BES violated the spirit of that agreement (which wasn’t in writing), and put forth a totally bogus “public” process. NWTA’s opposition to the current plan is as much about that hijacked process, as it is the outcome.

      Once this plan is approved, BES will have succeeded in banning bikes from the site, and will certainly have the upper hand, even in the context of the Off-Road Master Plan. For Fish, Fritz and the other conspirators to suggest otherwise is laughable.

    3. Avatar xanthoptica says:

      Just to clarify what others have said, it’s much easier for the City to decline to later allow bikes in RVNA (that’s taking no action) than for it to add a prohibition of bikes after the Master Plan comes out. The way Fritz and Fish pulled biking out of the conversation sure would make you wonder if that’s been the plan all along. If so, we *have* to hold their feet to the fire at that future meeting.

  7. Avatar MTB rider says:

    1/2 page editorial in the Oregonian today (page A21) telling how horrible mountain bikes are for natural areas:

    1. Avatar xanthoptica says:

      Just to point out that that’s an *opinion* piece. When the big ‘O’ calls it opinion, you can say pretty much anything.

      1. Avatar MTB rider says:

        You are 100% correct. Most of their opinion pieces are highly biased.

        1. Avatar Dan A says:

          I’m more okay with a biased opinion than I am with non-facts parading around as facts.

  8. Avatar Twistyaction says:

    I bet Fritz or another commissioner doesn’t allow public comment today before the “vote”. I’ve watched it happen before. “Well, we’ve already had plenty of public input on this previously, so I think we’re ready to go ahead and vote without any public comment today.” I hope I’m wrong and the community involvement in the public process isn’t subverted yet again.

  9. Avatar xanthoptica says:

    One big point we should hit on in the future is the utter absurdity of the “evidence” used against cycling on official trails. Two speakers today used erosion on the unofficial trails that exist at RiverView now as evidence that bikes would erode offical, well-constructed trails. In the sciences we properly ridicule that kind of sloppy thinking. There is so much BS reasoning on the anti-bike side…we have to hammer that home.

  10. Avatar TrailLover says:

    It was a very interesting afternoon at City Hall. One of the biggest takeaways for the MTB community has to be that our city council, with a full audience in attendance, spent almost 3 hours talking largely about trails and off-road cycling. We are ON THE RADAR like we’ve never really been before. And perhaps more important, the whole tone of the discussion, certainly from the bike advocates but also from the mayor and the commissioners, really seems to have turned toward inclusion and legitimacy when it comes to bicycles on dirt. Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick in particular expressed clear concern about the tension and conflict that was created by the city’s mishandling (my word) of the trails element in the RVNA Master Plan. Lots of people (30?) spoke before the council.

    Alas, it wasn’t enough to delay adoption of the RVNA MP, which, in my opinion, might not have done cyclists any good anyway, and it wasn’t enough to get an amendment as strong as was warranted regarding the bungled trails element. Commissioner Novick, perhaps not fully understanding the subtleties of the trail planning process, did add an amendment saying that bicycles can and will be considered for inclusion at RVNA if the Off-Road Cycling Mater Plan (ORCMP) calls for it when it is completed hopefully in 2016. The big problem with that, of course, is that it did not put a complete hold on all trail planning or implementation at RVNA. However – and this is a big however – Emily Roth of PPR gave clear testimony that the trail alignments indicated on the RVNA MP maps were merely suggestions and that actual trail (or multiple trails) could possibly be planned and built anywhere in the 300-foot wide corridor bordering the entire parcel. That is very different than being forced to fit some potential, future, MTB-friendly experience onto the existing blue line alignments on the map that were drawn with no regard to cycling at all. It will become critical to refer back to that testimony if and when the ORCMP calls for some accommodation of bicycles at RVNA.

    What does seem firm is the Master Plan is to leave the entire interior (inside of 300 feet of the borders) of RVNA closed to all recreational access. While some may lament the loss of interior trail access, the fact that everybody (not just cyclists) is excluded is a big step forward for bicycle equity. Personally, I’m not equipped to argue with the assertion that the interior of the parcel must be preserved exclusively for habitat even if it seems easy to question how much benefit to the entire Willamette ecosystem can possibly be derived from an 87 acre conservation effort. It may be little more than symbolic, but symbols can be important.

    What I found to be most annoying and pernicious (and familiar) about some of the flagrantly anti-bicycle testimony that came from about half of the 30(?) or so audience speakers was the totally unsubstantiated drumbeat of insistence that bicycles are somehow inconsistent with the conservation goals of the RVNA easement and Master Plan. The mayor and commissioners didn’t seem to be very receptive to that kind of inflammatory hyperbole, which was very refreshing to witness. Still, it shows that the old guard of anti-bicycle rhetoric is still kicking, although they seemed to be represented almost entirely by relatively older, retirement-age folks who seem to have a great capacity for showing up at midday meetings like this. Proponents of sharing and modern trails management were relatively young and many did a great job of pushing back on the tired old fear mongering that is all too familiar from the anti-bicycle folks. It’s always painful to watch misinformed people rail against bicycles because the same people are often dedicated conservationists as well. How they can claim to be defending nature for nature’s sake and for future generations while slandering most of the relatively young people in the room is truly remarkable. Where the hell do they think the next generation of conservationists is going to come from?

    In the end, there were a lot of hard core anti-bicycle activists looking pleased (as they should) with the adoption of the RVNA MP but very anxious about all the bike-positive statements coming from council and the prospect that bicycles will very much be back on the table at RVNA if the ORCMP indicates it. I’m sure some folks will disagree with me, but, all in all, I think it was a fairly good outcome for the city, for conservation and even for off-road cycling. It’s still going to take a lot of patience, but today felt like continued progress and momentum toward the future that we all know will eventually come.

    1. Avatar shannon says:

      For those who could not attend, thanks much for this summation.

    2. Avatar Charley says:

      Wow. Great report. I am in 100% agreement about the future generations of conservationists. When “being outside” competes with high-tech video games and on-demand entertainment of any kind, certainly, there needs to be more than a single modality for attracting kids outside. Hiking is great (I hike more than I ride), but for some kids, it’s not as fun as riding a bike. We can’t leave them out in the cold, so to speak.

    3. Avatar spencer says:

      Thank you so much for the summary. I could not attend mid day. The entire public process has been a bummer. I’ve never seen city hall politics in action prior to the “we are not going to talk about bicycles” meeting. I’m holding out hope that a MTB trail will be allowed in riverview, but I’m definitely not holding my breath.

    4. Avatar Alex says:

      Thanks for this! I urge people who could not attend (I being one of them), to write the elected officials a warm email expressing your concerns.,,,,

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