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Thoughts about the Forest Park bike access decision

Published 2010-09-30

(From a comment I left on BikePortland.org, more info here)

I have two dogs in this fight. So I've spent a few hours thinking about my reaction and writing it down. I apologize in advance for the length.

Beginning in the late 90s I was a long-time member of Friends of Forest Park and spent every Saturday clearing ivy with the late Sandy Diedrich's awesome No Ivy League. I met a few times with the board in a consultative capacity when they were redesigning their website in the early 2000s. But in 2002 I realized my touring bike saw more of the park than my mountain bike. I quit FFP and sold the MTB and never looked back. My wife and I still run and hike and take our dog and kids to the park. So I know exactly what it's like to have MTBers bearing down on my toddlers or (leashed) dog, thankyouverymuch. I still ride my road bikes down Leif and Saltzman.

(Ironic aside:: I moved to Oregon in the mid-90s from Lincoln, Nebraska, where dang-near every weekend I rode legal singletrack in the city's "Wilderness Park." I thought Oregon, having actual MOUNTAINS would be better for front-door MTBing. Shamefully: no. You need a car to ride a bike on dirt in Portland.)

In 2008 Frank Selker announced a push to get cyclists to join Forest Park Conservancy with $100 donations, which would show that cyclists would put some skin in the game so to speak. Despite not even having a mountain bike any more I re-upped my years-lapsed membership. A few months later Eric Tonkin contacted me: he was offering a sweet Kona Caldera in a raffle coincident with Frank Selker's membership drive. And had I won it.

Well I collected my cool new bike and wrote another check to FFP (and IMBA and PUMP for good measure) and started pulling ivy again for their stewardship days. I was back riding on fat tires in the park, where like a Good Boy I stuck to Leif Erickson, Saltzman & the fire lanes. I'm a married guy and a dad now and I finally own a car, so realistically I can put that Caldera on much sweeter dirt than the ivy-choked mud chutes on FL 3. But I wanted to make a point: see, the system's working, right?

I put my faith in Nick Fish and this process even though every report I heard made my stomach turn a little. First trail sharing was off the table, then trail BUILDING was off the table, even in compromised land like fire lanes or utility R-O-W.

Now this.

Well, first things first, I'm writing FPC and Nick Fish and the LAB some letters. For all the good that'll do. I sure won't pull any more ivy or build any more questionable hiking trails, and I won't be writing any more three digit checks for FPC. I've waited 10 years and followed the rules and played nice, never once (in my life!) rode on illicit singletrack.

And geez do I ever feel like a sucker.

Law-breaking, it should be obvious, isn't in my nature. I never cared for Critical Mass or suchlike. So I can't tell anyone what they should do, or what would create some actual change. But I can tell you what WON'T work: writing checks, writing letters, playing by the rules, being a Good Boy/Girl. We've tried that for a LONG time -- at least a decade in my personal case -- and got a palm in the face for it.

Personally, I love the idea of a FP CM. It needn't include poaching -- in fact, 100+ folks walking our bikes sloooowly, single file, up Wildwood would send a much stronger message IMO. Nice and legal and a royal PITA. What are you going to ticket us for, WALKING?. Do it on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Maybe October 16. Invite the press and politicos and rangers to not-ride along. And we could take pictures of all the unleashed dogs while we're at it.

"Disappointed" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.