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Timberline Bike Park needs your support (hopefully) one last time

Timberline Bike Park needs your support (hopefully) one last time

(Photo: Timberline Lodge)

(Photo: Timberline Lodge)

After over five years of court battles and exhaustive analysis of potential environmental impacts, the United States Forest Service is on the cusp of final approval of the Timberline Bike Park. The final piece of the process is to hear from the public whether or not to reopen the formal Environmental Analysis (EA) process — a move that would delay the project yet again.

If this feels like déjà vu that’s because the Forest Service already approved the permit four years ago. After determining that the proposal by Timberline Lodge for 17 miles of singletrack and a skills park on the western side of Mt. Hood was in compliance with federal environmental policy, the permit was granted and construction was poised to begin.

But a consortium of environmental groups weren’t convinced. Bark, one of the groups who oppose the Bike Park, says the trails will be built for “lift-assisted extreme mountain biking” that would take place in “fragile alpine habitat,” and “could erode sensitive volcanic soil, harm water quality and fish habitat, and dramatically chance the historic character,” of the area. They also contend the project will only benefit a private company and the lucky people wealthy enough to buy a ticket.

So in 2013, two appeals were filed against the Bike Park permit. When the Forest Service denied both appeals, Bark and several other organizations filed an injunction to stop construction of the trails.

After comprehensive analysis, the federal government disagreed with the environmental groups’ concerns.







Just waiting for the final thumbs up.

Just waiting for the final thumbs up.

“We would appreciate any brief comments that you may want to provide to the Forest Service that agree with the conclusion that no further NEPA process is warranted, and supporting construction of the bike trails and other implementation of the project without further delay.”
— Timberline Lodge

During the injunction, the Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) continued to study the potential environmental impacts while a federal judge presided over the case. This past spring the judge ruled in favor of Timberline Lodge, the Forest Service and the NMFS. The only thing left was a final “biological opinion” about fish habitat from the NMFS and results of a survey on Western Bumblebee habitat. If significant impacts were believed to be possible on either of those fronts, it might have triggered additional environmental analysis processes.

On Friday the Forest Service published their review of these latest studies and found the findings are consistent with their previous work. Put another way: No new EA is required.

Just to play it safe, the Forest Service has opened a two-week comment period to hear what the public thinks and advocates on both sides of the issue are imploring supporters to make their voices heard. The question is simple: Should the EA process be reopened? Or is it time to finally start building trails?

“It is our firm belief that the environmental analysis and other processes that were followed regarding the Bike Park have been professional, exhaustive, and more than adequate,” Timberline Lodge wrote in their most recent statement on the issue. “We would appreciate any brief comments that you may want to provide to the Forest Service that agree with the conclusion that no further NEPA process is warranted, and supporting construction of the bike trails and other implementation of the project without further delay.”

If you’d like to comment, send an email to comments-pacificnorthwest-mthood-zigzag@fs.fed.us with the subject line “Timberline Mountain Bike New Information”

To learn more about this issue come to the Northwest Trail Alliance monthly meeting tomorrow (10/25) at Velo Cult Bike Shop & Tavern (1969 NE 42nd) at 7:00 pm.

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

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The post Timberline Bike Park needs your support (hopefully) one last time appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Staff changes at Mount Hood Meadows highlight resort’s shift toward bike recreation

Staff changes at Mount Hood Meadows highlight resort’s shift toward bike recreation

Images from a Timberline Mountain Bike Park
brochure. A lawsuit has stalled that
plan, but Mount Hood Meadows says
biking is on the upswing regardless.

Fun in the snow remains huge on Mount Hood. But there’s growing consensus that the mountain’s future is likely to be elsewhere.

With average snowpack levels ebbing and mountain biking booming in popularity, Mount Hood Meadows is reorganizing its team to emphasize this new market, among others.

The company recently dropped “ski resort” from its official logo. On Monday, it followed that up with an announcement of that three new company vice presidents have been tasked with focusing on new facilities, programs and staff for year-round — that is, non-snow — recreation.

“Meadows is established as a successful and popular winter recreation center, primarily offering snow sports activities,” the company said in a news release. “The company is actively developing products, services and experiences to complement this traditional business.”

The release also mentions children’s rafting as a new program on the mountain.

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The new vice presidents are Steve Warila (“mountain operations and planning”), Jeremy Riss (“resort and commercial operations”) and Matt Troskey (administration). All three were promoted from within.

“We feel biking (mountain, road, cross country and events like cyclocross) will be very important to expanding our year ‘round appeal and activities,” Mount Hood Meadows spokesman Dave Tragethon wrote in an email Monday after we asked about biking’s role in the resort’s future plans. “We are waiting to see what happens with the current litigation going on regarding the Timberline Bike Park, but we don’t see the our opportunity for biking will be constrained by or dependent on a bike park at Meadows. That includes trail riding – we currently have some great trails at Cooper Spur and will be hosting a CycloCross event October 4.”

Though it’s hard to clap for the endangerment of snow, it’s good news that Mount Hood’s institutions are moving to make biking a bigger part of their offering.


The post Staff changes at Mount Hood Meadows highlight resort’s shift toward bike recreation appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Injunction stops construction of new trails for Timberline MTB park

Injunction stops construction of new trails for Timberline MTB park

It could be 2015 until anyone’s riding.

A coalition of environmental groups are claiming victory in a legal battle to stop the development of the proposed Timberline Mountain Bike Park on Mt. Hood.

Yesterday, a District Court approved an injunction against the project (PDF) that was filed earlier this month by four non-profit groups. Those groups — Bark, Friends of Mount Hood, Northwest Environmental Defense Center and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club — have an ongoing lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and RLK and Company (the operators of Timberline Lodge and the proposed bike park); but they filed the injunction to stop progress on the construction of 17 miles of mountain bike trails being proposed by RLK.

The injunction, expected to be made official today, states that, “RLK and Company have agreed to not proceed with the construction of the downhill mountain bike trails, skills park or related facilities and improvements until this Court has an opportunity to decide this case on the merits.”

RLK had intended to be a “full operation” by next summer; but now they won’t be able to even break ground on them until 2014. Or at least they hope.

At issue are allegations by environmental groups that RLK and the Forest Service have not done enough to safeguard Mt. Hood ecosystems against significant environmental degradation brought on by past ski-lift and other related developments, much less mitigate the impacts of the latest proposal. The groups are also concerned about RLK’s 2009 Timberline Conceptual Master Plan which calls for a new 15,000 square foot lodge and a new, 800-car parking lot that would boost Timberline’s parking capacity to 1,720 spaces.

This new parking lot and day lodge proposed by RLK and Company are key to the concerns of environmental groups.

Environmental groups have worked to stop this project since the Forest Service approved the development permit back in November. An appeal of that decision was denied back in March, yet they continued to make their case. Then in May, a lawsuit was filed on the grounds that soil runoff from the project would harm nearby creeks and that the Forest Service skirted public process in a hasty attempt to move the project forward.

For their part, RLK initially dismissed the lawsuit and stood behind the Forest Service’s denial of their appeals and previous “finding of no significant impact.” A May 17th statement on the Timberline MTB Park website declared that their proposal had undergone a, “rigorous environmental analysis by the USFS” and that it has been, “studied extensively through a 3 year process that included substantial input from the public, as well as State and Federal agencies.”

But environmental groups disagree. They say moving forward with construction of bike trails will harm nearby creeks that are breeding grounds for steelhead salmon and could threaten one of their primary food sources — the caddisfly. Ralph Bloemers, an attorney at Crag Law Center is representing the groups. He says RLK, which also operates the Timberline ski area, shouldn’t be allowed to move forward with the bike park park because the company, “hasn’t followed through on its promises to steward the land.”

Additionally, Bloemers and his clients accuse the Forest Service of engaging in a “results-driven process riddled with erroneous and unsupported assumptions regarding the project’s likely impacts on the natural environment.”

Amy Harwood, a board member of Bark, shared in a guest editorial on BikePortland back in March that, “The Timberline bike park is a corporate scheme to have more weeks of the year attracting cars to larger and larger parking areas that have been poured over our remaining wild creeks and meadows.”

With the injunction now official, Bloemers feels he and his clients have successfully called the bluff of RLK and the Forest Service. “When push came to shove,” Bloemers wrote in a press statement released yesterday (PDF), “RLK and the Forest Service caved and refused to defend their decision… The order grants the conservation groups the exact relief they sought in the motion.”

On the other side of the argument is Steve Kruse, the General Manager of Mountain Operations for Timberline Lodge. He filed a declaration with the court on May 29th defending the project’s environment review process as a “very thorough and successful effort to address all concerns and assure an environmentally benign project.” Kruse stated the project would boost the local economy, provide jobs, and improve Timberline’s recreational offerings, all “while avoiding riparian area degradation, minimizing potential sediment runoff to water bodies, and otherwise mitigating potential adverse effects.”

Kruse said planning for the bike park began in 2009 and that Timberline has already invested $427,000 in feasibility studies. Given that investment, Kruse wrote that “timely implementation of the project is essential” and that he’s, “gravely concerned about the potential delaying effect of the present lawsuit upon timely and orderly project implementation.”

Reached by phone today, Kruse said the restoration work they’ll start this summer will include road decommissioning and prep work for the bike trails that are key components of the project. “We’ll focus on those things until we win the lawsuit on its merits,” he said confidently. Kruse rejected the idea that his side had “caved” to anything. He said the Forest Service (his co-defendant) simply wasn’t able to get its argument together to fight it within the judge’s prescribed timeline. Kruse hoped there would be no need for an injunction given that RLK and the Forest Service said they’d be willing to “demonstrate good faith” to not break ground on the trails until the lawsuit was settled.

As for the timeline for this project, nothing is set in stone. However, in a rather ominous statement for mountain bike advocates, Sierra Club of Oregon Conservation Director Rhett Lawrence said,

“We asked that the restoration move forward so the public could have an opportunity to field verify numerous scientifically controversial claims. Given our knowledge of the challenges of restoration on Mt. Hood, we expect it will be many years, if not a decade, before Timberline has actually achieved its restoration goals.”

While the restoration projects move forward, both sides will try and convince each other —and the public — that their science and environmental analysis can be trusted.

Ultimately, Crag Law Center’s Ralph Bloemers says he and his clients have nothing against downhill mountain biking. “We here at Crag love all things bike,” he wrote in a press release. Instead, he feels this case is about the future of Mt. Hood and, “whether the Forest Service can allow a developer to strategically piecemeal its development plans to avoid public involvement and a hard look at the true effects of development on the mountain.”

Read our past coverage for more on this story.

Injunction stops construction of new trails for Timberline MTB park

Injunction stops construction of new trails for Timberline MTB park

It could be 2015 until anyone’s riding.

A coalition of environmental groups are claiming victory in a legal battle to stop the development of the proposed Timberline Mountain Bike Park on Mt. Hood.

Yesterday, a District Court approved an injunction against the project (PDF) that was filed earlier this month by four non-profit groups. Those groups — Bark, Friends of Mount Hood, Northwest Environmental Defense Center and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club — have an ongoing lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and RLK and Company (the operators of Timberline Lodge and the proposed bike park); but they filed the injunction to stop progress on the construction of 17 miles of mountain bike trails being proposed by RLK.

The injunction, expected to be made official today, states that, “RLK and Company have agreed to not proceed with the construction of the downhill mountain bike trails, skills park or related facilities and improvements until this Court has an opportunity to decide this case on the merits.”

RLK had intended to be a “full operation” by next summer; but now they won’t be able to even break ground on them until 2014. Or at least they hope.

At issue are allegations by environmental groups that RLK and the Forest Service have not done enough to safeguard Mt. Hood ecosystems against significant environmental degradation brought on by past ski-lift and other related developments, much less mitigate the impacts of the latest proposal. The groups are also concerned about RLK’s 2009 Timberline Conceptual Master Plan which calls for a new 15,000 square foot lodge and a new, 800-car parking lot that would boost Timberline’s parking capacity to 1,720 spaces.

This new parking lot and day lodge proposed by RLK and Company are key to the concerns of environmental groups.

Environmental groups have worked to stop this project since the Forest Service approved the development permit back in November. An appeal of that decision was denied back in March, yet they continued to make their case. Then in May, a lawsuit was filed on the grounds that soil runoff from the project would harm nearby creeks and that the Forest Service skirted public process in a hasty attempt to move the project forward.

For their part, RLK initially dismissed the lawsuit and stood behind the Forest Service’s denial of their appeals and previous “finding of no significant impact.” A May 17th statement on the Timberline MTB Park website declared that their proposal had undergone a, “rigorous environmental analysis by the USFS” and that it has been, “studied extensively through a 3 year process that included substantial input from the public, as well as State and Federal agencies.”

But environmental groups disagree. They say moving forward with construction of bike trails will harm nearby creeks that are breeding grounds for steelhead salmon and could threaten one of their primary food sources — the caddisfly. Ralph Bloemers, an attorney at Crag Law Center is representing the groups. He says RLK, which also operates the Timberline ski area, shouldn’t be allowed to move forward with the bike park park because the company, “hasn’t followed through on its promises to steward the land.”

Additionally, Bloemers and his clients accuse the Forest Service of engaging in a “results-driven process riddled with erroneous and unsupported assumptions regarding the project’s likely impacts on the natural environment.”

Amy Harwood, a board member of Bark, shared in a guest editorial on BikePortland back in March that, “The Timberline bike park is a corporate scheme to have more weeks of the year attracting cars to larger and larger parking areas that have been poured over our remaining wild creeks and meadows.”

With the injunction now official, Bloemers feels he and his clients have successfully called the bluff of RLK and the Forest Service. “When push came to shove,” Bloemers wrote in a press statement released yesterday (PDF), “RLK and the Forest Service caved and refused to defend their decision… The order grants the conservation groups the exact relief they sought in the motion.”

On the other side of the argument is Steve Kruse, the General Manager of Mountain Operations for Timberline Lodge. He filed a declaration with the court on May 29th defending the project’s environment review process as a “very thorough and successful effort to address all concerns and assure an environmentally benign project.” Kruse stated the project would boost the local economy, provide jobs, and improve Timberline’s recreational offerings, all “while avoiding riparian area degradation, minimizing potential sediment runoff to water bodies, and otherwise mitigating potential adverse effects.”

Kruse said planning for the bike park began in 2009 and that Timberline has already invested $427,000 in feasibility studies. Given that investment, Kruse wrote that “timely implementation of the project is essential” and that he’s, “gravely concerned about the potential delaying effect of the present lawsuit upon timely and orderly project implementation.”

Reached by phone today, Kruse said the restoration work they’ll start this summer will include road decommissioning and prep work for the bike trails that are key components of the project. “We’ll focus on those things until we win the lawsuit on its merits,” he said confidently. Kruse rejected the idea that his side had “caved” to anything. He said the Forest Service (his co-defendant) simply wasn’t able to get its argument together to fight it within the judge’s prescribed timeline. Kruse hoped there would be no need for an injunction given that RLK and the Forest Service said they’d be willing to “demonstrate good faith” to not break ground on the trails until the lawsuit was settled.

As for the timeline for this project, nothing is set in stone. However, in a rather ominous statement for mountain bike advocates, Sierra Club of Oregon Conservation Director Rhett Lawrence said,

“We asked that the restoration move forward so the public could have an opportunity to field verify numerous scientifically controversial claims. Given our knowledge of the challenges of restoration on Mt. Hood, we expect it will be many years, if not a decade, before Timberline has actually achieved its restoration goals.”

While the restoration projects move forward, both sides will try and convince each other —and the public — that their science and environmental analysis can be trusted.

Ultimately, Crag Law Center’s Ralph Bloemers says he and his clients have nothing against downhill mountain biking. “We here at Crag love all things bike,” he wrote in a press release. Instead, he feels this case is about the future of Mt. Hood and, “whether the Forest Service can allow a developer to strategically piecemeal its development plans to avoid public involvement and a hard look at the true effects of development on the mountain.”

Read our past coverage for more on this story.

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.

Sierra Club signs onto lawsuit to stop Timberline MTB Park

Sierra Club signs onto lawsuit to stop Timberline MTB Park

“We really do not have a problem with mountain biking at all. In fact, we would affirmatively support mountain bike access on Mt. Hood and we’d love to build allegiances with those folks, but we just don’t believe this is the proper place for this development.”
— Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director, Sierra Club (Oregon Chapter)

Plans to build a mountain bike park on Mt. Hood have taken another turn. Yesterday, four non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to stop the project. The plaintiffs on the suit are Bark, Friends of Mt. Hood, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

In the 56-page lawsuit (PDF), that coalition says the area of Mt. Hood where RLK & Company wants to build the Timberline MTB Park is, “ecologically significant” and consists of ,”fragile alpine ecosystems” that feed directly into Still Creek and the west fork of the Salmon River. The plaintiffs also claim that the Forest Service did not adhere to adequate public processes as defined by federal environmental review laws.

The project would build 17 miles of new, lift-assisted mountain bike trails on a 500-600 acre parcel of land (*I originally posted the incorrect acreage). In November of 2012, the Forest Service approved RLK’s permit to build the park. In doing so, a USFS rep said he believes that mountain biking at Timberline, “represents yet another new opportunity for play in every season of the year.” An appeal of that decision made by an even larger coalition of environmental groups was denied back in March (it’s interesting to note that some groups on the original appeal have chosen not to join this new lawsuit).

In a statement (read full text below), Bark’s Lori Ann Burd said, “The fragile alpine soils at Timberline are the wrong place for a downhill lift-assisted mountain bike park.” Dennis Chaney with Friends of Mt. Hood referred to the project as an “adventure park” and said it would jeopardize Mt. Hood, “… by allowing high-speed downhill biking, races, and more development.”

The Sierra Club’s participation in the lawsuit, with their 580,000 members nationwide and 20,000 members in Oregon, is significant. They’re walking a very fine line given their history in working with mountain bike advocacy groups on national wilderness policy. In their “Park City Agreement” with the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Sierra Club says they see mountain biking as, “a legitimate form of recreation and transportation on trails, including single track, when and where it is practiced in an environmentally sound and socially responsible manner.”

Image from Timberline Mountain Bike Park brochure.

In a statement about the lawsuit, Sierra Club Oregon Conservation Director Rhett Lawrence was careful to not say anything against mountain biking specifically. Their opposition has more to do with the USFS process and a general lack of trust that RLK/Timberline have been — and will be — good land stewards. In an email to BikePortland about the lawsuit, Lawrence explained that, “Though they may not believe it, we really do not have a problem with mountain biking at all. In fact, we would affirmatively support mountain bike access on Mt. Hood and we’d love to build allegiances with those folks, but we just don’t believe this is the proper place for this development.”

Portland resident Billie Cleek plans to end his Bark membership due to their continued opposition to this project. He contacted us after we shared news of this lawsuit via Twitter yesterday. Cleek is a frequent visitor to Mt. Hood for hiking, snowboarding, and mountain biking. He calls himself a “preservationist” and he wants to see more areas designated as wilderness (which prohibits mountain biking). But “Mt. Hood is not wilderness,” he says, “It’s a national forest.” As such, he thinks it should be used for recreation. “Seventeen miles of single track below one of the lifts at Timberline lodge is not much. Modern trail building techniques result in significantly less run-off than many people realize. The trail system at Sandy Ridge [a few miles down the mountain from Mt. Hood] is a great testament to our ability to build solid trail without significant run-off.”

“I have yet to see an explanation from Bark, Friends of Mount Hood, or Sierra Club that makes a strong case against the park; most arguments they are making seem to be based on faulty assumptions and/or fear. I’m more concerned about clear cuts, high grading, and ATV use throughout Mt. Hood National Forest than I am about a small mountain bike park in an already developed section of the mountain,” added Cleek.

For more coverage of this issue — including a guest article from Bark explaining their opposition in more detail — browse our Timberline MTB Park story archives.

UPDATE: 2:19 pm: The Executive Director of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association Kenji Sugahara has contacted Sierra Club leadership to express his “disappointment” with their decision. Read his email to Brian Pasko below:

Dear. Mr. Pasko,

On behalf of the 5,000+ members of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, I would like to let you know we are very disappointed
with the decision of Sierra Club to join in the lawsuit to stop Timberline Park.

As a progressive who has been a supporter of efforts by the Sierra Club to help the environment (coal trains etc), the lawsuit makes me question whether I should be supporting the Sierra Club. Most importantly the Sierra Club, by joining the lawsuit is damaging relationships that the Sierra Club should be looking to strengthen.

While I appreciate some of the concerns that were brought up by opponents, the work with IMBA ensures that trail building is done in
an environmentally conscious manner.

We request that you immediately withdraw from the lawsuit.

Sincerely,


Kenji Sugahara
Executive Director
Oregon Bicycle Racing Association
Phone: 503-278-5550

http://www.obra.org

UPDATE, 2:07 pm: In order to provide additional context to the positions of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, I have pasted the full text of their press release about it below:

Coalition Files Suit to Protect Fragile Alpine Meadows on Mt. Hood
Destructive Mountain Biking Expansion at Timberline Lodge Threatens Summer Recreation Opportunities, Fish and Wildlife in Sandy River’s Headwaters

May 16, 2013 — Today Crag Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of Friends of Mt. Hood, the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Bark challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) decision to allow high-impact lift- assisted mountain biking that would harm fragile alpine habitat near Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Over one million people visit Mt. Hood annually to climb, hike, ski, fish, bike, and play. Providing recreational opportunities and safeguarding our public land are at the core of the Forest Service’s mission, and the agency has an obligation to reject environmentally destructive development proposals.

“Mountain biking is growing in popularity and we support Forest Service efforts to provide environmentally-responsible, quality recreational opportunities for mountain bikers and other recreationists. However, the fragile alpine soils at Timberline are the wrong place for a downhill lift-assisted mountain bike park,” said Lori Ann Burd with Bark. “The Forest Service has failed to meet its responsibility to the public. Bark has worked with mountain bikers to encourage the Forest Service to convert unused logging roads into trails, but the Forest Service has failed to take action to seize these opportunities. Instead it has approved the construction of 17 miles of new trails in the sensitive headwaters of Still Creek and the West Fork of the Salmon River, leaving us no choice but to go to court to stop this development.”

The area around Timberline Lodge is cherished for summertime recreation such as wildflower viewing in the shadow of Mt. Hood. “Timberline Lodge in the summertime has always been a place to seek peace and quiet, and generations of families have treasured memories of hiking, picnicking, and sightseeing around Timberline,” said Dennis Chaney of Friends of Mt. Hood. “This project would jeopardize this beloved place by allowing high-speed downhill biking, races, and more development that will further degrade this fragile alpine environment. A National Historic Landmark and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail are not compatible with an adventure park.”

Marla Nelson of the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) noted: “NEDC opposes this project because it would harm trout, salmon, and the aquatic environment that supports them.” She stated that the project will also:

– Increase sediment in Still Creek and the West Fork of the Salmon River, undercutting the significant investment of time and money in restoring downstream trout and salmon habitat
– Convert vegetation into bare mineral soils and encourage the further spread of noxious weeds
– Disturb wildlife, including elk, which rely on these high alpine meadows during calving season

“Timberline’s master plan to build a new day lodge, a new parking lot, and this mountain bike park was accepted by the Forest Service without adequate consideration of the cumulative effects on this fragile alpine environment,” said Rhett Lawrence, Conservation Director with the Sierra Club. “Timberline has not been able to successfully restore the areas it has already damaged and any new construction would simply add to the area’s degradation. The Forest Service needs to engage the public in a meaningful discussion of how to provide for ecologically responsible recreation on our public land, instead of taking more risks with Mt. Hood.”

Appeals denied, groups now want injunction to stop Timberline MTB Park

Appeals denied, groups now want injunction to stop Timberline MTB Park

Image from Timberline Mountain Bike Park brochure.

When we last shared news about the Timberline Mountain Bike Park in November of 2012, the US Forest Service had approved a permit for the project and things were set to move forward. That permit was issued after an environmental analysis from the USFS lead to a “Finding of no significant impact” from the trails, roads and other development required to build a “world class” lift-assisted mountain bike riding area on Mt. Hood.

But after that permit was issued, two appeals were filed against the project. One came from a individual citizen and the other was a joint appeal from several outdoor and environmental groups including Friends of Mt. Hood, Bark, Mazamas, Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

At the end of last month, the USFS affirmed their original decision and denied both appeals.

Now — as Timberline Mountain Bike Park officials prep to begin construction this summer — some of those same groups are seeking a legal injunction against the project.

One of the groups, the hiking and climbing non-profit Mazamas, is on the fence about whether or not to continue their opposition and they’re hosting a public meeting in Portland tonight to help them make the decision.

In an email dated March 6th, Mazamas President Doug Couch wrote that his group has been asked by Friends of Mt. Hood to join the lawsuit to stop the project. Couch said it would be a, “significant and difficult decision” and he is urging both members and the general public to come to the Mazama Mountaineering Center (527 SE 43rd Ave) for their meeting tonight to share input about the project. “There are a multitude of issues to consider,” he wrote, “as well as significant potential costs and benefits on both sides of the decision.”

If you’d like to attend and speak at the meeting, arrive no later than 6:20 pm to get on the list (or your can email Mazamas Executive Director Lee Davis at lee@mazamas.org in advance). Each speaker will be given up to three minutes. After public testimony is received, the Mazamas Executive Council will make a decision at the end of the meeting.

If progress moves forward as planned, Park officials say the 17 miles of new trails and skills park area covering 20 acres of Mt. Hood would be fully operational by summer 2014.

Learn more about the project on the Timberline website and stop by their booth at the PDX Bicycle Show on March 23rd-24th at the Portland Expo Center.

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Appeals denied, groups now want injunction to stop Timberline MTB Park – UPDATED

Appeals denied, groups now want injunction to stop Timberline MTB Park – UPDATED

Image from Timberline Mountain Bike Park brochure.

When we last shared news about the Timberline Mountain Bike Park in November of 2012, the US Forest Service had approved a permit for the project and things were set to move forward. That permit was issued after an environmental analysis from the USFS lead to a “Finding of no significant impact” from the trails, roads and other development required to build a “world class” lift-assisted mountain bike riding area on Mt. Hood.

But after that permit was issued, two appeals were filed against the project. One came from a individual citizen and the other was a joint appeal from several outdoor and environmental groups including Friends of Mt. Hood, Bark, Mazamas, Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

At the end of last month, the USFS affirmed their original decision and denied both appeals.

Now — as Timberline Mountain Bike Park officials prep to begin construction this summer — some of those same groups are seeking a legal injunction against the project.

One of the groups, the hiking and climbing non-profit Mazamas, is on the fence about whether or not to continue their opposition and they’re hosting a public meeting in Portland tonight to help them make the decision.

In an email dated March 6th, Mazamas President Doug Couch wrote that his group has been asked by Friends of Mt. Hood to join the lawsuit to stop the project. Couch said it would be a, “significant and difficult decision” and he is urging both members and the general public to come to the Mazama Mountaineering Center (527 SE 43rd Ave) for their meeting tonight to share input about the project. “There are a multitude of issues to consider,” he wrote, “as well as significant potential costs and benefits on both sides of the decision.”

If you’d like to attend and speak at the meeting, arrive no later than 6:20 pm to get on the list (or your can email Mazamas Executive Director Lee Davis at lee@mazamas.org in advance). Each speaker will be given up to three minutes. After public testimony is received, the Mazamas Executive Council will make a decision at the end of the meeting.

If progress moves forward as planned, Park officials say the 17 miles of new trails and skills park area covering 20 acres of Mt. Hood would be fully operational by summer 2014.

Learn more about the project on the Timberline website and stop by their booth at the PDX Bicycle Show on March 23rd-24th at the Portland Expo Center.

UPDATE, 3/14: Mazamas has voted against joining the lawsuit. A commenter below was at the meeting and has shared a recap.

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