After over five years of court battles and exhaustive analysis of potential environmental impacts, the United States Forest Service is on the cusp of final approval of the Timberline Bike Park. The final piece of the process is to hear from the public whether or not to reopen the formal Environmental Analysis (EA) process — a move that would delay the project yet again.
If this feels like déjà vu that’s because the Forest Service already approved the permit four years ago. After determining that the proposal by Timberline Lodge for 17 miles of singletrack and a skills park on the western side of Mt. Hood was in compliance with federal environmental policy, the permit was granted and construction was poised to begin.
But a consortium of environmental groups weren’t convinced. Bark, one of the groups who oppose the Bike Park, says the trails will be built for “lift-assisted extreme mountain biking” that would take place in “fragile alpine habitat,” and “could erode sensitive volcanic soil, harm water quality and fish habitat, and dramatically chance the historic character,” of the area. They also contend the project will only benefit a private company and the lucky people wealthy enough to buy a ticket.
So in 2013, two appeals were filed against the Bike Park permit. When the Forest Service denied both appeals, Bark and several other organizations filed an injunction to stop construction of the trails.
After comprehensive analysis, the federal government disagreed with the environmental groups’ concerns.
“We would appreciate any brief comments that you may want to provide to the Forest Service that agree with the conclusion that no further NEPA process is warranted, and supporting construction of the bike trails and other implementation of the project without further delay.”
— Timberline Lodge
During the injunction, the Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) continued to study the potential environmental impacts while a federal judge presided over the case. This past spring the judge ruled in favor of Timberline Lodge, the Forest Service and the NMFS. The only thing left was a final “biological opinion” about fish habitat from the NMFS and results of a survey on Western Bumblebee habitat. If significant impacts were believed to be possible on either of those fronts, it might have triggered additional environmental analysis processes.
On Friday the Forest Service published their review of these latest studies and found the findings are consistent with their previous work. Put another way: No new EA is required.
Just to play it safe, the Forest Service has opened a two-week comment period to hear what the public thinks and advocates on both sides of the issue are imploring supporters to make their voices heard. The question is simple: Should the EA process be reopened? Or is it time to finally start building trails?
“It is our firm belief that the environmental analysis and other processes that were followed regarding the Bike Park have been professional, exhaustive, and more than adequate,” Timberline Lodge wrote in their most recent statement on the issue. “We would appreciate any brief comments that you may want to provide to the Forest Service that agree with the conclusion that no further NEPA process is warranted, and supporting construction of the bike trails and other implementation of the project without further delay.”
If you’d like to comment, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Timberline Mountain Bike New Information”
To learn more about this issue come to the Northwest Trail Alliance monthly meeting tomorrow (10/25) at Velo Cult Bike Shop & Tavern (1969 NE 42nd) at 7:00 pm.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.
I do hope that there will be at least one trail designated for uphill travel — are we likely to get that, or will it really be set up for lift access only?
There currently is an uphill trail, the Timberline to Town.
The Forest Service has designated t2t a downhill trail and uphill travel is not recommended because of the high speeds and blind corners. You can pedal up the west leg road much faster and it doesn’t have much traffic.
T2T is actually designated by the USFS as a downhill only trail because of the high speeds and blind corners. Pedal up the West Leg road instead please.
I usually find BikePortland’s journalism objective and first-rate. However, this story provides further evidence this blog checks its objectivity at the door when it come to reporting about mountain bike access.
BikePortland acts as the publicity arm of Timberline Lodge by portraying its assertions as gospel and implying that Bark’s contentions are the rants of crazy enviro-wackos. In fact, the proposed bike park would indeed affect alpine habitat, and downhill mountain bikes do have impacts on such habitat. On the other hand, many users of Mt. Hood National Forest want more riding opportunities. Faced with a contentious issue, the Forest Service appropriately provided an additional opportunity for public input into its final decision on the proposed park after considering additional information — not too different than allowing for the sort of public input on transportation choices that BikePortland has called for countless times over the years.
Just because an issue involves bikes, the best course is not necessarily 100% clear. Different people will come out with opposing perspectives on whether a lift-served downhill bike area high on Mt. Hood is an appropriate use of the public’s land. This policy choice deserves to be the subject of objective journalism rather than BikePortland adding its voice as simply another advocate.
I do not strive to be “objective”. I strive to be honest and treat you with respect. I have an opinion and I’m not going to act like some sort of robot and strip it from my writing. You are clearly smart enough to decipher where I am coming from. I can tell based on your comment. And yes you are right… This isn’t the most objective piece I have written on this topic. I probably should have either listed it clearly as an editorial or written it with different words and tone.
However, please don’t make it seem like just because something involves bike I automatically am 100% for it. We have a long and very proud history on this site of publishing opinions from a wide variety of perspectives.
Speaking of which, on this specific issue we have devoted two entire articles to people that oppose the project. Perhaps you missed them:
— Guest Opinion: The case against the Timberline MTB Park – (03/25/13)
— Director of Sierra Club explains rationale behind MTB park lawsuit – (05/21/13)
Thanks for hearing me out.
@danny BikePortland published a guest opinion piece from the very environmentalists you say they are trying paint as whackos. They did so with absolutely no censorship. Your accusations just don’t hold water on this issue.
That guest opinion seemed to only be successful in painting themselves in that stereotype. Readng it, I learned that people who enjoy downhill mountain biking are elitists in cohoots with corporate schemers.
The downhill bike park at Mt. Bachelor doesn’t appear to have ruined the local ecosystem.
I’ve read the piece four times now and don’t see where you feel that Mr. Maus implied that BARK are crazed enviro whackos. What specifically led you to this subjective viewpoint?
I have a theory:
It’s because danny possibly backs BARK’s assertions and is trying to downplay the Forest Service’s correct decisions concerning the permitting of this bike park. It’s an attempt to try and minimize Bikeportland’s influence on the people that might be persuaded to write letters in support of the park. I bet we’ll see very similar comments posted everywhere this issue is reported on.
Danny’s comment has actually strengthened my resolve to write a letter in support of the Timberline Bike Park.
You don’t own a mountain bike?
I would love to hear what you think the impacts on the Alpine habitat bikes have that are greater than the damage being done currently by hikers? I would love some cites as well if you can provide them.
Or horses……they certainly damage trails more than mtn bikes do. Just go look at the trails at Stub Stewart.
Where are these environmental groups every time a new road gets built or widened?
Also, these trails aren’t wouldn’t be built in the Alpine zone. They would be below the tree line. This is a fallacy that was echoed by BARK and the other groups at the time. If you are going to protest something, please know what you are protesting.
I’ve seen them on the westside of Portland opposing punch-thru streets because it removes the existing trails. Check SW Pendleton Street and the adjacent wetlands by 48th.
ODOT spent over $300,000,000 to build a rarely-used highway just west of I-5 south of Eugene. Mountain biking is efficient transportation.
Efficient transportation? It’s almost exactly as efficient as downhill resort skiing, which is to say, not at all.
When I lived in Corvallis, I rode to high school by singletrack through Chip Ross Park. It was considerably safer and more enjoyable than going up Highland Drive.
It would be great if people could embrace less pavement, more dirt for commuting. It’s cheaper and more environmentally sound – also a lot more fun. I would love to see a dirt path from nopo down greeley, separated from cars. There is the dirt to do it!!
Environmental groups do over-react upon occasion. They have to create issues to remain relevant and continue to get funded.
I have mixed emotions. I could imagine myself using the park a couple of times a year. But I also fret the idea of more people year round piling onto Hood without a vested interested in the health of the mountain.
Likely, I’ll stick to finding my peace where I’ve always ridden on and around Hood — if only to avoid the sure wallies that will flock to Timberline all summer.
If people don’t experience something first-hand, they are much less likely to fight for its protection. Mountain bikes are low-impact, and the parking lot at Timberline is already maxed out. New riders are going to have to take the shuttle.
In my experience, this is generally true.
I have no opinion of this particular plan but if people riding around on an already-busy part of the mountain helps people feel a connection and raises support for protecting the whole area, that’s a good thing.
Connected to the health of the mountain, which reaches far beyond Timberline, Ski Bowl, and Meadows. I’m not against it, but I fear the folks who would seek a Gatlinburg, TN on or around Hood turning our paradise into a gaudy destination. It is just something to keep a pulse on. Things can be done right or horribly wrong.
I applaud the check and balance.
I would absolutely applaud the check and balances if what they were checking and balancing was gaudiness. There is a difference between making up environmental threats/perpetuating false science and trying not to turn it into a gaudy resort.
What is the matter Danny? Just because you cannot ride your ATV on the trails, you don’t approve the use of bicycles on them?
Not sure what this comment contributes to the discussion, other than negativity.
This would be awesome and I don’t see how it would be a negative thing
Dear Timberline Mtn Bike Park developers,
please name one of the soon to be built trails in your marvelous park “crazed enviro wacko”. Thank you ever so much!
The only bark I respond to has four legs and FAR more soul. There has been an uphill trail to Timberline since long before most of you moved here. Imagine impact since the facts do not back it up.
Impacts of what?
Trail centres have been built on forestry land in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and I’ve not read of any concerns about environmental damage – which isn’t to say that there haven’t been any, just that I’ve not come across any.
Clear felling, and persistent drought will have almost infinitely more deleterious effect on your forests than mountain biking.
Of course they’re built on forestry land here, as well. There’s one a few miles away. Clearly this (Mt. Hood) is unique and special habitat, so it’s not just a matter of “forestry land.”
Not saying I’m against it. Without knowing much about this issue in particular, I generally trust the scientific process that yielded the EA and BiOp. And assuming it can be done well, it sounds wonderful. I’m simply noting that crude comparisons to forestry land that may not have been damaged elsewhere may be misleading.
Build it !
I think the primary environmental concerns are regarding the erosion created by opening up a number of new trails. The soils up there are fairly loose and real care needs to be demonstrating when building and operating trails.
The secondary concerns are the impacts associated with having more people on the mountain. More air pollution and waste water being generated.
Finally the tertiary concern is over the future development of mount hood. Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows make more off of their property development and operation than they do from lift tickets. Their business is developing homes and resorts. Bark has spent a lot of time blocking the other projects (2 18 hole golf courses and hundreds of homes at cooper spur, timber harvesting, etc.) to maintain what is special about Mt Hood.
Just ask yourself, that if you are Ok with Mountain Biking, are you also Ok with 18 hole golf course next door. I’m sure the EA’s also justify the installation of one.
There is a gigantic difference between a golf course and mountain bike trails. Red Tail Golf Course on SW Scholls Ferry Road is owned by Portland Parks and consumes an incredible amount of water, but makes no direct food and vegtables for humans, has no trails to connect to SW Oleson Road and Amada Fritz told me that no trails are planned via email, and the massive parking lot contributes to the suburban heat island. There is a high cost for free parking. The Portland Golf Club has a concrete “bank” for hundreds of feet of Fanno Creek. The banks of Fanno are concrete, not dirt, shrubs, and trees. It is concrete. What mountain bike park has creeks kicked to the side with pipes and concrete like that? Golf courses have gas machines and lawn mowers running at 6:00 AM.
If you read the lawsuit (which I implore you to do), it was mainly over things that had nothing to do mountain biking (contractual obligations that BARK, et. al were asserting the FS was not meeting). The main concern regarding mountain biking was some additional silt in the stream, but really that can be mitigated.
Air pollution and waste water were not mentioned in the lawsuit.
Equating mountain biking with a golf course is false. This is exactly the type of thinking that BARK and other “environmental” groups use to keep mountain bikes out of areas. Please show me the science that says they are at all related in terms of environmental impact.
Also, the FS isn’t just about making money – and they are the ones that said the science is good. I see the conflict of interest of the private party – but not from the FS.
IF you look at the history of development and litigation on Mt hood, you will find where Mt Hood Meadows purchased Cooperspur ski area and the surrounding property. Their plans were to install 2 golf courses along with hundreds of condos and single family homes. Bark, spent a decade in court and the result was a property swap where the FS gets 770 acres on the North Side of the mountain for120 buildable acres in Government Camp.http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/sbo/2016/03/mt-hood-meadows-inches-closer-to-land-swap-that.html If you back country ski at Cooper Spur, thank BARK.
It is not an equation of golf to mountain biking, but rather it is the process of developing the mountain to enhance the real-estate and resort values. If you could make a lot of money providing lifts for mountain biking, then you would see someone trying to install one at Sandy Ridge.
That is what BARK is fighting against and using every legal challenge (thus the procedural objections) at their disposal. I agree that the siltation form mountain biking s minimal, but the bottom line, is “Do you want to see a much more developed Mt Hood and Gov. Camp in the vein of Whistler or Telluride or do you want to keep things small and more available to everyone?” Think what another 100 condos in Government Camp is going to mean. Think about the marketing for year round activities including lift served mountain biking. Think about the future pressure to add to the list of amenities in the area, including golf.
I thought Whistler was awesome when I passed through in the off season (September) before the Olympics… well, except for the road construction delays…
it will be developed, it’s just a matter of time… in another 200 years it might be a continuous city from Portland to Government Camp…
Who was talking about Mt Hood Meadows? The article has to do with Timberline and I was referring to the lawsuits regarding Timberline. If you are going to bring arguments regarding Meadows that’s fine, but doing it here is a bit disingenuous. And no, I don’t backcountry ski – so I won’t be thanking BARK for that.
People do make a lot of money from lift-access mountain bikes – that doesn’t mean we want them everywhere – just like there aren’t lifts everywhere people backcountry ski.
If BARK wants to do that, I would prefer they do it in a way that doesn’t totally screw over legitimate users, make up science which end up costing the tax payers a ton of money to fight in court. Thanks for that, BARK!
All that being said, I don’t want to see Mt Hood turned into Whistler or Telluride and I would love to see the size of development regulated – but allowing bikes doesn’t change the area or really impact the area in any ecologically significant way (unlike golf courses). I do think this will be very hard to regulate when you have the population of Portland increasing quickly and no real mountain bike opportunities in/near the city. I hope you support opening up Forest Park to mtbing. I would honestly rather see lift access in town over the west hills (the commuters could use it too!) than to see it on Hood, but I doubt that will happen any time soon.
I don’t think we’ll see mtb on the slopes at Meadows. My understanding is the land is pretty wet in the summer.
is the golf course being built on an existing area of grassy fields and pre-existing support buildings? that’d be ok, as it’s the same as adding some more narrow trails to the existing ones on Hood…
Well, I support the mountain bike park. Were Timberline proposing a golf course, I wouldn’t support that. Is it so hard to have nuanced opinions? We need more trail mileage on the mountain, to spread out use. We don’t need golf courses up there.
I’m all for construction to begin on the bike park! Anyway, aren’t all of the environmental concerns really akin to arguing about placement of deck chairs on the Titanic when Global Warming is looming so large?
Which will only be further accelerated once the park is competed and people are driving up the mountain to ride their bicycles.
Sounds like you have some advocating to do to get more mountain bike access in Portland. I would love to not have to drive to ride a bike.
Nah – I will be driving up there too. Fortunately my truck can carry 4 riders and bikes since the fuel economy sucks.
better public transit is needed
maybe since the gorge express is doing so well they’ll open up a mt hood express, with lots of bike racks in the summer and ski racks in the winter…
A Summer use case utilizes the otherwise Winter infrastructure, just as the timberline loop trail does.
I admire what BARK has done in the past, lead hikes in the Mount Hood area to show people the beauty of the land. These trails will allow bikers to see the beauty of the land and fight for it exactly as does BARK.
It is worth noting that some groups that are not composed of mountain bikers initially were concerned about the project but after taking a closer look broke with BARK and the Sierra Club on the issue of if the park should be built. This park is low impact and being constructed in a space where most of the infrastructure (lifts, hotel, restaurants, restrooms, etc) already exist and many people who don’t ride mountain bikes already recognize that this is actually a reasonable use for the area.
Environmental impact aside, it will create jobs and give Mt Hood an economic source year round. They won’t be so dependent on snow fall in the winter since they will have summer activities to fall back on. Build it already!!!
It is not really an aside.
email of support written and sent.
I immediately stopped giving money to BARK when they came out against the mountain bike park. Every time they ask I just verify their lack of support and tell them that I can’t donate to an org that goes against my core beliefs.
I give it to IMBA instead… which reminds me time to renew!
I’m going to just keep riding in the gorge and on hood while earning my turns like any true blooded mountainman , thank you very much. If that occurrs there while rolling the fees in the NW forest pass, great.