Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 23rd, 2018 at 9:53 am
In case you haven’t read or heard yet, it’s crunch time for the City of Portland’s Off-road Cycling Master Plan.
After years of meetings and planning, advocates are making their final arguments, a draft version is being reviewed by the influential Portland Parks Board, and a date at City Council for final adoption is likely this summer.
Everyone agrees this is a plan our city needs; but it’s less clear if this is the plan our city wants.
I was at the March 12th Parks Board meeting and shared a snapshot of how Mayor Ted Wheeler and a few advocates are feeling about the plan. Earlier this week I shared a guest post from Daniel Greenstadt, an advocate who has followed the plan’s development very closely and has participated in several of the planning meetings.
Those two stories, along with a search of our archives on terms like “forest park singletrack” and “off-road cycling master plan” should give you plenty of background information to understand this issue and make an informed opinion about it. (We’ve covered every twist-and-turn of this issue for over a decade, so there’s a clear historical thread that can be easily woven by anyone with the energy and interest. If you have a question about the plan, the process, or the politics, feel free to ask in the comments!)
Now all eyes are on a Parks Board meeting set for April 3rd. That meeting will be a public hearing on the draft plan. Daniel mentioned this meeting in his post on Monday, but it’s worth re-upping to the Front Page so everyone has the latest information.
The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) put out an email today that gives us an idea of what to expect at the meeting.
First, due to a high level of interest, they’ve changed the location to the 1900 Bldg (BPS HQ) which is located at 1900 SW 4th Ave. The hearing will be held on the 7th Floor in Conference Room 7A from 3:00 to 5:00 pm (here’s a BikePortland Calendar listing).
Also because of public demand BPS says they’ve extended the time alotted for public comment. You have until 1:00 pm today (3/23) to submit written testimony to the Parks Board. To do that, send an email to Hailee.Vandiver@portlandoregon.gov.
If you can attend the meeting, here’s what to expect: There will be four panels. The first 10-minute panel will be for people, “concerned about additional off-road cycling in Forest Park.” The second panel will be for people, “in favor of additional off-road cycling in Forest Park.” The third panel will be about off-road cycling in Riverview with two people in favor, and two with concerns about it. And the fourth panel will consist of six people chosen via a random drawing who can speak on any other aspect of the plan.
The Parks Board will consider making their own comments on the draft plan and all of their recommendations and comments will be forwarded to their Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
As for those final arguments from advocates…
The NW Trail Alliance has issued an action alert urging their members to email the Parks Board and Portland City Council. Their pitch is all about the positive impacts that “increased community access to natural environments” can have on our city. They see better bike access to places like Forest Park as an important way to offer safe physical activity for all ages within the city limits and that if a new generation of park users don’t have appealing options we’ll lose valuable stewards that can ensure the health of our parks and natural areas for years to come.
NWTA supports the plan itself but they feel it doesn’t go far enough. They say it’s “too heavy on restriction/closure recommendations” and that it only offers, “disappointing options for Forest Park.” Specifically, they say, the Forest Park options in the current plan proposes trails that, “do not meet community needs, as they would be too steep for most youth and beginners, and do not provide connectors to create a longer ride.” The plan also fails to create access to existing trails in Forest Park and in other areas that could provide bike-friendly routes and neighborhood connections.
Independent advocate John Miller has published a detailed argument for why he opposes improved bike access in places like Forest Park and River View Natural Area. “Who will speak for nature?” he askes on his website. “The [plan] fails to acknowledge some basic environmental ethics and important legal conditions that preclude mountain bikes from being allowed in Forest Park, River View Natural Area, and smaller natural areas in our region.”
Miller, who supports the non-controversial aspects of the plan like pump tracks, says the arguments for singletrack trails from the “mountain biking lobby” are “a bunch of malarkey!”. “Beware of the Mountain Biking Industrial Complex,” he warns. “The season to act is Now. Monied interests will not let up, unless legal frameworks are put in place.”
Visit the official project page to view the draft plan and learn more.
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