Guest post: Where we stand on Portland’s Off-road Cycling Master Plan

Posted on November 22nd, 2017 at 3:50 pm.

Where will we ride in the future? It’s time to weigh-in with your comments.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post was written by the Northwest Trail Allliance, a Portland-based nonprofit and a BikePortland supporter.

Portland’s Off-road Cycling Master Plan (ORCMP) is now in its final stage of development, the Draft Plan Phase. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is asking the public for feedback on the Draft, which will be incorporated into the Proposed Plan presented to City Council for adoption. As an off-road cyclist in Portland, this is an important opportunity for you to tell the City what you think about the Draft. If you want urban trails, now is the time to elevate your voice.

We encourage you to read the overview or full text of the Draft Plan and then submit your comments by December 31 via the ORCMP comment form, interactive map, or at the upcoming ORCMP open houses.

To assist, we’ve distilled the main elements of the Draft Plan as well as suggested areas of improvement that you may wish to include in your feedback to the City.

Key ORCMP Elements – By the Numbers

5.7 miles of natural surface, narrow to mid-width trails are currently open to cycling across the city.

To unilaterally exclude the great majority of trails from consideration, in light of the plan’s recommendation for a comprehensive trail plan, is absurd.

6 potential sites have been identified for new cycling trails. These include the “Dog Bowl” at N. Willamette and N. Jessup, Forest Park, Lesser Park, Loll-Wildwood Natural Area, River View Natural Area, and Washington Park.

35 miles of trail is the plan’s goal for its 15 to 20 year window. Notable cities offer .2 to 1.6 trail miles per 1,000 residents. In achieving this goal, we’d have reached but 7% of the current trail miles per citizen benchmark.

1 million dollars is an approximate cost to construct those 35 miles of trail. This is roughly one percent of Parks’ current annual capital budget. Sharing existing trails that are now off-limits to cycling could significantly reduce this expense, as well as the related environmental impact.

1995 is the year that the Forest Park Natural Resources Management Plan identified users of the park’s Central Unit as “… consisting mostly of mountain bikers …” (p74).

81 percent, or 36.6 miles, of existing Forest Park trail mileage has been preemptively set aside as pedestrian-only. To unilaterally exclude the great majority of trails from consideration, in light of the plan’s recommendation for a comprehensive trail plan, is absurd.

32 miles of trail access in Forest Park — comprehending statewide participation and outing length data — would place cyclists at parity with pedestrians. To meet this without cutting new trail, 72% of all Forest Park trail mileage would need to be multi-use. Cyclists currently enjoy 2% of all trail mileage in Forest Park.

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5 Forest Park trail concepts propose 4 miles of new singletrack plus 4.4 miles of improved firelanes, 2 miles of which would open to cycling. Four disjointed segments, one of which is essentially a dirt sidewalk alongside St Helens Road, is underwhelming. In light of the environmental and economic benefit of trail sharing, or what a proper comprehensive trail plan could produce, these are extravagant misdirections.

9.3 miles of existing Forest Park trails — avoiding Wildwood —can be easily strung together as four cycling loops plus one out-and-back ride. All require re-engineering for sustainability, but that’s the case for virtually all Forest Park trails.

7 to twelve additional bike parks has been set as the citywide goal for the next 15 to 20 years.

13 potential sites identified for new bike parks, including Brentwood Park, Colonel Summers Park, Creston Park, Farragut Park, Fernhill Park, Gabriel Park, Gates Park, Hamilton Park, John Luby Park, Parklane Park or Lynchview Park, Pier Park, Rose City Golf Course or Glenhaven Park, and University Park.

3 urban off-road cycling trail corridors are proposed alongside the I-205 Multi-Use Path, the planned North Portland Greenway, and the Springwater Corridor. This is a welcome sweetener for commuters or mountain bikers riding to their ride.

1 city entity (the Bureau of Environmental Services) is attempting to circumvent established process by dictating a permanent exclusion of cycling from River View Natural Area.

0 dollars allocated, projects initiated, or trails opened to cycling by the process. While none of these potential plan outcomes were intended by the City, they were clearly expected by the cycling community.

NWTA’s Perspective

Off-road Cycling Master Plan meeting-3.jpg

A meeting of the Off-road plan’s advisory committee in March.

Two years have passed producing the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan, and we have gratitude for the resources put forth by the City, the efforts made by members of the Public Advisory Committee, and the engagement of the public in the process.

The Draft Plan is simultaneously promising and problematic:

➤ It presents welcome opportunities for off-road cycling within neighborhoods and alongside cycling corridors.

➤ Its approach to Forest Park is hobbled by self-contradictory guidance.

➤ It sets a very low goal for trail mileage in a bicycle-friendly city.

Making a positive impact on the Draft Plan requires every one of us to speak up. Here are our top suggestions of what off-road cycling enthusiasts should be asking for:

➤ Portland should aspire to, in the words of the current Draft Plan, “set a national precedent for integrating off-road cycling into an urban environment.” The plan’s current goals fall far below the off-road cycling reality of many other U.S. cities. Let’s envision a Portland that lives up to its cycling renown when it comes to riding off-road.

➤ The plan should elevate science above fear-mongering. Share, don’t set aside, proper trails in Forest Park, River View, and elsewhere— it’s a proven path that reduces environmental and economic cost. Let’s bring a big dose of experience and cooperation between all users to decide what’s in the best interest of each trail.

➤ The plan should illuminate the current and potential impact of cycling — the second most frequent form of outdoor recreation across all age groups — on the health and well-being of Portland’s citizens, and ultimately the livability of the city.

Submit your comments by December 31 via the ORCMP comment form, interactive map, or at the upcoming ORCMP open houses.

— Northwest Trail Alliance, NW-Trail.org

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Draft Off-road Cycling Master Plan now available for comment

Posted on November 2nd, 2017 at 1:00 pm.

Image from draft plan showing possible singletrack loop at the “Dog Bowl” in north Portland.

The Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has released a draft of the long-awaited Off-road Cycling Master Plan and they’re taking comments on it until December 17th.
[Read more…]

Four-month closure of Stub Stewart trails starts November 1st

Posted on October 24th, 2017 at 11:33 am.

Vernonia Stub Singletrack Century-17.jpg

We’ll miss you. But it’s for the best.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

You have about one more week to enjoy the awesome off-road biking trails at Stub Stewart State Park before they close for the winter.

Word from our friends at the Northwest Trail Alliance is that a logging project is set to begin in November and continue to the end of February. In addition, Oregon State Parks says that the paved Banks-Vernonia path will be closed between Buxton and Tophill for the month of January. The BV will be closed Monday through Friday from January 8th through the end of that month due to helicopter operations.

The purpose of the Stub Stewart closures is a logging and forest management project. NWTA trail builder Joe Rykowski says crews will use helicopters to thin the forest — a project aimed at improving the overall health of the forest that will have the added benefit of making biking better. Helicopters will be used (instead of trucks and tractors) in order to limit erosion and other environmental impacts to the trail system. This also allow crews to lift each tree out of the forest without it ever touching the ground. About 560 acres will be logged and about 25 to 40 percent of trees will be removed depending on the area.
[Read more…]

The Oregon Timber Trail is ready: Are you?

Posted on July 25th, 2017 at 10:14 am.

(Photos by Gabriel Amadeus, Limberlost)

At long last the Oregon Timber Trail is open for business.

After a soft-launch back in March, the 668-mile backcountry mountain bike route is now fully mapped and all the resources you need to research and plan your trip can be found on the official website.
[Read more…]

Sneak peek at Gateway Green, east Portland’s off-road biking oasis

Posted on June 15th, 2017 at 2:10 pm.

Gateway Green will offer an impressive array of off-road riding experiences.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Believe it or not the opening of new bike trails at Gateway Green is just over one week away. Dubbed the “Dirt Lab,” the new park’s skills area, jump lines, and single-track trails will offer an enticing combination of riding experiences unlike anything Portland has ever seen before.
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Guest post: Hopes and concerns for Forest Park loom over off-road cycling plan

Posted on April 10th, 2017 at 2:25 pm.

The future of Forest Park is in our hands.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post was written by Daniel Greenstadt. Daniel last appeared on BikePortland for his testimony in favor of funding the off-road cycling plan at City Council in 2015. He’s a Portland-based hiker, bicycle rider, Girl Scout leader, and occasional equestrian trail user who also serves on the Board of Directors of the Concordia Neighborhood Association.
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City: Tells us where to build off-road bike trails

Posted on March 22nd, 2017 at 2:14 pm.

Ventura Park Pump Track grand opening-17

The pump track at Ventura Park. Where should we build more of these?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Where should we build bike parks and pump tracks? Are there parcels of vacant land where a network of dirt cycling trails could be stitched together? Should we consider improving and/or expanding bicycle access on trails in Forest Park?

These are the questions the City of Portland wants help answering as they move closer to the completion of Portland’s first-ever Off-Road Cycling Master Plan.

After 14 months of meetings with an advisory committeee the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (they’re leading the project but the parks and transportation bureaus are also involved) released a virtual open house today. BPS has also released dates for four open houses and two community events in April.
[Read more…]

New IMBA Director Dave Wiens visits Gateway Green bike park

Posted on March 14th, 2017 at 12:59 pm.

IMBA Exec Dir Dave Wiens at Gateway Green-3.jpg

IMBA Executive Director Dave Wiens (left) gets a tour from trail builder Jason Wells.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The bike trails at Gateway Green aren’t even ready for the public yet; but they’re already attracting major attention.

On Monday Dave Wiens, the newly hired executive director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), visited the park along with several other staffers from his organizations. Wiens and two senior planners from IMBA’s Trail Solutions crew were en route to Bend for the Sustainable Trails Conference. They spent a few hours in the rain with volunteers and city staff who are working on the Gateway Green project. They heard about the project’s background and challenges, and exchanged ideas about how lessons from other areas could be applied in Portland.

Wiens soaked up the information and seemed genuinely impressed with the progress so far. “It’s such an exciting project,” he said. “This is the type of project we could use an as example all over the country.” Wiens sees neighborhood bike parks like the 25-acre Gateway Green as a key to the future because of their potential to get more kids on bikes. After I shared a bit of background about how Gateway Green might influence trail access debates around Forest Park, he said, “Let the kids talk.” In his mind, these bike parks can help build a new constituency that will change the face of off-road cycling and offer a fresh — and more politically persuasive — perspective on access debates.

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Wiens talks with NW Trail Alliance President Chris Rotvik (right).

Asked what he thought of the trails at Gateway Green, Wiens — a resident of a small town in Colorado and respected mountain-bike racer who retired from competition in 2004 — said if he lived in Portland he’d definitely ride to the new park, “Do a couple of hot laps” and then ride home.

IMBA’s fingerprints are all over Gateway Green. They helped put together the original concept plan in 2007 and now their builders are making the trails. Locally based trail builder Jason Wells walked through some of the new singletrack with Wiens, pointing out how he carved a swooping line through what was once a tangle of ivy, brush, and a makeshift tent-camp.

The transformation of Gateway Green is testament to the work of IMBA, the City of Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau, nonprofit groups Friends of Gateway Green and the Northwest Trail Alliance, and others. The project is part of a national — and international — movement that’s bringing off-road trail riding to urban areas. I asked the Trail Solutions crew for other parks similar to Gateway Green. They mentioned the Sihl City Bike Park in Zurich, Switzerland; the Belle Isle Skills Park in Richmond, Virginia; and Wakefield Park in Fairfax County, Virginia.

As we approach the grand opening of Gateway Green on June 24th, the impact this park is likely to have on our region is coming into focus. Beyond the benefits for the Gateway District and everyone who visits the park, Gateway Green also represents a major step forward for cycling advocacy. Similar to how Vision Zero has helped coalesce a wide swath of interest groups to build political urgency for safer streets, Gateway Green could do something similar as an organizing principle for off-road cycling in the region. IMBA’s Vice President of Trail Solutions James Clark said on Monday that a project in Santa Cruz, California that brought together off-road advocates, land managers, and other trail user groups (even horse riders!), has had a major impact on the access discussion in that area.

“The mountain biking community is bringing all these people together and that’s the key to it all,” Clark said. “Showing that leadership is what gains you the credibility and that’s what allows you to get more access to different areas.”

With a draft of the City of Portland’s Off Road Cycling Master Plan due this spring (and a series of just-announced open houses starting next month), local off-road advocates should take Clark’s words to heart.

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

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The 670-mile Oregon Timber Trail launches March 23rd: Here’s the backstory

Posted on March 10th, 2017 at 10:58 am.

Scenes from the Willamette Tier of the route.
(Photos: Travel Oregon)

Something big is about to happen for off-road cycling in Oregon.

On March 23rd the nonprofit Oregon Timber Trail Association will do a soft-release of their Oregon Timber Trail, an experience its creators promise will be, “North America’s premiere long-distance mountain biking route” and a “world-class bikepacking destination.”

That might sound boastful, but once you learn more about this project and the people behind it, it’s easy to see why they’re so confident.
[Read more…]

Time to weigh in on designs for new entrance and nature center for Forest Park – UPDATED

Posted on February 23rd, 2017 at 2:01 pm.

One of three options for a new Forest Park entrance and nature center.

The City of Portland is putting the finishing touches on designs for a major new nature center and “iconic” entrance to Forest Park. Now is the time to share your comments so that the resulting project is as welcoming as possible to people who arrive by bicycle.
[Read more…]