Esplanade closure begins February 1st

140 volunteers at Gateway Green’s ‘Big Dig’ help build the future

Posted by on February 13th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

A variety of trails were smoothed, padded and shaped on Saturday.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

With shovels, rakes, hoes, wheelbarrows and buckets, over 140 people showed up on a sunny Saturday to help bring the bike park at Gateway Green another major step closer to reality.

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A sign of things to come.

Since we first shared the vision almost nine years ago, most of the news around Gateway Green has been about funding. Now with ample money in the bank, the attention has turned toward turning shovels.

Working from towering piles of gravel and dirt, volunteers on Saturday buffed, packed, shaped, smoothed and created features on miles of new trails. The trails were designed and built by professionals, but they require lots of fine-tuning before they’re ready for prime-time.

It’s been several months since I last visited the 25-acre parcel, which is situated north Halsey Blvd where the I-205 meets I-84 in east Portland. On Saturday I stood on the ridge of the eastern portion of the park on new trails through what used to be a forested area strangled by ivy and weeds that has since been cleared and opened up. I looked out at trails being built in every direction and it hit me: This is really happening. And it’s going to change everything.

With easy access via car, bike (the I-205 path runs through the park), bus and light rail (the Gateway Transit Center is just a few tenths of a mile away), thousands of Portlanders will soon have access to a significant amount of trails and other fun biking options like a kiddie skills park, pump track, nature play area, a jump line, and more.

When Gateway Green officially opens on June 24th (mark your calendar!) Portland will usher in a new era of bicycling. What Biketown has done for street riding, Gateway Green could do for off-road riding. It will create not just new riders, it will create new leverage for advocates eager to tell a positive story about what dirt bike trails can mean for our city.

Here’s a sneak peek at how the trails are shaping up…

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On Saturday I caught up with Linda Robinson, chair of the board of Friends of Gateway Green. Chomping on a granola bar and sweaty from working the trails all morning, Robinson — a 35-year resident of east Portland and the consummate neighborhood activist — was most eager to talk about what they’re building for kids.

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Linda Robinson.

In the flat middle section of the park, younger riders will have plenty of skills features and trails to choose from. A young rider will be able to show up with little-to-no biking skills and slowly master the entry-level features. Then as months and years pass, the rider can progress to trails with challenging obstacles like narrow switchback turns, fast downhill sections, rock cliffs, log jumps, and so on.

Robinson sees the park not just as a fun diversion for kids, but an essential part of their biking education that will translate far beyond the parks fences. “In my mind the better control a kid has on their bike the safer they’ll be when they get on the road. And why not do it in a fun way?”

In a wooded section a few hundred yards away a group of volunteers were positioning huge tractor tires in the dirt to form a whoop-de-whoop. Elsewhere, people were carrying buckets of dirt and gravel to form into berms. Local freight bike designer Bill Stites was ferrying large loads of material in the back of his Truck Trike.

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A group from Tualatin High School.

Up on the hill in the southern section of the park I met four boys working on a small jump. They were at the event as part of the cycling club at Tualatin High School. “We’ll come out and ride for sure once it’s done for sure,” they promised.

If you missed your chance to come out, don’t worry. Robinson says there are several more work parties to come.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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  • Jim Labbe
    Jim Labbe February 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm


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  • rick February 13, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Great stuff !! Are they leaving car tires there? There is just an eyesore of those along highways and creeks in the Portland area.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 13, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      rick… The car tires are being used to help form the features of the trail. So yes, some of them will remain in place.

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      • rick February 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm

        I see. The monster truck-style at least fits in with the park rather than simple bald-tread car tires. It is great to have these new mountain bike trails! Exciting times!

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  • Cyclekrieg February 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Question: I see the use of aggregate being added. That is pretty common for high clay soils, but are they also adding sand? The only reason I ask is I can’t figure out what the lighter colored piles of material are.

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    • shutupandride February 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      Wood Chips.

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    • Kate February 13, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      We were mixing gravel and sand before laying it out on the trails, at least for the lower toe trail.

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      • Cyclekrieg February 14, 2017 at 9:24 am

        Thanks Kate.

        What are the ratios of sand to gravel that were used? I’m used to soils where the silts and sands are high, so every spot you hit good clay it’s time to mine for more. Would love to know what happens when the opposite is true.

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        • Tori Bortman February 14, 2017 at 11:41 am

          I’m no expert, but in this part of the state where clay in soils and lots of organic earth both cause lack of drainage, which leads to mucky mud and ruts. Not sure of the ratios they were using (I was working on another trail) but that trail sits at the bottom of an incline where water often collects. I’d guess they were aiming to firm up the trail and add drainage.

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  • I wear many hats February 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Excellent work everyone! Its exciting to see such a great park get developed. It looks like there is opportunity to connect to Rocky Butte via the Halsey underpass as well.

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  • Steve February 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks to all of the volunteers and Linda, you’re all awesome.

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  • rick February 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Lots of hard work!

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  • Middle of the Road Guy February 13, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    I have to say that I was stunned with the level of sponsor support. And thankful it was not raining!

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  • curly February 13, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    “In my mind the better control a kid has on their bike the safer they’ll be when they get on the road. And why not do it in a fun way?” Yea!!

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  • Mike Healey February 13, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Given the faciliti8es available for developing kids’ skills, perhaps someone might consider forming a year-round kids bike club along the lines of British Cycling’s Go-Ride programme –
    I’ve looked at US provision for something like this but haven’t found anything like a coherent, structured scheme anywhere.

    Any chance do you think?

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    • JJ February 13, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      PDX Devo…check it out.

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    • Tori Bortman February 14, 2017 at 11:43 am

      Also these guys were there with a booth. They have great programming in California and are starting up in Portland.

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  • Brian February 13, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    One of the fantastic, unintended consequences of off-road cycling and trail building was was evident on Saturday, building community. What a great group of leaders and volunteers! I’m looking forward to more build days in the future. Keep up the great work everyone and lets hope we get to more of this throughout the city.

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  • Dmitriy Zasyatkin February 14, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Big thanks to all the volunteers who help build trails!

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