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River View plan passage is a watershed moment for off-road cycling in Portland

Posted by on January 15th, 2016 at 2:56 pm


Parks Project Manager Emily Roth presenting
the plan at City Council yesterday.

In the past decade there have been a handful of key moments on Portland’s mountain biking timeline.

Yesterday’s city council meeting was one of the biggest.

The River View Natural Area Management Plan passed 4-0 (Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent) with an amendment that keeps open the possibility of bicycle access in the future. On paper, that’s far from what many off-road cycling advocates wanted. In repeated testimony at the hearing, they urged council to delay the plan’s passage until after the city completes its Off-road Cycling Master Plan.

Their concerns were that if it the plan gets adopted it would set in stone barriers to bike access: a limiting trail alignment and an “interim prohibited” status for cycling.

Thanks to the Northwest Trail Alliance, who reached out to Mayor Charlie Hales and other commissioners to make their case prior the meeting, both Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick arrived on Thursday sharing their concerns about moving the plan forward.

The plan was ultimately adopted; but along with it came perhaps the most consequential political progress mountain biking has made in Portland in the last 25 years. Since bikes were relegated to wide fire access roads in Forest Park back in the 1990s, mountain bike advocates have always been on the outside looking in. Now it seems that the Northwest Trail Alliance and their supporters have finally broken through the dirt ceiling.

“Off-road bicyclists in this room have our attention.”
— Commissioner Steve Novick

All four of the commissioners present yesterday, including Mayor Charlie Hales, sang a different version of praise for mountain biking. Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick were both genuinely disturbed by how cycling and its advocates were treated during the River View public process and they asked tough questions of the city staff who were in charge of it. Novick and Hales doggedly probed city staff to make sure there were clear, on-the-record statements that cycling deserves its fair place in all future discussions of access and trail design at River View.

Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz was first to support Novick’s amendment about re-opening the River View plan once the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is completed and Bureau of Environmental Services Commissioner Nick Fish repeatedly said mountain biking was a “legitimate” use of city land.

Most importantly, bike advocates got an unequivocal promise that if the Off-road Cycling Master Plan deems cycling suitable at River View, it will have the power to supersede the River View Management Plan.

The hearing started like many plan adoption hearings in Portland do. Commissioners and staff praised the process and tried to paint a picture of cooperation and kumbayah. Bureau of Environmental Services Director Michael Jordan said the plan was developed with a, “Thorough and very open process,” and that, “Everybody should be happy having worked on it together.” Jordan’s colleague at Portland Parks and Recreation Mike Abbaté added, “We should all be proud of the River View plan.”

“We helped remove invasives but we made no mention of bikes. It wasn’t about bikes, it was just the right thing to do for that space.”
— Erik Tonkin, owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair

“Should” is the key word here.

Mountain bike supporters were squirming in their seats. The truth is that this process has been very controversial and contentious.

City staff and Commissioners Fritz and Fish painted a picture of River View as an ecological wonder. They called it a “jewel” and described it as the most ecologically important piece of land in the region.

The truth is not everyone agrees with its ecological significance and prior to its purchase in 2011, River View was all but forgotten by the city for decades as it became overrun with invasive ivy, camping, parties, trash, and rampant illegal trail use.

After commissioners and city staff set the table, people who were involved with the project advisory committee where invited to testify. This is where things got interesting.

Nearby resident and committee member Chris Sautter testified that he didn’t support the plan in its current form. Sautter said he jumped at the chance to be involved with this project and had high hopes that cycling would finally be given a fair shake. “Then the meetings,” he said. “I was notified bikes would be excluded from plan. It was a shock to me… this wasn’t the direction the [committee] was headed.”

When it was time for public testimony, council heard mostly from people who supported bike access. As the testimony flowed in, the facade of cooperation and consensus the city had propped up came crumbling down.

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Noted conservationist Mike Houck of the Urban Greenspaces Institute said he could envision bikes in River View someday. So did Bob Sallinger from Portland Audubon. “We think it’s unfortunate we didn’t get to the biking issue,” he said. “Audubon believes biking would be appropriate here.” (Both Houck and Sallinger however, want to keep the current trail alignment which is only one loop trail with no access into the interior of the parcel.)


Andrew Jansky, NW Trail Alliance.

Sellwood Cycles owner Erik Tonkin said he’s concerned about how the plan “locks-in” a trail alignment that might not suit cycling later on. He also pointed out the irony of seeing a photo of himself in Parks’ presentation on the plan. “On Emily’s [Roth, Parks project manager] last slide saying ‘thank you’ is a photo of the very last work party at River View, a party co-sponsored by my bike shop and staffed by my staff. We helped remove invasives but we made no mention of bikes. It wasn’t about bikes, it was just the right thing to do for that space.”

Testifier Tristan Jones said Council shouldn’t support the plan because it was developed amid “a legacy of distrust” and that biking was, “systematically excluded from the public process.” “To exclude and silence one constituent group is unethical,” he added.

And then the NW Trail Alliance got their chance. The group’s Advocacy Chair Andrew Jansky opened with, “We’re living the same nightmare year after year.” He said this council had made good strides already and has the chance to be the first one in nearly three decades to shake off the “negative legacy” of mountain bike debates and “take a progressive look forward.”

Charlie Sponsel, the advisory committee member who led a rally at River View back in March, said it would be “totally illogical” to approve the plan until after Portland adopted a set of best practices for mountain biking (which is one of the goals of the Off-road Cycling Master Plan).

The last person to testify was perhaps the most powerful. Kathleen Walker spent 30 years with the National Forest Service and the last 23 she was a recreation manager for the Mt. Hood National Forest. She was unknown to many people in the room and I think she surprised everyone with her testimony. “I have 30 years of experience managing national forest lands,” she said. “And you can’t set this area aside like a book so nobody can touch. You need users to help you maintain it.” Walker urged council to not pass the plan and embrace biking access.


Kathleen Walker.

After the testimony there was no sign from Mayor Hales that he would expedite a vote. He was clearly not happy with what he’d heard. “It’s distressing we’ve gotten to this impasse,” he said.

At this point, Hales was casting about, looking for clarity and direction. He was leaning toward delaying the plan. He called parks staff back up to the table. “Where do we go from here Mike?” he asked Parks director Mike Abbaté?

“We know there’s huge demand,” Abbaté said. “It’s [biking is] a recreation need we’re not meeting.”

Hales was still trying to gain clarity on the trail alignment issue. He heard from bike experts and the public that concerns remained about the trail in the River View management plan. Hales wanted to know whether or not – and/or how much — that trail could be moved if cycling were to be accomodated in the future. Parks Project Manager Emily Roth said it’s just a concept plan and a general corridor, and that the trail could be moved 5-10 feet if necessary.

“If biking is allowed in River View,” Roth told Hales, “We’ll go back out to the community. We’ll have that conversation about what it will look like, how it will be managed…”

“So why not do that before completing this plan?” Hales countered.

“Because we were instructed to not have that conversation,” Roth said.

Hales then asked Commissioner Fritz a series of questions about where a bike trail could go. Still not satisfied, Commissioner Novick continued Hales’ probing questions. Then Commissioner Fish, perhaps sensing things were going south, jumped in.

“There are always competing values we have to reconcile,” Fish said. Then he assured Novick by adding, “Council has final say.”

Fish has an interesting place in this because of his past role in the Forest Park disaster (“I still have scars to prove it when we worked through a similar discussion in Forest Park that didn’t go as far as I’d hoped,” he said yesterday). Since then he’s lost the Parks portfolio to Fritz; but now he’s in charge of the Environmental Services Bureau which has thrust him into the bike access issue yet again.

“We need to accomodate this legitimate recreational use in a big city with big shoulders and lots of land. And we’ll do that.”
— Charlie Hales, Mayor of Portland

On Thursday Fish tried to walk a fine line between support for off-road cycling in general and his legal duties to minimize recreation access in River View specifically.

“The question is,” Fish said as he tried to re-orient the bike access conversation Novick was having. “How can we harmonize a perfectly legitimate claim for access? The question isn’t whether we’re pro or con, that’s an ideological construct that I reject… I would maintain, particularly as someone careful of how we use ratepayer dollars; that when harmonizing any use in a sensitive natural area, those lines have to be carefully drawn.”

Again Hales questioned Parks project manager Roth: “So, there could be additional sections of trail added later?” he asked. “It could be considered,” Roth replied, “As long as the natural resource goals are maintained.”

Hales then reminded Parks Director Abbaté that Portland is supposed to “have big shoulders” when it comes to accomodating users. “We accomodate a bewildering variety of recreational uses,” he said. “I trust that you… meet all those different needs?”

“I do,” Abbaté said.

At this point, Novick was still on the fence. So much so that he looked for support from Hales. “I’m very concerned about voting today. Mayor, where do you stand?”

“I was originally interested in delaying the plan,” Hales replied, “But given this discussion and your amendment I can vote today… if you’re willing to proeced to a vote.”

“With considerable hesitation,” Novick answered. “Yes.”

When it came time to vote, Novick voted to support the plan even though he remains troubled by what he heard about the process to develop it. “And you have my assurances,” he told the crowd (about 50 of whom were cycling supporters), “My amendment is not window dressing. Off-road bicyclists in this room have our attention. I enourage your continued advocacy.”

Then Hales expressed heartfelt regret for how cycling advocates were treated in the process. “I’m really sorry that there’s some mistrust in this room,” he said. “And I’m sorry that there’s been either a real or perceived exclusion of legitimate interests at the table… You’re right. We need to accomodate this legitimate recreational use in a big city with big shoulders and lots of land. And we’ll do that.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • spencer January 15, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Well done NWTA, keep the pressure on the Council. Thank you for getting that amendment on the plan. Its our only hope.

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  • MNBikeLuv January 15, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    After watching all of this and going back and re-listening to parts, was Parks Project Manager Emily Roth coming off as very anti-bike or am I just projecting. She seemed visibly uncomfortable every time the question came (and it came up several times), “Could we go back and alter the alignment?” Also, she was talking of alteration distances of 5′ or 10′. As a trail designer, my final trail corridor is 50′ wide. 5′ or 10′ one way or another gets me around a tree.

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    • davemess January 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      I would be too if I had to defend Park’s Dept actions in all this. It’s been a complete debacle.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      It’s complicated.

      Keep in mind that Roth is just a staffer.. She is operating under the constraints of her boss (Abbate) and his bosses (Hales and Fritz).

      In general though, I remain concerned that Roth (and Parks in general) does not fully “get” cycling. That’s based on several examples over the years. You’ll recall that Hales took management of the NP Greenway away from Roth and Parks after they recommended putting the path alignment up on Interstate Ave. And Abbate made some comments at this hearing yesterday that exposed his perception of people who want to ride on singletrack as being competitive and high performance-type riders. That’s very unfortunate but it speaks to the deeper issue of Parks not being very understanding of off-road cycling in general. The Forest Park debacle happened under Roth’s management too BTW… And there’s a reason why Hales took the Off-road Cycling Master Plan out of Parks’ hands and gave it to the Bureau of Planning.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. January 15, 2016 at 4:03 pm

        Parks definitely does not “get” cycling. After all, this is the bureau that places signs in their bike trails urging “fast bikes” to ride somewhere else.

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      • wsbob January 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm

        “…And Abbate made some comments at this hearing yesterday that exposed his perception of people who want to ride on singletrack as being competitive and high performance-type riders. …”

        Some mountain bikers, off-road bikers, however you wish to refer to them… people that want to ride singletrack, are…competitive and high performance-type riders. Which doesn’t necessarily mean racers, but rather, people that simply would like to ride aggressively. They’ll want the city to serve them too, and there will be people that expect the city to respond to their request for the type of off road biking they would like to do; As compared to the type of mountain biking that is just rolling along at a slow speed, looking at the birds and the trees, smelling the fresh air. How many people are there of each type of mountain biking? Let’s hear ideas on that.

        Maus doesn’t like posting my comments when I write that mountain biking is ‘Vehicular Recreation’, but the term is a neutral one. The term strikes to the reasons that people have been hesitant to support the use of natural park land in the city for mountain biking.

        Engineering through trail building and infrastructure techniques can address and effectively resolve any potential environmental damage that mountain biking might pose to the ground or water the trail crosses. Trail engineering doesn’t change the fact that bikes are vehicles. Or change the feeling many city residents may have, that proposals to use very much natural park land within the city for mountain biking, isn’t something they can support.

        That leaves the question of…

        …despite knowing that likely many people wishing to ride a bike off road, within city limits on a dirt trail, slow and easy…

        …whether the people that have to decide, think that use of city natural park lands for this type recreation, is how Portland residents want their natural park lands used.

        If city leaders can feel confident that city residents do feel find, or want their natural park lands used for mountain biking…that’s a green light to likely first, go ahead with opening Riverview for mountain biking. If that goes well, it could help make way for more opportunities.

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        • Alex January 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm

          I am going to say yes, this is the way a pretty significant chunk of the population wants to use the park this way. I am gauging that on the 300+ person protest. When was the last time PPR had over 300 people protesting a decision they made?

          > ‘Vehicular Recreation’

          This isn’t neutral at all and it is a term rife with ambiguity. Kayaks are vehicles and allowed in wilderness areas, horses are vehicles and are allowed in wilderness areas, but bikes are not. Are you arguing for allowing bicycles in wilderness areas? I hope so! But I kind of doubt it. You use it as a negative term, not neutral at all. Also, not all vehicles are the same nor do they have the same impacts. A motorized vehicle is very different than a non-motorized vehicle and should be treated as such. I would think you also draw some artificial distinctions kayaks and bikes or horses and bikes as well – we know the law does! Your term vehicular recreation, when used by you, is hardly neutral; it only conveys your argument that you don’t want bikes (not all vehicles) in FP or wherever we are talking about. Just say mountain bikes, it’s what you really mean.

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          • davemess January 17, 2016 at 7:15 am

            One could make a strong argument that strollers should be considered “vehicular recreation”.

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    • MaxD January 15, 2016 at 3:52 pm

      I think that is a fair assessment of Emily Roth. I followed the public processes for powell Butte and the North Portland Greenway closely. Both were led by Roth and she demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of bikes and bike riders throughout each project.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2016 at 4:10 pm

        not sure I’d say it’s a “profound misunderstanding” of off-road cycling. I think it’s more likely that Roth and others at Parks (and especially BES) don’t get it because they don’t do it themselves and/or they are of the ilk who remain convinced it’s inherently incompatible with conservation. That’s the big thing here: We as a city still need to get beyond that bullshit dichotomy that promoting cycling = degrading the environment.

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        • MaxD January 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm

          Jonathan, perhaps profound misunderstanding is not exactly correct, but I am confident Emily Roth has some large gaps in understanding of all people who ride bikes, on and off road. On the Powell Butte Project she proposed eliminating access to bikes entirely. On NP Greenway she repeatedly pushed solutions that only worked as minor (questionable) improvements to existing bike lanes. She seemed unwilling and unable to consider a bike rider that was a child, or was seeking a comfortable, relaxing experience, or cared about being in a natural environment, or preferred a quiet beautiful route, etc.

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          • Frank January 15, 2016 at 11:40 pm

            Emily Roth has a longstanding relationship with Mike Houck and Audubon. She is a birder who has enjoyed trips with them. She was always civil and professional during the FP debacle but, based on actions she affected, I believe she feels bikes are different and worse than pedestrians like her, and is against bikes in natural areas. And that’s a deep culture at Parks, reinforced by close, longstanding relationships with Audubon and FP Conservancy. Emily and Parks are more aligned with NIMBY neighbors, since they share the “Green Mafia’s” preference for fewer users of natural park land. But they may ultimately give an inch under genuine and sustained public and council pressure. Great job communicating at the meeting, and here.

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            • TheRealisticOne January 19, 2016 at 9:04 pm

              Frank, I agree…Houck is not to be trusted. Frankly, Fish, Abate, Roth and some of the other characters can’t be trusted either. I respect that they have their “opinions”, but they’re not paying attention to the studies. I attended the meeting and Fish wasted so much time babbling like a politician that it seemed clear to me that he doesn’t really understand cycling. Fortunately, he admitted to his failure regarding FP.

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        • davemess January 15, 2016 at 9:08 pm

          But isn’t it their job to understand it?

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          • TheRealisticOne January 21, 2016 at 11:59 am

            Dave…Yes! it is their job to understand, they have access to the necessary information. I believe they have chosen to align themselves with those powerful “quiet” voices of their political supporters.

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    • xanthoptica January 16, 2016 at 11:45 am

      This exchange seems pretty germane:

      “If biking is allowed in River View,” Roth told Hales, “We’ll go back out to the community. We’ll have that conversation about what it will look like, how it will be managed…”

      “So why not do that before completing this plan?” Hales countered.

      “Because we were instructed to not have that conversation,” Roth said.

      I’m not sure how much Roth liked that or not, but the decision not to discuss biking was apparently made at a higher level [read: Amanda Fritz].

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  • christopher January 15, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I watched the video of the meeting last night. It was painful to watch. The process seems so broken. Get in some runs at River View before it’s too late.

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  • Jocelyn Gaudi January 15, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Very proud of the NWTA leaders and membership, Charlie, Erik and community activists that continue to push for off-road cycling access. Thank you!

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  • Rita January 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    With this city government, I will believe mountain bikes are allowed at the table when I see it. “Some distrust” doesn’t cover it.

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    • VTRC January 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      It’s vaguely like watching set up a football again.

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      • VTRC January 15, 2016 at 9:21 pm

        Like watching LUCY set up the football again…

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  • paikiala January 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    ‘watershed moment’ implies an important change.
    It sounds like from the story they approved the plan and kicked the can down the road on making a true decision.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 15, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      I thought a lot about using that term paikiala and I think it’s accurate. Important change doesn’t always have to be a tangible, physical project. I am usually one to say “words mean nothing, show me the money (or the project)”… but in this case, I truly think these words mean something. Getting all four commissioners on record saying very supportive things about off-road cycling is a huge political breakthrough. And if you listened to the hearing, the way Novick and Hales spoke you could tell they are serious and it’s more than just words to them.

      NWTA’s advocacy approach in the past few years has paid off. They played the long game and it seems to be working. But yes, lots of work to do. not out of the woods yet.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. January 15, 2016 at 4:33 pm

        out of the woods

        You’re just full of puns today. 😉

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        • davemess January 15, 2016 at 9:10 pm

          But Adam we want to ride IN the woods.

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      • flightlessbird January 15, 2016 at 11:52 pm

        Yeah, Hales seemed genuinely hurt by the “mistrust” in the process. And Novick looked concerned and confused though out the meeting. Hales got Roth to go from saying 5ft-10ft changes to the proposed trails to the possibility of adding new trail within the 300ft boarders..on record. Even Fritz had to force out some nice sounds about MTBers, though it looked like it almost killed her. I think your right in your assessment Jonathan.

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  • EricIvy January 15, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I was so frustrated by Abbate’s use of “competitive” and “performance” riding, then he talked about how we have Leif Erickson as if to say, “what else do you want?” Sooooo doesn’t get it.

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  • Charley January 15, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    I had a perfectly nice chat with Abbate after the meeting I attended. I think he’s more like a politician than your average bureaucrat. He uses words to make you think he’s on *your* side, until he needs to make someone else feel like he’s on *their* side. Who knows what he really believes!

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  • Jim Lee January 15, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    As a 40 year observer of Council proceedings I must rank this one as the most effective for organized concerned citizen activism.

    You have won one battle, but the war is not over.

    Here is a thought, consonant with my preferred mode of cycling: limit Riverview access to fixies.

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  • Charley January 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    I’m *cautiously* optmistic that Novick’s amendment could prove decisive. It’s possible that a strong recommendation by the new MTB Master Plan Committee might sway the Council to allow access. They may need to do it in such a roundabout way because they need to save face. (Can’t just turn around on a dime, or it would make them look weak; though that’s exactly what they do when parking or street fees are the question).

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  • rick January 15, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Mountain biking is transportation.

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    • 9watts January 15, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Well I have ridden on mountain bikes for transportation for close to thirty years, but I’ve been told in comments right here that that isn’t mountain biking.

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      • Alex January 15, 2016 at 9:21 pm

        You are right, that isn’t mountain biking. Just because you are riding a mountain bike doesn’t mean you are mountain biking. Just like if you are riding whistler on a cyclocross bike, you aren’t riding cyclocrossing. (please google it if you are missing the reference). Or riding trials on a road bike isn’t road biking. (google martyn ashton for reference). The type of bike you are using doesn’t dictate the type of riding you are doing, it is the context of which you are doing it.

        That being said, riding a mountain bike on single track as a way to get to work is transportation and it is fun. I never have to worry about cars, the users are really nice, I have never had a bad encounter with another user while mountain biking and I get to enjoy nature as I see fit (not the way Mike Houck tell me to enjoy it, with a pair of binoculars and a journal) (if you are missing that reference, check the 2006 comments Houck has posted on bikeportland).

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      • rick January 15, 2016 at 9:45 pm

        That area of SW Portland doesn’t have many safe streets. Therefore, a bike path in that park is needed.

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        • axoplasm January 16, 2016 at 9:15 am

          It would provide an alternative to the (privately owned) cemetery route which is (almost) the only route from the Sellwood to Lewis and Clark

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    • GlowBoy January 17, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      Walking is transportation too.

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  • Brian January 15, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    In addition to everyone already mentioned, Mr. Maus and bikeportland deserve a big round of applause. Your thorough, continued coverage has helped to shine a light on the off-road cycling situation in Portland. There is no doubt that it has had a big impact on the progress being made. Cheers, Jonathan! Thank you.

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    • Alex January 15, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      While I have been critical of some coverage and comment moderation (and I will probably continue to be), Jonathan, you do a wonderful job reporting and moderating this blog. I will make a contribution soon.

      Thank you.

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    • Charlie Sponsel January 15, 2016 at 9:35 pm

      Huge applause for Maus, for Andy, Tom, Kelsey, and the others at NWTA, for Erik Tonkin, and all the others who’ve fought the long, slow, hard fight to get here. Hats off to you all for your tireless dedication in the same direction.

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  • Michele Chalmers January 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    It DOES degrade it. Some bikers are an arrogant lot who can’t see the forest for the trees. Many people either don’t want to, or CAN’T bike. Why does this entire conversation have to be from YOUR perspective? This kind of thinking is what bothers me about Portland. You paint your argument in PC semantics and dare anyone to disagree. If you faced the facts, you’d be forced to see how damaging to the environment it really is. But you won’t: ” A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”

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    • rick January 15, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      As if the highway 43 culverts for the creeks help the environment habitat?

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    • flightlessbird January 15, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      That’s a pretty close minded perspective…one could argue YOU hear what you want to hear and disregard the rest…I think we all do a little of that. I know I spend a whole lot of time just looking and breathing in the forest on my rides. But I am not sure you’ll take my word for it.

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    • Frank January 15, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      The research shows the contrary … oh never mind, many anti-bikers are so well characterized by your last quote that mere research results never convinces them.

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      • Frank January 16, 2016 at 12:07 am

        I recall a guy ranting at me. I asked “Imagine that I showed you evidence that proved, to YOUR satisfaction, that bikes are as harmless as other users. Then would you support us?” He would not. It’s not the real reason for their objections, but it plays well.

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      • axoplasm January 16, 2016 at 9:12 am

        I notice Michele uses not a single shred of evidence. She states her conclusion as her premise and then calls MTB advocates names and accuses them of being closed minded.

        make of this what you will.

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    • spencer January 16, 2016 at 10:05 am

      Portlanders have caused massive destruction to the lower Willamette valley and Tualatin Mountains. The irony of driving 50 miles at 24 MPG (at 1 lb of carbon per mile) to appreciate nature is not lost on me or other fellow nature lovers. Environmental change occurs from people, walkers, bikes, trail runners, dogs, strollers, horses, birders, logging, road building, rampant house building with huge driveway pads, power line cuts, tractors, stairs, improper road building practices, cattle ranching etc, etc, etc, etc. We all agree that we do not want houses/ roads/ logging/ etc in these spaces, and we all agree that we want to appreciate nature, promote nature, and walk/ride on trails. We can get along and have our moments in the woods together. What we cannot agree to is creating a pseudo private nature preserve for the neighbors on Palatine hill Rd. If you wanted a private reserve buy one outright. Don’t do it by excluding the majority of users from this publicly owned space. Users, I might add, that provided countless hours of trash cleanup, invasive species control, and erosion mitigation, to the property. We all have a stake here, and we all want to preserve and utilize the space so that we appreciate nature. This is what will harbor a love for nature for future generations, and this is what will ultimately preserve this amazing slice of wild.

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    • xanthoptica January 16, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Michele, if insisting that decisions be made on evidence (which shows that biking and hiking have *very* similar degrees of trail wear) and the experience of trailbuilders (who know first hand that trail design and drainage are way more important than user type) is arrogance…well, color me arrogant.

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    • Charley January 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Show me the EVIDENCE! Show me the differential (one human on a bike vs one human on their feet) in a published study. If it’s so “bad for the environment” then certainly some enterprising grad student has proven it. Shouldn’t that be easy to prove, given the terrible, terrible harm riding is supposed to cause? I’m still waiting for that study!

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      • OnTheRoad January 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

        This study https://www.uvm.edu/~snrvtdc/trails/ComparingHikingMtnBikingHorseRidingImpacts.pdf
        suggests there needs to be more study of the bicycle component.

        But just because there are not published studies that assert the point of view you espouse, does not mean that such studies would reach the same conclusion once they are done.

        You are saying there are no studies saying there is damage to trails, so THERE IS no damage. Can you see the fallacy in your argument?

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        • Alex January 19, 2016 at 7:31 am

          There are studies that show that mountain biking and hiking cause about the same damage.

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        • Charley January 19, 2016 at 11:20 am

          “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” -Christopher Hitchens. In other words, you’re claiming “mountain bikes cause more damage than hikers” without showing me any proof (except you’ve referenced one meta-study that doesn’t even claim to show a differential); I can dismiss your baseless assertion without having to reference a study. That said, there’s a large body of published (!) evidence that shows no differential: https://www.imba.com/resources/research/trail-science/natural-resource-impacts-mountain-biking

          Go on, show me your evidence!!!

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  • mran1984 January 15, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    I am so thankful that I own a car that takes me to Singletrack anytime I want. Now if I could just ride from home without being so disobedient… Life is too short for this. Time to ride. Hey Michele! I have, and will, see more real trees than you ever will. Don’t be so ARROGANT and move away from Portland. Don’t speak of forest for the trees while clutching your smart phone either.

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  • Frank January 15, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Parks legitimacy as a rule-maker in the public interest has yet to be re-established in my mind – For now they appear to remain a regulator that has been largely captured by limited interests. It will be up to Hales, Novick, and Saltzman to change that.

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  • longgone January 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    It ain’t even close to being over…..
    Following this has become super depressing. I appreciate the efforts of the intelligent people who have time in their lives to fight for something that in most places would not be an issue.
    I would love to be able to take my 11 year old to ride this space.
    The world is a sh*t storm of environmental dysfunction. Entrenched idealogs are making me wanna stab my head with an ice pick!
    Pick a bigger battle.
    This space we wish to ride bicycles in is far from being an “jewel of nature”. I’m surprised it was never developed. Let’s enjoy it together for what it is.

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  • GlowBoy January 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Opposition to mountain biking is just territorial pissing, plain and simple. There is no environmental argument against it that stands up to scrutiny.

    And “vehicular” is not a neutral adjective in this context, bob.

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  • Matt January 18, 2016 at 8:28 am

    I rode up in Forest Park yesterday, did Lief Ericson to Saltzman, then firelane 5. I guess you can say firelane 5 is a mountain bike like trail. I don’t know how it was built or even if it’s maintained. So the whole engineering of a trail to drain properly may not apply here, fair enough. But, and maybe, I shouldn’t have been on the trail because of how wet and muddy it was (but isn’t that why we want more access so that we can ride more–year around w/o having to drive). Anyways, the trail is destroyed and barely able to be ridden. The trail probably should be closed for a couple months until the heavy rain subsides.

    I believe this is what people are afraid of. If we build in RV, are people going to follow trail closures for the season? Or, do we accept these type of trail conditions (erosion, ruts, and mud bogs because of heavy use) as just a product of available trail use year around. I did feel pretty proud of myself– being out in the rain, riding through the mud, getting all dirty, and making it home at dusk. I believe there’s a strong constituent of mountain bikers willing to ride in all weather and endure crappy trail conditions, because it makes for a more exciting ride, but it’s terrible for trail systems.

    Seeing firelane 5 the way it was makes me cautious about building trails in sensitive areas.

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    • spencer January 18, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Fire lane 5 was destroyed by PPR running a cat over it to do road maintenance. It is indicative of poor Parks maintenance practices, not user destruction. Take a look at the Wildwood to see poor trail maintenance practices. Its a mudbog and is only accessible to people on foot.

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    • Brian January 18, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      I have ridden FL 5 recently and had no problem riding it, though it hadn’t rained as much as it has recently. As fas I know, there has been zero maintenance on that trail in years, and considering that it is the only piece of singletrack open to cyclists and gets ridden a tremendous amount, it is doing quite well. We have been waiting to do the “improvements” above Wildwood to take place before doing any work below Wildwood. The section below Wildwood could be taken care of in a few hours with a small work crew.

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      • Matt January 19, 2016 at 9:23 am

        It needs some serious work following the heavy rains. The trail is widening, there’s ruts, really just a sloppy mess–not really that enjoyable to ride other than feeling good about just getting down.

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        • Brian January 19, 2016 at 10:43 am

          No one is currently a Trail Steward for FP to take the lead on this. So, it would take someone from the community to organize a work party on that trail. If you are interested you could contact NWTA to see about how to proceed.

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        • Alex January 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm

          Agreed, that trail has never been good and it has just gotten worse since it hasn’t been maintained in years (that I am aware of). I would not use that as standard to measure trails against.

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          • Matt January 19, 2016 at 1:29 pm

            Don’t you think this is kind of odd, the only single track in all of Portland and the mountain bike community can’t even maintain this? Sure, it’s only about a mile, but RV is only going to be four…

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            • Alex January 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm

              Not really. It is hardly worth maintaining. It is really short (I mean _really_ short), It isn’t fun to ride, it wasn’t planned well, the group that did is no longer together (PUMP) and the politics behind it was more like we were getting thrown a really insignificant bone that no one in the community really cared about. I would say that if you added up all those characteristics you are going to end up with a trail that isn’t maintained, nor will it be. Even if it was the most maintained trail in the whole park, there just isn’t enough of it to make it worth bringing the tools out to fix it.

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              • Matt January 19, 2016 at 3:52 pm

                So do you think four miles is enough to unite an entire community? We had the protests with 300 strong, but that doesn’t take any work, you just show up…

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              • Alex January 19, 2016 at 8:05 pm

                Sorry – I read your question a bit more carefully and want to answer it specifically as I think I answered a different question: 4 miles did unite a large group to protest. What do you want to unite the whole community for? 4 miles is great, but to expect the _whole_ community rally around it might be a bit much. The problem is that the community is spread out throughout Portland and localized, just like the NIMBY opponents (you don’t see too many of them protest against things on the other side of town). How many of those same people against RVNA showed up to the Metro meetings or the Forest Park meeting? That would be an interesting number to know.

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              • Alex January 19, 2016 at 6:28 pm

                No, 4 miles isn’t enough – especially when you consider that Portland has one of the highest parkland to person ratio in the country (I believe number 5 or so). 4 miles makes it enough to warrant work on it and make it fun to ride. The 1/5 mile of FL 5 that is single track is not long enough, nor fun enough to make it worthwhile to go to – sure, sometimes I ride it on my cyclo-cross bike, but I can’t remember the last time I took an actual mountain bike down it. Mountain biking is often the second highest user group of trails, following hikers, and 4 miles doesn’t even begin to put a dent into a fair proportion of trails available to hikers a lone in the metro area, or skate parks for skaters, or frisbee golf courses to frisbee golfers, or equestrian trails to equestrians.

                If we have a Mountain Bike Master Plan and the whole plan is regarding 4 miles of trail, my disappointment in the city and the process would sink a few more layers.

                “Just showing up”? ha. People have to take time out of their days to do this and to get 300+ people on very short notice is a pretty good turnout even if it is “just showing up”. I ask again, when was the last time 300+ people “just showed up” to protest a decision made by PPR? When was the last time the Audubon Society of Portland had 300 people “just show up” to protest a decision made by someone?

                Regardless, mountain bikers are one of the most responsible and active user groups a trail could hope to have. I suggest you go out to some mountain bike trail volunteer days and see how many people show up – or even just talk to people volunteering at Forest Park, they are often mountain bikers. The last page of the RVNA report has a picture of Eric Tonkin (the owner of Sellwood Cycles) and his employees volunteering on the RVNA land.

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            • davemess January 19, 2016 at 5:46 pm

              Were you in Portland 5 years ago when the city basically gave the middle finger to cyclists in FP? I’m going to guess that is why there is very low motivation to do much on that scant little trail.

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            • snowden January 20, 2016 at 8:22 am

              Don’t you think this is kind of odd, the only single track in all of Portland and the mountain bike community can’t even maintain…

              Matt, you should ask Parks about that. NWTA had a formal trail maintenance agreement and it was yanked for no specific reason during the whole Forest Park singletrack committee debacle. There is some serious mistrust on the part of NWTA and rightfully so. Hopefully some of that can be regained during the master plan process.

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  • Matt January 18, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Everyone talks about the research, where is it? Where are the links, the journal articles, the documentation. Just by saying trail building is backed by research wont persuade the intellectual debater on this issue. You must provide the evidence and that’s because trail building in sensitive areas is on the defensive. I’m all about extending access for mountain biking, but the comments section drives me a little batty when there’s debate about proper trail building methods. A conservationists cites, “ecological harm when trails are built” and a mtber says, “research says that it can be done in a way that mitigates the damage.” Let’s see the literature.

    Bikeportland could do some service and have a documents page fore references and ect.. Maybe you already do and I just don’t see it.

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    • spencer January 18, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      Inform yourself. You are more than welcome to perform a literary review. There are many references on the IMBA site. You may determine for yourself what the impacts are. Given that many of the articles cited are from peer reviewed journals, the IMBA site is presenting a literary review. If you disagree with their viewpoint, review the references and decide for yourself. There is some fascinating (and well substantiated) information that is contrary to the arguments used by the Audubon/PPR/BES crowd.


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      • Matt January 19, 2016 at 9:21 am

        I’m not the one needing to be informed, I understand the benefits of proper trail building and the service the mountain bike community can be to the forest. It’s the people that do not that need easy access to the information. We all kind of preach of the choir for the most part on this bike news blog.

        I just thought it’d be nice for the patron out there that is like: “hmm, I wonder where I can go for resources regarding mountain biking and trail building. Maybe I’ll go to bikeportland.org and see if they have a section.” You have to sift through a lot of information to get to the supportive research.

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        • spencer January 19, 2016 at 9:32 am

          The issue isn’t ‘not being’ informed. The issue in this debate among the players in Portland nature politics is being either woefully uninformed as you allude to, or more dangerously, ‘intentionally misinformed.”

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    • davemess January 19, 2016 at 5:43 pm

      Matt, before you posted this comment, I posted a link above with “the research”.
      It took me about 10 seconds to google and find some of those links. Every time I see a comment section on Portland mountain biking people have almost always posted these studies. I have yet to see anyone try to debate them.
      People just don’t want to believe or hear it.

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  • LRA September 24, 2016 at 12:32 am

    RVNA isn’t a park. It is owned/managed by the BES. The explicit goal of purchasing the land was to preserve the streams that deliver cooler waters to the river. Recreation is not part of the picture. Just because it is a natural area, it don’t make it a park. It doesn’t mean that it is there for everyone to use for all of their personal interests. I’m sure some would like to ride horses, do extreme sports, shoot arrows, play football, shoot paintball etc… in this area, but there are places for those things and this isn’t one. Please go mountain bike on the many other trails in the region and let nature have this on.

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    • Brian September 24, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      According to the Conservation Easement, recreation is listed as one of the four General Purposes for River View. Mountain biking will not have a negative effect on delivering cool water to streams. No one is asking to use the space for horses, extreme sports, etc. Football? That’s a new one.

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  • Fred Ihle October 31, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    Here we are almost two years later — where is the city on the RVNA plan, are we just waiting for culmination of the Offroad Cycling Master Plan? Or did the goalposts move yet again? Hopefully Gateway Green is not as good as it will ever get for trial riding in Portland. I ask sincerely as I’ve lost track of what to expect amidst all the stops/starts in the RVNA bike access debacle.

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    • Dan A November 1, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      We’re waiting for Fritz to leave, or lose Parks. Until then, good luck.

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