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


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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