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Crunch time for off-road cycling plan with all eyes on Portland Parks Board meeting

Posted by on March 23rd, 2018 at 9:53 am

An advisory committee meeting for the plan in March 2017.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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!)

Screen grab from NWTA website.

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.

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The “vision” from the plan.

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.

John Miller.
(Photo: John Miller)

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.

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

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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

24 Comments
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    Carrie March 23, 2018 at 10:04 am

    I just wish I could find the Mountain Bike Industrial Complex and all the people who are making money off of these opportunities and somehow join them. It’s like the scientists who are somehow making money off of climate change research — I used to hang out with people who did climate change research but could never seem to find the money making cabal.

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    Dan A March 23, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I couldn’t make it through John Miller’s capitalized Hysterical Diatribe.

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      rick March 23, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Just wow. Does he think walking trails should be outlawed because the shoe and shock industry benefits from it and sponsors hikes and 5K runs?

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      Alex March 23, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      John Miller got physical with me at a protest – pushing me around. He is not a sane/safe person. I held my cool, but this is standard behavior for these people. They play like they are concerned for people’s safety and then they aren’t too afraid to hurt people doing something they dislike – just like people dragging things in unsafe spots at RVNA for cyclists to hit or drawing a wire across a trail at GG.

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    Brian March 23, 2018 at 10:48 am

    I believe that many of the people involved in this decision-making process are biased to John’s side of the argument, which is why those of us who are in the opposition need to speak up time and again. We have gotten past the point that “they” see “us” as Mountain Dew commercial freeriders. They know we aren’t asking for that experience in natural areas, and the hyperbole and generalizations about who we are is plain wrong. We need to speak plainly about our various needs as they do not have our experience with bikes and trails; challenging trail options are badly needed in multiple trail networks, long trail loops in natural areas are needed, trails for beginner riders are needed, etc. Speak your mind today.

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      I wear many hats March 23, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Well said Brian! Those who wish to not share ANY of our forested park spaces have used hyperbole again and again to discredit and defame mountain biking. Emotion runs high in this debate. We all need to listen to reason (and not the hyperbole). Its so frustrating to hear others repeatedly obscure and ignore accepted evidence and repeat falsehoods again and again to unsuspecting city planners. I sat through many of the ORCMP meetings and even the Audubon representative supported access in some of our natural areas. The irony of opposing the ORCMP is that it uses modern trail design standards, which would make any new trails hold up better than existing forest park trails. Unfortunately, when making the sausage of the plan, the BPS either innocently or nefariously, performed inappropriate specific trail planning in Forest Park. Its a wolf in sheep’s clothing for Mountain Biking at this point. If it passes as is, it likely wont add any access, EVER, in Forest Park, and the current trails will remain poorly constructed mudbogs.

      ps, for every hater of mountain biking reading this, please read actual science in regards to environmental impacts prior to espousing your disdain for bikes on trails so ardently.
      http://www.americantrails.org/resources/ManageMaintain/WKeenImpacts.html

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    rick March 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

    The “Mountain Biking Industrial Complex” ?? Like the military industrialized complex ? wow.

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    JBone March 23, 2018 at 11:11 am

    So frustrating these hyperbolic, ignorant opinions get so much air-time with decision makers. Out of all the pics Mr. Miller could have put in his ‘report’, he chose a DH rider slamming through an eroded root section. Though impressed with the efforts of those who have been fighting this fight for a long time, it is a little sad that there is not more public outcry from the mtb masses. I’m cutting out of work early on April 3rd for the meeting, hoping many others can join.
    Jonathan, can you explain these panels, especially the first two re: Forest Park? Who will be presenting?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 23, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Hi JBone,

      The panelists have not been made public. But I’m sure they’ll be the usual suspects that have been involved in the plan/process thus far. Marcy Houle, Andrew Jansky, Catherine Thompson and so on.

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      I wear many hats March 23, 2018 at 11:51 am

      The people on the “support the ORCMP” pro -MTB panels in River View and Forest Park are well versed advocates that are coated in teflon and immune to histrionics. Do not worry about their makeup, just be at the meeting. Please come and be heard, and seen. Your mere presence there speaks volumes.

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        Brian March 23, 2018 at 12:45 pm

        I sat on the PAC for River View and was asked to present on RVNA, but I teach and the times do not work for me (as usual). I am confident that we will be well represented by the selected presenters, though.

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    Bryan March 23, 2018 at 11:35 am

    “I’m against mixing of mountain bikes and hikers on wooded hillside trails. Why? It’s Common Sense.” – John Miller

    Wow, just wow. Does not even give a reason other than “common sense” so i guess all the other places around the US doing this lack any common sense. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but his lack of knowledge in so many areas he speaks to, makes me sick.

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      Chris Streight March 23, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      I just returned from a week of mountain biking on the trails surrounding Sedona. These trails are packed with hikers and we experienced zero problems or attitudes. The hikers were all very nice as were we towards them. I do ride with a passive bell (meaning it rings while I am riding, I don’t have to manually ring it) when I am riding and was thanked over and over by the hikers. Even when I wasn’t the one in the front with the bell, we still had no issues. We can coexist John Miller.

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    RH March 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    I think every person that speaks at this meeting against mountain bikes should be required to say what part of Portland they live in. #NIMBY

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 23, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      this is a real thing. i’ve found that many of the most outspoken people against bicycling in Forest Park are those who own land and live adjacent to it.

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        Dan A March 23, 2018 at 1:34 pm

        Surely none of them drive on Cornell or Germantown, right? Because that would be extremely hypocritical.

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    Buzz March 23, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    grinding people down with yet more meetings, way to go COP, the City that Jerks its citizens around.

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    CityMTB March 23, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Remember to use anti-mountain biking claptrap as a way to make your arguments about mountain biking that much stronger. Examples, facts and cited sources are your friend.

    https://www.citymtb.org/home/learning-from-anti-mountain-bikers-to-create-better-urban-mountain-biking-proposals

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      Buzz March 24, 2018 at 11:26 am

      Highly recommended link, thanks for posting!

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    BikeSlobPDX March 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    From the Miller screed: “Mountain biking facilities of every kind would need to be as numerous as ballfields and tennis courts in the city. Indeed, some old sport facilities should/could be converted to bike parks.”

    Great idea! Let’s incorporate that as part of the plan.

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    mark March 24, 2018 at 9:03 am

    I won’t be able to attend, but can someone please be sure to mention the study that was done before bikes were banned from Riverview?

    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/478080

    It clearly states, at the top of page three, that dogs are more disturbing to water quality and natural environment than bike riders.

    If they want to continue to ban cycling in Forest Park, citing concerns for damage to the sensitive natural habitat, then they need to first ban dogs, even on a leash. Hypocrites.

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      Buzz March 24, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Yeah, but more people are familiar with and care about dogs than mountain biking, so not a good argument. See link to CityMTB do’s and don’ts page a few posts up.

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        mark March 24, 2018 at 1:37 pm

        That’s what I’m getting at, Buzz. Knowing that dogs won’t actually be banned, it could be useful to point to an official study that demonstrates that they are more harmful to wildlife habitats than bicycles. It’s an objective study, not just John Miller’s subjective and biased “Common Sense” argument.

        If they continue to allow dogs, which they likely will, then it’s an easy argument to allow a less destructive use of the park.

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