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Northwest Trail Alliance: The tide is turning (Part 1)

Posted by on January 23rd, 2018 at 10:15 am

A father and daughter enjoy the new trails at Gateway Green’s Dirt Lab.
(Photos: J. Maus)

Standing with our partners (I’m on the left in green shirt) — including City Commissioners Amanda Fritz, Nick Fish, and Portland Parks Director Mike Abbaté — at opening day for the Dirt Lab at Gateway Green.

[We’re happy to publish a two-part article from Northwest Trail Alliance President Chris Rotvik. First, a recap of 2017. Then a look ahead to what’s in store this year.]

Throughout 2017, more than 1,700 mountain bikers — from shredders to striders — dropped in to Northwest Trail Alliance-hosted digging and riding events. And, all tolled, our volunteers carved a smidgen over 12,000 hours into our trails and the political arena that sustains the flow of riding in our region. Those hours equate to $360,000 of hard labor invested in elevating both our sport, and the tide on which our local cycling industry floats. Think of it as your membership and sponsorship currency, multiplied tenfold, and paid forward.

The urban scene captured the lion’s share of 2017’s effort. To date, we’ve brought forward more than 1,500 hours (and we’re not yet at the finish line) shaping Portland’s Off-Road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP). Simultaneously, our expertise, labor, and equipment helped bring the Dirt Lab at Gateway Green — the prototype of how ORCMP will reshape our urban riding scene — to life.

Opened in late June, the Dirt Lab has reinvigorated riding and advocacy, and there’s much good yet to come of it— in Forest Park, River View Natural Area, Washington Park, and drizzled across the smaller parks in Portland. Icing that cake is our sweet partnership with Metro, who’ll soon be bringing delectable riding in the North Tualatin Mountains beyond Forest Park, in Oregon City, and in the Gabbert Buttes to the east of Portland.

So, after 30 years, the urban tide is turning. Are you out there, Theo Patterson?

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Take a Kid Mountain Biking day at Ventura Park.

Let’s step from the urban scene to our front-country venues: First, we wrote Stub Stewart State Park the equivalent of a $60,000 check in the form of 2,500 volunteer hours, the highest across all our sites (Gateway Green and Growler’s Gulch ranked second and third at 1,800 and 1,600 hours, respectively). At Stub, we put paid to two new bridges, two new coach-ready, skill-building loops, a significant trail re-route, and two riding events. Next, the trail gnomes of Southwest Washington topped the mileage charts by adding — with their usual surgical precision — another five miles of new line to the fabled Growler’s Gulch system. (Digging is your ticket to entry, so if you’d like to ride Growler’s magic carpet, sign up for the work parties … find them on

Elsewhere in the region, we buffed-out the trails. And buffed some more, for a total of 1,900 hours of wax on, wax off at Sandy Ridge, St. Helens, Coldwater Lake, Scappoose, Tillamook, Lacamas, Cascade Locks, Eichler, Powell Butte, Hagg Lake, and Whipple Creek. That’s the equivalent of re-shaping and brushing seven hours a day, five days a week, year-round. Mister Miyagi would be proud.

OK, then. We’ve brought almost two thousand of our new best friends to the party, opened a bike park, gained significant urban mountain biking momentum, raised Stub and Growler’s yet another notch, kept Sandy Ridge a premier destination despite the onslaught of almost one hundred thousand gravity-fueled runs, and sustained 10 other regional riding destinations. Not bad, eh?

While 2017’s achievements just might be a high water mark for the organization, we’re already over it, aside from just one thing … our gratitude. If it weren’t for you — member, sponsor, volunteer — mountain biking in the region would be dirt poor. Thank you for all you do for our shared passion.

Oh, and 2018 promises to be a gangbuster. Care to join us?

— Chris Rotvik, President, Northwest Trail Alliance

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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

  • Dan A January 23, 2018 at 11:28 am

    Not trying to make the first comment negative, but I wonder, does the design of Eichler fit the demographic? Every time I’ve been by there, it’s kids ~5 to ~13 years old riding there, struggling to make it over the top of massive jumps that seem to be designed for the X Games. There’s a token beginner line in the middle of the jumps, but just barely, and my kids have no interest in going back there since the ‘bigger and badder’ redesign. Is there a group of bigger riders using this park when I’m not around? Otherwise, it’s kind of weird that the one dirt park in the Beaverton area that THPRD hangs its hat on is not really suitable for young would-be MTBers.

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    • Brian January 23, 2018 at 1:06 pm

      That’s a good question, Dan. That park has really struggled to find a sustainable volunteer group/steward. Someone needs to come up with a solution moving forward for it. I don’t believe anyone knows who that someone is at this point, but maybe I’m wrong. If you wanted to get involved you could start with an inquiry email to the NWTA Directors. It would be great to see a partnership with a local school. Beaverton High School is close by. I wonder if anyone is starting a NICA race team there?

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    • Northwest Trail Alliance
      Northwest Trail Alliance January 23, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      Dan, progression is the name of the game: Progression of a site to broaden its appeal, which enables the progression of less-skilled riders. As Jason mentioned, we’re a volunteer organization, which means the core of what we’re building suits those volunteers. Gateway Green, for example, has one jump line today, suited for the more advanced rider, and it’s an aspirational goal for those of less skill. As we evolve Gateway Green, we’ll broaden the appeal of the park from a skills perspective. In the meanwhile, places such as the Lumberyard are a perfect playground for advancing the needed skills. Know that our Eichler Park team numbers less than one hand’s worth of fingers. Jump in and help drive the progression!

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  • Jason VH January 23, 2018 at 12:43 pm


    Until the NW Trail Alliance has paid staff, we rely on volunteer trail builders and volunteer trail advocates. People just like you, giving their time – which none of us have much to spare – to make these things happen. If you are interested in helping, please attend a membership meeting to learn more.

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    • Dan A January 23, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      It seems like it would take a lot less time to build a dirt park with 2-foot mounds that kids can ride on instead of 8-foot mounds that kids can’t get up, and it might actually grow support for more locations in THPRD.

      ‘Is your 8-year-old scared of riding Eichler? Drive 40 minutes to the Lumberyard and ride on wood and cement at $12/hr until you are better!’

      Hmm. That seems a little bit out of touch.

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      • JJ January 25, 2018 at 4:37 am

        Dan another way to look at it…you are out of touch complaining about not having free trails that fit your needs and skill sets. Being unwilling to seek alternatives. Get involved, volunteer and help make things better.

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        • Dan A January 25, 2018 at 9:18 am

          Could be. And it could be that my complaint lies with THPRD, allowing the park to be built as it is.

          I have written or called THPRD a number of times over the years, and have been assured that they are actively seeking ways to add more dirt riding in the area, but every little dirt trail I’ve discovered in the district has at some point been covered up with gravel, bark dust, or blacktop. Pioneer Park used to have a fun little dirt loop perfectly suited to new riders, and they paved it over for no apparent reason. And every time I have inquired about natural trails or dirt riding possibilities, they point me to Eichler Park. You say you want a place to ride with your kids? Go to Eichler!

          THPRD is leaning on Eichler as an answer to the question of ‘where can I ride with my kids?’, and I’m sure they are grateful to the NWTA for providing this answer, but it doesn’t seem to serve the community like they think it does. Again, every time I’ve been to the park (maybe 10-15 times) there have been kids from about 5 to 13 there, none of them jumping anything there, and many of them falling over just trying to get up the mounds. It is the ONLY sanctioned dirt in THPRD, built on THPRD land by and for the few guys who are skilled enough to ride it as intended. It is like having one diving board in town, and it’s a 10 meter board. Gee thanks. If you want to build a park on your own land with your own sweat, you should build it however you like. But when the park is built on public land with the support of the parks district, I think it should probably attempt to serve the majority of the people who are going to use the park, especially when it’s the only park of its kind in the district.

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          • Zimmerman January 25, 2018 at 2:55 pm

            Some kids can’t throw a ball or hit one with a bat. I suggest we eliminate baseball fields until the powers that be can design them so that everyone plays equally.

            Did I do it right? Are you really whining about dirt trails that would otherwise NOT EXIST except for the volunteer work being done? That’s some fine entitlement.

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            • Dan A January 25, 2018 at 4:37 pm

              That’s a weird analogy. I think a better one would be one where you volunteer to put up a rock climbing wall for the community in a public park, and you put in a route that’s 5.14. You and your friends are capable of climbing it so you won’t listen to any feedback that suggests maybe your climbing wall doesn’t work for the kids who live in the area because they can’t reach any of the holds. And when you go to the wall to check it out, all you see are kids goofing around trying to get a hold of the wall. It’s a serious question — does anybody here ride Eichler regularly? I’ve never seen anyone there who knew what they were doing.

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              • Zimmerman January 25, 2018 at 5:20 pm

                Here’s a different analogy: I am terrible at skating the West Linn skatepark. I’m awful. I don’t like the coping, I can’t grind the over vert clamshell. I rarely see anyone doing that when I go. I do not wish that they’d tear down the clamshell and build something I can skate, mostly because I don’t feel the need to dumb down a facility to the lowest common denominator. There are people that can skate the clamshell and it’s amazing to watch, and inspiring for the kids that want to, but can’t quite yet.

                If your kids can’t ride the jumps at Eichler and you’d like them to have an area they can ride, then volunteer and use a shovel. Get your kids out there with their shovels too. Complaining without offering to help solve the problem is pure whining.

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              • Dan A January 25, 2018 at 10:32 pm

                So the NWTA has a no-feedback policy. Got it.

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              • Zimmerman January 25, 2018 at 11:14 pm

                I don’t represent the NWTA, but I understand what being a volunteer means. Instead of screaming into the internet sky, why don’t you try and figure out who the current stewards are at Eichler and talk to them about building something your kids can enjoy until they’re able to ride the more challenging lines?

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              • Zimmerman January 25, 2018 at 11:15 pm

                Sorry, I meant to say that you can contact the current stewards at Eichler and talk to them about HELPING to building something your kids can enjoy.

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              • Dan A January 26, 2018 at 7:09 am

                Being a volunteer doesn’t put you above feedback. I’ve been a volunteer leader for Cub Scouts for 7 years. When someone makes a suggestion, I don’t tell them that we only listen to suggestions from other Cub Scout leaders. It’s not an endearing quality, and it’s probably not the best way to get more volunteers. Do any of you live in a neighborhood with an HOA? How would you feel if your volunteer HOA board didn’t answer questions or take feedback?

                Eichler Park is a 15-minute drive for us, and my boys never ask to go there anymore. They have little interest in riding on dirt currently (probably a symptom of having to drive a ways in order to do it) and who knows if they will. The original question was not, ‘we don’t like this park, build something for us that we like’, because I can’t say that we’d ever get back to use it. My question was asked for the kids who aren’t here and can’t ask for themselves. Every time I go to this park, I see young kids using it and struggling to enjoy it — are there bigger riders using it when I’m not around, or do these kids make up 99% of the users? It’s an honest, simple question. Based on what I’ve heard so far, it doesn’t sound like anybody knows.

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  • Alex January 23, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Great to see! Forest Park Conservancy is boasting of 1000 volunteers and logging 7000 hours – great to see NWTA go above and beyond that.

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