Being part of the solution, or, how to finally get mountain biking you can ride to
Yesterday I took off a little early to participate in being part of the solution to an ongoing problem here in the Portland area, the almost complete lack of mountain bike trails within riding distance. In 1992, with the help of voter approved funds, Metro (an organization headed by elected officials encompassing Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties), purchased four parcels of land in the North Tualatin Mountains, just north of Forest Park here in Portland. Recently, Metro has had a number of open houses to get community feedback on how to proceed with development and preservation of these parcels. Those of us who like riding mountain bikes saw this process as an opportunity to create a network of mountain bike trails we could get to without a car. During meeting #2 in December, mountain bikers represented about 200 of the 250 people who showed up at the remote Skyline Grange hall. I wanted to make sure we were represented again yesterday.
After a rather unpleasant three miles riding on Hwy 30 I finally reached NW Saltzman and the entrance to my Forest Park “shortcut”. This was a really nice opportunity to just spin quietly in the woods, and it reminded me of the importance of opportunity for this kind of recreation close to the city.
Once through Forest Park I was spit out onto the rolling asphalt of NW Skyline, a well known road riding destination, for the few remaining miles to the Skyline School, and the awaiting meeting.
There weren’t as many folks there this time (probably the same number of locals, significantly less mountain bikers, unfortunately) but the atmosphere seemed positive, and people from different walks of life were having both civil and interesting conversations. I took this as a good sign, and also an opportunity to eat some pie, because when you participate in your local community you get fed pie, it’s the law.
During the December meeting participants were asked to rate their priorities for the parcels, on boards showing different activities, with three color coded dots. The results were on display at this meeting. It was nice to see mountain biking at the top, but I actually favored each of the top three with my allotted dots. With this information in hand, Metro went about creating options for each of the parcels, most showed three different versions, All Shared Trails, Some Shared/Some Separated, and Separated. I’m the kind of guy who actually likes the opportunity for shared uphill trails and separated downhill trails. I think a lot of the ire experienced between mountain bikers and hikers/trail users happens because there’s no real opportunity for everyone to travel slowly in the same direction, so maybe the shared uphill will allow pleasantries to be exchanged and maybe bridge a gap or two.
The detail of the presentation and supporting was really encouraging. The heavy presence and enthusiastic information sharing from the Metro employees associated with this project really was a breath of fresh air in a time when these types of developments have really become a significant wedge issue in the community. With these positive feelings, I took my leave and headed toward home.
Nothing caps off an evening of civic involvement like bombing down Old Germantown Rd. and heading over the historic St. John’s Bridge. A buddy and I decided to debrief each other’s experience over a pint. We concluded there are still opportunities to be surprised by local government’s willingness to listen to its citizens and take actions in their best interests. The road to new trails is still ahead of us, and there’s still work to do, but it feels pretty good being a part of the solution once in a while.
If you’d like to learn more about the work Metro is doing in the North Tualatin Mountains, or even get involved in the process (it’s never too late!), click on this link and take a look.