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River View plan passage is a watershed moment for off-road cycling in Portland

River View plan passage is a watershed moment for off-road cycling in Portland

riverview-rothandmap

Parks Project Manager Emily Roth presenting
the plan at City Council yesterday.

In the past decade there have been a handful of key moments on Portland’s mountain biking timeline.

Yesterday’s city council meeting was one of the biggest.

The River View Natural Area Management Plan passed 4-0 (Commissioner Dan Saltzman was absent) with an amendment that keeps open the possibility of bicycle access in the future. On paper, that’s far from what many off-road cycling advocates wanted. In repeated testimony at the hearing, they urged council to delay the plan’s passage until after the city completes its Off-road Cycling Master Plan.

Their concerns were that if it the plan gets adopted it would set in stone barriers to bike access: a limiting trail alignment and an “interim prohibited” status for cycling.

Thanks to the Northwest Trail Alliance, who reached out to Mayor Charlie Hales and other commissioners to make their case prior the meeting, both Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick arrived on Thursday sharing their concerns about moving the plan forward.

The plan was ultimately adopted; but along with it came perhaps the most consequential political progress mountain biking has made in Portland in the last 25 years. Since bikes were relegated to wide fire access roads in Forest Park back in the 1990s, mountain bike advocates have always been on the outside looking in. Now it seems that the Northwest Trail Alliance and their supporters have finally broken through the dirt ceiling.

“Off-road bicyclists in this room have our attention.”
— Commissioner Steve Novick

All four of the commissioners present yesterday, including Mayor Charlie Hales, sang a different version of praise for mountain biking. Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick were both genuinely disturbed by how cycling and its advocates were treated during the River View public process and they asked tough questions of the city staff who were in charge of it. Novick and Hales doggedly probed city staff to make sure there were clear, on-the-record statements that cycling deserves its fair place in all future discussions of access and trail design at River View.

Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz was first to support Novick’s amendment about re-opening the River View plan once the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is completed and Bureau of Environmental Services Commissioner Nick Fish repeatedly said mountain biking was a “legitimate” use of city land.

Most importantly, bike advocates got an unequivocal promise that if the Off-road Cycling Master Plan deems cycling suitable at River View, it will have the power to supersede the River View Management Plan.

The hearing started like many plan adoption hearings in Portland do. Commissioners and staff praised the process and tried to paint a picture of cooperation and kumbayah. Bureau of Environmental Services Director Michael Jordan said the plan was developed with a, “Thorough and very open process,” and that, “Everybody should be happy having worked on it together.” Jordan’s colleague at Portland Parks and Recreation Mike Abbaté added, “We should all be proud of the River View plan.”

“We helped remove invasives but we made no mention of bikes. It wasn’t about bikes, it was just the right thing to do for that space.”
— Erik Tonkin, owner of Sellwood Cycle Repair

“Should” is the key word here.

Mountain bike supporters were squirming in their seats. The truth is that this process has been very controversial and contentious.

City staff and Commissioners Fritz and Fish painted a picture of River View as an ecological wonder. They called it a “jewel” and described it as the most ecologically important piece of land in the region.

The truth is not everyone agrees with its ecological significance and prior to its purchase in 2011, River View was all but forgotten by the city for decades as it became overrun with invasive ivy, camping, parties, trash, and rampant illegal trail use.

After commissioners and city staff set the table, people who were involved with the project advisory committee where invited to testify. This is where things got interesting.

Nearby resident and committee member Chris Sautter testified that he didn’t support the plan in its current form. Sautter said he jumped at the chance to be involved with this project and had high hopes that cycling would finally be given a fair shake. “Then the meetings,” he said. “I was notified bikes would be excluded from plan. It was a shock to me… this wasn’t the direction the [committee] was headed.”

When it was time for public testimony, council heard mostly from people who supported bike access. As the testimony flowed in, the facade of cooperation and consensus the city had propped up came crumbling down.


Noted conservationist Mike Houck of the Urban Greenspaces Institute said he could envision bikes in River View someday. So did Bob Sallinger from Portland Audubon. “We think it’s unfortunate we didn’t get to the biking issue,” he said. “Audubon believes biking would be appropriate here.” (Both Houck and Sallinger however, want to keep the current trail alignment which is only one loop trail with no access into the interior of the parcel.)

riverview-janskycityhall

Andrew Jansky, NW Trail Alliance.

Sellwood Cycles owner Erik Tonkin said he’s concerned about how the plan “locks-in” a trail alignment that might not suit cycling later on. He also pointed out the irony of seeing a photo of himself in Parks’ presentation on the plan. “On Emily’s [Roth, Parks project manager] last slide saying ‘thank you’ is a photo of the very last work party at River View, a party co-sponsored by my bike shop and staffed by my staff. We helped remove invasives but we made no mention of bikes. It wasn’t about bikes, it was just the right thing to do for that space.”

Testifier Tristan Jones said Council shouldn’t support the plan because it was developed amid “a legacy of distrust” and that biking was, “systematically excluded from the public process.” “To exclude and silence one constituent group is unethical,” he added.

And then the NW Trail Alliance got their chance. The group’s Advocacy Chair Andrew Jansky opened with, “We’re living the same nightmare year after year.” He said this council had made good strides already and has the chance to be the first one in nearly three decades to shake off the “negative legacy” of mountain bike debates and “take a progressive look forward.”

Charlie Sponsel, the advisory committee member who led a rally at River View back in March, said it would be “totally illogical” to approve the plan until after Portland adopted a set of best practices for mountain biking (which is one of the goals of the Off-road Cycling Master Plan).

The last person to testify was perhaps the most powerful. Kathleen Walker spent 30 years with the National Forest Service and the last 23 she was a recreation manager for the Mt. Hood National Forest. She was unknown to many people in the room and I think she surprised everyone with her testimony. “I have 30 years of experience managing national forest lands,” she said. “And you can’t set this area aside like a book so nobody can touch. You need users to help you maintain it.” Walker urged council to not pass the plan and embrace biking access.

reiverview-kathleen

Kathleen Walker.

After the testimony there was no sign from Mayor Hales that he would expedite a vote. He was clearly not happy with what he’d heard. “It’s distressing we’ve gotten to this impasse,” he said.

At this point, Hales was casting about, looking for clarity and direction. He was leaning toward delaying the plan. He called parks staff back up to the table. “Where do we go from here Mike?” he asked Parks director Mike Abbaté?

“We know there’s huge demand,” Abbaté said. “It’s [biking is] a recreation need we’re not meeting.”

Hales was still trying to gain clarity on the trail alignment issue. He heard from bike experts and the public that concerns remained about the trail in the River View management plan. Hales wanted to know whether or not – and/or how much — that trail could be moved if cycling were to be accomodated in the future. Parks Project Manager Emily Roth said it’s just a concept plan and a general corridor, and that the trail could be moved 5-10 feet if necessary.

“If biking is allowed in River View,” Roth told Hales, “We’ll go back out to the community. We’ll have that conversation about what it will look like, how it will be managed…”

“So why not do that before completing this plan?” Hales countered.

“Because we were instructed to not have that conversation,” Roth said.

Hales then asked Commissioner Fritz a series of questions about where a bike trail could go. Still not satisfied, Commissioner Novick continued Hales’ probing questions. Then Commissioner Fish, perhaps sensing things were going south, jumped in.

“There are always competing values we have to reconcile,” Fish said. Then he assured Novick by adding, “Council has final say.”

Fish has an interesting place in this because of his past role in the Forest Park disaster (“I still have scars to prove it when we worked through a similar discussion in Forest Park that didn’t go as far as I’d hoped,” he said yesterday). Since then he’s lost the Parks portfolio to Fritz; but now he’s in charge of the Environmental Services Bureau which has thrust him into the bike access issue yet again.

“We need to accomodate this legitimate recreational use in a big city with big shoulders and lots of land. And we’ll do that.”
— Charlie Hales, Mayor of Portland

On Thursday Fish tried to walk a fine line between support for off-road cycling in general and his legal duties to minimize recreation access in River View specifically.

“The question is,” Fish said as he tried to re-orient the bike access conversation Novick was having. “How can we harmonize a perfectly legitimate claim for access? The question isn’t whether we’re pro or con, that’s an ideological construct that I reject… I would maintain, particularly as someone careful of how we use ratepayer dollars; that when harmonizing any use in a sensitive natural area, those lines have to be carefully drawn.”

Again Hales questioned Parks project manager Roth: “So, there could be additional sections of trail added later?” he asked. “It could be considered,” Roth replied, “As long as the natural resource goals are maintained.”

Hales then reminded Parks Director Abbaté that Portland is supposed to “have big shoulders” when it comes to accomodating users. “We accomodate a bewildering variety of recreational uses,” he said. “I trust that you… meet all those different needs?”

“I do,” Abbaté said.

At this point, Novick was still on the fence. So much so that he looked for support from Hales. “I’m very concerned about voting today. Mayor, where do you stand?”

“I was originally interested in delaying the plan,” Hales replied, “But given this discussion and your amendment I can vote today… if you’re willing to proeced to a vote.”

“With considerable hesitation,” Novick answered. “Yes.”

When it came time to vote, Novick voted to support the plan even though he remains troubled by what he heard about the process to develop it. “And you have my assurances,” he told the crowd (about 50 of whom were cycling supporters), “My amendment is not window dressing. Off-road bicyclists in this room have our attention. I enourage your continued advocacy.”

Then Hales expressed heartfelt regret for how cycling advocates were treated in the process. “I’m really sorry that there’s some mistrust in this room,” he said. “And I’m sorry that there’s been either a real or perceived exclusion of legitimate interests at the table… You’re right. We need to accomodate this legitimate recreational use in a big city with big shoulders and lots of land. And we’ll do that.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


The post River View plan passage is a watershed moment for off-road cycling in Portland appeared first on BikePortland.org.

With River View access in the balance, NW Trail Alliance urges attendance at council meeting

With River View access in the balance, NW Trail Alliance urges attendance at council meeting

riverview-map-big

Map of the trail alignment in the River View Management Plan. Cycling advocates say if this trail alignment is adopted by City Council tomorrow the chances for bicycle access in the future are doomed.
(Map: City of Portland Parks & Recreation)

The Northwest Trail Alliance, a non-profit devoted to improving off-road cycling access in the Portland region, is urging its members to attend this Thursday’s City Council meeting. The group is concerned that if the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau passes the River View Natural Area Management Plan in its current form, there will be no future for bicycle access in the 146-acre parcel.

NWTA President Kelsey Cardwell sent out an email to members yesterday telling them, “I urgently need your help.” A resolution to adopt the plan is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting at 2:00 pm in city council chambers.

The River View plan has been plagued by controversy and uncertainty ever since the Portland Parks Bureau abruptly prohibited cycling at the parcel last spring and then took the strange step of not allowing the plan’s advisory committee members to discuss cycling at all.


The process that developed the management plan was so flawed that the Trail Alliance appealed to the State Land Use Board (their case was ultimately declined).

Because no input about cycling was considered in the planning process, Cardwell and other off-road cycling supporters say the plan features a trail alignment that isn’t compatible with cycling (some say it’s not adequate for hiking or running either). Parks says cycling is on an “interim prohibited” status at River View pending the completion of the city’s ongoing Off-road Cycling Master Plan — but advocates are worried that once the River View plan is adopted it will take a bureaucratic and political miracle to open it up again to re-consider bike access.

Back in April Mayor Charlie Hales fast-tracked $350,000 in funding to develop an Off-road Cycling Master Plan. That plan’s goal is to inventory and assess all the potential sites — including River View — for off-road cycling in Portland.

The Trail Alliance wants city council to either delay adoption of the River View plan until the site can be assessed through the Off-road Cycling Master Plan process. Or if that doesn’t happen, pass the River View plan with an amendment that either strips out the trail alignment or includes a clear statement that it will be possible to re-consider cycling access at River View once the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is completed.

“We universally agree that the public process was rigged and lacked transparency,” Cardwell wrote in her email to members. “Let’s ask our councilors to do what’s right and make amends. Help us start the off-road cycling master planning process off on the right foot.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


The post With River View access in the balance, NW Trail Alliance urges attendance at council meeting appeared first on BikePortland.org.

My opinion: Once again, propaganda is poisoning Portland’s off-road cycling debate

My opinion: Once again, propaganda is poisoning Portland’s off-road cycling debate

River View Protest Ride-13

That’s no father and son on a bike ride. They’re
part of a vast “MTB industrial complex” that’s
merely a front for “their powerful corporate sponsors.”
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

You can tell when we’re on the cusp of possible progress for off-road cycling in Portland because the misinformation campaign by someone dedicated to stopping it has begun. Hopefully, our policymakers and elected leaders won’t listen this time.

With a city council meeting this Thursday to adopt management plan for the River View Natural Area, a guest opinion article published by The Oregonian is full of scare tactics and farcical conspiracy theories.

The essay was written by John Miller, a man who lives near River View, and it follows a long and sad line of similar attempts from activists and sympathetic media in the past. The headline, “Don’t let mountain bikers overwhelm natural areas,” sounds like it could be the start of an important discussion about the need to balance trail use with conservation goals. Unfortunately, Miller is more interested in hurting that discussion than moving it forward.

Similar to the people who spread misinformation during the debate surrounding Forest Park years ago, Miller wants City Council and all Portlanders to fear the bicycling bogeyman. Or should I say “droves” of bogeymen. It’s the cycling equivalent of “Obama is coming to take my guns.” He wants members of City Council to see any improvements to off-road cycling access as a slippery-slope that will ultimately lead to a doomsday where the “them” takes over from “us”.

“There is a global invasion of nature underway,” he writes. “Will mountain bikers gain access to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and wilderness areas? Failing to get into the Bandon State Natural Area, will a golfer baron gain land between camps Meriwether and Clark to build a golf course? Will international bottlers be allowed to take pristine water from a sacred spring near Cascade Locks?”

In comments left here on BikePortland last November, Miller referred to the “MTB industrial complex” and wondered, “If nowhere is off limits, why not have (rogue) trails everywhere?”


Miller paints a picture of local bike advocates as being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. “If their lobbyists prevail,” he asserts, “mountain bike groups and their powerful corporate sponsors,” will run amok in our open spaces and parks. He should talk to staff at the Bureau of Land Management (about the Sandy Ridge trail system), or the Port of Cascade Locks (about the easyCLIMB trails), or Oregon State Parks (about Stub Stewart State Park), and other agencies that have worked very closely with these unsavory “mountain bike groups” with resounding success.

Amazingly, buried in his essay is one almost reasonable passage:

“We all should support a network of off-road cycling trails that interconnects towns and communities. And, of course, we’d favor facilities that provide a range of fun activities and experiences. But we must think critically about where to draw the line between protecting nature and developing new recreation. What kinds of natural areas can support active recreation?”

On this point, Miller is mostly correct. (Cycling isn’t technically any more “active” of a recreation mode than, say, trail-running with an off-leash dog, hiking on unsanctioned trails, or horesback riding.) But in general, that’s what this important debate is all about: How we do balance use and conservation? Unfortunately, because of a lack of political leadership by Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz that has been persuaded by the exact type of misinformation Miller is peddling, we have yet to have a grown-up convesation on that topic.

During the advisory committee process for River View, the Portland Parks Bureau took the jaw-dropping step of prohibiting discussion of cycling access even though the committee was full of cycling experts. The resulting River View Management Plan does not take into account the possibility of bike access at all, even though the Parks Bureau themselves says there’s a chance for bike access in the future. It makes zero sense and they’ve completely disrespected the public and their own process.

When it comes to determining where Portland should allow off-road cycling; that’s precisely where the Off-road Cycling Master Plan comes in. Unfortunately, if City Council adopts the River View Management Plan on Thursday, there’s reason to fear that — even if the Off-road Cycling Master Plan concludes that cycling is appropriate — the trail plan for River View will be impossible to change.

We’ve heard conflicting information from the Parks Bureau (who’s in charge of the River View process) and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the agency managing the Off-road Cycling Master Plan about which plan will have policymaking power over the other.

Advocates with the Northwest Trail Alliance (who, despite what Miller wants you to believe are very new to City Hall politics) are scrambling to keep options open at River View and beyond. Let’s hope policymakers and elected leaders lend an ear to a group of volunteer advocates with a solid track record and successful partnerships who’s working in earnest to make Portland a better place to live — and who has never stooped to propoganda to make their case.

The management plan is up for adoption by City Council this Thursday at 2:00 pm. More info and background here.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


The post My opinion: Once again, propaganda is poisoning Portland’s off-road cycling debate appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Off-road update: New council date set for River View plan, committee selected for Master Plan

Off-road update: New council date set for River View plan, committee selected for Master Plan

NWTA Forest Park Rally and Ride-31

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

2016 is starting off with a bang for off-road trail riding in Portland. Two major plans — one that could bring bike access to the River View Natural Area and the other that develop a blueprint for off-road bike access in parks and other spaces throughout the city — are both moving forward in significant ways.

Back in November we shared some of the uncertainty that looms over a management plan for the Portland Parks Bureau’s River View Natural Area. That plan was controversial and spurred a legal action by off-road cycling advocacy group Northwest Trail Alliance.

The River View plan was set for City Council adoption last month, but the hearing was rescheduled. Now it’s set for next Thursday January 14th at 2:00 pm.

The Advisory Committee will guide creation of a citywide vision and plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where children, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city.
— Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

The key issue on the radar of off-road advocates is that the current plan as written does not reflect any of their input or expertise. That’s because, even though they were on the committee, the Parks Bureau made a strange decision to prohibit any discussion of bicycle access on the 146-acre parcel. Advocates fear that if the plan is adopted without additional amendments it will be impossible or very difficult to retroactively add bike access in. “Our concern is with the proposed trail alignment,” said NWTA’s Andrew Jansky in an interview today. “Because mountain biking wasn’t talked about openly, it was not included in the context of the trail alignment.”

Parks has put bicycling access on an “interim prohibited” status in River View. They say the future of biking in River View will be determined through a separate plan, the Off-road Cycling Master Plan currently being developed by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS). If that’s the case, cycling advocates say, wouldn’t it make more sense to delay adoption of the River View plan until after the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is complete?

There’s also uncertainly whether the Off-road Cycling Master Plan would have the power to change or undo policies adopted in the River View Management Plan.

On a related note, this morning BPS released the names of people who will serve on the 16-member Off-Road Cycling Master Plan Project Advisory Committee (60 people applied in all). That committee will work with outside consultants and city staff to come up with a list of recommendations that BPS says will, “Guide creation of a citywide vision and plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where children, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city.”

Given Portland’s past struggles with off-road bike access, the make-up of this committee is very important. They’ll essentially be voting on the future of off-road cycling in Portland (keep in mind this means not just singletrack trails in parks, but pump tracks, gravel roads, and other off-pavement opportunities). Here’s the list, with short bios from BPS:


mtb-committee

Top: Michael Whitesel (L) and Jocelyn Gaudi. Bottom: Mike Houck.

Punneh Abdolhossieni
Punneh works for Partners in Diversity, an organization partnering with Oregon and SW Washington employers to attract and retain professionals of color. Her academic focus was outdoor education and recreation and overcoming barriers to participation for communities of color. Punneh represents the Community Cycling Center and enjoys off-road cycling and racing.

Kelsey Cardwell
Kelsey is the communications director for Stand for Children Oregon, an advocacy organization focusing on preparation for and access to college for all children. She is also the President of and represents the Northwest Trail Alliance, a mountain bicycling advocacy and trail stewardship organization encompassing NW Oregon and SW Washington. Kelsey is an off-road cyclist and trail runner.

Erin Chipps
Erin is an environmental specialist for the Federal Highway Administration Western Federal Lands Division, reviewing environmental impacts of road and trail projects. She has a background in biology and a Masters in Environmental Management. Erin is an off-road cyclist and racer.

Matthew Erdman
Matthew is an attorney and manager at Legal Aid and previously worked with El Programa Hispano, supporting low-income, English as a Second Language and minority residents. His educational background is in economics with a focus on valuation of natural resources. Matthew is a road and off-road cyclist and bike racer.

Jocelyn Gaudi
Jocelyn is an active volunteer within the off-road cycling community and is a certified mountain bike instructor, with a focus on encouraging more women and youth to ride off-road. She is also a member of the Komorebi Cycling bikepacking group. Jocelyn serves on the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Friends of Gateway Green board, both of which she represents.

Mike Houck
Mike Houck has been a leader in urban park and greenspace issues since founding the Urban Naturalist Program at the Audubon Society of Portland in 1980. He helped found the Coalition for a Livable Future and now directs the Urban Greenspaces Institute. He is a member of The Intertwine Alliance’s core group and its board of directors. He is an avid hiker and urban naturalist. Mike serves on the City of Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission.

Adnan Kadir
Adnan is a professional cycling coach with Aeolus Endurance Sport and member of the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership. He is on the board of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), where he works to implement programs in low-income neighborhoods and with at-risk youth. Adnan is a member of the Buckman Community Association and enjoys off-road cycling, hiking, and trail running. He represents the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA).

Carrie Leonard
Carrie is a children’s bike specialist with Islabikes, Inc., a company that produces high quality bikes for children. She has a background in freshwater conservation and engineering. Carrie is a road cyclist and trail runner, and her children are off-road cyclists. Carrie is a member of the Portland Society, a group of professional women who are passionate about business and bicycling.

Torrey Lindbo
Torrey is the Water Sciences Program Manager for the City of Gresham, bike commuting daily from SW Portland on the Springwater Corridor. He is also president of the Tryon Creek Watershed Council, and has served on the Johnson Creek Watershed Council for eight years. Torrey is a hiker, trail runner, and on the board of Team Red Lizard, a Portland running club.

Kelly McBride
Kelly is an occupational therapist with Legacy Memorial Hospital and volunteers with Adaptive Sports Northwest, focusing on accessibility for people with disabilities. She is a hiker and trail runner and has begun riding off-road with her husband, who uses a handcycle.

Renee Meyers
Renee is the Director of the Forest Park Conservancy, which she represents. The Forest Park Conservancy’s mission focuses on the interdependent values of protecting Forest Park’s ecological health while encouraging responsible recreation and access. The Conservancy works directly with Portland Parks & Recreation to restore the park and build and maintain natural-surface trails.

Jim Owens
Jim is a public policy, land use planning and community engagement specialist with the Cogan Owens Greene consulting firm. He has worked on many complex environmental and recreation projects and plans, including environmental impact statements for recreational uses in Northwest Forest lands. Jim serves on and represents the Portland Parks Board. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Portland Parks Foundation.

Nastassja Pace
Nastassja leads Oregon bicycle tourism development efforts at Travel Oregon, with a focus on building local economies around outdoor recreation tourism. She serves on the Scenic Bikeway Advisory Committee, convenes the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership, organizes and facilitates Oregon Bicycle Tourism Studio workshops, and oversees the Oregon Bike Friendly Business program. Nastassja represents Travel Oregon.

Bob Sallinger
Bob is the Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland. He has worked on urban natural area and natural resource issues for over 20 years, serving on the Portland Parks Board and the BES Watershed Management Plan Advisory Committee, and has participated in off-road cycling planning efforts in Forest Park, Riverview and Powell Butte. Bob represents the Audubon Society of Portland and is an avid hiker and naturalist.

Evan Smith
Evan is Senior Vice President of the Conservation Fund, a national environmental organization, overseeing 200,000 acres of forestland managed for sustainable timber harvest, watershed restoration and recreation. His educational background is in geology and hydrogeology. Evan is an off-road cyclist, trail runner and bike commuter. He lives near Forest Park in the Linnton Neighborhood.

Michael Whitesel
Michael owns the Lumberyard Bike Park and located his business in an under-served area of East Portland to provide recreational programs to youth. He is also President of the Oregon Big Tent Recreation Coalition, which advocates for safe and responsible recreation in Oregon.

The first meeting of this committee is set for January 28th.

Stay tuned early next week when we’ll know more about Thursday’s council action on River View.

For full background, browse our River View Natural Area and Off-road Cycling Master Plan story archives.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


The post Off-road update: New council date set for River View plan, committee selected for Master Plan appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Off-road update: New council date set for River View plan, committee selected for Master Plan

Off-road update: New council date set for River View plan, committee selected for Master Plan

NWTA Forest Park Rally and Ride-31

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

2016 is starting off with a bang for off-road trail riding in Portland. Two major plans — one that could bring bike access to the River View Natural Area and the other that develop a blueprint for off-road bike access in parks and other spaces throughout the city — are both moving forward in significant ways.

Back in November we shared some of the uncertainty that looms over a management plan for the Portland Parks Bureau’s River View Natural Area. That plan was controversial and spurred a legal action by off-road cycling advocacy group Northwest Trail Alliance.

The River View plan was set for City Council adoption last month, but the hearing was rescheduled. Now it’s set for next Thursday January 14th at 2:00 pm.

The Advisory Committee will guide creation of a citywide vision and plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where children, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city.
— Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

The key issue on the radar of off-road advocates is that the current plan as written does not reflect any of their input or expertise. That’s because, even though they were on the committee, the Parks Bureau made a strange decision to prohibit any discussion of bicycle access on the 146-acre parcel. Advocates fear that if the plan is adopted without additional amendments it will be impossible or very difficult to retroactively add bike access in. “Our concern is with the proposed trail alignment,” said NWTA’s Andrew Jansky in an interview today. “Because mountain biking wasn’t talked about openly, it was not included in the context of the trail alignment.”

Parks has put bicycling access on an “interim prohibited” status in River View. They say the future of biking in River View will be determined through a separate plan, the Off-road Cycling Master Plan currently being developed by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS). If that’s the case, cycling advocates say, wouldn’t it make more sense to delay adoption of the River View plan until after the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is complete?

There’s also uncertainly whether the Off-road Cycling Master Plan would have the power to change or undo policies adopted in the River View Management Plan.

On a related note, this morning BPS released the names of people who will serve on the 16-member Off-Road Cycling Master Plan Project Advisory Committee (60 people applied in all). That committee will work with outside consultants and city staff to come up with a list of recommendations that BPS says will, “Guide creation of a citywide vision and plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where children, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city.”

Given Portland’s past struggles with off-road bike access, the make-up of this committee is very important. They’ll essentially be voting on the future of off-road cycling in Portland (keep in mind this means not just singletrack trails in parks, but pump tracks, gravel roads, and other off-pavement opportunities). Here’s the list, with short bios from BPS:


mtb-committee

Top: Michael Whitesel (L) and Jocelyn Gaudi. Bottom: Mike Houck.

Punneh Abdolhossieni
Punneh works for Partners in Diversity, an organization partnering with Oregon and SW Washington employers to attract and retain professionals of color. Her academic focus was outdoor education and recreation and overcoming barriers to participation for communities of color. Punneh represents the Community Cycling Center and enjoys off-road cycling and racing.

Kelsey Cardwell
Kelsey is the communications director for Stand for Children Oregon, an advocacy organization focusing on preparation for and access to college for all children. She is also the President of and represents the Northwest Trail Alliance, a mountain bicycling advocacy and trail stewardship organization encompassing NW Oregon and SW Washington. Kelsey is an off-road cyclist and trail runner.

Erin Chipps
Erin is an environmental specialist for the Federal Highway Administration Western Federal Lands Division, reviewing environmental impacts of road and trail projects. She has a background in biology and a Masters in Environmental Management. Erin is an off-road cyclist and racer.

Matthew Erdman
Matthew is an attorney and manager at Legal Aid and previously worked with El Programa Hispano, supporting low-income, English as a Second Language and minority residents. His educational background is in economics with a focus on valuation of natural resources. Matthew is a road and off-road cyclist and bike racer.

Jocelyn Gaudi
Jocelyn is an active volunteer within the off-road cycling community and is a certified mountain bike instructor, with a focus on encouraging more women and youth to ride off-road. She is also a member of the Komorebi Cycling bikepacking group. Jocelyn serves on the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Friends of Gateway Green board, both of which she represents.

Mike Houck
Mike Houck has been a leader in urban park and greenspace issues since founding the Urban Naturalist Program at the Audubon Society of Portland in 1980. He helped found the Coalition for a Livable Future and now directs the Urban Greenspaces Institute. He is a member of The Intertwine Alliance’s core group and its board of directors. He is an avid hiker and urban naturalist. Mike serves on the City of Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission.

Adnan Kadir
Adnan is a professional cycling coach with Aeolus Endurance Sport and member of the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership. He is on the board of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), where he works to implement programs in low-income neighborhoods and with at-risk youth. Adnan is a member of the Buckman Community Association and enjoys off-road cycling, hiking, and trail running. He represents the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA).

Carrie Leonard
Carrie is a children’s bike specialist with Islabikes, Inc., a company that produces high quality bikes for children. She has a background in freshwater conservation and engineering. Carrie is a road cyclist and trail runner, and her children are off-road cyclists. Carrie is a member of the Portland Society, a group of professional women who are passionate about business and bicycling.

Torrey Lindbo
Torrey is the Water Sciences Program Manager for the City of Gresham, bike commuting daily from SW Portland on the Springwater Corridor. He is also president of the Tryon Creek Watershed Council, and has served on the Johnson Creek Watershed Council for eight years. Torrey is a hiker, trail runner, and on the board of Team Red Lizard, a Portland running club.

Kelly McBride
Kelly is an occupational therapist with Legacy Memorial Hospital and volunteers with Adaptive Sports Northwest, focusing on accessibility for people with disabilities. She is a hiker and trail runner and has begun riding off-road with her husband, who uses a handcycle.

Renee Meyers
Renee is the Director of the Forest Park Conservancy, which she represents. The Forest Park Conservancy’s mission focuses on the interdependent values of protecting Forest Park’s ecological health while encouraging responsible recreation and access. The Conservancy works directly with Portland Parks & Recreation to restore the park and build and maintain natural-surface trails.

Jim Owens
Jim is a public policy, land use planning and community engagement specialist with the Cogan Owens Greene consulting firm. He has worked on many complex environmental and recreation projects and plans, including environmental impact statements for recreational uses in Northwest Forest lands. Jim serves on and represents the Portland Parks Board. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Portland Parks Foundation.

Nastassja Pace
Nastassja leads Oregon bicycle tourism development efforts at Travel Oregon, with a focus on building local economies around outdoor recreation tourism. She serves on the Scenic Bikeway Advisory Committee, convenes the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership, organizes and facilitates Oregon Bicycle Tourism Studio workshops, and oversees the Oregon Bike Friendly Business program. Nastassja represents Travel Oregon.

Bob Sallinger
Bob is the Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland. He has worked on urban natural area and natural resource issues for over 20 years, serving on the Portland Parks Board and the BES Watershed Management Plan Advisory Committee, and has participated in off-road cycling planning efforts in Forest Park, Riverview and Powell Butte. Bob represents the Audubon Society of Portland and is an avid hiker and naturalist.

Evan Smith
Evan is Senior Vice President of the Conservation Fund, a national environmental organization, overseeing 200,000 acres of forestland managed for sustainable timber harvest, watershed restoration and recreation. His educational background is in geology and hydrogeology. Evan is an off-road cyclist, trail runner and bike commuter. He lives near Forest Park in the Linnton Neighborhood.

Michael Whitesel
Michael owns the Lumberyard Bike Park and located his business in an under-served area of East Portland to provide recreational programs to youth. He is also President of the Oregon Big Tent Recreation Coalition, which advocates for safe and responsible recreation in Oregon.

The first meeting of this committee is set for January 28th.

Stay tuned early next week when we’ll know more about Thursday’s council action on River View.

For full background, browse our River View Natural Area and Off-road Cycling Master Plan story archives.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


The post Off-road update: New council date set for River View plan, committee selected for Master Plan appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Future of bike trails uncertain with release of River View management plan

Future of bike trails uncertain with release of River View management plan

riverviewfromabove

The River View parcel (foreground) is very close to downtown Portland and its trails are in demand.
(Photo from River View Natural Area Management Plan)

The Portland parks bureau has released its final management plan for the River View Natural Area and they’ve left the door cracked open — ever so slightly — for the possibility of off-road cycling access in the future. However, because the city’s process prevented a robust discussion of all potential trail uses, the plan is full of uncertainty. If it’s adopted by City Council as scheduled in mid-December it could have the unintended consequence of making it harder to allow cycling even if the city’s own planning process deems it appropriate at a later date.

riverview-lead

A trail in River View. Look, but don’t touch (at least for now).

First, some background…

The 146-acre parcel that borders Lewis & Clark College and Riverview Cemetery in southwest Portland was the subject of a bruising public process that left biking supporters scorned. After the city bought the parcel, off-road cycling advocates worked hand-in-hand with the parks bureau with an understanding that biking — which has taken place at River View for decades and is by far the most requested use of the park in the city’s own surveys — would continue to be part of the future of the site. When the unexpected and unexplained decision to prohibit cycling came down in March it led to an appeal with the State Land Use board by the Northwest Trail Alliance.

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Survey taken at the project’s first open house in September 2013.

That appeal was ultimately dismissed and the process continued toward its goal of creating a management plan that will dictate how the parcel will be developed in the future. That plan has now been released.

Planning for uncertainty?

“We have the chance to do this correctly by allowing the Master Plan process to be completed, and then making sound decisions based on that process.”
— Brian Baumann, NW Trail Alliance

At issue is a question of process and timing: The management plan itself doesn’t preclude the possibility of future cycling trails, yet it was intentionally developed without cycling in mind. Therefore, if the management plan is adopted by city council only to have the ongoing Off-Road Cycling Master Plan determine that cycling is a compatible use, the city would then have to re-open the plan and make a change. The un-sealing a plan that has already been adopted by council might prove too large of a process hoop for cycling trails to jump through.

Because of that unexpected and unexplained decision back in March by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz to ban not only cycling itself but also any discussion of it during the planning process, the plan’s trail concepts and recommendations do not adequately reflect the valuable off-road cycling expertise and perspective that was on the project advisory committee.

The NWTA’s Brian Baumann said he thinks the management plan should not be adopted until after the master plan has assessed River View. Here’s what we heard from Baumann via email today:

“It is a ‘cart before the horse’ scenario to approve the RVNA Management Plan and begin to build trails while off-road cycling is temporarily banned. We have the chance to do this correctly by allowing the Master Plan process to be completed, and then making sound decisions based on that process… I see no harm in taking more time and not moving forward with it in it’s current form.”

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A glimmer of hope with “interim” status

The one small victory for cycling advocates is that the management plan does not shut the door entirely to future cycling.

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In a section listing public uses that are “allowed” and “not allowed,” biking is put in a separate category: “interim prohibited.” “The use of mountain bikes will remain a prohibited use until completion of the City’s Off-Road Cycling Master Plan,” the plan states, “through which RVNA [River View Natural Area] will be considered as a candidate property for cycling.”

Is that “iterim” designation a legitimate placeholder for a full consideration of cycling at River View or is it just a political stall tactic? (Both parks bureau staffers assigned to this project are currently out of the office and unavailable for comment.)

The city has promised that the main goal of the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan is to take an objective look at all parcels in the city and assess whether or not they are compatible with cycling trails. The concern from bike advocates is that the management plan is set up in such a way to essentially guarantee that the Master Plan process will not find River View as a feasible site for cycling.

When cycling at River View comes up during the master plan process, it’s likely to stir up debate yet again, which is why some people felt it should have been dealt with more thoroughly in the management plan.

The debate today and what’s to come

“I take issue with this plan not expressly prohibiting mountain bikes as a use.”
— Torrey Lindbo, Tryon Creek Watershed Council Board President

In an official comment published with the management plan, the Collins View Neighborhood Association said that the mere consideration of cycling at River View is “irresponsible” due to ecological concerns. “Why is River View Natural Area being considered [for cycling],” their statement reads, “… Collins View is wary that the report leaves the Natural area totally open to off road cycling without qualifying the site’s suitability.”

In official comments on the plan, Tryon Creek Watershed Council Board President Torrey Lindbo also said cycling should be prohibited. He wanted the city to put cycling in the “not allowed” use category. “The site does not appear to provide conditions that would support safe incorporation of mountain biking as a trail use. …I take issue with this plan not expressly prohibiting mountain bikes as a use. …I will be extremely disappointed if the city considers allowing mountain biking within RVNA as part of the Off‐Road Cycling Master Plan process.

Countering those viewpoints, another influential conservation group supports biking in River View. Audubon Society of Portland Board Member and project advisory committee member Jay Withgott said he feels the city erred in not definitively answering the cycling question during the River View planning process:

“Speaking for Portland Audubon, I will mention that others at Audubon feel strongly that the issue of mountain biking should have been addressed as part of a holistic management plan for this site at this time, and not postponed pending a larger landscape scale review. They feel that there was sufficient information to have decided this issue at Riverview as part of the current process and that there is a place for mountain biking at River View.”

The minority report

Three members of the River View project advisory committee signed a minority report to express their disappointment with the management plan process and urge the city to make cycling a higher priority. In their dissenting opinion, Baumann with the Northwest Trail Alliance, River View neighbor Chris Sautter and professional cyclist Charlie Sponsel claimed that since hiking and running are acceptable uses at River View, cycling should be too. “No credible reason has been cited for removing off-road cycling from the plan,” they wrote. Their letter claims that properly built trails can handle biking and hiking without harming the ecology.

Here’s more from their letter:

“… off-road cycling can be done in a sustainable manner on properly-built trails. Off-road cycling on trails was not considered a significant ecological impact to RVNA during the initial surveying process. Off-road cyclists bring trail building expertise to RVNA, as well as the necessary volunteer labor to maintain trails. Off-road cyclists volunteered more than 450 hours of their time, in partnership with Portland Parks, to make the multi-use trails at RVNA more sustainable, and have proven to be the best trail stewards in many projects across Oregon. As we heard from PP&R’s staff, singletrack mountain bike trails do not pose a threat to TEES Interior habitat designations and do not pose a threat to Willamette River water quality or temperature. Those are the two most important resources we are tasked with protecting at River View, and the city’s own experts do not consider trails to be a significant threat.

… the draft plan as written provides reduced recreation opportunities for all uses, including off road cyclists and pedestrians. The proposed single large loop around the perimeter of the property and smaller upper loop are significantly limiting the variety of trails and routes.”

The signees of the minority report are also still stinging from how the River View process was handled. They say City Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish circumvented the public process when they “unilaterally and arbitrarily” banned cycling and any discussion of it back in March. “Before the ban,” the statement continues, “the Technical and Public Advisory Committees were engaged in spirited debate about mountain biking and its compatibility with the environmental and recreational goals for River View.”

The plan is scheduled for a council vote on December 16th. If Baumann and other advocates get their way, that “spirited debate” will play out long before any plan is set in stone.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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Hope for mountain bikers? Off-Road Cycling Master Plan starts rolling

Hope for mountain bikers? Off-Road Cycling Master Plan starts rolling

Kunec-North

Michelle Kunec-North is managing
the process for the city.
(Photo courtesy Kunec-North)

A year after hundreds of people attended a rally in support of in-town mountain biking trails, the City of Portland is starting its project to decide where such trails should go.

“It’s a way for people to get outside, to get in nature, to be active, to spend time with their families,” said Michelle Kunec-North, the city planning bureau staffer (and longtime recreational mountain biker) managing the process. “It’s the city’s goal to have active transportation, and it’s kind of an entry point, for kids in particular but for adults in some cases, to learning how to ride a bike.”

In an interview last week, Kunec-North added that off-road cycling options in Portland would also help build a generation of stewards of the city’s natural areas and boost the local tourism and bike economies.

A recent Oregon State Parks survey, she said, “found about 11 to 12 percent of people in Multnomah County have participated in off-road cycling — or as they put it, ‘rode a bike on a trail’ — in the last year. which is a pretty high percentage. … It was on par with things like day hiking. And they also found that Multnomah county had the largest percentage of participation of any of the counties in the state.”

River View Protest Ride-25

“Raise your hand if you think we’re compatible with the resource goals at River View,” asked the organizers of a rally last spring.

All that demand has materialized in huge political pressure for Portland to quickly create off-road routes and to make plans for how to make them part of the region’s celebrated parks system. Last fall, 2,500 people signed a petition to support the funding of the city’s Off Road Cycling Master Plan, and the city council found the money in April.

Kunec-North started work July 1.

“We’re about a month in, having spent most of our time getting organized,” Kunec-North said. “Talking to a lot of different groups and organizations.”

Kunec-North, who previously worked as a parks staffer in Clark County, Wash., and has specialized at Portland in inter-bureau projects, said her meetings over the last month have included the city parks, environmental services, water and transportation bureaus, as well as regional parks agency Metro. In the private sector, she’s met with the Northwest Trail Alliance, Community Cyclcing Center, Audubon Society, several local watershed councils, SW Trails, Oregon Walks, the Forest Park Conservancy and multiple bike shop owners.

Still on her list as of last Monday: friends of parks organizations, neighborhood associations near parks that have existing off-road cycling, groups that represent communities of color, youth cycling organizations, the Latina-based club Andando en Bicicletas en Cully, Travel Oregon, Travel Portland and the Intertwine alliance.

“There seems to be a lot more commonality than I might have expected from the onset, in terms of seeing a plan like this as setting up opportunities for kids to be outside and be active,” Kunec-North said. “And a lot of common concerns about both environmental or wildlife impacts and potential user conflicts.”

Though Kunec-North is laying the groundwork, most of the technical work on the plan will be done by an outside consultant to be hired this fall. Proposals to fill the city’s job description are due Aug. 28.

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Kunec-North said the finished plan might or might not set a goal for miles of routes, but that it’ll certainly include many kinds of riding.

“It’s not going to be solely focused on singletrack riding; that’s one type of experience,” she said. “Within riding there can be anything from a cross-country relatively flat experience without a lot of technical features to something that’s pretty steep or technically challenging. … What we’re looking at both is where in that spectrum in terms of types of riding and types of facilities. … Could we think of parallel trails next to some of our multi-use paths, where you might be able to jump off the path onto some sort of a natural surface trail that might have some bumps or twists and features in it? … Could we have more skill parks in addition to looking at other types of singletrack, doubletrack opportunities and riding experiences?”

“We’re trying to focus on anything from a kid going out to ride their bike to an adult who wants to go out and exercise and maybe work on some skills to a family where you’ve got maybe a wide variety of skills.”
— Michelle Kunec-North, City of Portland

In general, she said, “we’re trying to focus on anything from a kid going out to ride their bike to an adult who wants to go out and exercise and maybe work on some skills to a family where you’ve got maybe a wide variety of skills.”

“I hope I’m not underselling the natural piece too,” she added. “I think that’s an important component, and getting out and experiencing nature is a big part of the experience.”

As for the site that’s been a flashpoint of recent debate over local mountain biking, the city-owned River View Natural Area, Kunec-North cited the city’s “Access and Management Concept” for the site, which currently forbids bike access for reasons related to an ongoing lawsuit but continues to consider the site for future trails in the Off-road Cycling Master Plan.

“The trail alignments shown in the Concept were developed before mountain bikes were restricted on the site,” Kunec-North said. “If off-road cycling becomes an allowed use, the trails would be constructed to support it and other allowed uses.”

Sandy Ridge

Sandy Ridge, one of the many places Portlanders travel to ride mountain bikes.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Kunec-North said she’s personally been riding off-road for about 10 years and sometimes enjoys mountain bike racing. Her own favorite rides include spots like Surveyor’s Ridge in the Gorge and that “of course I go to Sandy Ridge all the time.”

“But I also had a great time out at easyCLIMB a few weeks ago, out at Cascade Locks,” she added. “And my friends keep telling me I need to go out to Lacamas Lake over in Camas.”

In general, Kunec-North said she’s pleased to be helping Portland catch up with the huge public enthusiasm for mountain biking.

“It’s not a fringe activity,” she said. “It’s got pretty high rates of participation that are higher even than those in what we might consider more traditional sports.”

Interested in these issues? Check out last week’s KBOO Bike Show, in which host Jocelyn Gaudi interviewed Kunec-North about singletrack in the city.


The post Hope for mountain bikers? Off-Road Cycling Master Plan starts rolling appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Challenge to River View biking ban dismissed by State Land Use Board

Challenge to River View biking ban dismissed by State Land Use Board

River View Protest Ride-25

A decision to prohibit biking at River View
Natural Area sparked large protests.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals has dismissed a case that sought to reverse a decision to prohibit bicycling at River View Natural Area.

The case was filed back in March by the Portland-based non-profit Northwest Trail Alliance.

In their 12-page decision published on June 3rd (PDF here, scroll down for embed) LUBA explains that the case does not fit within the bounds of their jurisdiction because the City of Portland’s actions did not constitute a land use decision. LUBA said that local governments, acting in their capacity as “custodian and manager of public lands,” are withing their legal right to make decisions that restrict public access.

Here’s a snip from the decision:

“For example, a city parks bureau may decide to close trails within a public park to dog-walkers, in order to avoid conflict with other users, to prevent harm to wildlife, or for many other reasons that have little or nothing to do with land use planning or regulation, and which may not be governed by any standards at all.”

The legal action came on the heels of a decision made on March 2nd by by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Bureau of Environmental Services Commissioner Nick Fish. After a long and collaborative process to determine the future of trail uses at River View, NWTA reps were summoned to a meeting and told — without warning or detailed explanation — that biking would be banned until further notice.

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NWTA Board President Kelsey Cardwell said at the time of the LUBA filing, “We would much rather continue in that partnership to resolve this issue. However, the gravity of this decision, the lack of justification, and the lack of answers has led the board to believe that the next right step is to take legal action.”

“We agree with the city the March 2, 2015 letter does not appear to concern the application or amendment of any statewide planning goal, comprehensive plan provision or land use regulation, and for that reason does not constitute a ‘land use decision’.”
— Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals

A key argument that the Trail Alliance’s case stood upon was a disagreement over whether the March 2nd memo about the bike ban issued by the City constituted a final decision (versus a temporary one), which is one of the thresholds a case must meet to be considered by LUBA.

The Trail Alliance argued that the ban on biking at River View is a de facto final decision, “because it purports to permanently close existing trails that were previously open to mountain bikes*, and permanently exclude mountain biking from consideration as a potential use within the RVNA in the current land use management planning process.”

(*There is some debate over the idea that the trails were “previously open to mountain bikes.” For decades prior to the city’s purchase of the 146-acre parcel in 2011, people rode bikes on the trails. However, the previous landowner says they were trespassing. Then, after the city purchased the land, biking was allowed.)

The City made it known publicly via a statement on their website and after the publication of their initial memo, that the decision wasn’t meant to be final. They have maintained all along that biking is prohibited only while, “a citywide assessment of appropriate places for cycling is funded and completed.” (Since then, the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan has been funded and work to complete it is underway.)

After looking at both sides, LUBA agreed with the Trail Alliance that the City has not proven that the decision was only temporary. “However,” they wrote in their decision, “we agree with the city the March 2, 2015 letter does not appear to concern the application or amendment of any statewide planning goal, comprehensive plan provision or land use regulation, and for that reason does not constitute a ‘land use decision’.”

The Trail Alliance has chosen to not appeal this case any further.

Aaron Berne, the lawyer who represented the Trail Alliance on the case, told the Willamette Week newspaper, “We’re optimistic that they’ll reconsider their decision to ban mountain bikes. Mountain biking was the longest-standing and most popular use at River View.”


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Trail sabotage seen at River View Natural Area – UPDATED with photos

Trail sabotage seen at River View Natural Area – UPDATED with photos

rvna2

(Photos by Mark Molchan)

Uh oh. Just noticed this message posted to the email list of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association:

Someone has been placing sticks and logs on the River View trails in an attempt to stop or hurt mountain bikers. They are around blind corners and after drops. I picked up a bunch last week and they are back again. Email if you see Amanda Fritz or Nick Fish on the trail with a handful of logs while wearing a “I hate mountain bikers” tee shirt.

And here’s another another report from Mark Molchan:

HEADS UP! Someone is placing obstacles on trails. Most are no big deal, but I had to clear away 4 sections of branches/logs. Whoever placed these by doing so has confirmed that they are aware of cyclists still using the trails, and have knowingly taken action that could harm someone. At least half of the obstacles were placed at/on/near/around technical, steep, runout sections and on blind turns. Please be careful and scout ahead.

And more photos from Molchan:

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rvna5

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rvna4

11351463_10205812508186227_5307578450794362016_n

rvna-1

To refresh your memory, the trails at River View Natural Area were purchased by the city of Portland in 2012. Prior to that they were owned by the River View Cemetery and people have been riding on them, illegally, for several decades. While technically trespassing, River View never enforced a ban. After the city purchased the land, they permitted bicycling until an abrupt decision this past March put a temporary “pause” on bicycle use until a more formal decision can be made.

It’s unclear who would sabotage trails at River View. Throughout our coverage of this issue there hasn’t been an organized and vocal opposition to mountain biking on the trails (that’s not to say it doesn’t exist, and as commenters point out below, some neighborhood residents and other groups appear to be organizing against bike access). There are a few local residents who have spoken up at meetings — mostly it seemed out of fears of people parking on “their” streets more than use of the trails. Unlike Forest Park, where there’s a long legacy of hiking and world-class trails like Wildwood, the River View trails are mostly unauthorized and relatively underused and therefore biker/hiker conflicts have not been an issue in the recent debate.

Sabotage is nothing new in the trail riding world and Portland is not immune. Back in 2014, a bomb squad was forced to respond when a trip wire device was found strung between two trees in Forest Park.

If anyone else has seen this and/or has photos or other information, please drop me a line. I’ve requested to have a Portland Parks and Recreation ranger stop by and check this out and will report back if I learn anything else.

UPDATE: Portland Parks & Recreation has sent rangers to check out the situation. I will report back if/when they find anything. Also, I just discovered an email written to us on May 21st that offers more details about the alleged trail sabotage:

I am writing to inform you of some disturbing observations I have made regarding RVNA. Though I am sure your readership are all good, law abiding citizens, I feel I should report these findings in the unlikely circumstance that someone who reads Bike Portland may be riding these wonderful trails. Yesterday I was on the main descent (since whether I was on a bike or not is irrelevant to the observations, I will not mention my mode of enjoyment) and I discovered large sticks, branches and logs strategically placed across the trail. This was observed the whole length of the trail adding up to more than 20 objects. These objects where placed across the trail after blind turns, many anchored by trees in a manner that made them fixed. Some of the logs were as large as 12 inches in diameter. I recognized this as trail sabotage.

I have seen this on legal trails when I lived in California. Trail sabotage is criminal regardless of trail legality. People can suffer life threaten ing injuries from such sabotage, not to mention that many of the objects where dragged from off trail, sometimes for more than 10ft before their placement. One such object was a nurse log with actual epiphytes growing on it. Regardless of how you feel about the bike ban, about trail poaching and about the climate around these subjects, this is an unacceptable action. Whether or not a malicious outcome was intended, the mechanism was present. This, to me, is a scary escalation of events. It would be wonderful if you could mention this to your readers so nobody gets hurt. Thanks for all your excellent coverage on this important subject.


The post Trail sabotage seen at River View Natural Area – UPDATED with photos appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Off-Road Cycling Plan gets Council nod, Bureau of Planning will take the lead

Off-Road Cycling Plan gets Council nod, Bureau of Planning will take the lead

ntwacityhall

Daniel Greenstadt and his daughter Gigi
testified in support of the plan at
City Hall this morning.

A few minutes ago at their weekly meeting, Portland City Council voted in favor of a motion to fund the Off-Road Cycling Master Plan. During a discussion of an agenda item about the City’s Spring Budget Monitoring Process — known as the “spring bump”, Mayor Charlie Hales put forth a motion to split the plan’s $350,000 price tag between the Portland Parks & Recreation Bureau and the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability.

The mayor’s proposal uses $50,000 from Parks’ budget and $300,000 from BPS. The motion was passed with Commissioners Saltzman and Amanda Fritz both voting in support (Commissioners Nick Fish and Steve Novick are out of town and were not present). With Fritz on board, all five commissioners are in support of the plan is it’s ultimate passage is all but assured when Council votes on the budget adjustments sometime in the next few weeks.

Last week we reported that Hales wanted to fast-track the plan in part because he feels, “We can’t ask people to climb in their cars and drive for an hour to recreate outside of the city.”

The Off-Road Cycling Master Plan was first requested by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz in February 2014. At that time she had just denied a request by the Northwest Trail Alliance to build a new singletrack trail adjacent to Firelane 5 in Forest Park. “PP&R leaders and I believe that a citywide Master Plan for cycling recreation is needed prior to embarking on individual projects,” she wrote on her blog at that time.

Fritz and Parks Director Mike Abbaté have used that same rationale to not move forward on any dirt bike trail access decisions over the past year, most recently around the River View Natural Area access debate.

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The Mayor’s decision about where the money for the plan comes from is very significant. The process will now be led by the Bureau of Planning — and not by Parks or the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). This is an important point because both Parks and BES are embroiled with mountain bike advocates over their role in keeping bikes out of local parks and naturals areas.

“This is an excellent solution,” said NW Trail Alliance’s Advocacy Chair Andy Jansky, who testified at today’s council meeting. “It addresses concerns that many people had about having Commissioner Fritz or Fish involved.”

Jansky said having the Planning Bureau take charge of the Cycling Plan also means that the realm of possibilities for where trail riding can take place has now opened up. The planning bureau has jurisdiction over all land parcels in the city, not just official city park land.

The passage of the plan received lots of citizen support at today’s hearing. Daniel Greenstadt (one of the three authors of a recent opinion piece in The Oregonian that urged Mayor Hales to advocate more strongly for bike trails) testified with his young daughter on his lap. “My family really enjoys hiking, biking and recreating in our public parks,” he said, “and we’d love to have more opportunities to do that.”

Then his five-year-old daughter spoke up: “My daddy and me want more trails. Thank you!”

Jansky put a finer point on how this issue impacts kids. “To you and me, one year isn’t that long, but to an eight-year-old kid a year without a trail is like a lifetime.”

NW Trail Alliance Vice President Aaron Berne shared his memories of riding the trails at River View between classes as a law student at Lewis & Clark College. “The mayor’s support for this is a deep breath of fresh air for me,” he said. “There’s a dearth of trail access in Portland, despite 1000s of wooded acres. This needs to change.”

And in a nod to an issue that has been percolating around the bike trail access debate, both Berne and Jansky told Council that they are looking forward to an open and unbiased planning process.

The next step is likely the issuance of a Request for Proposals from the Bureau of Planning that has more details about what we can expect in the plan itself. Stay tuned.

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