Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Off-road Cycling Master Plan: Another dead end or a new beginning?

Posted by on March 19th, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Greenstadt thinks the soon-to-be adopted plan needs some major tweaks.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

NW Trail Alliance Action Alert

“It is incredibly important that NWTA members and other off-road cycling community members provide input to the Parks Board – your words can help ensure they understand the need for additional access to trails in Portland.”

Daniel Greenstadt is a Concordia neighborhood resident and off-road cycling advocate who has attended many of the Off-road Cycling Plan meetings. In a post on BikePortland last April he shared his hopes and concerns for the plan.

Imagine yourself, your family, or your children pedaling along Forest Park’s newly constructed, 1.5-mile, shared-use trail from the area of NW Thurman Street to the brand new, two-million-dollar Forest Park Entrance and Nature Center at NW St Helens Road and NW Kittridge. You’re riding on a 2-6 foot wide path – some of it not even within Forest Park – immediately adjacent to the industrial buildings, rail yards, commercial operations, and tank farms that crowd the Highway 30 corridor. You are riding in the most ecologically degraded area of Forest Park on what Northwest Trail Alliance has described as “essentially a dirt sidewalk.”

But wait! That’s not the end of the adventure for you and your family. Now that you’ve arrived at the Nature Center, the trail quickly becomes an “improved” extension of Firelane 1 – an 8-12 foot wide, freshly graded, gravel road with an incline so severe that it will turn away all but the most expert visitors. And it’s terribly ugly. But should you and your family somehow manage to grunt your way half a mile up the climb, you’ll be greeted with no options other than Leif Erikson Drive or, if you somehow reach all the way to NW 53rd Drive, you might find a new 1.5 mile-long route (very unlikely ever to be built) consisting of a 3-6 foot wide, shared-use pathway through an ecologically “poor-to-stable” environment that delivers you to NW Cornell Road. Now you and your family can wrap up your Forest Park nature experience by descending on the paved shoulder of Cornell Road while a stream of cars passes you nervously at 40 mph.

And here’s the punchline: In return for this unsatisfying, unsustainable, dangerous, and insulting “mountain biking” experience, you’ve been forced to permanently surrender – based on no science or analysis – any future claim to at least 80% of Forest Park’s system of trails.

Welcome to the new and improved era of “mountain biking” in Forest Park.

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If all that sounds good, then you should support the current draft of the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan now under final consideration. If not, do the following. Ask the mayor, city council, the Portland Parks Board, and the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability to:

1) Immediately fund and initiate a Comprehensive Trails Plan pertaining to all users. Forest Park has never had such a plan. Without one, all trail-level planning – such as that currently in the ORCMP draft – is nonsense. You should insist that the Comprehensive Trails Plan follow best management practices and should look for guidance to the many examples of successful trail planning outside of Portland.

2) Demote the ORCMP’s Trail Improvement Concepts (TICs) from “recommendations” to concepts that may be considered, among others, as part of the Comprehensive Trails Plan. If the TICs remain as formal recommendations, then they will be the only projects with any chance of implementation for the next several decades – and they are very poorly conceived to begin with.

3) Remove any trail exclusions from the ORCMP. Specifically, strike the preemptory and baseless exclusions of the “Wildwood Trail, Maple Trail, and all pedestrian-only trails in the Southern management unit” as found on pages 67 and 68 of the plan. This does NOT mean that those trails will necessarily be open to bicycles in the future. It simply means that parts of those trails can be considered for future bicycle-friendly connections if the Comprehensive Trails Plan calls for it.

4) Insist that the 1995 Forest Park Natural Resource Management Plan (NRMP) and related policies be amended and improved to recognize current science, national trail construction guidelines, and best management practices surrounding recreational trails and bicycles.

Singletrack dies in darkness. If you don’t shed light on these issues and their solutions, you can’t expect the city of Portland to deliver a high-quality off-road cycling experience or to encourage the next generation of park stewards.

Here are the relevant emails:

Portland Parks Boardtanya.holmes@portlandoregon.gov Hailee.Vandiver@portlandoregon.gov
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability/Off-road Cycling Master Plan – offroadcycling@portlandoregon.gov
Mayor Ted Wheeler – MayorWheeler@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Dan Saltzman – dan@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Nick Fish – nick@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Amanda Fritz – Amanda@portlandoregon.gov
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly – chloe@portlandoregon.gov

The Parks Board is set to meet on April 3rd from from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in Conference Room 7A of the 1900 Bldg (1900 SW 4th). For more on this issue, see today’s action alert from the NW Trail Alliance.

— Daniel Greenstadt

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46 Comments
  • Steve March 19, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Yeah, gotta agree. Without significant changes, legal off-road opportunities in Forest Park are destined to be horribly limited. I have pretty much given up and am much more hopeful for the North Tualatin Mts. trails. Ultimately, IMO, those who want true single-track riding are going to have to travel outside the city

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    • Buzz March 20, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      People who want to ride to MTB opportunities rather than drive will continue to poach trails in Forest Park; it would therefore be much better to come up with a plan that regulates rather than bans trail riding in the park.

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      • Buzz March 20, 2018 at 9:34 pm

        …and by ‘regulates’ I mean establish and maintain a robust trail network throughout the park that is open to and designed/built to specifications for cyclists’ use. That could either mean upgrading selected existing trails for shared use or establishing a decent network of new trails exclusively for cycling; the latter probably being the more expensive option.

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  • I wear many hats March 19, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks for posting! We do not need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Decent riding exists now in the city, if one is willing to ride on existing trails. This plan will help make more palatable riding available to the masses. Something needs to give.

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    • Daniel Greenstadt March 19, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      “Decent riding exists now in the city…” Are we talking about mountain biking? Can you elaborate on your definition of “decent?” In my view, approximately 3-5 miles of trail for a population of roughly a million people doesn’t even come close. I’m also curious about your definition of “existing trails.” A road (Leif Erikson) or a firelane (take your pick) is not a trail. Nor are the paved shoulders of Cornell Road, Skyline, Germantown, etc. Do the city’s sidewalks constitute adequate opportunity for hiking?

      At any rate, I’m certainly not advocating throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I’m suggesting that we carefully separate the baby from the bathwater so the baby doesn’t drown. All of my suggestions are intended as improvements to the ORCMP so that the whole plan can gain as much support as possible, not to mention having any real chance of successful implementation.

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      • I wear many hats March 19, 2018 at 3:11 pm

        Perhaps I spoke in haste. Virtually no ‘legal’ riding exists on trails in city, especially on the West Side of the 205. I agree that a comprehensive trail plan needs to be done in conjunction with the ORCMP. Parks definitely cannot shelve the ORCMP, but they also must move to create a comprehensive trail plan with multiple users in mind. Heck, even the Greater Forest Park Conservation Initiative says to
        . . . “follow best management practices for trail construction and maintenance to minimize impacts on the ecosystem.”

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        • Fred Ihle March 21, 2018 at 7:45 pm

          How would a separate trail plan be different than the ORCP? Isn’t the ORCP accounting for, analyzing existing, and suggesting a plan for new and future trail plans and implementation?

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          • Daniel Greenstadt March 22, 2018 at 10:31 am

            No. The ORCMP is a Master Plan tasked with looking at the entire city with a macro view of what locations might accommodate various types of off-road cycling. It also establishes some common language, definitions, best practices, and goals surrounding off road cycling.

            That’s generally all good stuff but the Master Plan is explicitly a conceptual document. And that is exactly where it started to go wrong because BPS has attempted to go beyond conceptual ideas (e.g., Forest Park as a potential location for some singletrack, etc.) and include some highly specific, trail-level recommendations that are uninformed, poorly conceived, violate the ORCMP’s own guidelines, and do not belong in a Master Plan. Trail-level recommendations for a place like Forest Park belong in a separate Comprehensive Trail Plan, which is a different process that looks at an entire trail system through the lens of balancing and managing various uses and satisfying various constraints. Without such a comprehensive picture of the trails system, attempting to jam in a few trails – not to mention the highly suspicious move of removing most trail options from consideration – is, by definition, uninformed.

            The ORCMP does include a recommendation that a Comprehensive Trail Plan be developed but there is currently no funding, mechanism, standards, or sense of urgency for how that is to be done. And the assumption is that such a process – if it ever actually happens – will be managed by the Parks Bureau, which has a very poor history of managing recreational use in the park. On the upside, at least there might be an ORCMP (hopefully with the bad parts removed) that will provide some guidance to the Parks Bureau.

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            • fred ihle March 22, 2018 at 12:01 pm

              I knew that it was broad brushstrokes analysis that did not actually enact or flag funds for specific projects (etc.) but did not realize that the outcome was getting so muddy (ha) and off-course from the charted purpose, sheesh. Mountain biking on single track in the woods away from cars will simply never legally happen in portland in my lifetime.

              Side tangent: I’ve always felt that gateway green will ultimately be counter-productive to getting things like bike trails in FP or Riverview legal — am I wrong?

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              • Daniel Greenstadt March 22, 2018 at 7:27 pm

                Many folks have had that concern about Gateway Green and it’s certainly true that the anti-bike people are pointing to it as a shining example of where cyclists belong – sandwiched between a bunch of freeways and locked away from natural areas where the antis think they deserve exclusive access. But that argument works only if cyclists let them get away with it by failing to make it absolutely clear that people on bicycles deserve reasonable access to natural areas just like people on boots do. Gateway Green is wonderful. Reasonable access to singletrack in the city’s natural areas will be wonderful too – just like other communities all over the country. Demand it.

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  • Brian March 19, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    Watching this saga unfold for the last 12 or so years in Portland I feel like a character in the X-Files, trying to find the “Smoking Man.” Who is behind this cover-up? What are they really hiding? What are the greater implications to humanity, and life beyond? Will we ever find out? The truth is out there…..

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    • Eric H March 19, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      In my 10 or so years here, I’ve decided that it is pretty much Charlie Brown asking Lucy to hold the football for him again and again and again. Same damn thing happens every time. Probably will again this time.

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      • Eric March 20, 2018 at 9:03 am

        I’m an Eric too, and this has been my response over the 13 years I’ve been here! Maybe we’re doppelgangers.

        Oh well, I’ll just keep burning fossil fuel to help the local economies in Sisters and Bend. Two towns that embrace mountain biking…what a glorious concept.

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        • Eric H March 20, 2018 at 9:23 am

          I like your style. Maybe we should meet up sometime and drive separately to Bend and/or Sisters to get in some real mountain biking together.

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    • VTRC March 19, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      Honestly, it’s the people who live around Forest Park who use it like a backyard and don’t want to share.

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    • JD March 19, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      It’s probably closer to the ending of Nowhere Man ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowhere_Man_(TV_series) ) where we find out there really is no Off-Road Cycling Master Plan and it’s all been an elaborate PhD thesis.

      There was a period around the late 90’s/early 00’s where no bikes were allowed on Powell Butte, either. We wouldn’t even have what we do if it wasn’t for PUMP (now NWTA) building the trails. It’s been the same story for 20+ years; I don’t see it changing any time soon.

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  • maxD March 19, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    AS the City densifies, we need to commit to providing much more openspace for them. Camping and hiking is maxed out around Portland, and Metro/PP&R is stuck on fantasies of creating urban wildlife preserves. These public lands can and should be places to share with animals and plants, but they also need to be places for people to get out and exercise and relax. We need to be building dozens of miles of trail networks, some should accommodate dogs, some should accommodate bikes and some should be only for walking(no running). Metro is about to build a new park near Cornelius with an 80-car parking lot. and 3 miles of trails in phase 1. They ultimately plan to build less than 10 miles of trails! This is a 1200 acre park (think Mt Pisgah, in Eugene) of former tree farm. It could support many more tails, and even some light camping (walk-in/bike-in). We are really falling down on maintaining our quality of life by being so timid about new trails and outdoor recreation spots.

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  • Jim Lee March 19, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Machines do not belong in even quasi-wilderness.

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    • I wear many hats March 19, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      nor do phones, headphones, carbon hiking sticks, fancy hiking shoes, gortex coats, digital cameras etc etc etc, because it would ruin the ambiance and my experience

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    • Cpt. Obvus March 19, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      Since your hiking poles (and maybe even your boots) qualify as simple machines, you’re staying out of Forest Park too — right? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_machine

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    • maxD March 19, 2018 at 3:50 pm

      Jim, can you clarify what you are talking about? Are you referring to a bike as a machine? are you referring to Forest Park as “quasi-wilderness”?

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    • rick March 19, 2018 at 4:15 pm

      A Massive car parking lots don’t belong along along Highway 30 when it could, instead, be a property for jobs.

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    • Toby Keith March 19, 2018 at 5:00 pm

      This city truly hates mountain bikes. What a shame. : (

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    • Jason H March 20, 2018 at 9:52 am

      Luddite opinions do not belong in even quasi-civil blog comments

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    • Alex March 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      This is a hilarious concept. How do you feel about cross-country skiing in “quasi-wilderness”? That’s a machine. How about a canoe? What is your definition of a machine? Is it only things that have gears? How are those gears determined? Paddle size? Width of ski?

      Or do you just mean bike, because that’s what you don’t like?

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  • Daniel Greenstadt March 19, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Has everybody already written and sent their positive and constructive letters? The anti-bicycle people certainly have. Spread the word. Looking forward to seeing a lot of concerned and thoughtful faces at the Parks Board meeting on April 3rd. The anti-bike people will certainly be there as usual. For additional thoughts and guidance, NWTA recently put out their own Advocacy Alert (http://nw-trail.org/advocacy-alert-we-need-your-help/).

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    • I wear many hats March 20, 2018 at 8:58 am

      Yes, please make your comments with Dan’s suggested amendments. I would very much like to ride in peace in nature IN Portland. Please be heard.

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  • FRED_TRAMPLER March 19, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    THEY SHOULD ADD A SOLAR POWERED EBIKE CHARGING STATION WITH A MINI POWELLS BOOKSTORE AND FUSION FOOD CARTS TO THE FOREST PARK PLAN

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    • Dan A March 20, 2018 at 6:47 am

      Sorry, no, that answer is incorrect.

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  • christopher March 19, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    I putting all my eggs in the Gateway Green basket. It’s far from a nature experience but at least it’s a place we can ride and grow our community. If we all come together and put in some work Gateway Green could be really good. Pack a shovel or a trash bag next time you go. A little work goes a long way out there. =)

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    • JasonVH March 20, 2018 at 7:29 am

      We definitely appreciate a can-do attitude (trash bags are much appreciated, but be careful with what you touch) but please note that the Portland Parks has been giving NWTA and Friends of Gateway Green a lot of leeway in terms of design for the cycling experience at Gateway Green.

      We’ve pitched and were green lit on a wide range of trail and feature enhancements, but unsanctioned building presents a problem for all parties and could derail this partnership. Lawsuits and PPR liability have already been discussed on BikePortland extensively. For more info reach out to the GG Local Stewardship Team: GatewayGreen@nw-trail.org

      That said, it’s a bike park, and doesn’t represent a true mountain biking experience. The fate of Forest Park and cycling has long term effects on livability in the city of Portland as well our reputation as a place to live for the outdoor sports industry.

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    • I wear many hats March 20, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Gateway Green is awesome, but not nature. Many would rather ride trails in the forest, not between highways. Its ironic that the most active form of recreation under the purview of PPR is sandwiched between highways full of poisonous emissions. Personally, I’d rather have access to the trails that exist already, that allow me to get away from cars.

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      • Dan A March 21, 2018 at 11:16 am

        Right. I wonder how popular a golf course would be in the same location.

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  • Buzz March 20, 2018 at 8:56 am

    This could be seen coming from miles away, no one should be surprised.

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  • Fred Ihle March 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I’ve heard that the plan calls for singletrack running from Washington Park all the way to where the N end of the park ends at Newberry Road — but I haven’t seen that written. Does anyone have any information about this or able to confirm either way?

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    • Daniel Greenstadt March 20, 2018 at 9:20 am

      “…singletrack running from Washington Park all the way to where the N end of the park ends at Newberry Road…” Not only does the plan not include what you describe, it makes such a trail impossible…forever. This is one of many reasons we need to ask for these modifications to the ORCMP before it is adopted by city council.

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      • Fred Ihle March 21, 2018 at 7:49 pm

        Weird, it was someone who used to be on the NWTS board that told me about it.

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        • Alex March 21, 2018 at 9:41 pm

          Nope – in fact the ORCMP probably outright calls for a ban on it.

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    • Alex March 20, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Not on any of the maps that I have seen – at least not on a single trail. There were some not long segments on all different parts of FP, but akin to another wildwood (or even anything close to that).

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    • I wear many hats March 20, 2018 at 3:49 pm

      Wrong, the ORCMP does nothing of the sort. It could though. Beggars cant be choosers, but a lot of us would rather starve than choke down the blanket exclusions in the plan.

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    • I wear many hats March 22, 2018 at 9:01 am

      That trail does exist. One can almost connect River View in the South with Newberry road in the North with barely touching asphalt. Should the ORCMP fail, or get passed in current form (which is a fail), I envision those who care to begin riding on that trail en masse. Perhaps that will get enough attention for city leaders and PPR to actually meet demand.

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  • I wear many hats March 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for your awesome work at Gateway Green. Its gotten better and better since its inception.

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  • Frank Selker March 20, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Spot on Daniel! I hope folks spend the time to send quick e-mails and to send letters to the editor of the Oregonian too. The plan as written is worse than nothing IMO.
    It shows the heavy hand of a Parks Commissioner hostile to bikes and wealthy park neighbors. The Forest Park Conservancy is also part of the problem because it’s joined at the hip with Parks, so follows their current anti-bike lead, and its membership is heavy with hikers and park neighbors who don’t want to share.

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    • I wear many hats March 21, 2018 at 7:53 am

      will do, forgot to CC the Oregonian!

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    • petterquid March 21, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      My letter has been sent to mayor and commissioners, CC: NWTA.

      There have been no changes to Forest Park access since I started riding there in 1992. Consider how much the world has evolved and grown over those 25 years, but that hillside is still locked in the past. Frank Selker (above) makes it clear just why that is.

      In your letter, please ask for the current language that arbitrarily excludes some trail options to be deleted in place of a promise to fund and perform a Comprehensive Trail Plan.

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  • Billy March 29, 2018 at 10:20 am

    F— it, I’m done with this crap. I’m going to ride the trails illegally in Forest Park. Maybe they’ll see the need for off roads trails when other users start complaining.

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