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.
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.
Turns out the forthcoming bike park at Gateway Green won’t be “crippled” by a court decision after all.
After the Willamette Week published a scary story yesterday about a legal loophole in Oregon law that allows people to sue city employees and volunteers for injuries sustained on City-owned properties, we’ve been trying to learn more about potential impacts to not just Gateway Green but the over 200 other Parks-owned properties around Portland.
If other cities have closed recreational facilities due to this loophole, what would happen in Portland? Volunteers are the backbone of many parks and public lands where we ride bikes, and losing them — or losing access completely because of liability concerns — would be a major setback.
Our initial inquiries with the City of Portland and other sources to clarify these impacts didn’t get very far. The Parks Bureau seemed to be caught off-guard by the Willamette Week story and no one else would comment due to it being a sensitive legal issue (if only I had a nickel for every time I heard “Sorry, I can’t discuss legal matters”). The City’s Office of Government Relations would only refer us to the pending legislation that will close the loophole and that we outlined in our story yesterday.
But what if those bills don’t pass? How will Parks’ and other public lands in Portland and throughout the state be impacted by the 2016 Oregon Supreme Court Ruling that found the legal concept of “recreational immunity” does not extend to city employees?
NOTE: Please read our important update to this story posted on Thursday 2/9 at 5:00 pm.
I didn’t know much about Oregon’s “recreational immunity” law when I woke up this morning. But since reading, “Portland’s First Mountain-Bike Park Could Be Crippled by a Court Decision” in the Willamette Week I’ve given myself a crash-course. And so should you.
That article lays out the case that a 2016 Oregon Supreme Court decision throws access to public parks (and all public lands more broadly) into question due to potential legal liability for landowners.
In a nutshell, that decision found that employees and volunteers of landowners are not covered by the same legal immunity as the owners of the land (as laid out in Oregon’s 1971 Public Use of Lands Act). For more on the ruling and the existing law, check out this article.
In the past month over 500 people have chipped in $92,325 to help pay for the construction of new bike trails at Gateway Green — a formerly vacant plot of state-owned land (now owned by the City of Portland) at the intersection of I-84 and I-205.
Project backers aim to reach the goal of $100,000 in the next two days to match a Metro grant they’ve already received. If you haven’t donated yet, now would be a great time to do so.
With money in the bank and all the support and permissions lined up from various agencies, the Northwest Trail Alliance and Portland Parks & Recreation have already broken ground. Over the past few weeks Parks rangers have worked with an estimated 80 people who were camping on the land (who came there after being moved from the Springwater Corridor) to find shelter and other services. Fencing has now been erected around the property and heavy equipment is staging on the site.
In the past nine days, over 200 people have chipped in nearly $60,000 toward to the construction of the “Dirt Lab” at Gateway Green. But as excitement builds for the first new singletrack trails in Portland in what seems like forever, advocates and partners behind the project have come face-to-face with one of Portland’s most vexing issues: homelessness.
Dozens of people who were just moved from the massive homeless camping villages on the Springwater Corridor path have found solace at Gateway Green, the 40-acre parcel of vacant land that sits at the intersection of two freeways in east Portland. That means before any shovels can hit the ground to build the new trails and riding areas, the city must address the land’s current residents.