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$1 million approved for next phase of Gateway Green bike park

Posted by on September 12th, 2018 at 10:35 am

The money follows a first year of strong demand and a successful partnership with nonprofit partners.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

In a nod to its success and a commitment to create local off-road riding opportunities, the City of Portland has committed another $1 million to Gateway Green.

“Now that it is evident how warmly Portland has embraced the unique park, moving forward with further planning is most definitely warranted.”
— Ross Swanson, Portland Parks

Built on a 25-acre parcel of formerly abandoned land sandwiched between interstates 84 and 205 in east Portland, the park opened in June 2017. Cycling trails, a small pump track, and minimal signage were part of Phase I construction. This new infusion of cash will come from system development charges (SDCs) and will allow the city to make significant upgrades.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz approved the SDCs as one of her last actions of Parks Bureau oversight (the bureau is now run by Commissioner Nick Fish). According to Fritz’s office, “The new SDC funding will allow for further improvements identified during PP&R’s 2017/18 community engagement process including park entrances, habitat restoration, utilities, natural play areas, and more and improved trails suitable to multiple ages and skill levels.”

Parks Project Manager Ross Swanson says the plan is to take the park beyond what they refer to as its “beta” stage and get it closer to the full vision developed by the city and its nonprofit partners Friends of Gateway Green and Northwest Trail Alliance.

Inching ever closer to the final vision.

“Now that it is evident how warmly Portland has reacted to, used, and embraced the unique park and location, moving forward with further planning is most definitely warranted,” Swanson shared with us via email yesterday. “The park as it is now demonstrates that the site and uses are successful and a regional draw as planned and hoped for; Gateway Green is a boon for the area but its appeal reaches far beyond the immediate neighborhood.”

The impact and popularity of Gateway Green is all the more impressive given that — unlike other regional parks — it has no on-site parking or direct access for auto users, no electricity (which makes events difficult), no water, and no restrooms. There are also no formal entrances or options for people with disabilities.

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Swanson says his team has produced 30% design plans and cost estimates in order to flesh out what can be done with the new funding. Here’s the list he’s working with so far (which is “ripe for change as we advance the design”.)

ADA accessibility and a trail for adaptive bike riders are in the plans.

Park Enhancements
– Formal entrances at both the north and south ends of the park.
– Bike racks and bike bars throughout the park
– Central Plaza area we referred to as ‘the Hub’ during planning
– Three location for natural play features in the park
– Small lawn area for gatherings and events
– Benches / tables
– A Portland Loo restroom
– A water fountain
– Electrical services so events can be held on site
– Park signage and trail wayfinding

Upgrades to the main entrance area like a plaza, electrical outlets, and a restroom will make events more enjoyable and feasible.

Trails
– Bike repair station
– Existing trail enhancement for folks on bikes
– New separate trails just for people on foot (hiking, jogging)
– An adaptive cycling trail
– An ADA-accessible route through the park

Habitat
– Habitat enhancements and invasives removal

More specifically, Swanson says a new trail is coming to the south slope of the park that will create a loop experience. The existing skills area will get improved drainage and a major influx of upkeep. If the budget allows, Parks wants to add another (larger!) pump track and an intermediate jump line (the current one is expert-level).

So far $4.3 million and countless volunteer hours have been invested into Gateway Green including: $2 million in City Parks SDC funding in 2016; a $1 million Metro grant in 2014; and $1.3 million in donations raised by advocacy groups.

The park will close for construction this winter/spring and will re-open in summer. The Parks Bureau expects the full build-out to be completed by 2020.

— 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

43 Comments
  • dave September 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

    This seems like $1m worth of window dressing with almost no actual trail or riding features added.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

      that’s an interesting takeaway dave. So negative!

      Did you see the part about adding utilities to the park like water and electricity? Even if all you want/need is trails, this is a city facility and as such it has to have some basic features to ensure it can be used by all types of people and events. Maybe I’m biased, but to me it sounds like a lot of important stuff will be added.

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      • John Liu September 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm

        I see Dave’s point. Hardly any of the listed changes are to add actual off-road riding trails.

        Is it really necessary for an off-road riding area to come with benches, water fountains, loos, bike racks, formal entrances, lawns and event space, electrical outlets, etc?

        Look at Forest Park – there isn’t most of that stuff there. Does this allow Parks to later say “no, we can’t add MTB trails to Forest Park and other natural areas, because we don’t have the budget or room or environmental wiggle room for benches, fountains, loos, bike racks, formal entrances, lawns and event space etc”? Or for future Gateway Green-like efforts to be shot down because Parks will require extra millions for amenities unrelated to actually riding trails, or because Park will say “no, we don’t have the budget to maintain the fountains, lawn, loos, etc”?

        It is reflexively pleasing to see money being spent, but it is worth thinking about what strings are attached and what expectations are being set.

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        • Hazel September 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm

          There are improvements to off road features including an adaptive cycling trail. Also a reminder to all that this is an area that has very few parks so some of these improvements are for folks who want to enjoy the park that aren’t on bikes which was part of the original vision for this park.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 12, 2018 at 3:23 pm

          mine wasn’t a “reflexive” opinion John.

          And the comparison to Forest Park isn’t great. It’s apples and oranges. This is brand new park built from nothing.

          I have no problem with having stuff like this cost real money. We can’t always act like the good stuff has to be cheap. Let’s have the confidence to demand world-class public spaces. If you look at what Parks is building these days it is very exciting. Cully Park, Director Park… those are world-class spaces. Why shouldn’t Gateway Green and all new parks be built to that same standard? After all, we have SDC money and more tax revenue from all the growth in town.

          Don’t think it has to be either/or… demand both!

          Parks and great public space are absolutely vital for a great city. Even though I might personally not use a nice plaza and formal entrances and spend most my time riding the trails — I absolutely support them being built because it will create more support and love for parks among more people. And we need as many parks advocates as we can get.

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          • dave September 12, 2018 at 4:41 pm

            But this isn’t getting both. Name one thing in the new phase that actually serves mountain biking, specifically. I’m not opposed to making the park a “nice” place, I’m opposed to doing it at the expense of the original vision of creating a realistic alternative for those of us sick of spending hours in our cars driving to the trail. $1 million! Even 25% of that magnified by volunteer labor could build some amazing things, but instead we’re going to build “mounds” and “forest overlooks” with yet more hiking trails for those poor put-upon hikers that only have, what, 40 miles of dedicated trail in Forest Park?

            I was an early supporter of Gateway Green and I haven’t given up, but right now it feels like another dream deferred.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 12, 2018 at 5:15 pm

              dave… This is a public park that was created to benefit a wide variety of uses and visitors. Yes biking is central (because the founders and politicians knew they could count on the passionate support of bike lovers), but it was never all about biking. This is about giving something to the people who live in east Portland and the Gateway district a place they can be proud of!

              The two people who created the vision – parks advocate Linda Robinson and Gateway booster/developer Ted Gilbert – had never ridden an MTB in their life before doing so in Gateway Green.. after years of hard work to get it built.

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              • dave September 12, 2018 at 5:56 pm

                I’m not saying it has to be all about trails. It would be ridiculous for Parks to spend the entire $1 million on trail building, or to totally ignore the potential for local neighborhood users and non-cyclists, but it seems equally ridiculous to pretend it’s “mission accomplished” on building a bike park at Gateway Green and move on entirely to drinking fountains and grassy lawns.

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              • Jim Labbe September 13, 2018 at 5:09 pm

                That’s the truth. Gateway Green has been a tremendous team effort but without the hard work of key individuals like Linda, Ted, and others it absolutely wouldn’t be nearly as far as it is today. This is a huge milestone that does add new trails for cyclists (read the post) as well as the habitat enhancements that were always envisioned but have so far been neglected. It is always too bad that some complainers can’t see and appreciate the progress for which many, including them, will benefit. Fortunately there are many others that see the big picture and know the benefits for present and future generations and when to celebrate to build momentum and inspiration for doing more.

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        • Alan 1.0 September 12, 2018 at 4:48 pm

          Forest Park has water, toilets, electricity, and more, but that’s not a fair comparison and probably isn’t relevant, anyway. I’m thrilled that Gateway Green has come this far, and is continuing to develop. (I remember its then-handful of proponents collecting signatures for general interest in the project, at a tent along Sunday Parkways about five years ago.) But I think John Liu makes a good point that `attached strings and expectations` do need to [continue to] be emphasized. For me those include:

          Gateway Green has never been the ultimate solution to off-road biking in Portland. It is one small piece of a much bigger solution that needs to continue happening.

          The public perception of the pump track, skills course, and jumps at G.G. needs to be carefully managed and distinguished from single track trails. I’m not aware of anyone who has proposed that sort of facility in Forest Park, but some of the reactions seem like that’s what F.P. biking opponents visualize.

          People called Gateway Green “home,” and solutions to that problem must continue, too.

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          • Dan A September 13, 2018 at 6:38 am

            “The public perception of the pump track, skills course, and jumps at G.G. needs to be carefully managed and distinguished from single track trails. I’m not aware of anyone who has proposed that sort of facility in Forest Park, but some of the reactions seem like that’s what F.P. biking opponents visualize.”

            Seriously, when did this kind of riding become the de facto definition of mountain biking, and is this what’s making it so difficult to make inroads in other parks? Riding loops on whoop-de-dos is a fun distraction, but is not why I, personally, own a mountain bike. I want to ride in the woods on small dirt trails, that’s it. They don’t need to be specially designed with berms, bumps and jumps.

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          • Columbo September 13, 2018 at 2:45 pm

            Speaking of pump tracks, etc: somewhere between the grand opening and this summer, some changes happened on the XC lines that I don’t particularly like. Suddenly the logs and reasonably tech-y obstacles were replaced by jumps built for catching air. Why does everything have to be a jump? Furthermore, why does everything have to be a double jump? There’s even a big double / gap jump at the start of the ridge trail now, presumably so riders can blaze down the hill and launch themselves into the beginning of what’s otherwise a chill, mild trail.

            It’s clear to me that whoever’s managing these trails has lost sight of what it means to cater to multiple styles of riding. Won’t surprise me if in a few years it’s just a trashed out squat with a bunch of dirt jump lines.

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        • Leif Warner October 22, 2018 at 12:55 pm

          Forest park does have plenty of signs, water fountains at entrances, and bathroom facilities. But also it’s a natural area, not a recreational park like Gateway Green. I appreciate and using having access to water and restrooms at places I spend significant amounts of time and engage in physical activity. I get that there’s different priorities for what makes a park great, but I do appreciate the upgrades.

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      • pdxnativemtber September 12, 2018 at 2:04 pm

        +1 to Dave’s comment as all we want are access to some decent trails in the city and this does not fit the bill. Great park for “everyone” to enjoy but still doesn’t fit the main need. But then again I’m biased as a s a native PDX’er and mtb’er of 20 years.

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        • SERider September 13, 2018 at 10:20 am

          Agreed. Spend the money and build trails somewhere else. Gateway will continue to slowly improve through volunteer efforts. Give people in other areas of PDX these opportunities.
          I was/am really worried that building Gateway would result in it becoming the ONLY real MTB facility in town. Any proposals for new trails else where would/will be met with “Well we gave you Gateway, and you want more?”.

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    • onegearsneer September 12, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Touche!…

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    • Chris I September 12, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Sometimes, carefully selected window dressings can really make a room.

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  • David Hampsten September 12, 2018 at 11:24 am

    Instead of: “So far the city has invested $4.3 million into Gateway Green including: $2 million in SDCs in 2016; a $1 million Metro grant in 2014; and $1.3 million in donations raised by advocacy groups.”

    Might it be more accurate to say: “So far $4.3 million and countless volunteer hours have been invested into Gateway Green including: $2 million in City Parks SDC funding in 2016; a $1 million Metro grant in 2014; and $1.3 million in donations raised by advocacy groups.”?

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  • Jason McHuff September 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Typo in “– Three location for natural play features in the [ark”

    But good to see what has been no-man’s land being put to good use.

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  • Jon September 12, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    How about using $10,000 to reopen the Riverview Natural area to bikes. A few “share the trail” signs and tools for trail work volunteers would have those trails in great shape by spring and people in SW would have a chance to ride off road.

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  • Dan A September 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I’d rather see this money spent on trails in Forest Park, personally, or add some small trails in other parks around the area. Maybe singletrack around the Rose City Golf Course. Gateway Green is fine, but to me it’s just another set of trails that are way too far away for me to use regularly.

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    • Chris I September 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      Because Gateway Green is politically easy. I would love to shut down RCP golf course, or battle the ivory tower Forest Park protectors, but it’s going to be a long fight…

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      • Dan A September 12, 2018 at 5:32 pm

        Gateway Green has trails already — the next action should be to expand the program elsewhere. What’s happening now is exactly what I was afraid of from the beginning.

        THPRD has a jump park and if you ever ask them about offroad trails, they lean on that one park as their example of ‘we have this, so we’re good’. It seems to me like PP&R will be doing the same thing.

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        • Brian September 13, 2018 at 6:07 am

          I could be wrong, but that seems to be the frustration with the mtb community. I don’t believe anyone is upset that it is being built, rather that it is the *only* thing being built. Additionally, it is a type of riding that isn’t for everyone and with so much low hanging fruit around the city for quality trail riding being ignored by the powers-that-be the frustration starts to seep back in. And what is happening with the ORCMP?

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    • Toby Keith September 12, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      Yeah. Forget about all the folks out here on the east side who would like a nice place to bike. We are not all enamored with battling our way across town to Forest Park or wherever.

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      • Dan A September 12, 2018 at 9:07 pm

        If you have any trails closer than a 30-minute drive, you’re better off than me.

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    • Mark September 12, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      LOVE the idea of a trail system at Rose City Golf Course. There are many underutilized acres on that site, and simply no good reason to devote it all to golfers.

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  • Buzz September 12, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Have they secured a permanent water supply for the site yet? If not, expect more $millions for that…

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    • David Hampsten September 12, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      I could be wrong, but my understanding was there used to be a county prison on the site way back when, and the water and sewer lines are still connected. Its the lack of power that’s a bigger issue.

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      • Buzz September 12, 2018 at 5:38 pm

        Last I heard is that they are considering drilling on-site wells due to the lack of public water supply infrastructure; the geology of this particular area is questionable enough that the success of developing and on-site groundwater supply is dubious at best and almost guaranteed to be quite expensive even if viable.

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  • Pete S. September 12, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    I’m glad to see Gateway Green spiffed up a bit.

    Though I’m annoyed that they feel the need to have pedestrian-only trails in a bike-park.

    Can’t we just share them?

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  • Eric Porter September 12, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    It’s been great seeing Gateway grow so much in such little time, and I’m excited to see more happening there. It’s great to just ride over and get some laps in and some good exercise and see lots of smiling families out there. Always good to see these recreational opportunities in town. I’m positive about the place even though I sprained my ankle there after going a little too fast through some rollers… Oh well!

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  • rain panther September 12, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    I’m surprised by the amount of negative feedback here, much of which seems to boil down to “yeah, but I’d rather spend that money on ____.”

    I see Gateway Green as a pretty cool thing that has developed into a surprisingly fun and useful end product in what previously seemed like a pretty neglected and uninspiring location. Instead of poo-pooing it for what it isn’t, I’m impressed with what’s been done while working within the inherent limitations of the space. It’s not a long, rambling singletrack with exultant 360 degree views. But it’s easily accessible for an awful lot of people. For me, it’s great to be able to take my cross bike up there for a while and then roll back home, maybe spending a little time on Tabor along the way – all in the space of an hour or two.

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    • Cyclekrieg September 14, 2018 at 7:03 am

      Do’t want to speak for everyone here, but the concern is a bit more than “rather spend the money somewhere else.” The money being spent on infrastructure might be better spent on trails and other upgrades, either here or somewhere else.

      These upgrades, nice as they are, are chewing thru cash. Additionally, it might become the perception by the anti-mountain biking forces in town that all trails would need this level of infrastructure. (It doesn’t.) Typically, sustainable trails are some of the cheapest park infrastructure you can do. But throwing in “Taj Mahal” level infrastructure makes them expensive.

      I look down that list of infrastructure and there are tons of just as good and far cheaper alternatives. Example, a Portland Loo is around $150K, plus running utility lines to it (let’s say another $100K, which is probably low). A prepackaged sealed pit toilet with with solar vent fan & light is $30K (installed) and needs no utilities. Assuming the high cost of $50K/mile for trails, if you put in a biffy vs. a flusher, you could build 4.4 miles of trails, or 100% of what River View could handle. (Though the River View current design sucks.) Which do you want: a flusher or trails?

      Just an FYI, Minneapolis Parks just declared they will not have parks over a certain size without off-road cycling facilities going forward. So instead blowing through cash building in one place, they are adding facilities in dozens of parks that already have infrastructure.

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  • Bill Stites September 12, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    “…sandwiched between interstates 84 and 205 …”

    As a former health professional, I have seen no mentions – official or otherwise – about air quality?! Has it been studied here?

    Not sure if it elevates to the “elephant in the room”, but we need to consider these factors.
    Harriet Tubman Middle School starts the conversation around juxtaposition of human facilities with freeways and other concentrated pollution sources.
    I don’t think I could support the Sullivan’s Gulch trail for the same concerns – it would be laid down into a trough of poison air, that is I84.
    Didn’t someone do an ‘orange smoke’ visualization of air pollution a while back? That one really stayed with me. Brilliant.

    Over time, this may become obsolete as more vehicles are electrified, but for now I submit that air quality should be considered when making decisions for self and family, especially with exercise/physical exertion.

    Lest you think I’m against the park, I volunteered to work on trail-building there a while back, with a large cargo trike. Love the idea, hate the pollution.

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    • David Hampsten September 13, 2018 at 9:00 am

      Yes, air pollution, noise and highway runoff were early concerns about putting a park here. However, air quality within the park was found to be no worse (and often better) than in most congested parts of Portland. There’s a regular and constant breeze through the area that pushes the polluted air into surrounding neighborhoods. What was more disturbing was how heavily polluted the rest of Portland is, especially along major bikeway streets and downtown. Traffic noise isn’t as big of an issue as you might think, and the basin at the bottom of the hill where the MAX line passes under the freeway, it’s positively quiet. A bigger concern is the heavy metal pollutants coming from storm runoff on the highway – Rather than flushing them directly into the Columbia, the intent is to filter them first within the park, as one giant bioswale.

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  • Tony Smith September 13, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Is that a correct statistic? that 4.3 Million$ has gone into GateWay green to date?

    By comparison Valmont Bike park (The Gold Standard in Bike Parks) in Boulder Colorado cost 3.2 Million$ and is the Gold standard. (see – > https://www.velonews.com/2011/06/news/3-2-million-valmont-bike-park-opens-in-boulder_178148)

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    • SERider September 13, 2018 at 10:29 am

      That’s a great question. What has the $4.3M been spent on? I wouldn’t guess that dirt moving and cutting a few new trails (as well as the pump track and some wooden features) would even make up half of that total.

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      • SERider September 14, 2018 at 9:23 am

        Especially considering that so much of the work has been done through volunteers!

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    • David Hampsten September 14, 2018 at 1:30 am

      Just so we are comparing apples to apples, the article is from 2011, talking about a project started 15 years earlier in 1996.
      $3.2 million in 2011 = $3.575 million today
      $3.2 million in 1996 = $5.149 million today

      Inflation calculator: https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl

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  • hotrodder September 15, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Columbo
    There’s even a big double / gap jump at the start of the ridge trail now, presumably so riders can blaze down the hill and launch themselves into the beginning of what’s otherwise a chill, mild trail.It’s clear to me that whoever’s managing these trails has lost sight of what it means to cater to multiple styles of riding. Won’t surprise me if in a few years it’s just a trashed out squat with a bunch of dirt jump lines.Recommended 5

    I ride GG periodically; one morning I dropped into the ridge trail as I’d done many times before, I had a little bit of speed because I’d come down from the south gate. That new double jump was in the shadows – I didn’t really notice the changes someone had made – and it caught me totally off guard. I was bucked off my gravel bike, I landed HARD on my ribcage, my head whiplashed down hard enough to break my helmet. My ribs were in so much pain that I didn’t sleep well for weeks, and work was a daily trial. Yeah, I was really happy someone made that decision.

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