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Mountain biking’s full potential on display at inaugural Gateway Green Festival

Posted by on June 4th, 2018 at 5:39 pm

(Photos by Jonathan Maus)

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.

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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!

Learn more about the upcoming construction and exciting new design for the next phase of Gateway Green.

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

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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

  • Cyclekrieg June 4, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    The problem is, that the antis (Houle, Thompson, Miller, Clarke, are afraid of exactly what is on display in these photos from Gateway Green. They don’t want “those people” in “their” parks. Oh yes, they will talk about environmental impact or carrying capacity and the like. But that is all a smokescreen. If it wasn’t, they would go after the impacts to parks and natural areas, not mountain biking. What they see here is people from all over Portland coming to a single location and to them, that is bad.

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    • John June 5, 2018 at 9:15 am

      That drives me nuts. I completely get that Forest Park is a jewel and needs to be protected, but singletrack trails a couple feet wide won’t hurt, if properly sited, built and drained they aren’t any more impactful than game trails. I also completely get that many people go to Forest Park for solitude, birdwatching, communing with nature and don’t want bikes zooming by, but bike and hiking trails can be separated and out of sight from each other, just as Leif Erickson and Wildwood are. I do, however, think that Forest Park may not be the right place for wide, fast flow trails, jumps and other types of trail that require substantial cutting and clearing.

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      • I wear many hats June 6, 2018 at 5:16 pm

        You are exactly right. Gateway Green is awesome! Its great to have in town. But it is not a panacea for the lack of trail access throughout the city. We need everyone to support the Off Road Cycling Plan when it goes before city council. Trails are for trail lovers, on foot and bike alike. We all learned to share in kindergarten, and we can do it throughout town.

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  • BarnOwl June 4, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    The problem is getting to gateway green, especially with kids. The 205 path is just scary, especially near burnside

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 5, 2018 at 9:01 am

      Hi BarnOwl,

      I’ve ridden to Gateway Green with my 7-yr-old son several times via I-205 from the north and south. We have never had any problems whatsoever. Then again, I don’t find people living outside to be all that “scary” so to each his own I guess.

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      • John June 5, 2018 at 9:08 am

        It depends on the rider. Some solo women riders may feel differently. Fewer cyclists are using the 205 path, so it must affect some.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 5, 2018 at 9:14 am

          yes it sure does. I can only speak for myself and I have heard from others that they sometimes feel scared/concerned when using the path. i didn’t mean to dismiss BarnOwl’s concerns, just to share that for me personally, getting to Gateway Green via the 205 path hasn’t been an issue.

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          • JP June 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

            Solo woman who rides 205 all the time (I live nearby). There are a couple sketchy spots, to be sure, but 1) there are alternate routes if you really don’t like the 205 path, and 2) those of us out in East Portland have way less access to parks of ANY kind than those who live closer in. I’m very grateful for Gateway Green and the recreation opportunities it provides to kids and adults in my neighborhood and surrounding areas.

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      • Chris I June 5, 2018 at 10:01 am

        The crossing of Glisan is scary, because of the cars and lack of bike infrastructure. Something needs to be done.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 5, 2018 at 10:12 am

          Hi Chris I,

          Something is being done. ODOT is updating that intersection this summer. Perhaps you missed our story about it back in March. 😉

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          • Chris I June 5, 2018 at 12:19 pm

            Any status on the undercrossing of I-205 that will connect Gateway Green to the residential area to the west?

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            • Jim Labbe June 6, 2018 at 11:59 am

              I am curious about this too. I know the Friends of Gateway Green are pretty maxed out and haven’t had the capacity to advocate for this. I hope the South Madison neighborhood.

              As for the accessibility of Gateway Green or for kids and anyone. It is a very short bike ride on a multi-use path from a regional transit center in a regional center. What could be more accessible than that? And houseless residents are no more threatening or dangerous then a lot of the road raged drivers you can encounter anywhere in the City.

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            • Timo Forsberg June 7, 2018 at 2:51 pm

              It’s on the list of Fixing Our Streets (funded) projects:

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      • Dan A June 5, 2018 at 11:20 am

        Jonathan, you have also ridden with your family across St John’s bridge, on West Union, across Hwy 26 and on various Hillsboro highways, and up Springville. Your family is obviously quite courageous, and far from representative of most families who ride together. I would be terrified to take my wife, much less my family, on any of those roads.

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  • Mike Quigley June 5, 2018 at 5:27 am

    Nice little enclave amidst a sea of traffic noise and exhaust fumes, for now. Wonder how long it will stay that way before neglect and the homeless take over?

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    • Gary June 5, 2018 at 7:49 am

      Maybe don’t neglect it?

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      • christopher June 6, 2018 at 5:09 pm

        Parks doesn’t want anyone maintaining the park that isn’t authorized too. Unfortunate because the people who ride this park on a daily basis are the people that should have the keys to maintain and improve it.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 5, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Hi Mike,

      It is nice. You should try it sometime. The more people who get out there, the nicer the park will be.

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    • Chris I June 5, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Where do you ride trails? Do you use your car to get there, spewing fumes along the way? I guess it’s not a problem as long as you aren’t the one breathing it, right?

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    • Alex June 5, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      Mike – you are too kind.

      I am wondering the motivation to send such wishes to a community trying to just get out and enjoy life and our surroundings. Good luck to you and hope you figure out whatever you need to figure out in your life to deal with what you need to.

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    • paul h June 8, 2018 at 8:51 am

      There are groups of people within and beyond FOGG and NWTA who work to maintain Gateway Green on an approximately weekly basis.

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  • Toby Welborn June 5, 2018 at 8:25 am

    I was smiling ear to ear when my 4 year-old daughter asked, “When can we go again?” Thank you NWTA and everyone else who volunteered (at the event and the many years before). You are all awesome.

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  • Paul Wilkins June 5, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Had a great time with my daughter. Spectacular event.

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  • axoplasm June 5, 2018 at 9:31 am

    [petition to convert all PP&R golf courses to MTB parks]

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    • Lester Burnham June 5, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Right. Since YOU don’t play golf than nobody should.

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      • Chris I June 5, 2018 at 12:23 pm

        When you look at the space devoted to golf on public land in Portland, and the number of users, it’s pretty obvious that it is the most subsidized form of recreation in the city. The courses by the airport are fine, but the ones placed in the middle of neighborhoods could be put to better use (read: benefit more citizens). Golf is a dying sport.

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    • SilkySlim June 5, 2018 at 9:56 am

      This is an intriguing concept, one I think about constantly in regards to the Eastmoreland golf course, which I pass by constantly while running/biking/driving/everything. I actually like golf, although I only really hit the driving range there, but it is tough not to think of a more effective way to use all that land for recreation (not even going to get into the housing possibilities here…). That space could become a truly grand park that entertains far more people, putting even Laurelhurst to shame with some stunning water features and landscaping.

      If I were king, I’d scale back the golf to the nine holes on the south side, but also put a nice mulch jogging trail around the perimeter (marked by the 1/4 mile for workouts). And then on the north side, go for a Central Park-esque collection of spaces, big grassy greens for frolicking, and amphitheater for weekly Phish or Dead concerts, interspersed trails (paved, dirt, mulch), and a big air ramp into the water around that one island type green.

      How cool to have a reason for people to jump on the Max orange line to get out of the city (sort of) for an afternoon of strolling through a giant park.

      Oops, got way off topic here!!! To pull it all back, more parks for all!! Nightly Phish shows!

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    • Chris I June 5, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Rose City first!

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    • Dave June 5, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      porque no los dos?

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  • Bryan June 5, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Took my 6 and 9 year old. we all had a great time. they kept asking me why i had never taken them there before, as if i was keeping a secret from them. look forward to going back. much thanks to everybody that put time to volunteer and make it such a positive experience.

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    • Matt June 5, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      Well? Why hadn’t you?

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      • Bryan June 6, 2018 at 9:45 am

        HA! Life.

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  • Jim Labbe June 6, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Jonathan: What about an update on the I-205 Underpass? I’ll send you what I can find out.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 6, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Thanks Jim. I haven’t looked into that for a while but last I heard it was supposed to be the first piece of Sullivan’s Gulch Trail to be built. I do know that PBOT manager of that project Paul Smith left the agency a while ago and the entire project seems to be stalled. I know some local activists have picked it up and are pushing aggressively.

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