My View: Bikers will mar Forest Park slopes
In response to "Mountain bikers won't mar park trails, nature" (MyView by Frank Selker, Dec. 21): Forest Park is not just another bike park for thrill-seeking mountain bikers. Forest Park is America's premier urban ancient forest.
The Forest Park Management Plan's top priority is preservation of its natural systems. It does not and should not allow mountain biking down the steep soft-dirt slopes of Forest Park. The plan only allows biking on existing roads and some fire lanes.
If allowed on those slopes, mountain biking would create V-shaped ruts, tear up wildlife habitat, subject it to serious erosion, and adversely impact wildlife nesting and feeding well outside the trail surface. Flushing wildlife from otherwise suitable habitat may come at the cost of energy needed for normal survival, growth and reproduction.
Creating new single-track trails for bikers will fragment existing habitat and extend adverse impacts to wildlife in new areas.
Bikers travel several times as far as hikers, having several times as much impact on wildlife as hikers due to their speed, greater distance traveled, the increase in number of visitors that bikes allow, increased trail-building with its attendant habitat destruction, the displacement of soil, the killing of roots and soil organisms and ecosystems, most effects on wildlife beyond the trail surface, manner of riding (skidding, braking, acceleration, turning, tire tread) and noise.
See "The Impacts of Mountain Biking on Wildlife and People — A Review of the Literature," in the July 2014 ARPN Journal of Science and Technology, by Michael Vandeman, at http://bit.ly/2B5vKKz.
The plan provides that the development of other open space and natural area park facilities will be necessary to ease focused demand so that Forest Park can remain a special place for generations to come. This is a critical strategy for protection of natural resources in Forest Park and for reduction in user conflicts.
"Permitting additional mountain bike use would be irresponsible and contrary to the wording and intentions of the (Natural Resources Management Plan) ... Land acquired specifically for mountain bike use would not have the issues of conflicting goals or conflicting users." (Dec. 15, 2017, comments by wildlife consultant Charlotte Corkran on proposed addition of mountain bike trails to Forest Park.)
The plan also requires, in conjunction with recreational-use surveys, to begin regular monitoring of natural resources to determine if resources are being sustained, improved or degraded over time. Because this has not been done, on Jan. 25, 2013, the City Club of Portland wrote to the Portland City Council: "First, we urge you to fund studies of park health and current recreation use to determine whether natural resources are being degraded, and whether new facilities will further harm those resources, before we add new trails or expand recreation in the park. ... The studies are consistent with, indeed required by, the 1995 Forest Park Management Plan."
On Jan. 25, 2013, Nancy Broshot, chair of environmental studies at Linfield College, also wrote a letter objecting to the installation of new bike trails in Forest Park, based on her work there and that of the Wildlife Report Technical Advisory Committee.
"The scientific findings noted above lead me to conclude that any additional trails (be they for bikes or hikers) could have serious negative consequences for the park. ... Until we know more about the actual biological status of the park, and the reasons for my observed changes, adding any use could put the park over the tipping point past where it can function as a normal forest ecosystem."
The necessary studies still have not been done and the serious negative consequences of expanding mountain bike use still threaten Forest Park.
Bikers may hike in the park like everyone else and should seek their biking thrills at Gateway Green or other areas besides Forest Park.
Paul Majkut is an attorney who lives in Northeast Portland.