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

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.

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.

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.

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 jonathan@bikeportland.org

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