Disagreement, anger, and passionate discourse dominated tonight's meeting between Commissioner Nick Fish
and the citizen advisory committee assigned to make recommendations on how to accommodate mountain bikers in Forest Park
As some mountain bikers collide with one of Portland's most valued natural environments, community members expressed fears about trail-sharing, safety, and preserving the park's wildlife and abundant greenery. While some of the committee support single track cycling in the park, others voiced concern with how the the city has processed the issue. Some spoke about the mistrust that developed among the group's 15 members.
“It's not about bikes, runners, hikers…it's about the resource of the park,” said Les Blaize, addressing Fish. “Until you can assure the public that what you're doing won't negatively affect the resource-carrying capacity of the park, you can't go forward.”
The proposed plan, developed over the last nine months, includes widening the shoulder on Northwest Skyline Boulevard between fire lanes and opening existing trails or building several new trails for use by mountain bikers.
The public comment period elicited hot tempers before anyone even spoke when public involvementmanager Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong limited speakers to one minute each. Many tried to run over that allotment while they cited concerns that the city hasn't followed Forest Park's natural resource management plan, raised questions about why safety issues weren't discussed, and criticized the idea of mountain biking encroaching on existing use.
“It destroys the experience for pedestrians,” one audience member said.
Fish countered with praise for the city's approach, saying “I believe this has met pretty high standards in terms of open public process.”
He assured the audience that he doesn't intend to make any quick decisions and probably won't provide substantive feedback on the proposals until after Labor Day.