Weekender Ride

Rob Sadowsky, formerly of The Street Trust, is now executive director of Bark

Posted by on October 18th, 2017 at 9:27 am

Historic Columbia River Hwy Centennial Celebration-26.jpg

Sadowsky in June 2016.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Rob Sadowsky is the new executive director of Bark, a Portland-based nonprofit that works to protect and conserve the Mt. Hood National Forest.

It’s an interesting position for Sadowsky. While Bark supports some types mountain biking, they are co-plaintiffs (with Sierra Club) on a lawsuit to halt construction of the Timberline Mountain Bike Park (more on that below).

Many of you know Sadowsky for his work with The Street Trust (formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance), where he was executive director from 2010 until being fired by the board of directors back in January.

Bark was founded in 1993 and currently has eight staffers and an email list that goes out to around 30,000 people (they are not a membership-based organization).

As I mentioned above, Bark is fighting a plan by Timberline Lodge to create a lift-assisted mountain biking resort on Mt. Hood. In 2013 we published an op-ed in opposition to the project from Bark board member Amy Harwood. Final oral arguments on the lawsuit were just heard on Monday (it was Sadowsky’s first day on the job and he was in the courtroom) and a decision is expected within the next month or so.

Asked about his opinion on mountain biking on National Forest land in a FAQ just posted to Bark’s website, Sadowsky didn’t mention Timberline:


“I love mountain biking. There is a place for recreational activities, where we can safely limit the impact they have on the environment and where partnerships with mountain biking advocates can add stewardship opportunities. But there are areas that are sacred, that are vital to preserving endangered species and natural habitat, where any encroachment on that ecosystem can damage a variety of species.

I strongly support Bark’s current stance which supports mountain bike trails at places like Dog River and Sandy Ridge where they don’t adversely impact salmon or water quality.”

I talked with Sadowsky on the phone yesterday to learn more about Bark’s position on the Timberline project and how he’ll approach the issue as leader of the organization.

“There is absolutely no opposition to mountain biking itself,” Sadowsky explained, “But for us it comes down to two questions: Is it planned over an area that might threaten endangered species? And what is the remediation or conservation plan to ensure any type of facility doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on the property?”

At the proposed site for the Timberline project, Sadowsky said Bark is concerned specifically about the impact to the Western Bumblebee and steelhead populations. They feel the US Forest Service “Skipped some steps” in their environmental analysis. “We can’t let that happen,” Sadowsky said, “Because what happens next time when the ATVs come around and try to short-shrift the process? We’re the last line of defense [of Mt. Hood] and we have to draw a line — which doesn’t always make people happy.”

Sadowsky added that they expect a decision on the lawsuit within the next 60 days. And even if the project is halted, “It doesn’t mean Timberline is dead, it just may mean they have to go back and do the plan in a way that accomodates our concerns.”

The need to defend wildnerness has only gotten more urgent in the Trump era and Sadowsky sees his job as keeping Mt. Hood as pristine as possible. “If we had our druthers, we’d probably want the entire mountain to be wilderness. We don’t think there’s enough [wilderness] left in this country and now we’ve got a president looking to shrink public lands and monuments even smaller. Our job is defense. You might not like our tactics; but they’re done for a reason.”

It’s important to note that it’s far from proven science that bicycling in sensitive mountain environments is inherently detrimental. It’s a debate that’s far from settled.

Timberline GM Steve Kruse says they remain committed to the project. In an email sent to members of the Northwest Trail Alliance (a mountain bike advocacy group) this week he said, “With the increased use in the last five years of Sandy Ridge, the Mt Hood Express for Timberline to Town, and future plans of Timberline to partner further with Skibowl, we feel that the addition of this lift served bike park will make Mt Hood a destination stop.”

Northwest Trail Alliance President Chris Rotvik says his group is actively working on bike access projects in other parts of the Mt. Hood National Forest, and Bark is one of the groups at that table. “We’re delighted with their [Bark’s] pro-recreation stance. I can only imagine that Rob Sadowsky’s appointment will advance quiet recreation, including mountain biking, bikepacking, and gravel grinding, in the the Mt Hood area.”

Off road cycling advocate Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell also expressed optimism about working on bike access issues with Bark. “Gratefully, Bark’s stance has progressed over the past couple years as a handful of smart and dedicated individuals within their organization have actively reached out to the off-road cycling community to learn more about us and our sport,” she told us this morning. “No doubt that ‘we’ won’t always see eye-to-eye, but they seem very willing and wanting to have ‘us’ at the table to discuss how to balance conservation and active recreation goals.”

With Sadowsky now in the mix, that progress in the relationship between an environmental conservation group and a bicycling group will likely only get better.

If you’d like to re-connect with Rob and learn more about Bark’s work, they’re hosting a meet-and-greet party on November 28th at Cider Riot (807 NE Couch).

CORRECTIONS, 10:30 am:: This post originally stated that Bark is “pro-mountain biking”. I changed that to “supports mountain biking.” And NW Trail Alliance isn’t working with Bark directly, they are working with the Hood River Stewardship Collaborative, of which Bark is a member. Sorry for any confusion.

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

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  • Tad October 18, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Reading the original op-ed piece as well as the pieces linked here, I’ve not been able to find anything that gives some specificity to why there shouldn’t be a mountain bike park on Timberline. I’d love to know what about the planned trail alignments impacts the forest ecosystem more than the ski area already does. Is there something which, in the design of the trails themselves or the planned routes, which could make this more amenable?

    Unfortunately, the only verbiage I’m seeing is generalities which aim to get us sentimental about Mt. Hood. We all already are sentimental about Mt. Hood. That’s established. But in this day and age, where we have plenty of people who are extremely well-versed on sustainable trail construction, what specifically is the issue?

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    • Alex October 18, 2017 at 9:48 am

      Because, hyperbole! They haven’t provided anything scientific – they just claim it is “sacred” and somehow bikes break that “sacredness”.

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      • Tad October 18, 2017 at 9:56 am

        It just feels like the same as the River View Natural Area or so many of the Forest Park discussions. It ends up being heavy in “because the forest must be protected” and very light in actual well-reasoned and specific concerns about the ecological impact of riders as compared with other forest uses.

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        • John Lascurettes October 18, 2017 at 2:16 pm

          If it is so sacred and delicate, are they doing anything to remove skiing from the Timberline area? No? I didn’t think so. I’m confused as to how MTB, which I suspect is a smaller crowd, could be any more “impactful” than the many thousands that go up skiing every year.

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          • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 2:25 pm

            It’s called “choosing your battles.” Personally, I have given money to BARK, and, personally, I think at least the lifts and development above Timberline Lodge are a desecration of something sacred and should be removed. But, I am certain that any effort to do this in the near future would go nowhere, and also that the vast majority of Oregonians would think I’m a radical extremist for saying that. So why should BARK go out and say it, and seem more radical and extreme than it already does, when there’s no reasonable prospect of any of the already existing development being removed in the near future?

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            • Alex October 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

              That’s great, I will choose to support the groups that support science based conservation and not “user group based conservation”. I hope you would start putting your money towards those instead.

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              • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 3:08 pm

                Can you educate me about which those are? I really haven’t put that much effort into the research.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 7:23 pm

                Right now, they mainly consist of mountain bike groups, because there aren’t too many that cross the user divide: NWTA (locally), IMBA and Sustainable Trails Coalition. And before you start calling me out on being biased towards bikes, IMBA basically wrote the rules that were adopted at a Federal level and by hiker based groups everywhere. They have been leading the way in conservation and putting in a ton of work training people and getting people out there. MTBers have one of the highest volunteer participation rates out there as far as user groups go, as well. On top of that, these groups largely consist of bike commuters who support cycling and increased cycling infrastructure in cities. They definitely put bikes at the forefront, but they are also the ones putting science first.

                Unfortunately this will come off as extremely biased, but I really haven’t seen or heard the science where mountain bikes are doing more damage than hikers. I also haven’t seen what Bark has contributed to sustainable trail building or methods for avoiding erosion. I have seen that from these groups. I would love to find neutral use group that is not pushing one specific user group, either passively or directly.

                All that being said, if you are going to discount the groups I consider, please provide some links/information that supports what you said. I would love to consider it and see how these groups are supporting the greater good and not just their base.

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              • Alex Reedin October 19, 2017 at 5:56 am

                Thanks for responding. Unfortunately, what I know of those groups’ work and mission says that they focus on enabling recreation. Bark and many other environmental groups focus on conserving land and ecosystems, and their bias towards hiking is a small side-concern. If there were a true conservation group that was better than the others at partnering with mountain biking orgs, I would consider moving my donations to them, mostly because I think building Bridges and creating a bigger tent is a more effective approach to conservation.

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              • Alex Reedin October 19, 2017 at 6:01 am

                And – writing the rules about building trails to have the lowest possible negative impacts, while laudable, is not at all evidence that any of the mountain biking orgs spend a large portion of their time and dollars fighting logging and development, protecting unprotected public lands, or the like. Honestly, I don’t really think they should, except to better protect mountain biking areas and adjacent landscapes. Organizations don’t need mission creep.

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              • Alex October 19, 2017 at 6:55 am

                Again, IMBA specifically has worked on conservation – they came up with the trail building guidelines that are currently in use. So while, yes, they focus on recreation outwardly, they also have strong positions and innovate in the arena of conservation.

                You can donate trees through USNFS, as well. They are more neutral and focus on conservation.

                Another one is National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

                Any of those options are better than Bark/Sierra Club/et. al. I would be happy to do some more research and find alternatives that aren’t actively working against riding bikes.

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              • Alex October 19, 2017 at 6:58 am

                They didn’t “write the rules” or “have mission creep”. They came up with sustainable ways to build trails and it was adopted at the federal level because they make sense and were much better than what was in use before. Part of their mission is protecting and making better the areas where mountain bikes have access so it falls directly in line with that.

                Your negativity towards that is confusing and kind of strange, tbh.

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              • Alex Reedin October 19, 2017 at 8:22 am

                In many mountain biking posts on BikePortland, replying to many commenters, my view is that you see much more negativity and bad blood than actually exists. I think what the IMBA has done is great! I’m just saying, they’re not squarely, 95% focused on stopping ecologically harmful logging and development like, say, Bark is. Which is fine! Different strokes for different folks and organizations!

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              • Alex October 19, 2017 at 8:27 am

                If that is all your experience is, then I suggest you start attending meetings regarding mountain bike access in portland. The single track advisory was insane – you should read the opinions of Marcey Houle and the other nay-sayers. How about the protestors that were protesting Metro’s adding single track to Tualatin mountains? Did you go to any of the RVNA meetings? I was there and there is a lot of bad blood. I think you hoisting your views again.

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    • justin October 18, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      Honestly, the reason the Mountain Biking trails would be more impactful than skiing is that the snow actually protects the soil from any impact. If you’ve spent much time on trails in the fall/spring, you probably know that they become defacto creeks. The erosion caused by the trails is one of the concerns here.

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      • Alex October 19, 2017 at 7:04 am

        Not all trails become “de facto creeks”. If a trail is built properly, this does not happen.

        While you have a valid point about the snow, I think the biggest impact up there is the sheer number of people and cars – that and the fact that they have already installed ski lifts and maintain a thriving business up there.

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      • Alex Reedin October 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm

        I have to point out – a lot of ski runs are very wide paths cleared of trees to enable downhill skiing by those who are beginning/intermediate/people who like to ski fast without worry about hitting trees. Even though there is typically some grasses, forbs, and brush in these areas, there is a definite impact to taking out all the trees and keeping trees from growing. I don’t know how one could even decide how many cubic feet of eroded soil is “worth” a cleared tree, but my guess is that the trail/run impacts of the two forms of recreation are comparable.

        (Note: I think I oppose the new lift-assisted MTB development… I just happen to also oppose at least some of the existing downhill skiing development too :-))

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  • Alex October 18, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I hope he starts supporting mtbing at Timberline. I believe Bark was part of the lawsuit suing to stop that.

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    • JP October 18, 2017 at 10:16 am

      Much of the article was devoted to that very topic.

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      • Alex October 18, 2017 at 10:36 am

        Ha – yea – I read the headline and typed a comment out too fast before I read the whole thing. 😀

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  • one October 18, 2017 at 9:43 am

    I want more access to mountain biking. And I want it in the City of Portland.

    That being said. I wanted to jump into this discussion before we get BARK haters in here (They are coming.) I love the work that BARK does, and I ride a bicycle as often as I possibly can (And I’ve been carfree for much of my adult life.)
    There is not an Us vs Them debate to be had. We both need to support mountain biking options (Hello Forest Park) and we need to transform Mt. Hood National Forest into a place where natural processes prevail, where wildlife thrives and where local communities have a social, cultural, and economic investment in its restoration and preservation.


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    • Alex October 18, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Mtbing is not in oppostion to areas where “natural processes prevail, where wildlife thrives and where local communities have a social, cultural, and economic investment in its restoration and preservation.”

      If you can provide anything but hyperbole, I would love to read it.

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      • one October 18, 2017 at 10:01 am


        Which part of my statement do you think that I don’t want you to take seriously?

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        • Alex October 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

          I think you want me to take it seriously – I think it is an exaggeration – the first, more common, definition, not the second.

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    • JeffS October 18, 2017 at 11:54 am

      And how do you draw the distinction between Forest Park and Mt Hood? Is it simply that you personally want to ride in one and not the other, or something else? The conservation/preservation argument is largely the same in both places.

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  • Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell October 18, 2017 at 9:50 am

    As a follow up to my statement, I’d like to say that while we are optimistic we are not optimistically naive. We expect conversation groups to recognize off-road cyclist as they do any other active recreation group – all of which negatively impact the environment in some capacity. It is important that we base our decision on who-gets-to-access-what on science and data, not on observational experiences or emotions.

    I’d also caution Rob (and others that have rallied against off-road cycling) on watching out for those slippery slopes. Just because the FS studies have concluded that off-road cycling should be permitted on Mt. Hood doesn’t mean that they’re going to roll out the red carpet to ATVs or any of user group requesting access.

    Finally, the “line” of defense around Mt. Hood does not neatly line up with the actual map line boundaries of the mountain. As it’s closest urban neighbor, we have a responsibility to be aware of the impacts we have on the forest from within the confines of the city. Just my opinion, but I’d love to see more conservation organizations recognize that and push for policies at the city level that directly support their out-of-town work. How’s the implementation of our city’s climate action plan coming along?

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    • rick October 18, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Mountain bikes are nothing of ATVs and expansive car parking lots.

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    • wsbob October 18, 2017 at 11:33 am

      I find what Sadowsky mentions about conservation and management of wilderness to be encouraging. Also about the plans for mountain biking within the Timberline Lodge area. Quiet natural land places in the U.S. are under threat from excessive use. Sadowsky and Bark are right I think, that somebody has got to draw the line on excessive use of natural land, even when that’s not popular with some people.

      There are natural land places in the state and the nation in which already, too many people hiking some of the trails, threatens the peace and quiet such lands are intended to offer. The addition of mountain biking as an activity to those lands, does not sound like something that will aid in the conservation of peace and quiet available on those lands.

      Committing some land to use for mountain biking, seems reasonable to me. If this is something many Oregonians truly want, it should be possible. It’s a compromise, but if enough Oregonians are happy with that, fine.

      Sadowsky is smart to be aware of the atv enthusiasts in Oregon. People interested in mountain biking, should be aware of them also. For many people I think, accessibility is what atv’s are about. They’re probably not going to get any red carpet to access of a delicate area they may decide they’d like to have access to, but because the use this segment of the atv enthusiasts make of their vehicles, I think that gives them perhaps a sympathetic reception from the general public that mountain bike enthusiasts lack.

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      • Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell October 18, 2017 at 12:44 pm

        That’s because you’re clearly not an off-road cyclist and care little for what the ambiguous “somebody” decides and “some people” dislike so long as you can continue to hike, right? Seems fair to you, right?

        I’ve still yet to hear a clear explanation as to how off-road cycling can be both loud enough to ruin the peace and quiet all the while being so stealthy as to sneak up on hikers constantly. It’s a nonsensical complaint that I hear constantly from people that don’t want to share trail access.

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        • wsbob October 18, 2017 at 5:38 pm

          “That’s because you’re clearly not an off-road cyclist and care little for what the ambiguous “somebody” decides and “some people” dislike so long as you can continue to hike, right? …” Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell

          With the exception that I’m not an off-road cyclist, currently, the remainder of what you’re suggesting here, is not right. I care a lot about what people working to conserve natural lands have over decades, decided to do with the result that at least some natural lands in this nation, continue to be quiet refuges where people still can go to experience that.

          Of course, mountain bike enthusiasts don’t seem to like that sustaining this kind of natural land resource, more or less obliges the restriction of vehicular traffic from many natural land areas, particularly officially designated wilderness areas. Mountain bikes are vehicles, which is why their use is excluded from wilderness. Their use is antithetical to the nature of wilderness.

          This country, the U.S., used to have a lot more natural land than it does today. The way so much of it has been parceled out and compromised, there’s not a lot of it left anymore that isn’t subject to uses that diminish the natural character that officially designated wilderness areas, at least, are committed to some degree of perpetuity.

          If here in the U.S. or in Oregon, there are the numbers of people that support and are willing to rescue for example, some commercial timberland and commit it to be used for mountain biking, I’d favor an idea like that. That would be a way to increase the inventory of timberland for recreation. Maybe still allow commercial logging on the same lands, to continue on some level as well.

          The level of support and interest in mountain biking, is an ongoing question for me. If the support for this recreation does exist to a level somewhat approaching that which exists for hiking here Oregon, it’s possible that more land for mountain biking could come to be, one way or another. Without that level of support, probably not.

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          • I wear many hats October 23, 2017 at 8:13 am

            You are mistaken wsbob. The wilderness act did not ban bicycles.

            “”Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water, on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a nonliving power source contained or carried on or within the device.”

            36 CFR § 293.6(a) (1973), formerly 36 CFR § 251.75 (1966)

            It banned non human powered transport. The original law was perverted. The existing wilderness is wilderness because it wasn’t viable to log via steam donkey in the 1900’s. We gave all of our forests to Weyerhauser and the corporation left us the scraps. We as a conservation community, should be advocating for more recreation in active timberlands, and more conservation in active timberlands. The knee jerk reaction to always ban bikes from trails is self serving. We too, want to get out in the forest to experience nature.

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            • wsbob October 26, 2017 at 11:54 pm

              If you believe the excerpt you pasted into your comment, is the definitive word in the Wilderness Act, on the question of using bikes in wilderness, post a link to the document page it came from. Explain anything else in the document, that may have brought bikes without non-living power sources…in other words, pedaled bikes…to be excluded from use in wilderness.

              I’m not saying you aren’t possibly correct in some abbreviated interpretation, yours or whoever else may have come to it, of the Wilderness Act’s provisions, about the question of use of mountain bikes in wilderness. You’re not offering what connection may exist in the document, between the excerpt you posted, and the existing exclusion of the use of mountain bikes in officially designated wilderness.

              If you’re correct in what you say, there could be grounds for a winnable case against the government…which would be the U.S. public…for allowing the use of bikes in wilderness.

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      • Alex October 18, 2017 at 3:05 pm

        > There are natural land places in the state and the nation in which already, too many people hiking some of the trails, threatens the peace and quiet such lands are intended to offer. The addition of mountain biking as an activity to those lands, does not sound like something that will aid in the conservation of peace and quiet available on those lands.

        So, you are basically admitting it has nothing to do with mountain biking. I would rather see a lottery based system. Let people bike, just limit the total number of people.

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        • wsbob October 18, 2017 at 5:58 pm

          “…So, you are basically admitting it has nothing to do with mountain biking. …” alex

          I’m not making such an admission. My most recent response to Jocelyn, up above, explains in more detail. Excessive use of natural lands, even confined only to hiking, has definitely though, been a problem in some areas for many years. Too many people using the land at one time, brings the land to the point to where it’s no longer capable of providing a quiet place, of being the wilderness efforts are made to sustain it as the wilderness it is.

          Timberline Wilderness area isn’t that big really. Easy hike around in 3-4 days. Some people run it in a day. Very accessible, maybe too accessible from Portland. Everybody with any inclination to hike has got to do it. Mt Ranier is another place where the number of visitors is huge. Yosemite National Park and it’s signature valley, is a classic example of excessive use.

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    • JeffS October 18, 2017 at 11:59 am

      I agree with you.

      Of course, then I look around at a city strewn with garbage, dumping its waste into the river, and I have to think that the people of Portland (as a whole) are among the last people who should be presuming to speak on environmental issues of the surrounding areas. Of course, you can have multiple priorities, but the ones closest to home seem to elicit the least concern.

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      • wsbob October 20, 2017 at 12:58 pm

        People are concerned about issues close to home, as it applies to either in the city or the country. Definitely. That they are is why so much effort is directed towards things like recycling, more efficient use of road and street infrastructure providing for better conditions for walking, biking, skateboarding for travel, mass transit. Much of what was once natural land, is compromised in cities in towns to provide for human activity, places to live and make a living.

        This having happened, and continuing to happen today, is where ‘the last stand’ has come into play in the preservation and conservation of natural lands across the nation. So it is, the people of this country set aside natural land for some national parks that are stunningly beautiful, and closer to home, an increasingly larger inventory of natural lands within and near to cities and towns.

        That’s why Forest Park exists today, thanks to visionary people throughout Portland’s history, that recognize the importance of protecting some natural lands from the incursion of excessive human activity holding the potential of eliminating any semblance of natural land that’s readily accessible to the public.

        Today, existing natural land refuges and parks and creation of new ones continue to have huge support from the general public, as places protected from the compromises people make to live and make a living. The basic value and ethic is to allow to continue, places as close as possible to their inherent natural land character. Off-road and mountain biking, essentially are counter to that value and ethic. Most of the U.S. public, I think, recognizes this, which accounts for the resistance to allowing use of officially established wilderness for mountain biking.

        Off-road biking enthusiasts, mountain bikers, etc, may be able to develop support among the general public for this type of vehicular recreation, sufficient to increase the inventory of land committed to use with mountain bikes. In order for that to happen though, it seems to me to be likely, essential even, for them to recognize the basic value and ethic associated with public support for natural land and wilderness, that off-road biking enthusiasts continue to find their heads butting up against.

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  • Jon October 18, 2017 at 9:59 am

    There is absolutely no way to support the statement that BARK is pro-mountain bike. They are not. Like most of these radical environmental groups they want exclusive use of the public lands by their narrow user group. If they cannot support mountain bike use on a built up ski slope with tons of man made equipment, lodges, lifts, roads, etc. there really is no place they will support mountain bikes.

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    • Alex October 18, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Yea, the interesting part of the lawsuit (if you haven’t read it, I suggest you do), is that it has less to do with the impact mountain biking then it has to do with other “policies and procedures” that haven’t been followed to the letter.

      The focus of their arguments is to keep mtbs off the land, but the actual lawsuit has very little do with the impact of mountain bikes. I read that as they have very few facts that actually back them up on their impact of mountain bikes on the environment.

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      • Jay October 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm


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    • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 11:49 am

      I don’t think you really understand the motivations involved. BARK’s agenda isn’t about any (human) user group. It highly values healthy natural ecosystems for their own sake, with any human use thereof being secondary. I bet the majority of BARK staff and supporters would be in favor of the establishment of areas where ALL human recreation (including hiking) is prohibited, but see this as too large a political lift and too low a priority to even work on it currently when there’s so much work defending against development to do.

      Source: I have donated to BARK in the past, receive their communications, and gone with them on one event.

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      • Brian October 18, 2017 at 12:10 pm

        As a mountain biker who valued wild areas, I actually agree that some areas should remain untouched. The problem from my perspective is that BARK actively encourages one form of recreation (hiking), while falsely claiming to support another (cycling). This is frustrating for many of us who believe in the rest of their mission statement and objectives. After all, mountain biking in the outdoors can’t exist without the outdoors.

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        • Brian October 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm

          “values,” not “valued”

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  • rick October 18, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Build the mountain bike paths !

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  • Alex October 18, 2017 at 10:10 am

    I have a question for Bark – if they are reading – what have you done to support mountain biking? Genuine curiosity. You claim to support mtbing, but I haven’t seen any actual support. Perhaps I have just missed it.

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  • Bjorn October 18, 2017 at 10:26 am

    While Rob might claim he is pro mountain biking I never saw anything during his tenure with the bra/street trust to indicate a desire or ability to advocate for off road cycling. At this point Barks “pro mountain biking” status seems more like lip service than actual support. Hopefully that will change going forward but I see a lot of opposition to new trails and desire to remove existing gravel roads and not much else from BARK.

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    • Alex October 18, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Yep – this reflects what I have seen, as well.

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  • Todd Hudson October 18, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Bark’s support of mountain biking doesn’t really seem sincere or come from the perspective of a mountain biking enthusiast. On their website, their advocacy starts and stop with support of “road-to-trail” conversions in national forests. Why drive an hour to ride on the equivalent of Leif Erikson Drive when you can just bike to Leif Erikson Drive? Old gravel roads isn’t what attracts people to mountain biking.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 18, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Just FYI:

    CORRECTIONS, 10:30 am:: This post originally stated that Bark is “pro-mountain biking”. I changed that to “supports mountain biking.” And NW Trail Alliance isn’t working with Bark directly, they are working with the Hood River Stewardship Collaborative, of which Bark is a member. Sorry for any confusion.

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  • Northwest Trail Alliance
    Northwest Trail Alliance October 18, 2017 at 11:09 am

    The article can suggest to the less-informed a generalization that mountain biking is a greater detriment to the environment than hiking. Metro just released a document that summarizes a great deal of research that doesn’t support this point of view.

    That Bark would prefer all of the Mt Hood National Forest as wilderness is troubling in two ways: bicycling, a form of quiet recreation, is excluded from wilderness without scientific basis, and that exclusion is a detriment to building the cadre of conservationists necessary to move environmental conditions forward.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense for organizations like Bark to help reopen wilderness to cycling rather than have cyclists in opposition to the creation of additional wilderness?

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    • Bjorn October 18, 2017 at 11:12 am

      I remember when the new wilderness areas closed a bunch of trails formerly open to mountain biking and Sierra Club et al made some statement about how it was ok because new trails could be built for mountain biking outside the wilderness area, but then magically it seems like everytime someone comes forward with funding to do so the place they want to do so is just not quite right…

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    • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Well, what’s missing is either an edit to the Wilderness Act to allow mountain biking, or a new designation (bicycle backcountry?) that offers the other protections of wilderness but allows mountain biking too. I think it’s up to mountain biking organizations to get the environmental organizations on board for one of those (probably the second) and get it passed. In the absence of that, it feels unrealistic to ask a environmental/land-protection organization like Bark to stop advocating for Wilderness protection, the strongest land-protection designation that exists by a large margin.

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      • Alex October 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        Ok – I’ll bite. What’s Bark’s stance on allowing mountain bikes in wilderness? Do they support that? Do they support local management or management from a very high-level where the districts can’t decide for themselves?

        I see Bark and the Sierra Club pretty much the same – they talk out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to mountain biking. I think Bark/Sierra Club should be advocating for scientific methods be applied based on environmental impact of the activity. It shouldn’t be just “mechanized modes of transport” banned. If that’s true, skiing should be banned, canoes should be banned and we shouldn’t have roads that allow cars in wilderness (which we have). This seems like they want their cake and eat it, too.

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        • rainbike October 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

          Which Wilderness Areas have roads that allow cars?

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          • Alex October 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

            Mt Hood wilderness?


            You can clearly see NF roads cut in there.

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            • rainbike October 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm

              I’ve seen some of those roads – the grade may remain, as might their route on maps, but they’re decommissioned with tank traps or gated at the Wilderness boundary.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

                Ok…there are others more to the north. What I like are when wilderness areas are just designated around roads to allow cars in like this. Please go and verify in person that all those roads are shut down and get back to me.

                How about this?


                Is Bark working to shut that down? Or is it ok just because that 20 foot swath surround by wilderness isn’t technically wilderness? Or NF-140 that goes to badger lake so people can drive right into wilderness? I mean, it’s ridiculous. http://www.wilderness.net/map.cfm?xmin=-13573279.377&ymin=5653328.3848&xmax=-13534874.1175&ymax=5695056.2912

                It’s a bit ridiculous.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm

                Oops – those links are the same above. Go look at the maps around the aforementioned NF roads. You will see what I mean.

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              • Chris I October 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm

                The exception for the Flag Point Fire Lookout is probably the most obvious one, in the Badger Creek Wilderness. In winter, it is definitely a wilderness adventure to get to this lookout, but they need motor vehicle access in the summer or the fire lookout could not operate.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm

                Sure – but that doesn’t mean it needs to be open to the public. There are many other ones, as well. I am not going to go road-by-road to tell you why each one is either hypocritical or not. And either way, there is no science based reasoning to say that we should keep these open to protect the wilderness. If that was the goal, the lookout should go (which, btw, I am not advocating for). Let’s just not pretend this is all “science” and that mountain biking is doing any more harm than hiking – it’s not. I get that hikers don’t want to share trails, but don’t go around accusing a user group of something you haven’t been able to successfully prove.

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            • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 12:39 pm

              I think that’s just expediency. I bet that BARK would have some/most/all of those roads removed if they had their druthers, but removing the roads is a larger political lift than establishing the wilderness around it. Wilderness is statutorily prohibited from having roads, so if the road (politically) can’t be removed, better to have wilderness on both sides of it than to just have the wilderness end at the road.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 12:53 pm

                I guess, my point would be more towards, where’s the science? It’s easy to prove a car has a negative impact on the environment, yet they set their targets on bikes.

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              • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 1:00 pm

                My perception is they don’t set their targets on bikes; their target is logging, wilderness designation is a major weapon against logging, and bikes are collateral damage.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm

                Did you read the article? They are actively spending money on a lawsuit to stop bikes from having access.

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              • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 2:11 pm

                Well, lift-assisted mountain biking is a small subset of mountain biking. I count myself as a mountain biking supporter, but I think I’m opposed to most new, lift-assisted mountain biking developments. I imagine much of BARK feels the same. My reasons:
                *Much greater intensity of ecological impacts
                *On average, less of a nature-focused experience for the participants, so less value per participant in terms of political change than more distributed hiking and mountain biking. (Note: I haven’t done lift-assisted mountain biking, so I could be convinced otherwise, but this is based on my experience of downhill skiing vs. cross-country skiing / snowshoeing.)

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

                It’s not just lift-assisted. In this case, yes. But why is lift-assisted skiing ok and mountain biking isn’t? all of the infrastructure is pretty much there. I would also say, don’t knock it until you try it.

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              • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm

                Lift-assisted downhill skiing isn’t OK. As Rob said, BARK would like to designate all of Mount Hood as wilderness – in my read, that means removing at least Timberline and Mount Hood Meadows ski resorts, if not more. I’d be in support of that. It’s just – there’s no way that’s happening politically right now, so they’re focusing on halting the expansion of the resort developments.

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            • rainbike October 18, 2017 at 1:44 pm

              If you’re talking about the Wilderness Area cut-outs that allow auto traffic part way up Devil Canyon or up the Salmon River, they maintain access to established campgrounds and wilderness trailheads. Remember the Wilderness designation came long after the roads were established.
              Now, they’re surrounded by Wilderness, yes. But, I have no problem with this kind of access concession and use many of them frequently to drive to trailheads – because I’m too lazy to walk all the way from US26.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

                Remember, there are wilderness designations that came after bikes had access to trails. They should maintain access and they haven’t. Your point is moot. I was actually speaking of the road going to Badger Lake.

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              • Alex October 18, 2017 at 2:04 pm

                Also, I am glad you admit your willing to sacrifice the environment to cater to your laziness, but agree to cut off bikes to the same areas. It pretty much sums up what I have seen from these user groups.

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        • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 12:36 pm

          I doubt any of the environmental organizations have a strong stance on mountain biking in wilderness, because the mountain biking organizations are so politically weak that allowing mountain biking in wilderness is not a serious prospect currently. I suspect most of their supporters either have a reflexive “No more desecration of nature, there’s already enough! Plus, one time, a mountain biker scared me when I was hiking, so no mountain bikes in wilderness!” or a thoughtful, considered “Some areas of wilderness would be good for allowing mountain biking, some should be kept just hiking, and some should have human recreation excluded altogether (Oh, and while we’re at it? More wilderness trails should have horses excluded)” perspective.

          I bet, if mountain biking organizations were to become more politically powerful and it became worthwhile for environmental organizations to make a deal with them, they would do it (and in the process, educate/persuade a good number of their supporters categorically opposed to mountain biking in wilderness to see it in a more nuanced fashion). But in the meantime, environmental organizations have been successful in pushing for more wilderness (though much less successful in Oregon than in other Western states), so why would they stop doing that to lead an (in their minds) not really core-to-mission charge to create a new land-use designation that is Wilderness-But-Allowing-Mountain-Biking ?

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          • Cyclekrieg October 18, 2017 at 1:29 pm

            You might want to do some research. See: http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2016/03/23/116-conservation-groups-tell-congress-keep-bikes-out-of-wilderness/

            I can’t speak for BARK per se, but I find that most “conservation” organizations are “everything but hiking is trampling on Mother Nature” that they will only work with mountain biking groups if the absolutely have to. Otherwise they are jackwagons about mountain biking.

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            • Alex Reedin October 18, 2017 at 2:32 pm

              OK, you’re right, I was being Pollyannaish and saying most conservation groups follow my opinions when they don’t. There’s a big, irrational dislike of mountain biking among environmental groups. It’s no fun being a minority user group. I don’t know what to tell you… I think more (non-lift-assisted) mountain biking would be better (more people experiencing nature!!), and would support allowing it on most trails in Oregon, including most trails in wilderness. The two other places I have lived in my life had way better local mountain biking, so I mountain biked there (I don’t in Portland… it’s just too inconvenient currently). Yet, I’ll still give my money to conservation groups that oppose allowing mountain bikes in wilderness, because that’s a tiny fraction of the things that they do, and I think the other things are super important.

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    • I wear many hats October 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      I once whole heartedly supported BARK for the their anti logging positions as we all know that clear cutting destroys ecosystems. I cannot however, support their continued stance on excluding cyclists from the forest. They have lost a vocal, and motivated environmental advocate due their anti-bike positions.

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  • Brian October 18, 2017 at 11:43 am

    BARK frequently hosts hikes (which is great), but doesn’t offer mountain bike rides to explore and encourage more support. I know, even having that thought sounds crazy! BARK has supported policy that reduced/eliminated trails to bicycles. Has BARK ever supported policies that reduced/eliminated the number of trails open to hiking? This may be where some of the distrust stems from.
    When I walk out of New Seasons and hear a paid BARK employee (maybe a volunteer?) asking, “Do you have a minute for Mt Hood?” My answer is always the same, “No. I’m a hiker and mountain biker.”
    BARK has much to do if their goal is to broaden their base of support in order to more effectively achieve their mission statement.

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  • Cyclekrieg October 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Can someone explain to me how mountain biking “adversely impact salmon or water quality”? I only ask because there is no research to suggest that mountain biking has any higher soil impacts than hiking (in fact the impact numbers the Park Service uses to estimate soil movement volumes are slightly lower for mountain bike only trails). Also, if the argument its in the construction of trail you have runoff issues, that means your BMPs for run-off and silting aren’t rigorous enough, not that the issue is mountain biking. Lastly, since 2007 the trail construction requirements for hiking and mountain biking trails on USFS are EXACTLY the same.

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    • Chris I October 18, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      They should be fighting pack animals before they fight bikes. The trails that pack animals and horses frequent are absolutely pounded, and covered in waste.

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  • Patrick October 18, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    BEST OF LUCK, ROB. Good seeing you in Bark!

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  • BradWagon October 18, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    TIL Mtbers will only agree to help protect wilderness areas when they have irrefutable proof and are essentially forced to. Hmm…

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    • Alex October 18, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      wut? Maybe your TIL should be, MTBers don’t like being accused of things that haven’t been proven and evidence so far points in the opposite direction.

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    • Alex October 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm

      Also, where did you get the idea that we don’t help protect wilderness areas? I work towards protecting them more and more the older I get – which also has correlated to the amount of time I spend on a bike in the woods.

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  • Jim Lee October 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm


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  • malegaze October 20, 2017 at 7:50 am

    I see nothing has changed around this issue. Good to know people work together in a world so divided.

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  • mark smith October 26, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Bark and other groups are barking up the wrong tree. Sorry, had to say it. Look around. Cars, toxic waste, pharma in our water..but clearly…..clearly! Mountain bikes on mount hood are deserving of serious litigation.

    Yeah, no. It’s about hate for humans. Take Bark’s view to the end..and you pretty much get human elimination. So Glad Rob is gone from the street trust. Now we know why.

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