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New skills trail, major upgrades proposed for Sandy Ridge trailhead

Posted by on November 11th, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Velo Cult’s party-barge parked at Sandy Ridge after an event last month. A major expansion to the parking lot will feature more room for tailgating and other uses.
(Photo: Velo Cult Bike Shop)

Since they first opened in 2010, the off-road cycling trails at Sandy Ridge have become such a resounding success that the Bureau of Land Management wants to double-down on its investment.

According to environmental assessment documents filed by the BLM, their Sandy Ridge Trailhead Access project is comprised of a slew of additions and upgrades that will add over four acres to the facility. The project includes: an expanded parking area with oversided stalls and “tailgate bumpouts,” a beginner skills trail loop and a bike demo area; a “bicycle hub” featuring a changing room, bike-wash station and a bus stop; a designated special events area; an upgraded entrace; and two short connecting trails.

Here’s a bit more info and a few images of the proposed improvements (taken from the BLM environmental assessment document):

Expanded Parking Area

In order to construct the parking area and additional amenities, a total footprint of 4.2 acres will be disturbed. To construct the parking area, 2.02 acres of the total footprint will be cleared of all vegetation, including small diameter trees if necessary for safety and overall design. The type of vegetation that would be removed includes small Black Cotton Wood, Red Alder, small Western Hemlock, Salmon Berry, California Hazelnut, and Vine Maple. The parking area will be asphalted and parking spaces will be delineated with strips and curbs.

The parking spaces are designed to be over sized spaces to allow for any size passenger vehicle to be parked comfortably and leave ample space to maneuver their gear in and out of the vehicles. Eighteen additional areas for tailgating or picnicking between three parking spots, or bump-outs, will be cleared, graveled, and outfitted with a picnic table for spaces on the exterior of the parking area (EA Figure 2). The expanded parking area will remove 19 standard parking spaces from the existing trailhead parking area, leaving 17 standard parking spaces; while adding 163 new standard parking spaces, four large vehicle parking spaces, and additional handicap designated parking. One additional vault restroom will be installed adjacent to the existing vault restroom to accommodate visitors within the expanded parking area. Two gates will be installed on either side of the expanding parking area loop near the large vehicle spaces to allow for winter season closure of a majority of the new parking spaces for public health and safety.

Beginner Bicycle Skills Trail
Within the interior of the expanded parking area a mountain bicycle beginner skills trail will be built. The skills trail area will encompass approximate 2 acres of the disturbance footprint within the expanded parking area loop (EA Figure 3). Vegetation within the 2 acres will remain in place, including large woody debris. The BLM will remove any non-native and invasive plant species and replace them with fruiting and flowering shrubs and understory trees, Western red cedar, and other vegetation as prescribed by the BLM Wildlife Biologist and Botanist to facilitate wildlife and migratory bird habitat. Construction of the beginner trails will be completed by either BLM or the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) through an existing assistance agreement for the Sandy Ridge Trail System. All trails constructed in the beginner skills area will follow IMBA and BLM non-motorized trail guidance and design features (EA Section 2.4.4).

Bicycle Hub Structure

A bicycle hub, wash station, changing room, and bus stop will be encompassed into one structure and installed south of the existing parking area (EA Figure 3). The structure will be built and installed in cooperation by a BLM non-profit partner. The hub itself will provide tools for small bicycle repairs as well as local area safety equipment and information. Changing rooms and a Mount Hood Express bus stop will also be added to the hub structure. All of the amenities included in the bicycle hub will have a total disturbance foot print of approximately 800 square feet.

The bicycle wash station will help reduce the spread of non-native and invasive species by providing an area for visitors to pressure spray dirt and debris from their bicycle before entering and leaving the trail system. The bike wash station would consist of a structure to hang the bikes on, a low pressure water source to spray bikes and gear off, and a stiff bristle brush to brush off any remaining dirt that cannot be sprayed off. A well head will be installed near the hub to provide less than 5,000 gallons a day of potable water for drinking and for the wash station, which would not require a water right according to the state water master of the region.

Designated Events Area
The existing parking area will be re-purposed to function as an area for permitted trailhead events and concessionaires, including bicycle demos and food carts (EA Figure 3). The Designated Events Area will be built within the center of the existing parking area. A bike demonstration event is where a mountain bike manufacturing or retail company brings a trailer of mountain bikes to Sandy Ridge Trailhead and allows potential customers to test ride the mountain bikes. There is a need to develop a formal bike demo and event area to allow for better accommodations and to reduce the amount of parking spaces used for events. In 2016, there have been 28 scheduled events at Sandy Ridge Trailhead.
A 125 foot by 150 foot pad will be cleared of vegetation, graded, and paved with asphalt within the interior of the existing parking area. Approximately 20 small trees will be removed from the areas in order to construct the pad. In addition to formalizing the event area for bike demos, the re-purposed area would allow for food trucks and carts, providing for a greater level of service for the community and visitors. The area will be available to reserve for events through the Northwest Oregon District SRP process.

Entrance Redesign

A new entrance will be developed that better meets the management objectives of the Sandy Ridge Trailhead. The entrance will incorporate the same style of design, material, art, structure, and sculptures that will be throughout the parking area. The new entrance design may feature an arch entry way that spans the width of the entrance road, with sculptures and stonework of mountain bikers and native wildlife. The location of the new entrance design will be in roughly the same location as the current entrance sign. Considerations for security and safety will be taken into consideration for the new entrance design. For additional design drawings, see EA Chapter 5.

Connecting Trails
Two small connecting trails, totaling 120 feet in length, will be built to connect to the existing trails that are near the trailhead (EA Figure 3). There is currently a loop trail that rings around the proposed parking area. A new trail will be built connecting the northern most portion of the trailhead to the existing loop trail.
Another connecting trail will be built to tie in a nearly completed trail from Barlow Wayside trail to the Sandy Ridge Trailhead. This connecting trail will be for pedestrians only, and trail constructing may include stairs or other built in obstructions to deter the use of bikes on the Barlow Wayside trail.

The BLM estimates about 90,000 people visited the Sandy Ridge trails in 2015, making it one of the most popular recreation spots in the entire region. They say these new amenities and upgrades are necessary in order to, “provide increased site access, improved safety, and to protect the natural environment to provide for a high quality recreation experience.”

The major increase in parking capacity for instance is proposed because many people park out on Barlow Road when the current lot with just 36 parking spaces gets full. There are an estimated 326 vehicles a day that use the lot during the peak riding season. When people park along the road it’s a “serious safety concern” because of poor sight distances and high volume of trucks that use the road.

The BLM also wants to encourage people to not drive to the trailhead. They say the new bus stop, “would allow visitors that do not have access to privately owned vehicles the ability to frequently access the trailhead from the surrounding communities and the Portland-Metropolitan area.”

If you have concerns or want to show your support for this proposal you can share your feedback via this online form through December 8th. You can also contact NW Oregon District Recreation Planner Dan Davis via email at

We’re trying to track down a project timeline and will update this post when we hear more.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Adam H.
    Adam H. November 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Might want to fix that headline. At first I was confused why the Black Lives Matter movement would want a skills park. 😉

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      given the context i didn’t think it was confusing at all. I think it’s extra newsworthy that federal agency was proposing the changes. But since 2 ppl have pointed out confusion with Black Lives Matter, I’ve changed the headline.

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      • bjorn November 11, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        I keep having the opposite confusion, whenever I see black lives matter stuff I am like the bureau is doing what?

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  • Kittens November 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    You may like to clarify, define; BLM. It’s now is common shorthand for Black Lives Matter. Though contextually it’s not confusing here.

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  • Alex November 11, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    This is great to see. I also see this as a big counter-argument the Portland locals put up regarding the demand of having more MTB access in Forest Park.

    Free Forest Park.

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    • Zimmerman November 11, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      Or one singular Beaverton local.

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      • wsbob November 12, 2016 at 12:23 pm

        Be nice. Its likely that I speak for the many.

        Glad to see improvements made to Sandy Ridge. Looking forward to the day when people out in the Beaverton area and Washington County, work to have land out here, acquired for riding mountain bikes in this area.

        By way of a metro vote, I feel it’s likely that a good number of people out in Beaverton may have voted for acquisition of the North Tualitan land, providing, among the varied opportunities for recreation that will be available, also trails for mountain biking.

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        • Zimmerman November 14, 2016 at 9:37 am

          What makes you think I was talking about you? Where’s Carly Simon when you need her?

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        • Alex November 15, 2016 at 9:44 am

          Based on the number of likes you get, I doubt you speak for the many, even though you keep insisting that you do.

          Also, just fyi, I don’t know if you participated in the Metro process of the Tualatin mountains – I did – and it didn’t turn out that great. The NIMBYism is pretty strong in Les Blaize’s neck of the woods.

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    • Bjorn November 11, 2016 at 7:21 pm

      It won’t matter how much or how little mountain biking is available an hour away there is one woman who uses forest park heavily in her own business and wants to keep using it that way without disruption. She will keep opposing any sharing of the park, but lets not pretend that it is some mass movement or that she has any motive outside her own business interests.

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      • Alex November 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

        Oh – I did not mean to imply it is many people – just a very vocal minority.

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      • wsbob November 12, 2016 at 12:34 pm

        Bjorn….what woman? What business? Doesn’t much matter really. How big a minority are you thinking of? A minority group can be very large….49 percent. I very much doubt that a small vocal minority is deciding use of the city’s largest tract of forested natural, recreational land…Forest Park. If a large minority percentage of Portland residents were to want to use that park for mountain biking, I think there’s a chance it would happen. A small majority would improve the chances.

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        • wsbob November 12, 2016 at 12:39 pm

          Correction and an addition: should be…’ a large minority would improve the chances. Even a small majority would bring it home.’

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        • Alex November 12, 2016 at 3:04 pm

          I know I have said this to you about a bajillion times, but they have done surveys, found the majority want more single-track access and yet still didn’t do it.

          If you don’t know the woman to whom he is referring to, you must be really out of the loop.

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          • Dan A November 14, 2016 at 8:05 am

            la la la he can’t hear you

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          • Ozman November 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

            I’m out of the loop, what woman and what business?

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  • B. Carfree November 11, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot of car amenities.

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    • Zimmerman November 11, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      If only there was a trail system of Sandy Ridge’s quality within the Portland city limits. People wouldn’t need those car amenities because they could ride to their ride. I know a 5000 acre spot that’d work perfectly.

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    • Middle of the Road guy November 13, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Some people drive to other locations to cycle recreationally.

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  • Brian November 12, 2016 at 7:11 am

    The beginner’s skills loop is going to be a great addition. Now all we need is a taco stand.

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  • Andrew November 12, 2016 at 7:58 am

    YESSSS! ‘Bout time to get the parking lot done up all nice. Now they need to give me a key to the gate and let us make TNT world-class. Pa-POOOOOWWWWWWW.

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  • Randy November 12, 2016 at 8:38 am

    We also need in-town improvements too. I’ve been suggesting floating bike bridges since 2005. Chicago is listening ~

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    • Alex November 12, 2016 at 8:45 am

      What does this have to do with mountain biking or anything talked about in the article?

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      • mran1984 November 12, 2016 at 10:49 am

        They don’t actually ride Alex. What would you expect…Bureau of Land Management, confusing, uh.

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  • resopmok November 12, 2016 at 9:17 am

    So how many bikes will the bus be able to carry? And how often does it run?

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    • Oliver November 12, 2016 at 11:05 am

      It runs every couple/few hours.

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      • resopmok November 12, 2016 at 5:19 pm

        I was referring to this quote from the article: “would allow visitors that do not have access to privately owned vehicles the ability to frequently access the trailhead from the surrounding communities and the Portland-Metropolitan area.”

        Maybe I misunderstand this schedule, but how am I supposed to get my mountain bike and I to Sandy to catch this bus if I live in the Portland Metropolitan area? Also, the information about how bikes can be transported and the ease of doing so is pretty non-specific on the linked site. I think improvements should be made in these areas if the stated goal is to be taken seriously.

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        • Chris I November 12, 2016 at 8:32 pm

          You would have to take MAX to Gresham and catch SAM to Sandy… so ya, two transfers to get to the ridge. Not exactly easy or convenient. Or cheap.

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          • Zimmerman November 13, 2016 at 11:09 am

            Certainly cheaper than owning a car, right?

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        • BVT_biker November 13, 2016 at 12:51 pm

          The Timberline shuttle leaves from Gresham and the MAX goes to Gresham. The particular shuttle we took had a trailer that held about 25 bikes and we fit 6 more in the bus with a tight squeeze. With a standard $5 Trimet pass you have a full day of entertainment. After your ride, stop over at Zig Zag Inn for some great milkshakes and pizza. All total it’s less than a movie and infinitely more active and fun.

          On the subject of the article: more car infrastructure is fine but I would like to see a proportional increase in the number of trails in the Sandy Ridge trail system to maintain some semblance of usability in the increasingly crowded area. They claim that increased parking spots at the lot will decrease parking along Barlow Road but time and time again we prove that more car infrastructure only _increases_ car use. There will not be any fewer cars parking along Barlow Road but there will be more cars in the parking lot and the experience will degrade. Now I’m not trying to come across as a NIMBY and I’m supportive of any project that intends to get people outside and moving but if we build more parking we should also build more trails.

          Ideally any new trails would run uphill only as currently the only way to ride up to the top is on a long, boring paved road. The trails are technically two way but people grumble and moan if you block their fast and fun descent so uphill riders use the road.

          Regardless of these complaints, Sandy Ridge is an extremely fun trail network that can flex to your skill and adrenaline level with multiple paths and connections. I recommend showing up early (this is a good rule for any activity open to the public) and riding until you are too tired to go further. Don’t be afraid of getting stuck because at almost any point you can bail out to the road and coast down.

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          • JBone November 14, 2016 at 9:53 am

            Zig Zag Inn is kitsch and all, but for great pizza I’d check out the new al Fornao Ferruzza in Rhododendron. For BBQ/burgers, hit up Skyway in Rhody and mexican El Burro Loco in Welches. Wraptitdude in Welches is great too.

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  • Oliver November 12, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Stay tuned for the BLM to be defunded and disbanded.

    Kidding (I hope)

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  • Manville November 13, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    140 miles round trip from Portland. What is the carbon off set for that. We need to focus on local trails in Forrest Park so Mountain Biking is not an all day carbon fest every time we want to ride.

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    • I wear many hats November 14, 2016 at 9:06 am

      We need local trails, maybe in the giant park that is adjacent to the population. This great, but no one can work in Portland and ride after work here. We need a local place to ride (and not just in Gateway Green).

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      • Dan A November 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm

        My kids are only interesting in riding in 30-45 minute stretches. No way am I taking a 3-4 hour round trip with them for that much riding.

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