Tales From The Trails:

FPC's Position on Off-Road Cycling Draft Master Plan

As many of you know, in the spring of 2016, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability embarked upon a city-wide process to create an Off-Road Cycling Master Plan. They looked at all off-road cycling activities from pump tracks and skills parks to off-road cycling trails on all land the City manages.

The Forest Park Conservancy’s Executive Director, Renee Myers, sat on the Advisory Committee along with representatives from the biking community, environmental and civic groups and community leaders. It’s important for us to be involved in the dialogue. After two years, the City has put forth its draft Master Plan which includes options for adding additional cycling opportunities for Forest Park.

The following is the statement FPC submitted to Portland Parks & Recreation which is currently reviewing the draft plan. The draft plan will be presented to the Parks Board in February with a decision from the parks board expected n March. Following this decision, it will move to city council for a vote sometime this spring.

We understand this is a challenging issue for many who love Forest Park. We invite you to contact us to ask questions or share your thoughts by emailing Renee at renee@forestparkconservancy.org. To learn more about the City’s Off-Road Cycling planning process and read the full plan, visit https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/68157.

Position Statement on the City of Portland’s Draft Off-Road Cycling Master Plan Trail Concepts for Forest Park 

The Forest Park Conservancy’s (FPC) mission is to “protect and restore Forest Park for future generations.”

Forest Park provides numerous ecosystem services, including clean air and water, cooler summer temperatures, critical wildlife habitat and 80 miles of trail that provides opportunities for recreation of all types. Portland is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and the negative impacts from urban growth, coupled with climate change, are only going to increase. As a result of those impacts, our actions should aim to balance the need to protect Forest Park and the need to provide access for people to enjoy and recreate in nature in ways that promote both physical and mental well-being. For the past two years, FPC has been honored to participate on the Off-Road Cycling Advisory Committee to assist the City of Portland in the development of the draft Off-Road Cycling Master Plan.

The draft plan provides a “comprehensive strategy for the development and management of off-road cycling trails and facilities across the city, as well as citywide policy guidance for implementing the plan” (Portland Off-Road Cycling Master Plan, Discussion Draft, October 17, 2017).

FPC commends the City of Portland for making recommendations for Forest Park that aim to achieve a net ecological benefit while increasing assess to off-road cycling. “This means improving the ecological condition of the park compared to what it is today” (Portland Off-Road Cycling Master Plan, Discussion Draft, October 17, 2017).

This will be achieved through the implementation of plan recommendations and pursuit of all opportunities to pair restoration of water and habitat resources with any project to add additional off-road cycling access.

FPC supports the requirement set forth by Forest Park’s Natural Resource Management Plan that a thorough environmental review be completed before any additional off-road biking (or hiking) trails are built in Forest Park and we recommend increased resources for enforcement of all park rules and regulations be invested to ensure the successful integration of additional biking on Forest Park’s trails.

Draft Concepts for Forest Park and FPC’s Position on these Concepts

The draft master plan includes six concepts for Forest Park. Of the six concepts that were proposed in the draft master plan, FPC agrees that the most feasible are options C and D. Combined they would add approximately 6.5 miles off-road cycling trails and provide the best opportunity to improve access to off-road cycling and reduce impacts to valuable native habitat. In addition, these concepts will have minimal impact on pedestrians.

The following reflects FPC’s position on all six concepts proposed in the master plan:

Concept A: Open Tolinda Trail to off-road cycling.

FPC’s Position: Not recommended due to steep slopes, pedestrian use and potential significant impacts to healthy native habitat.

Concept B: Open Firelane 7, Fireland 7A and Oil Line Road to off-road cycling.

FPC’s Position: Although this concept could improve the lower portions of Firelane 7A and Oil Line Road for all users, the potential to create a healthy and stable habitat within the area is high but net ecological gain would be difficult to achieve. Because these trails would be open to equestrian, cycling and pedestrians, without adequate enforcement resources we feel the potential for user conflicts would be high. For these reasons, this concept is not supported by FPC at this time.

Concept C: Open Firelane 4 to off-road cycling and connect it to Saltzman Road.

FPC’s Position: Trail improvements would enhance user experience and safety and reduce erosion. It also allows for additional restoration through the removal of invasive species and planting of native trees and shrubs to improve habitat. Firelane 4 also provides suitable conditions for pollinator habitat as it sits below power lines and receives adequate sunlight.

Concept D: Improve Firelane 1 and build a new trail parallel to Highway 30.

FPC’s Position: This concept provides the longest loop for cyclists and allows a safe alternative to Highway 30. There is potential for additional restoration of degraded habitat by planting native trees and shrubs, as well as removal of invasive species. The proposed new trail would also engage new members of the community to participate in ecological restoration in an area of Forest Park that has been inaccessible in the past.

Concept E: Build a new trail that would connect Holman Lane and Firelane 1.

FPC’s Position: Concept E is not supported by FPC because there are too many user conflicts in this heavily used section of the park, as well as high neighborhood pedestrian traffic.

Concept F: Improve cycling connections between Forest Park and North Portland, via the St John’s Bridge.

FPC’s Position: This concept may not be feasible due to the steep slopes. For this reason, FPC does not support Concept F currently.

Forest Park is a resource that provides critical benefits to wildlife and people. We truly hope that through this process users can find a common ground on an issue that has been divisive for so many years. FPC supports safe access to hikers and bikers and seeks to protect the ecological health of Forest Park. Forest Park can be a place that is shared responsibly by all users. FPC’s goal is to ensure that the ecological health of Forest Park is not only maintained, but improved as a result of more users becoming engaged in the protection, restoration and stewardship of this urban forest that we cherish.

 

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