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With Forest Park on the table, Portland’s off-road cycling debate is heating up

Posted by on August 25th, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Forest Park-4

A common sight in Forest Park.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Here we go again.

After seven months of advisory committee meetings, tonight the City of Portland will unveil a first draft of a list of potential sites to build new off-road cycling facilities. And like we’ve seen several times in the past, now that the moment of truth is drawing closer, people who want to prevent any improvement in bike access in local parks and natural areas are digging in for a fight.

This time the action is swirling around the city’s Off Road Cycling Master Plan process, a $350,000 effort to once-and-for-all create a comprehensive strategy to address the growing demand for places where Portlanders can ride a bicycle on dirt trails that doesn’t require a drive to Hood River, Sandy, or the Coast Range. The plan doesn’t draw any lines on the map, nor does it mandate the construction of any new trails. Its goal is to create a citywide inventory of where off-road cycling could work and what type of facility could be built at each site (it’s looking at all forms of dirt riding, from singletrack to skills parks and “pump tracks”). Part of that inventory is likely to include Forest Park, a location steeped in emotion and controversy on boths sides of this debate.

And since this is Portland and the city is talking about riding bicycles on dirt trails in Forest Park, a group of people who are vehemently resistant to any changes to the status quo have emerged to try and stop any forward movement.

A group calling itself “Friends of Forest Park” has been sending around emails (PDF) and has launched a petition to gather support for their cause. They say “Forest Park is facing the greatest threat in its history,” because the city plans to allow bicycling on existing trails like Wildwood. That’s not true at all, but it hasn’t stopped the group from spreading the same fear-mongering statistics and propaganda they’ve spread for many years. The group is spearheaded by Marcy Houle, the same woman who helped persuade the city to punt on the issue at the end of a lengthy public process seven years ago.


Houle and her groups’ tactics have had some impact already. 536 people have signed their petition since it was launced one month ago and “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed shared it with her 101,000 Twitter followers. For what it’s worth, a petition calling for more bicycle trail access in Portland got 1,500 signatures in just 36 hours.

The local media has helped the Friends group too. KGW-TV ran an unbalanced story a few weeks ago and the NW Examiner, a neighborhood paper whose publisher is infamously sour on biking, ran yet another one-sided story on the issue.

For their part, bicycling advocates have been working within the public process by participating in the advisory committee meetings. They’re taking a similar tact that they used to great success in a Metro planning process for a parcel of land just north of Forest Park: Make the very strong case for responsible off-road cycling, work in partnership with government to help answer the demand for more of it in the Portland area, and then do everything possible to support the often difficult process of making it a reality.

After much deliberation and even protests by anti-biking groups, Metro council recently sided with bike advocates on this issue. The City of Portland now must decide if it will do the same.

Portland needs a roadmap for off-road cycling. If we get it right we can usher in an exciting new era of stewardship and conservation in our local parks and natural areas while providing a new, healthy, outdoor activity for thousands of people. If we succumb to the status quo based on the non-factual and hyperbolic arguments of some residents who are unwilling to share our public spaces, than we will have missed a valuable opportunity to become a better city.

The Off Road Cycling Master Plan advisory committee meets tonight (8/25) from 4:00 to 7:00 pm at 1900 SW 4th Avenue (7th Floor). Here’s the agenda (PDF).

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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  • Chris Chen August 25, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    Ugh, Claussen.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. August 25, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    So all the people living nearby that claim that bicycles destroy nature will give up their cars, yes?

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    • B. Carfree August 25, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      They could just say “you first” to the off-road riding community and they’d never have to give up their own cars.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. August 25, 2016 at 3:43 pm

        I mean, how are people supposed to get to the trails if we don’t tear down a few trees to build parking lots?

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        • RMHampel August 25, 2016 at 5:04 pm

          Where are the cyclists using Forest Park going to park their automobiles? Because you know, the majority will tote their mountain bikes on their cars and trucks? Don’t be shocked when off-road cycling advocates propose parking lots at or near Forest Park trail heads.

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          • Brian August 25, 2016 at 5:12 pm

            Nope. Those who do drive have no problem parking a mile or more away if needed, unlike other user groups.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. August 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

            Hey, we gotta destroy a little nature to enjoy nature, amirite?

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          • Alex August 25, 2016 at 9:01 pm

            This comment is ridiculous. The majority of cyclists do not park and ride at FP. The majority ride there and would continue to do so – that is the best part about having opportunities so close. The majority of mountain bikers are also commuters – and most of them are the commuters you seeing riding around 12 months out of the year.


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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. August 26, 2016 at 9:42 am

              Yeah, isn’t this the whole point of wanting MTB opportunities in town? No need to drive to the trailheads.

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          • RF August 27, 2016 at 8:35 pm

            Totally wrong. The point is to be able to ride to your ride. It’s people on foot who are parking at Forest Park.

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          • Mark Smith August 27, 2016 at 9:29 pm

            It’s about time the sky falls. Finally!

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        • I wear many hats August 26, 2016 at 9:38 am

          I ride to where I ride. Hate to drive. There’s so much here in town that is good riding, just not “legal”. There is no need to cut any trees. After being yelled at by bike haters during public testimony last night I’m amazed that there is still a prohibition in effect. The Friends of Forest Park behave like Trump supporters. The city must not cave to the same divisive, vitriolic, antagonistic, and erroneous logic that derailed the 2010 trail review.

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    • Dan A August 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      I assume there is already a plan in place to dig up Germantown and Cornell and return them to their natural state, yes?

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. August 25, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        Why stop there? Why not dig up all the roads in the hills and force everyone to have to mountain bike to their homes?

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        • Brian August 25, 2016 at 5:18 pm

          I like where you’re going with this.

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        • wsbob August 26, 2016 at 10:35 am

          “…Why not dig up all the roads in the hills…” adam h

          Such a question raises an interesting point, because city and county, as condition for issuance of permits for new development could have required that some land within and adjoining new development, be set aside for distance walking and biking.

          For example, instead of extensive housing developments like Forest Heights…(planned and built long after it was realized that at least hiking, and maybe off-road biking was an interest of both urban and suburban residents)…blanketing the slopes of the south Tualitan Mtn’s, there could have been, distance trail for those activities.

          With different planning, people living in the suburbs near the foot of the mountain, Cedar Mills or Cedar Hills, etc, could have had on the outskirts of their neighborhood, availability of simple dirt trail they could travel onto and up across the south face of the Tualitan Mtn’s, southeast to Council Crest or northwest towards Cornelius Pass. Opportunity for hiking and biking trail of that type in this area has mostly been lost to development.

          Northwest of Thompson Rd, there still is plenty of undeveloped, heavily forested land on the south face of the Tualitan Mtns, upon which it may be possible to rally support for provision for distance off-road walking and biking trail.

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      • Minority August 26, 2016 at 9:07 am

        Actually, I’d be all for removal of these roads.

        Also, I bicycle commute to work every day, including all winter long. I never thought I would be replacing so many bicycle brake pads in a year…

        However, I still do not want any MTB trails in Forest Park. I suppose that makes me a minority here. Sorry. I still love this site and all the insightful comments!

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  • Chris I August 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    “Forest Park is facing the greatest threat in its history,”

    noun: hyperbole; plural noun: hyperboles

    exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

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    • Buzz August 25, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Just wait until the City starts cutting trees for the Washington Park Reservoir work, all of a sudden that will become the greatest threat in history to the park.

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  • mike August 25, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Honestly, with the prices and crowding it’s probably more likely I move somewhere else before I’ll ever see great MTB close to PDX. And I’m not telling anyone where I’m moving.

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    • RH August 26, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Where are you moving? Just kidding. I know how you feel though.

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  • Todd Hudson August 25, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    “Forest Park is facing the greatest threat in its history,”

    A threat even bigger than when it was totally logged?

    Someone should start a GoFundMe to buy pearls for these folks to clutch – they will need a lot of them.

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  • shannon August 25, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Please note the Portland Parks survey around Forest Park usage that the NWTA has posted on their FB page.

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  • Jessica Roberts
    Jessica Roberts August 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Surely MTB advocates can reply to concern trolling by turning the tables and calling for a ban on dogs on all trails? Metro has a pretty damning lit review on the subject:

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    • TJ August 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      I like spending time in Forest Park with my dog.

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    • RMHampel August 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Lol. That’s awesome. Ban bikes, ban dogs. Let’s see how that goes over.

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    • Alex August 25, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      This has been brought up time and again. The number one complaint is against dogs in FP and yet I don’t see Houle or the NW Examiner talking about banning them on a regular basis. MTBers can and do share space with all other trail users successfully all over the world – except in Portland, where we are demonized by a small, vocal minority.

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    • wsbob August 26, 2016 at 1:20 am

      “…concern trolling…” roberts

      That phase is an interesting reference…one I’m not sure I’ve ever come across before it being used here. I suppose some people may think resistance to the idea of using Forest Park for mountain biking, is just ‘concern trolling’.

      I definitely consider that looking closely at how people should manage their dogs on trails in nature parks, is something important to be doing. Many people really don’t have a lot of control over their pets, because control through training is something that takes time and patience to acquire.

      As a means of ‘replying to’, or countering resistance to use of Forest Park for mountain biking, ideas about proposing that dogs be ‘banned’ from Forest Park doesn’t sound like something that would be taken very seriously. There’s the whole ‘man’s best friend’ association of pets to their owners, plus the fact that dogs aren’t vehicles their owners use to ride around on.

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    • GlowBoy August 29, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Oh, that’s just what our overlords want: to have us divide ourselves into little groups and fight each other. MTB advocates (of which I am one) all too often complain about dog walkers (of which I have also been one in the past), and this is missing the point. The park is big enough for lots of different kinds of users, without attacking each other.

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  • Brian August 25, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Given Houle and Catherine’s concerns (primarily safety, this go ’round), why do we not see them advocating for building new mtb-specific trails? Or, a compromise such as trail-sharing for three days a week on some trails? Surely they do not need sole access to every single trail seven days a week. Would it be cool if my seven year old and I ride one single trail once a week?
    I also have to laugh at the continued “mountain bikers aren’t allowed on trails in FP by law” while at the same time shouting “mountain bikers already have access to 30 miles of trail in FP!”

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    • I wear many hats August 26, 2016 at 9:44 am

      The Forest Park Plan lists 28 miles of “trail” open to bikes. This is fallacy that I wrote in the public comments. The NWTA and the OMB (other mountain bike The “trail” open to bikes is Leif, and the fire roads, none of which are the trail experience enjoyed by hikers and bikers. There is virtually NO access to trail for bikes.

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      • I wear many hats August 26, 2016 at 9:47 am

        Lost my comment. The NWTA and the OMB (other mountain bikers, the NWTA doesn’t represent everyone that rides) need to jump on this definition. Its lost in the debate. It poisons public discourse. We have access to the roads, not the trails.

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  • Bjorn August 25, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Ban an activity in a place and then use the fact that few people are doing the activity that is banned there as evidence that the ban should continue… What if everyone suddenly quit obeying the rules and started mountain biking on wildwood to the point that 90% of the users of wildwood were cyclists, would that be a good reason in Houle’s mind to ban other user groups from the park? I think not.

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  • Alex August 25, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Please, every cycling advocate should be pushing for this. We need more than just commuters to have cycling more generally accepted by the populace. Mountain biking is no worse to the environment than hiking and that message needs to be spread – not FUD.

    Please email a kind letter to these folks and show your support for mtbs in Portland and Forest Park:

    We have voted in favor on this subject before, we have had protests with 300+ people when they have pulled the rug out from under us and we deserve a space in Portland. We are playing by Fritz’ rules and deserve better than this.


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  • RWL11 August 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    The 1988 Forest Park Plan allows for future bicycle access to be expanded. Read the entire Plan, the process is in there. How do you think PUMP worked with the Parks Department and built the lower portion of FL5 singletrack? What has NWTA done since they took over PUMP via a board takeover? Nothing notable. Long Live PUMP!

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    • Brian August 25, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      Well, to be fair they have done a couple of other things over the past five or so years.

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    • rick August 25, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      What is PUMP?

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      • Alex August 25, 2016 at 8:58 pm

        Portland United Mountain Pedalers. It was the mtb advocacy group in Portland for a long time prior to NWTA.

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    • Snowden August 26, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Well, there’s a simple answer to that RWL11. The FL5 expansion is specifically mentioned as a future project in the FPNRMP. That’s why it was a relatively simple project to get approved. Anything beyond that effectively requires an act of congress.

      So please don’t sell NWTA short on their efforts. This was always going to be a long, drawn out process. You can’t fault NWTA for the lack of progress. They have moved the needle a long way toward getting trails in the Park. The City has left many unfulfilled promises, and the anti’s have taken every advantage of the lack of political will within the Parks Bureau and the City. But things are changing. There’s no magic bullet here – just determination, forging political alliances and smart advocacy. But, if you think you have a solution, I’m sure the NWTA Board would love to hear it.

      And I certainly hope you’re not inferring that NWTA hasn’t made progress in other areas in the region. The list of accomplishments in the last 5-7 years is long – several new trail systems in the region, Gateway Green about ready to launch, N. Tualatin Mtn’s likely to be a reality in the next 2-3 years, membership up over tenfold…….I could go on. Be a part of the solution, don’t scream from the cheap seats. C’mon!

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  • TJ August 25, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Cheryl Strayed can go away. Thru-hikers find her annoying too.

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  • rick August 25, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Mtb is transportation.

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  • Josh G August 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I see that one Catherine Thompson Md who co-signed with Houle has been involved for a long time.
    More anti bike sentiment here—-Recommit-to-your-personal-practice-of-mindful-running—walking-this-fall-through-Chi-Running–C.html?soid=1110525170367&aid=JHY_RkaC-Tw

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  • Fred Berggeist August 25, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Well in any case, even if they do not allow people to ride mountain style bicycles in Portland’s very own pristine piece of old-growth wilderness (Forest Park), I’ll continue poaching it and saying hello to passerbyes. Please, try and ticket me on a bike, you will not catch me, nor will you find much trace of my presence because Firelane W is about as hard as concrete when it’s dry, and ain’t nobody want to ride there when it’s wet. Ya hear?

    In all seriousness, there are so many issues this city could be dedicating time to (think general conversation), and this should be a no-brainer. Let’s really spend time gnashing teeth over the following:

    1) the homeless population and what the heck we should be doing as a seemingly “progressive”, caring community
    2) the fact that Portland area schools are underfunded and in disrepair
    3) rising rent, and the fact that this City is becoming SFO 2.0
    4) the IPA inflation problem. Seriously, there are TOO MANY 😉
    5) And a favorite topic, how our road system stopped improving in about 2008.

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  • Tim Davis August 26, 2016 at 1:26 am

    OMG, I’m SO bummed that I missed the meeting this evening! I know ALL the angles “Friends of Forest Park” is using, as I talked to one of their members a few days ago. Two of their biggest arguments are: 1. Forest Park doesn’t need mountain bikers as future advocates for its ecosystem, and 2. “How many miles of singletrack are enough? When will you be satisfied?” OK, let’s break those down (particularly their point #2!):

    Regarding their first point: yes, we know that Forest Park has MANY champions, which is a wonderful thing! But to say “Thanks, but we don’t need you as future advocates” to MANY thousands in the community is unbelievably offensive. I don’t mountain bike in Forest Park, by the way, and I never intend to. I love walking and running in the park. But I still want mountain bikers to have access to trails that are *separate* from walkers and that are created incredibly sensitively; Sandy Ridge and other systems have helped such trail-builders learn a great deal over the past several years. It’s also an unbelievable embarrassment that our huge metro area offers almost no decent mountain biking (and again, it’s not for me, as a HIKER in the parks). Mountain bikers are not anti-hiker. There should be wonderful, fully separated trail systems for the two usage types.

    And their point #2 above is such a confrontational, illogical and accusatory question that it’s also incredibly offensive. It also indicates a TOTAL unwillingness on their part to ever compromise! And remember: I want to protect Forest Park EVERY bit as much as they do!! I’ve also NEVER driven to the park, and I will NEVER need a parking spot there (but I digress). So, let’s turn that question around, using LOGIC. Right now there are 0.3 miles of singletrack in Forest Park. A good rider can cover that in ONE minute. So, we could rightfully ask them: “How would *you* feel if you could only access Forest Park for ONE minute?!?” It’s *not* a matter of “When is enough enough” when there’s currently one single lame minute of the kind of trail that a huge and growing number of people want to have without needing to drive an hour!

    Then there are the many, many usual arguments (including numerous environmental) in favor of mountain biking (and against off-leash dog-walking, of course) that I won’t even get into, as those have been covered quite well in other articles/comment sections, etc.

    Let’s all have fun, take GREAT care of the park, and SHARE what is by FAR the greatest urban park in the U.S.! Cities are for PEOPLE (walking, biking and transit), not cars. 🙂 So, let’s create numerous world-class trails *within the metro area* for those who enjoy singletrack and other mountain biking!!

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  • Tim Davis August 26, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Oh – and thanks so much, Alex, for reminding us to email key folks and for providing their email addresses! Let’s write them all very professional, rational, respectful notes that explain very clearly why mountain biking is GOOD for Forest Park, especially long-term, and that the metro area is unbelievably underserved in mountain bike trails, etc…

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  • Evan MacKenzie August 26, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I moved to Reno 3 months ago. Reno is surrounded by trails. They are shared by hikers, mountain bikers and even horse riders. Many of the bikers here have bells to alert others that we are approaching. They appreciate it and we all seem to get along.
    Why is it that so many people don’t understand that Portland is full of people who ride mountain bikes. If they have no dedicated trails, they will ride on the trails they do have and there will be conflicts. So why not let them build trails of their own, so we can reduce conflicts?

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  • highrider August 26, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Even bigger than when gas, water, and electric lines were run through it!

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  • Brian August 26, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Did anyone make it to the meeting? I would love to hear a report.

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  • David English August 26, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Sigh. 26 years ago when I made Friends of Forest Park a beneficiary of my estate, they were a small group trying to keep the big developers from grabbing open parcels in FP. Now, I think that threat has passed, and they have samehow crossed over the line from being advocates for preservation, to just being NIMBYs. Portland has reached the tipping point for MTB usage. Bureaucracies and organizations must stay relevant to the majority of their constituents, or they become just another obstruction. Sigh. I guess it is time for a trip to the attorney.

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    • Renee Myers August 30, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks for your support, David. Just to clarify, the name of the group sending the emails and petition is not Friends OF Forest Park, now called the Forest Park Conservancy. The group sending the emails and petition is Friends FOR Forest Park and has no affiliation with the group you named in your will.

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      • Alex August 31, 2016 at 7:28 am

        To be fair though, Friends of Forest Park really haven’t been too friendly towards mtbers in the past. I would love to hear if your group supports opening more access to mountain bikers or what your plans are to support access in the future.

        Thank you.

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      • Dan A August 31, 2016 at 11:21 am

        What does Friends of Forest Park think of the email? Do you support it or denounce it?

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  • Peter Michaelson August 26, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Hi – just to add to the data points. I am a dedicated cyclist and I also hike Forest Park extensively.

    1. You can easily see the damage that mountain bikes cause by visually comparing the trails where cycling is allowed vs where it isn’t. Walk it and you will see.

    2. There already exists a good bit of cycling-allowed trails in Forest Park. If you study the map you will see 15 fire lanes, all of which allow cycling, plus the miles of Leif Ericson. I’m guessing over 50 miles of cycle- allowed trails.

    3. Wildwood trail is a great treasure – don’t underestimate its value. At the outer reaches (from Newberry Road to Germantown) it gets very quiet and beautiful, almost like having an old growth forest in the city.


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    • Snowden August 26, 2016 at 9:53 am

      You are mistaken. Most of the FL’s are NOT open to bikes. FL1, 3 and 5 are the only exceptions, I believe. And, since they are generally fall line trails, are neither fun or sustainable.

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      • Peter Michaelson August 26, 2016 at 10:26 am

        Snowden – that’s interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “no bikes” sign on any Fire Lane, but perception plays games with us all.

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        • Alex August 26, 2016 at 1:45 pm

          It seems you are really uneducated about Forest Park, trail building and the impacts different modes of transportation have on these trails. Please provide concrete, scientific examples if you are genuinely trying to contribute to the conversation.

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      • Peter Michaelson August 26, 2016 at 10:27 am

        Forgot to add – what is a fall line trail?

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        • Dan A August 26, 2016 at 10:39 am

          Straight up and down. No fun to ride with wife or kids, and rain runs straight down it.

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        • Zimmerman August 26, 2016 at 10:47 am

          If you’re unfamiliar with trail building terminology and what it means it’s hard to have a serious opinion about what’s sustainable and why. I’d suggest you educate yourself before commenting on “trail damage.”

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          • Peter Michaelson August 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm

            There are many ways to express that thought without rudeness. You’ll do well in future if you find them.

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            • Zimmerman August 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm

              Thanks Dad?

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        • I wear many hats August 26, 2016 at 12:01 pm

          Sorry, that is a skiing term. Fall line is where an object dropped flows downhill. Water flows down the fall line. Running/ riding/ skiing down the fall line is fast, often too fast. I wouldn’t wish to have multiuse trails that were fall line trails d/t the potential for “perceived” conflict. The wish for the bike community is to have access to existing trails, or a different trail, that provides an experience that access nature, without mixing high and low speeds. No one wants to replicate the speeds seen on the fire roads on shared singletrack. That would invite conflict. We just want to roll around on a trail.

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      • Dan August 26, 2016 at 11:09 am

        Fire lanes 1,3, 5, 10, 12 and 15 are all open to bikes. Also Holman Lane, Newton Rd., BPA Road, Leif Erickson, Saltzman, and Springville Roads.

        Check out the map at:

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        • jered bogli August 30, 2016 at 10:34 pm

          If it has ROAD OR LANE in the name it is simply NOT a trail, those are called roads or lanes. would you like to hike on a road? I don’t want to bike one one either. When the mtb. community says trail we are talking about something as wide as the Wildwood trail anything wider and it isn’t a trail.

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    • Dan A August 26, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Leif Erikson is not a trail.

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      • Psyfalcon August 27, 2016 at 9:29 am

        How many cobblestones does it need before we can call it paved? Some sections are a thin dirt layer over rock.

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    • I wear many hats August 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

      The trails open to bikes are roads. Roads that were cut to log the park. Bikes do not cause that damage. Poorly designed roads funnel water down the fall line. No one is advocating to replicate the horrible design of those roads to create a trail. No is advocating to make a bike park in Forest Park. Mountain bikers want an experience similar to the wildwood trail. Flat, rolling, and allowing the ability to appreciate solitude. There is one mile of reclaimed road that could be classified as trail on FL5. Wildwood is a Sh*& show in the winter d/t people running in a mud bog. The trails open to hikers only display a high degree of poor trail design, poor trail maintenance, and poor trail ettiquite by the hiking/ running/ dog running community.

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    • Cyclekrieg August 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      1. Tracks on trails not built to current sustainable standards (IMBA 2004/USFS 2007, because yes, the USFS adopted mountain biker trail designs) can not be used to discuss the impacts of mountain bikes on modern, sustainable trails as designed by environmental professionals.

      2. Nearly all the descriptions of what the ORCMP is supposed to do in/with Forest Park being put out by the Friends for Forest Park is wrong. You can take the email and petition and go through the documents of the ORCMP and cross out what is not true. I think all you will be left with is “Thanks, Dr. Catherine Thompson & Marcy Houle.”

      Just about every major city in the USA has urban mountain biking in their parks, preserves and greenspaces. They have done so while maintaining habitat and ecology. They also manage to put hikers and bikers on the same trails without issue. Maybe, just maybe, Portland should learn how to do this from these places. But to do that, those that are mountain bike prohibitionists need to stop pretending that putting mountain biking in a property opens a Hellmouth. Look, if Wichita is able to do urban mountain biking, it can’t be that hard.

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    • Alex August 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Please provide examples of damage done by mountain bikes and I will provide at least 1 to 1 examples of where hikers have cause as much and/or more damage.

      Not all firelanes allow bicycle usage to the best of my recollection. I would love to see where you are reading that cyclists have access to all of them. Also, these are horrible places for trails and/or biking. They are basically down fall lines and we are not allowed to do any work on them so they drain poorly and are not properly maintained by anyone (which is probably why you think that mtbs damage the trails).

      Wildwood is a fine trail – but what’s your point? I, personally, don’t even want access to that trail. I would rather have a separate trail system for riding bikes so I don’t have to deal with the likes of Houle.

      Overall, hikers and cyclists cause about the same damage to trails. This has been proven time and again. Please take your FUD elsewhere.

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    • GlowBoy August 29, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Peter, I do a lot of hiking, backpacking AND mountain biking. (in fact, the previous weekend I did a 32 mile, 3 night backpacking trip in REAL wilderness near Mount Hood). You say you’re a “dedicated cyclist”, but this may be a misleading statement because I bet you’re not a mountain biker.

      1. I see plenty of damage to trails by hiking boots when it’s muddy, no more than from bike tires. Neither even remotely compares to the damage done by horses’ hooves, which are allowed on most mountain trails.

      2. There are 27-28 miles of paths open to bikes in Forest Park, not 50. Of these, nearly all are roads, not trails. In fairness, in addition to the 0.3 miles of Firelane 5, I would classify about 0.2 miles of Newton Road (where it crosses the creek) to be trail. OK, so that makes 27 miles of roads, and half a mile of trails.

      3. I agree about Wildwood Trail being a treasure, especially beyond Germantown. I’ve hiked its entire length (and NEVER set a bike tire on it), and it is a wonderful trail. More importantly, WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR ACCESS TO WILDWOOD already. We’d like a similar trail that more or less follows elevation contours. As has come up in previous iterations of this fight, a lot of the lower elevations of

      Also, you’re not correct that all firelanes are open to bikes. Most of Firelane 7 is off limits, and clearly posted with signs. In fact, this is one area where we’ve lost access, because 7 used to be legal. Also, Waterline trail is effectively similar a firelanes although it is a bit less of a road and a bit more trail-like, but it’s off limits to bikes too.

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      • GlowBoy August 29, 2016 at 10:45 am

        Oops, forgot to finish my point under item 3: in previous discussions, it’s come up a number of portions of FP, for instance lower elevations closer in (south of Saltzman), have significantly compromised natural values.

        Even if one accepts the ridiculous assertion that Forest Park is Wilderness at its core (and as someone who hikes in real wilderness I find this a laughable claim), there are significant areas that are NOT wilderness and would be suitable to development of bicycle trails.

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        • wsbob August 29, 2016 at 10:38 pm

          “…Forest Park is Wilderness at its core…” glowboy

          To be able to offer to people from an urban setting, that is…people that are visitors to Forest Park, at 5000 acres, the city’s and one of the nations’ largest nature parks…opportunity on naturally wooded land for wilderness like experience, is a founding purpose of the park’s creation and it’s continued conservation by the city’s residents for nearly a century.

          Has being directly located next to a highly populated metropolitan city, brought upon Forest Park’s land, unfortunate consequences and compromises that natural lands further away from such cities, lands such as around Mt Hood, or in some parts of Alaska, haven’t been subject to? Of course; For the raw materials used in building, logging of lands directly next to town sites, is often one of the first things that happens to forest and woodland. Roads within such urban located forest land, also tend to be constructed to allow access for fire fighting equipment, because not being able to fight a fire when one starts up on such land, isn’t a great thing to have happen directly next to a big city.

          Forest Parks’ forested slopes are the closest approximation Portland’s citizens and visitors to the city have, of wilderness, comparable in some respects to less trammeled land in some parts of the nation. It’s this essence of wilderness that originators of the idea for this particular, park had in mind, and which I think many, if not most Portland citizens continue to regard highly today, to be sustained as a key, continuing attribute of the Forest Park park lands.

          Dispute if you will, for the purpose of constructing a rationale for using the park for vehicular recreation in the form of mountain biking, the fact that Forest Park is in no small part, a realization fulfilled, of wilderness land within the city. I believe a majority of the city’s generations of residents, will take exception and issue with such a notion.

          Might the city’s majority citizens be willing and agreeable to whittling away some of the Park’s 5000 acres of urban located forest wilderness, to be used for mountain biking? Maybe they would be. They should be asked, and be able to vote their choice, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question on a city wide ballot, of whether they choose to reverse Forest Park’s long standing vehicle free wilderness land status, to allow some of that land to be used for mountain biking.

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          • GlowBoy August 30, 2016 at 8:11 am

            It’s a lovely natural area, and is very useful both as a refuge from urbanity and a means of teaching ongoing generations the value of natural lands, but to even call it an approximation of wilderness is a stretch. There are few parts of FP where the screech of trains and the roar of cars on Dirty Thirty from down below can’t be heard. And it’s certainly not old growth: those firelanes might serve a firefighting function now, but they were originally logging roads (or service roads for the numerous water, oil and gas pipelines that cross the park, not to mention high-tension power lines).

            Despite your tired repetition of the term “vehicular recreation” as a pejorative, mountain biking on the more heavily impacted areas of the park will not substantially compromise the park’s natural values. No one is talking about allowing mountain biking on the Wildwood, despite sky-is-falling claims to the contrary.

            Your suggestion to put this up for a vote is disingenuous, too. You know that mountain bikers are a minority and that the general public misunderstands what mountain biking is all about. You and I both know such a ballot measure would likely fail, and you and I both know that would be wrong. Should we have put Portland’s bikeway expansion up for a vote back in the ’90s? The creation of MAX? The $50 million Esplanade? Relocation of Portland’s Waterfront Freeway? PPB’s expansion of the dog-park system 10 years ago? I guarantee you, all of these made Portland better, and every single one of them would have failed at the ballot.

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            • wsbob September 1, 2016 at 10:31 am

              I’m sorry you’re tired of my repeatedly making note of the fact that mountain biking is vehicle recreation. And that Forest Park stands as the city of Portland’s effort to have the park lands therein offer as close to a wilderness-like experience to residents and visitors to this city, as is possible, located as they are to a major U.S. city.

              Portland has just one Forest Park confined to one area of the city, along the Willamette River. For the city’s residents and visitors to it, this is an ecological and non-vehicular recreational resource of major significance. And every day, the forest on the land in the park, grow closer to attaining the age of forests officially designated as old growth forest. Though true, being next to a town site, they were logged long ago, odds are, subsequently designated to serve the purpose they now do, Forest Parks timbered slopes will not be logged again.

              I very seriously think any decision to use Forest Park’s lands for mountain biking, should be made through a city wide vote of the people.

              What is the best use of Forest Park’s lands, for the people of Portland? Could mountain biking on those lands, on trails rather than the park’s fire roads, be a best use of the park’s lands? These are questions the entire city should seriously consider and decide upon, rather than have those questions answered by a very small minority interest group hoping to successfully lobby the parks dept and possibly some city officials, in favor of mountain biking enthusiasts desire to use Forest Park’s lands for mountain biking.

              Yes, I think you may be correct that “…mountain bikers are a minority…” in terms overall numbers of visitors to natural lands throughout the state or the nation. This in no small part, likely accounts for their apparent lack of ability to gather sufficient support to have acquired more than very small parcels of land particularly to be used for mountain biking.

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              • Alex September 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

                Forest Park already allows bikes. Please stop saying you can’t ride a bike there, you can. Just because you repeat something enough times does not make it true.

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          • Alex August 30, 2016 at 2:44 pm

            “Might the city’s majority citizens be willing and agreeable to whittling away some of the Park’s 5000 acres of urban located forest wilderness, to be used for mountain biking? ” – wsbob

            Uhm – we have asked and have voted on this in the past. The vote was in favor of more mountain bike access. Cool story though.

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          • Cyclekrieg September 1, 2016 at 11:07 am

            “Forest Parks’ forested slopes are the closest approximation Portland’s citizens and visitors to the city have, of wilderness, comparable in some respects to less trammeled land in some parts of the nation… Dispute if you will, for the purpose of constructing a rationale for using the park for vehicular recreation in the form of mountain biking, the fact that Forest Park is in no small part, a realization fulfilled, of wilderness land within the city… Might the city’s majority citizens be willing and agreeable to whittling away some of the Park’s 5000 acres of urban located forest wilderness, to be used for mountain biking?” — wsbob

            Besides the pejorative of mountain biking as “vehicular recreation”, your comment raises a valid question: why do you think that adding mountain biking to a location whittle away at the supposed wilderness?

            I ask, because other cities seem to have lots of urban wildernesses with mountain biking in them without sacrificing a wilderness feel. Knoxville is an excellent example. Take the time to look at the pictures as part of the Knoxville Urban Wilderness and ask yourself, “How is this not a functioning wilderness?” (Note: the Baker Creek Preserve is the newest section and contained some areas that needed soil remediation, so the bike park & downhill trails were built there.)

            Lets do a thought experiment here. Let’s pretend a segregated (bike only) trail system magically appeared in Forest Park overnight. The trails would be narrow, with bench widths below 40″ and treadway widths below 18″. They would be laid out by environmental professionals. They would built and maintained to federally accepted sustainable standards. Trees larger than 4″ could not removed without permission. Constructed areas would revegetate within a year. There would be MOUs in place to manage and maintain these trails. Patrols would regularly ride the trails and help users.

            So can you explain to all of us, like we are children, exactly how there is a “whittling away” of wilderness in a situation as described in the previous paragraph?

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            • wsbob September 2, 2016 at 10:12 am

              Forest Park land is vehicular recreation free land. Mountain biking is not an activity Portland citizens as a whole have chosen to use this land for. Should they decide at some point, to have some part of this land used for mountain biking, this form of vehicular recreation will effectively draw down the park’s area of vehicular recreation free land. The amount of land that may eventually come to be used for mountain biking in this park, remains to be seen.

              I don’t know, and can’t explain all of the reasons Portland has chosen not to use this particular natural land park for mountain biking. Though there does seem to be some fairly apparent reasons, ethical, cultural, ecological, and more, why the people of this city haven’t stepped forward to use this park for mountain biking…which I’ve hoped to bring out so people might better understand where the city’s mindset on use of this park is, and how mountain biking may eventually come to fit in there.

              This local phenomena, if we can call of that, regarding the question of citizens on using natural lands for mountain biking, is not just limited to such lands comprising Forest Park’s 5000 acres in Portland, but to the entire three county, Washington, Clackamas, and Multnomah, Metro area as well. Across this entire area, there is comparatively very little land designated to be used for mountain biking, and very little request to have it provided.

              Think about that. This lack of request for mountain biking designated natural land in the metro area, has been the case for many years…decades. The voting power is there, if the citizens wanted such land…that in part, is how mountain biking on the rather recently acquired North Tualitan Mtn land is coming to be. To date, nothing on a larger scale in the metro area, has captured wide public interest.

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              • Alex September 5, 2016 at 6:19 pm

                Forest Park land is not “vehicular recreation free land”. They currently allow bicycles on many of the roads (Leif Erickson, Saltzman, etc) that run through it and even a very limited amount of single track. You keep spreading false narratives about the park – please stop spreading lies/making things up that simply aren’t true. The worst part about it is that where bikes are allowed is some of the worst places to allow bikes – down fall lines, places where you can maintain speeds of 30 mph for miles at a time and places where many people don’t follow the rules of sharing a path (Leif Erickson specifically).

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  • Dan A August 26, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Marcy’s email is ridiculous. Definitely worth a read to see what a **insult deleted by moderator** she is.

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    • Oliver August 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Let me guess, more “pristine wilderness” hogwash?

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      • Dan A August 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        She is prone to hyperbole and non-truthiness.

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      • SE Rider August 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm

        “urban wilderness” Which is an incredible oxymoron when you think about it.

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. August 26, 2016 at 10:42 pm

          Is that anything like the “urban tree canopy”?

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    • wsbob September 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

      I just now read Houle’s and Thompson’s letter. Thanks for posting the link. I wouldn’t say the letter is great, but it does have some good information, including, a note of some of the things leading to the park’s creation. I think the writers don’t point out clearly enough, that this park’s 5000 acres are, and likely will be, the city’s only opportunity to provide as close an approximation of a wilderness-like environment within city limits, as is reasonably possible, to city residents and visitors.

      The tone of the letter is emotional, as if that’s extraordinary, considering the overwhelming emotional tone of many mountain bike enthusiasts in their efforts to make a persuasive case for using forest park’s lands for mountain biking. I’d rather read something about the subject that’s less emotional and more factual. I differ with the writer’s definition of single track cycling:

      “…single-track cycling – which differs from other forms of cycling because it is high speed and occurs on narrow trails, 1-3 feet wide…”

      …first, because single track cycling also goes by the names ‘off-road biking’ and ‘mountain biking’, and second, because not all people doing mountain biking will be riding at high speed…though some definitely will be seeking high speed riding where off-road biking trail may eventually be made available within Portland city limits.

      I think it’s better to not make presumptions about a single rate of speed at which people will want to ride their mountain bikes, but instead to anticipate that there will be a range of speeds people will seek or happen to ride at on trail. Fundamentally, whatever is the speed they travel, if, rather than on foot, travel is by bike, on trail, it’s vehicle recreation.

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      • Cyclekrieg September 1, 2016 at 8:43 pm

        Single-track is definition of width, not use. Single-track as term actually comes from the trail only being wide enough for one person to walk, or track.

        Bikes on single-track trails actually travel at rate of speed that is slower than on wider trails. If you have access to, compare the trails at Powell Butte with single-track at Sandy Ridge. Then, head over to purpose built urban trails, like those in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. The top speed for the KOM at Powell Butte (double-track) segment Holgate DH is 25mph for 0.7mi. For Hide & Seek DH at Powell Butte (single track) the KOM is 13mph for 2.7mi (so almost 4 times as long, more vertical and yet half the speed). In any of the Minneapolis/St. Paul trails, like the Loops at Theodore-Wirth Park, the KOMs are closer to 10mph.

        I wouldn’t say mountain bikers are emotional per se. But we do get emotional about “truthiness” or flat-out misrepresentations. And I hate to say it, but the anti-mountain bike crowd in Portland is nothing, if not full of truthiness. Sort of like using the term “vehicular recreation”.

        There is annotated version of the Houle/Thompson letter that corrects their statements and includes references. You should read it.

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        • Brian September 2, 2016 at 6:51 am

          Are you going to do anything with this letter, Cyclekrieg?

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          • Cyclekrieg September 2, 2016 at 8:27 pm

            Other than link to it, not much.

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          • Cyclekrieg September 3, 2016 at 7:11 am

            You might want to look in the Google drive link. I decided to drop something in there you might want to see.

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        • wsbob September 2, 2016 at 9:38 am

          cyclekrieg…thanks for your opinion about the emotions of mountain bike enthusiasts. I base my opinion on the many hundreds of comments posted apparently by mountain bike enthusiasts to bikeportland discussion sections in stories reporting on the question of whether the city should allow Forest Park land to be used for mountain biking. A strong percentage of those comments…I’ll just take a wild guess…30 percent or more…are just as emotional, impassioned, biased, as some of Houle’s and Thompson’s remarks in their letter are.

          That’s alright. To err, is human. The fundamental facts with regards to the question of whether to use Forest Park land for mountain biking, are simple. Forest Park off-road land is vehicular recreation free. That’s been the park’s long standing policy for decades…as far as I know, since the park’s inception.

          Citizens of Portland as a whole, could choose to revise the park’s long standing policy, to allow Forest Park’s lands for mountain biking, but again, as far as I know, they have not been called upon to address the question and make a decision to revise, in a city-wide vote, of whether to use the park’s lands for mountain biking.

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          • Snowden September 2, 2016 at 3:47 pm

            wsbob, I continue to be baffled by your assertions that Forest Park is “vehicular recreation” free. Mountain bikes are already allowed in the park, and have been since the before the master plan was adopted over 20 years ago. Furthermore, they are classified as a “passive use” in the master plan, as they should be. The question is not whether they should be allowed, they already are, it is WHERE they should be allowed.

            Contrary to your belief that this should be decided by some city wide vote – ain’t gonna happen. And for good reason. We elect our public officials to represent our interests and to make decisions and policy based on various input. If everything were put to a vote, very little would ever get done, because there are very few simple majorities.

            Having read your posts on this topic over the years, It’s become obvious that you’re not interested in finding a resolution, you’d rather ignore facts, and muddy the waters with you ill-informed diatribes.

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          • Cyclekrieg September 2, 2016 at 8:55 pm

            Actually, what you call “vehicular recreation” is already allowed in Forest Park. On any road, path or trail meeting the requirements laid out in the 1995 Management Plan, pages 21-23 of the plan. The only point of contention is whether that activity could be allowed on trails being more like other urban trails, i.e. singletrack.

            I’m not sure if you are podcast listener or not, but Adam Conover (Adam Ruins Everything) had an interesting episode with Ed Ayers (of Backstory NPR) regarding voting and democracy. Anyway, toward the end they have a great discussion on how pure democracy without checks would actually always guarantee that minorities don’t get equal treatment. According to existing data 8% of users are mountain bikers at Forest Park. Its likely a city wide vote that you keep having a fever dream for would not open up Forest Park for mountain biking due to they (mountain bikers) being a minority. Which, I would surmise, is why its a dream you have.

            But if mountain bikers were given 8% of the land area at Forest Park, or 400 acres, I bet we could do a lot trails in that 400 acres. That is 10 times the size of Highbridge in NYC (4 miles of trails for MTBs), double the size of Lebanon Hills in MN (12 miles), about the same as Slaughter Pen Bentonville, AR (25 miles) and just slightly less than Piedmont & Brewer trail area of Duluth, MN (were 22 miles, now connected to the 85 current miles out the 100 miles planned). Do you think Friends For Forest Park would agree to just let mountain bikers get an 8% sized box in Forest Park?

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          • Alex September 5, 2016 at 6:23 pm

            Have you ever been to any of the public meetings and heard Houle or Les Blaize speak? Talk about emotional. These comments are completely tame compared to how they act.

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        • I wear many hats September 2, 2016 at 11:26 am

          Portland Mountain Bikers in Nature just published that letter along with a synopsis from the PAC meeting.

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  • Tim August 26, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I can honestly say that the outdoors is my church and when I am there I am most definately having a spiritual, peaceful experience that heals my soul. I would be in a sorry state if it wasn’t for mountain biking and biking in general. I live near 72nd and Johnson (the farthest corner from F.P.) and would have no prob biking there and back multiple times a week.

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  • MR August 26, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    So glad I don’t live in Portland anymore.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. August 26, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      Hey, it’s not so bad here. 🙂

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      • Brian August 27, 2016 at 8:38 am

        Agreed. It’s one of my favorite cities in the U.S., and I am surprised by the number of people who have decided to move/not move here at all because of the lack of local mountain biking. I think about it all the time as I am driving down the highway coming back from a ride. I hate driving with a passion, but my love for mountain biking is much stronger. I don’t think we necessarily NEED more people moving to Portland, but cyclists of any discipline are the people I would love to see coming here.

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  • ColdSwim August 26, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Please fill out the survey at Portland’s Planning on Sustainability site!

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  • paul g. August 26, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I spent the last two years in Western North Carolina and rode on many of the dozens of mountain bike trails in the region, including a number right in the Charlotte metro area.

    The comparison to Charlotte is apt.

    Charlotte has roughly the same metro population as Portland and has roughly the same annual rainfall.

    There are more than a dozen mountain bike only trails within the city limits and more in the metro area. Many are in relatively small spaces that were reclaimed from railways, or were open space for various reasons. Many exist right next to apartment buildings and busy roads.

    Mountain bike trails do not require large parcels of land. They can be built to highly sustainable standards following IMBA guidelines (many have already noted that even the footpaths in Forest Park are very poorly constructed).

    The political will exists in Charlotte and the result is that there is a wonderful set of opportunities for cyclists, and there are no conflicts with hikers. They are distinct and separate sites.

    And in Portland … nothing.

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    • Alex August 26, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Portland is such an outlier in this case – it is ridiculous. It is the political will of a very vocal minority that is ruining it for a much larger population. Frustrating to no end to hear this story over and over from cities all over the world.

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    • Mark smith September 4, 2016 at 9:16 am

      The people of Charlotte want to use the land for everyone. Not just a select few.

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  • KristenT September 1, 2016 at 8:34 am

    So FoFP are not okay with properly-built and maintained mountain bike trail. The silence from them on this issue in the above link is deafening.

    If they cared about Forest Park, they would be suing this man for the incredible damage he did to a “pristine ecosystem” by driving a backhoe through it.

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    • wsbob September 1, 2016 at 10:54 am

      I’m on dialup today, so I can’t see the koin video. If you’ve seen it, perhaps you could summarize what you find to be the “incredible damage” the guy did to the park in reportedly trying to clear away a tree, or trees, from a city drainage pipe, to restore flow to a path he believed was the original path before the trees blocked the outflow.

      According to the story text, it does not sound as though the property owner “…drove a backhoe…” through the park, but sometimes, pictures or video can provide a more reliable account than can somebody’s brief new story.

      The story link has the 31st, yesterday, being the first news report on the incident. It sounds as though details on what led to the incident are not all in. The property owner, parks dept and the city seem still to be in the midst of sorting things out. Once the info is in, and Friends of Forest Park have a chance to look it over, it’s quite possible the organization may have something to say about what the property owner, right or wrong, has done.

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      • Alex September 1, 2016 at 11:56 am

        You think doing illegal construction in the park is ok? Cool. I will build some illegal trails that don’t create “incredible damage” and see how the media reacts…oh wait that already happened. At least you are consistently myopic and one-sided about mtbing in FP and everyone can set their expectations for your comments appropriately.

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      • Dan A September 1, 2016 at 12:24 pm

        What is “dialup”?

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        • wsbob September 2, 2016 at 9:11 am

          Unfortunately, Kristin T, nor anyone else reading this discussion section, that has looked at the video she provided a link to, has offered a summary about what damage the property owner living near Forest Park, did or didn’t do in his efforts to clear what he believes to have been a blocked drainage pipe incorrectly channeling drainage runoff onto his land.

          It seems worthwhile looking at and trying to understand what exactly this person did that may have damaged the park, and why, before outright condemning him as a means to trump up undue animosity towards the park advocacy group, Friends of Forest Park.

          I think that if the property owner did do damage, FoFP likely will not approve, and will do what it can to help set things right.

          Dan, you’re funny. Seriously, you can’t figure out what dialup is? Sorry, I forgot to include the hyphen. How about dial-up? Dial up, receiving data on a phone land line, as in ‘not on a high speed internet connection’, and of course as many people are still well aware, viewing videos on a land line is rather impractical.

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          • Dan A September 3, 2016 at 7:47 pm

            People still do that? I didn’t even know it was still possible to access the internets via phone land line. Though I gave up my phone land line years ago, so what do I know.

            Since I’m not sure whether or not you can read PDFs over this connection, I’ll just quote Goal 2 from the FP management plan from 1995:

            “Forest Park should offer the citizens of Portland opportunities for outdoor recreation in keeping with the Park’s resource values. Forms of recreation must be appropriate for Forest Park and must be passive in nature. Examples of passive recreation include walking, running, bicycling, riding horses, walking with pets, and observing fauna, flora, and other natural history features. Opportunities should be created for these activities which implies the need for appropriate facilities as well as controls on the level and location of the allowed uses.”

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