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As we continue to learn more about why Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish abruptly decided to prohibit bicycling in River View Natural Area (RVNA), there’s one large piece of the puzzle that has remained secret. Until now.
The project’s 16-member Technical Advisory Committee met four times between September 2013 and June 2014. However, their work was never made public. Citing Oregon’s Public Meeting Law (ORS 192.610-690), the Portland Parks & Recreation bureau has withheld meeting minutes and allows only invited members.
When the decision to ban bikes at River View came down last month, many people struggled to understand the rationale and it was natural to wonder about the TAC’s work.
Thanks to a public records request we know now that the TAC was prepared to present a draft management plan for River View that included bicycle access. Then, for reasons that remain unknown to us, the plan was shelved last summer and biking is now completely off the table.
Before I share some highlights from each meeting, let’s take a look at who’s on the TAC:
- Paul Agrimis, ESA Vigil-Agrimis (the consulting firm hired to develop the management plan)
- Susie Mattke-Robinson, ESA Vigil-Agrimis
- Steve Roelof, ESA Vigil-Agrimis
- Shannah Anderson, Natural Area Land Acquisition Team at Bureau of Environmental Services (BES)
- Mary Bushman, environmental specialist at BES
- Rachel Felice, stewardship coordinator at Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R)
- Charlie Nappi, botanic technician at PP&R
- Greg Hawley, trail program coordinator at PP&R
- Kendra Petersen-Morgan, ecologist at PP&R
- Emily Roth, natural resource planner at PP&R
- Nathan Schulsie, botanic technician at PP&R
- Maija Spencer, property management specialist at PP&R
- Kate Holleran, natural resources scientist at Metro
- Don Goldberg, senior project manager at the Trust for Public Land
- Zach Jarrett, outdoor recreation planer at the Bureau of Land Management
- Sage Jensen, founder and principal biologist at Sage Environmental Services
- Doug Zenn, principal at Zenn Associates (a public involvement consulting firm)
One thing that stands on that list is the lack of recreation-focused representatives. Nearly every member has a background in ecology, conservation, or watershed issues. Only one member, Zach Jarrett has experience building, managing, and designing dirt cycling trails.
TAC Meeting #1, 9/18/2013 (PDF of meeting minutes)
“The team noted that biking use was a key issue for the site, and that water quality protection and habitat preservation is an equally important issue.”
The first meeting was a site visit to River View Natural Area that lasted about four hours. TAC members took a very close look at specific trails and conditions. They noted areas where damage from informal uses had occurred (including “newly constructed bike jumps”) and areas that deserved greater protections from public access.
In a discussion about “ped/bike trail sharing,” Paul Agrimis,”noted possible conflicts when including cyclists and pedestrians on the same path (30 mph bikes versus low mph pedestrians).” The group mentioned Powell Butte as an example where biking and walking trails co-exist and another case of successful shared-use trails at Alsea Falls in Corvallis. TAC member Kendra Petersen-Morgan, “noted the need to plan for increased future use at RVNA.”
Later during the site visit, the meeting minutes allude to the main tension surrounding this entire debate: the balance between public use and ecological preservation. “A major issue for RVNA is human site access. The first priority is to protect the natural resources, and not disrupt the site.”
Then toward the end of the meeting the minutes reflect a somewhat different stance: “The team noted that biking use was a key issue for the site, and that water quality protection and habitat preservation is an equally important issue.”
TAC Meeting #2, 10/15/2013 (PDF of meeting minutes)
The committee received a presentation from Steve Roelof, a project manager at ESA Vigil-Agrimis. Besides a mention that the site might need more bike parking locations in the future, the most salient bit of this meeting was a list of “guiding principles” for the RVNA management plan: improve ecological health, direct future management priorities by a science-based approach, and