Saturday’s inaugural Gateway Green MTB Festival confirmed what many advocates have known for a long time: When the right trails are put in the right place, off-road cycling can reach people with a very wide range of ages, cycling abilities, and backgrounds.
The aim of the event, which organizers hope becomes an annual tradition, was to cement the idea that the sum of Gateway Green’s bike trails are greater than its parts. Put another way, this bike park is an important addition to the community — and more importantly — it’s a reflection of that entire community, not just the full-face-helmet-and-body-armor-wearing-downhill-flying-hellions that some people want you think it is.
On the contrary, the Festival was like an off-road version of Sunday Parkways. The scenes that unfolded were heartening: Tykes barely big enough to walk ran with balance bikes over whoop-de-dos; a young girl on a full-size bike got her first-ever riding lesson; pre-teen boys raced each other on BMX bikes down the drop-lines in the skills park area; a group of older people rode the gravel path on three-wheeled recumbents; an expert rider in lycra team gear swooshed through the forested singletrack; daredevils launched their bikes off vertical jumps high above the action; little ones fell down and cried and then got back up again; dads and moms pushed new riders along to keep them going; and everywhere you saw people young and old gaining confidence in their riding and in themselves while doing something healthy and fun.
It’s rare when promises made by dreamers and advocates manifest so precisely from the way they were envisioned. And to think that all this happens in a place that sat vacant and forgotten and was brought to life in large part with sweat equity and crowdfunding. And this is only the first phase of construction (there’s still no permanent restroom, running water, paved seating area or formal entrance)!
I can’t think of any stronger piece leverage for advocates in the coming debates about the Off Road Cycling Master Plan than what I saw on Saturday. It put in stark contrast some Portlanders’ irrational fear of off-road cycling.
Kudos to Northwest Trail Alliance for a wonderful event, and here’s to it becoming an annual tradition!
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