Director of Sierra Club explains rationale behind MTB park lawsuit

Director of Sierra Club explains rationale behind MTB park lawsuit

Sierra Club Oregon Chapter
Director Brian Pasko.

Our story last week about a lawsuit against the Timberline Mountain Bike Park has sparked a lot of conversation. Several people commented and contacted me to express concerns that I failed to offer adequate context to the story. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups that have signed on as plaintiffs to the lawsuit, strongly maintain that their stance is not about bikes at all. Rather, they say their concerns are about the broader environmental impacts, the private developer that will construct the park, and a feeling that the U.S. Forest Service has not fulfilled its obligations within the public process around the project.

In our story last week, I included an email from Kenji Sugahara, the executive director of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, to Brian Pasko, the director of the Sierra Club’s Oregon chapter. In that email, Sugahara questioned the Sierra Club’s actions and requested their immediate withdrawal from the lawsuit. Today I want to share Pasko’s response to Sugahara because I it adds some important context to this debate (emphases mine):

Hi Kenji,

Thank you very much for this note and for your past support of the Sierra Club’s work in Oregon. I want to assure you that the Sierra Club did not approach this litigation lightly, nor should our involvement in this lawsuit imply that we oppose increasing the level of mountain bike recreation opportunities on the Mountain.

We chose to engage in this lawsuit because we believe that this particular proposal is not appropriately located and the environmental costs vs. recreational benefits are just too high. In contrast, we chose not to oppose a similar proposal on Mount Bachelor because its location is much better suited to this type of bike park.

Additionally, we appreciate and admire IMBA’s exceptional trail maintenance work. It is our understanding that the trails on this proposed bike park would not be trails open to the public and managed by IMBA or other volunteer trail crews, but would instead be maintained by the private owners at Timberline for their economic gain.

More importantly, we are pursuing this lawsuit in part because we believe that the Forest Service has fundamentally failed in its obligation to fully evaluate the potential for additional mountain bike recreational opportunities in the Mount Hood National Forest. We too are disappointed that the Mountain bike and environmental communities are being divided over a debate about the location of a single privately-owned bike park, when instead we should be engaged in a collaborative effort to substantially expand the publicly accessible mountain bike trail system forest-wide.

The Sierra Club believes that the Forest Service should be carrying out a robust analysis and implementing a formal stakeholder process to expand mountain bike opportunities on our national forests. We are keenly interested in working with the mountain bike community to achieve this goal. In fact, we are meeting with leaders in IMBA and others in the next few weeks to discuss this and how we can move forward together.

I appreciate your concerns about our involvement in this litigation, and hope that I have given you some assurances that the Sierra Club is very interested in partnering with the mountain bike community to convince the Forest Service to do better recreational planning on the Mount Hood National Forest. I hope that this is the start of a continuing dialogue with you and others about how we can work together to make that a reality.

Thanks,
Brian
Chapter Director
Sierra Club – Oregon Chapter
1821 SE Ankeny Street

— For more on this story, browse our Timberline Mountain Bike Park story archives.

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