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Yes, those Private Property signs on Saltzman Road in Forest Park are legit

Posted by on April 9th, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Signs on Saltzman Road. The Firelane 5 gate is on the right.
(Photos: Scott K.)

Since last summer we’ve heard from several readers who are curious about the proliferation of “Private Property: No Trespassing” signs on NW Saltzman Road as it approaches Skyline Boulevard and the Firelane 5 trailhead.

Saltzman is a revered route in Forest Park. It’s a key connector between Highway 30, Leif Erikson Road, and Skyline. The road is so well loved there’s been a bike jersey and a bicycle named after it.

Ever since I can remember, there have been a few Private Property signs as you reach the final few corners at the top. This seems strange given that it’s a public park. And lately, I can confirm that even more signs have gone up. Someone has also laid down a large tree across a trailhead that was a popular singletrack connector betwen Saltzman and Firelane 5.

Are the signs legitimate? Does someone really own that land?

With more signs going up in the past few weeks, I figured it was time to learn once-and-for-all. I contacted Portland Parks & Recreation spokesman Mark Ross to inquire about the signs.


Ross was able to clarify that resident who owns land adjacent to Forest Park is within their legal rights to post them. He said that last half-mile (or so) of Saltzman Road goes right between a private landowner’s property and that, “This particular landowner has had many issues of trespass on their property.”

Ross added that the City of Portland has been working with the landowner and they plan on installing new signs that are, “less impactful to the experience of enjoying the natural area.” The signs will also do a much better job educating the public about their rights in the area and about why they should avoid leaving Saltzman Road in this area.

Here’s what the new signs will look like:

And here’s a close-up of the property rights map (Skyline would be at the bottom of the image):

Watch for the new signs to be installed in the next month or so.

— 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

  • bikeninja April 9, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    No matter where you go there is always the “get off my lawn” guy.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy April 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      When a guy has many instances of people being on his lawn, it’s not difficult to figure out why he might be frustrated.

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  • Brian April 9, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I was bummed to see the sign on the connector trail to Firelane 5 as it reduced the total amount of singletrack in the park from 1/3 of a mile to 1/5 of a mile. I would think that the owner would appreciate the presence of responsible users if people are there for other, less desirable activities.

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    • Stephen Keller April 9, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      I would think that the owner would appreciate the presence of responsible users if people are there for other, less desirable activities.

      Seems to me that by definition, “responsible users” would not be riding an unauthorized short-cut through a stretch of private property. I know I’d be pretty pissed if a bunch of cyclists decided that my yard was an appropriate route to get between the public rights-of-way at the front and back of my property. Anyone who cares to read the Forest Park maps (https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/497319) can see that upper parts of Saltzman and Firelane 5 run through private property. The documents also make it quite clear where bikes are allowed. According to those maps, none of the trails are open to cyclists at this time. We may work to get the rules changed, but we shouldn’t jump ahead and assume those efforts will succeed.

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      • Brian April 9, 2018 at 1:58 pm

        It’s true that the maps don’t have that short section of trail listed, though it is difficult to tell if it crosses private property. Have the “private property” signs always been at the start of that connector trail to alert hikers/cyclists? I respect the owner’s rights (and your opinion), though I would be far from pissed if people were using it in the responsible, sustainable manner that they were.

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        • 9watts April 9, 2018 at 5:39 pm

          “I respect the owner’s rights (and your opinion), though I would be far from pissed if people were using it in the responsible, sustainable manner that they were.”

          Are you for real?

          You’re really suggesting someone else (not you) should acquiesce or even appreciate trespassers on his or her land? On what basis are you asserting this?
          We must live in different countries.

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          • Middle of the Road Guy April 10, 2018 at 8:30 am

            I agree completely with you.

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          • Gary April 10, 2018 at 9:43 am

            It’s like some of the timber companies don’t allow exactly this on their private property. To be perfectly clear: this is undeveloped land. While the owner certainly isn’t expected to allow users, it’s also not some outlandish concept.

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            • 9watts April 10, 2018 at 10:12 am

              Please explain.
              Why does the degree of ‘development’ have any bearing on property owner attitudes toward trespassers?

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          • Brian April 10, 2018 at 10:13 am

            Hikers and cyclists wouldn’t be trespassing if they were given permission to use this connector trail. That is what I am suggesting. As others have stated, many of us have been using this trail (literally about a city block in length) not knowing it was on private land. Now that I do know, I will not longer use it.
            You are usually a solution-oriented, dialogue-driven commenter on this board. Why the outright rejection of the possibility that there may be a mutually agreeable solution? Is it unprecedented for a private land owner in the U.S.A. to grant access to the public?

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            • 9watts April 10, 2018 at 10:22 am

              I didn’t mean to suggest there was no solution. What I was reacting to was the presumption that what is clearly understood to be trespassing could be willed away; that the landowner *should* recognize that he/she was obstructing this obvious solution.

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        • Paul Cole April 9, 2018 at 6:57 pm

          Wait until someone gets hurt and sues you because you “let” them be there.

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          • Solution Finder April 9, 2018 at 8:14 pm

            That is a real concern. Private property owners just cannot take the risk.

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            • I wear many hats April 10, 2018 at 8:57 am

              So many rules in the US, with the fear of litigation driving our society. The trail was never a problem in the past 10 years that I’ve lived here, and those signs are new. I think many assumed like I did that it was private only on the uphill side of the road.

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    • KristenT April 9, 2018 at 3:49 pm

      Someone at some point created an informal trail from the formal and permissible trails. This informal trail goes onto and through private property. Apparently, it’s always been private property. So whoever made that trail knew they were trespassing and damaging private property.

      It seems to me (not having a dog in this fight, as I don’t go through Forest Park, it being way outside of my usual neighborhood routes) that the cycling community who uses the the trespassing trail should not be surprised when the landowner cries “enough!” and blocks access.

      Why didn’t the users work with the landowner directly (and early on) and make this a more official trail? My guess is that years of trespass and damage to his land has made this particular landowner very averse to wanting anything to do with cyclists in Forest Park.

      So we’ve made an enemy instead of an ally. Great.

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      • Brian April 9, 2018 at 5:02 pm

        That’s a bit of a leap. Maybe the signs went up because of the party space at the end of the clearing with signs of campfires, and he/she never considered the possibility of allowing cyclists to access the trail?

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        • 9watts April 9, 2018 at 5:40 pm

          You’re finding others making leaps? Pot calling the kettle black?

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      • Alex April 9, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        I have been on that trail many times over the past 15 or so years. I have never noticed a private property and never knew such a large chunk of this was actually private property. It is definitely a leap to say that it was easy to tell it was private property and whomever made that trail knew they were trespassing.

        I would like to thank the owners of the land for being as tolerant as they have been. They are much more forgiving than the hikers.

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      • abomb April 10, 2018 at 6:22 am

        I have been riding in Forest park since 1990 and that trail was well established at that point. I’m pretty sure its been around longer then most of us have.

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  • Glenn F April 9, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    they really need to start putting some sort of north arrow on these signs too…

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  • Scott Mizée April 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    I second the North Arrow request. That should be the first rule of wayfinding maps. Am I correct in reading this that north is actually to the RIGHT rather than UP on these maps?

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    • Rob April 9, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      I think north would be left/down&left

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  • bikeninja April 9, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Where’s Robin Hood? It looks like we have the Sheriff of Notingham protecting his forest from the peasants.

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    • Dan A April 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      There shall be no collecting of berries in the king’s woods!

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Just out of curiosity, where do y’all stand on allowing communities to block off public streets or otherwise make using them and other public facilities as inconvenient as possible to people who don’t live there?

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      • 9watts April 10, 2018 at 12:08 pm

        Not sure what you have in mind? Are you talking about block parties?

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  • Gary April 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Regarding the DIY single-track. Anyone know the history of that path? Portlandmaps (note it’s not in Portland, but it has basic info on the property) shows the that path as a separate narrow-ribbon parcel, owned by the same person as the adjacent property on both sides (3 parcels total). It must have been a road at some point, but Mr. Porter was able to acquire it? It’s of no consequence, just curious.

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    • Solution Finder April 9, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      I thought there used to be a gate on that trail at Saltzman, but it’s been a few years since I was on it. Could be mistaken.

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  • I wear many hats April 9, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Shouldn’t Portland Parks not denote a public road as a trail? That muddies the conversation regarding trail vs road access in the park. I would never consider Saltzman Road a trail, so why does Parks insist on calling it that?

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    • Jamie April 10, 2018 at 7:39 am

      ‘why does Parks insist on calling it that’

      For the argument that “bicycle riders already have access to x miles of off-road trails for the mountain biking”

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      • I wear many hats April 10, 2018 at 8:59 am

        Thank you! My question was in rhetorical jest, but such nuances lead to blanket bicycle bans in Portland Parks.

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  • GlowBoy April 9, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Much of the “Forest” along the edges of Forest Park is private property, and this shouldn’t be a surprise to any regular visitor to the park. At least some of those signs have been there for many years. Only fairly recently has the singletrack shortcut (which I’ve ridden many times) between Saltzman and FL5 been posted, but once it was posted I stopped riding it. If it’s an important public resource we need to see if we can get PPB to acquire it.

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    • I wear many hats April 9, 2018 at 3:24 pm

      I thought the exact opposite. If Parks buys it, it would become another poorly constructed, poorly drained, and overly widened trail. Whoever constructed that, paid attention to plants, kept it narrow, and has frequent grade reversals so it drains. They even kept the forest debris on it, so its loamy rather than muddy. The best trail in Forest Park actually isn’t in the park at all.

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  • Glenn F April 9, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    It’s funny that Portland Maps and the Metro Maps and google show that small cut thru trial…
    Maybe they should look within there own system for some errors also…

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    • Dan A April 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm

      I was hiking in Corvallis last summer in the Chip Ross park area, and a couple of maintenance guys saw me and told me I was on a rogue trail. Aside from the fact that the trail has been there at least 35 years that I know of, and it’s on Corvallis trail map, and it has an official name…..yeah, totally rogue trail.

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  • Mtnbikeskillworms April 9, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Ok, I am going to look stupid here, but riding the last bit out to Skyline is no longer allowed? The road at that point is private? Sorry for asking…

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    • Alex April 9, 2018 at 7:46 pm

      No, I don’t think that is a stupid question. I believe it is an easement and totally fine to ride. Everything outside of that road – minus FL5 and Saltzman – is not legit.

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      • Mtnbikeskillworms April 9, 2018 at 8:24 pm


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      • GlowBoy April 11, 2018 at 2:43 pm

        AFAIK the only connection between Skyline and a Firelane that’s not legal to use is Firelane two. Firelane 3, nearby, has warning signs that stopping or working on your bike or making noise is not legal, but riding through is allowed.

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  • OrigJF April 16, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    The sign just needs to show and mark the trail you are not allowed to use. Label it “private” on the map. As many have said, a map without a north arrow or to scale may confuse someone if they think road they are on is firelane 5 but in reality is the private trail you are not allowed to use. And the “public private shared access road” is also confusing. Just label it “public access is granted” or something.

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