An Open Letter to Our Members and Supporters,
Yesterday, the Northwest Trail Alliance filed a Notice of Intent to Appeal with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals regarding the recent mountain bike ban in the River View Natural Area. We did so because the Board of Directors strongly believes that the decision to ban bikes was made by City Commissioners Fritz and Fish in the absence of due process and without any rational basis for exclusion. Citing only a vague “abundance of caution,” the commissioners sidestepped the planning process initiated in 2013. Subsequent communications provided by the commissioners fail to address our questions and concerns.
We do not take this action lightly. We would much rather work in partnership with the City to resolve the issue. However, the gravity of this decision, the lack of justification, and the lack of answers has lead the board to take legal action. We simply cannot stand idle.
NWTA was first notified about the change in policy at River View in a meeting with representatives from Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) and the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) offices on March 2. Understandably, we were caught off guard by this announcement, having participated in the planning process until it was halted abruptly in August 2014.
We empathize with the community’s frustration with this decision. We have observed displays of dissatisfaction in various forms, including the recent protest ride at River View on March 16. These reactions represent frustration not only with this decision, but also the glaring lack of progress on the topic of access to natural surface trails in the City of Portland over the past decade or more. We encourage our members and supporters to continue to make their voices heard in an appropriate fashion. At the same time, we cannot condone and strongly discourage any acts which defy current regulations related to trail access. As frustrating as it has been, we are committed to working within the system.
In addition to filing this appeal, we have leveraged our collective voices to apply pressure on the City to reconsider this decision:
We continue to actively engage with the commissioners and their staff to maintain an open dialogue. We submitted specific questions regarding the process and justification for the ban. To date, we have not received a satisfactory explanation. (http://nw-trail.org/?q=node/7886)
We continue to engage with Mayor Hales’ office to encourage his direct involvement in this change in policy, and the larger issue of trail access in Portland.
NWTA members testified before the Parks board two days after the decision. Surprisingly, the Parks Board was not made aware of the decision beforehand and expressed concern about this abrupt change in policy.
NWTA also testified at a City Council meeting about what cyclists can bring to the table when allowed in our green spaces. (https://www.facebook.com/nwtrail/posts/867238923318203)
We are actively employing social and traditional media to build awareness and support. Encouragingly, the Oregonian and other news outlets have covered this issue, and a recent Oregonian editorial strongly criticized the City’s actions. We anticipate continued local, regional and national coverage on this issue. (http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/03/portland_sticks_it_to_mountain.html#incart_river)
We worked with our parent organization, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and their partner organizations PeopleforBikes and the League of American Bicyclists to weigh in on this issue. On March 18, these organizations delivered a joint letter to the commissioners and Mayor Hales expressing their dissatisfaction with the recent decision. (http://bikeleague.org/content/league-supports-portland-mountain-bikers).
While not officially involved in the River View Protest Ride, many of our members and supporters were present. It was a strong show of support with over 300 people participating. We received positive response from the City and other entities regarding our right to protest, our message, and the way it played out in a mature and controlled manner. (http://www.katu.com/news/local/Mountain-bikers-test-new-ban-on-trail-riding-at-River-View-Natural-Area-296527051.html?tab=video&c=y)
We continue to monitor the work of the River View Technical Advisory committee. We attempted to attend the River View Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting, but we were refused entry on grounds it was not a public meeting.
We will continue to participate as a member of the Project Advisory Committee scheduled to reconvene on April 8.
Mountain Bike Master Plan and Larger Efforts
Over the past several years, NWTA has engaged with PP&R and the City in good faith in an effort to increase access to singletrack. Previous efforts, including those of the Forest Park Singletrack Advisory Committee, haven’t resulted in any progress on the ground. In fact, the amount of singletrack trail open to cyclists within the City has decreased over the past decade. The River View ban would decrease access even further, which is why the issue is of such great importance.
The timing of the River View decision is particularly troublesome, given that NWTA is actively lobbying for the City to fund an off-road cycling master plan. NWTA initiated the funding for the proposal by presenting a petition signed by close to 3,000 supporters to the Parks Budget Advisory Committee. We continue to lobby for its funding, and are hopeful that Mayor Hales will include this funding in his final budget request. Should that happen, we are confident that we will have support from a majority of City Council.
While Commissioners Fritz and Fish did order the closure of River View, they also pledged to support funding for the off-road cycling plan. This pledge should be seen as a positive offer and we should agree to support their initiative and willingness to move forward with a larger solution.
We need a master plan because we need a roadmap for the future of off-road cycling in Portland. Without a master plan, access will continue to be limited. We anticipate it will be a lengthy process, and while we are not excited about a delay in progress, we recognize it is a critical element to protect and grow access.
As unfortunate as it is, the River View decision is another important event in our continued advocacy efforts. It has galvanized our community, and brought attention to the issue at a local and national level. We will continue to leverage this visibility to further our long-term goals of delivering a “ride to ride” experience in the City of Portland.
There are reasons to be optimistic. Our collective voice continues to get stronger. Public agencies recognize a benefit in providing cyclists access to natural surface trails, and to an active, healthy recreation. The majority understand how conservation and recreation can coexist by applying current recreation and resource management tools. They also recognize the significant enthusiasm and resources the mountain biking community brings to the table, particularly valuable in an era of constrained budgets.
Rest assured that while our focus has most recently been on River View issue and access in the City of Portland, we haven’t lost sight of the organizations’ larger mission of advocating for sustainable trails throughout the region. We’ve had numerous successes in recent history, including the development of a world class bike only network at Sandy Ridge, and the continued development of a trail system at Stub Stewart State Park. We continue to work collaboratively with our partner agencies Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Oregon State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Port of Cascade Locks, and others to expand and improve riding opportunities within the region.
We appreciate your continued support, and encourage you to follow these issues closely and make your voices heard. Together we are stronger.
Please lend your voice to this cause by sending a letter to Mayor Hales. We’ve included below a letter that you should customize with pieces of your own personal story. We have already filled in talking points about the Mayor’s priorities: “complete neighborhoods” and “equity and opportunity.”
Please lend your voice to this cause by sending a letter to Mayor Hales. firstname.lastname@example.org
Board of Directors
Northwest Trail Alliance
“Dear Mayor Hales,
As an avid cyclist, I would like to bring two issues to your attention. First, I urge you to support the off-road cycling master plan in your budget. I believe in healthy, active, livable communities and I promote the concept of “ride to your ride.”
I also want to alert you to Commissioners Fish and Fritz’s recent decision to abandon an ongoing public process, arbitrarily and with no basis in science or data. In doing so, they undermined the professional input of a technical advisory committee and devalued community involvement.
It’s clearly time for a citywide plan that identifies great places for safe, recreational cycling. It’s important to me that all communities in Portland have easy access to exercise and outdoor fun.
Thank you for your consideration,”