I just got off the phone with Shad Johnson of GoodsBMX where we discussed the possible demise of the classic dirt jump spot, the Grotto. At the moment, it appears that there is a strong possibility that the jumps will be plowed. Due to complaints by one of the local residents, the dirt jumps have come to the attention of both the Grotto and ODOT, the property owners, after turning a blind eye to the site for over a decade. Even the local media has picked up on the story. In a city known for bicycle friendly roads, illegal trails and jumps seem to be appearing on the public’s radar with increasing frequency.
The Grotto has been a topic of conversation quite a bit lately. As a staple in the underground riding scene in Portland, many a rider has come and paid homage to the Grotto, sometimes with blood. It isn’t without its share of drama, either, but for the most part, different groups of riders have managed to get along. A number of us have even been talking about coming out and getting the “mountain bike line” going again. (The last time I posted on the Grotto was several years ago, in an earlier incarnation of this site.)
Years ago as a Portland resident, I spent a good amount of time there, and have seen the jumps evolve over the years. Unlike many sanctioned bike parks, the area at the Grotto isn’t just filled with a few dirt jumps. They were trails. BMX riders use the word ‘trails’ with a significantly different context from your average mountain biker. Trails aren’t a path, or just a few jumps.
You have to work to get through trails. They’re a lot of work to dig too. It isn’t just a 6 pack of dirt, but a line that required technical skills, with a small margin for error. Due to the scale and angles of steep landings and lips, crashing and bailing skills while riding trails like these take equal footing to riding skills. Because when you ride trails like these, at some point, everyone crashes. However, when a skilled rider flows through trails, they make it look easy. Dialed trails even have their own sound- the sound of tires buzzing on hard pack, with wind whistling through spokes. Trails have a special place in the hearts of many a BMX rider.
A few friends of mine have spent quite a bit of time out there digging and riding what became known as the “mountain bike line.” Recently, the BMX community has taken a renewed interested in the area as well, and in the last year, the Grotto has been built up considerably. Not only that, but the jumps have gotten big. Perhaps too big for their own good.
I stopped by the site in February of this year, to see how the jumps were looking, and was amazed to see the work that had been done. While the scale was considerably larger than what many riders like myself are currently comfortable with, it was clear the builders took pride in their work, as every angle of the new jumps were immaculately sculpted.
That was before a complaint from a single neighbor rippled into what could almost be called a local media uproar. Bikeportland.org posted a report on the BMX community’s fight to save the trails yesterday, which was followed by local televised reports from the mainstream media.
Shad is the owner of one of the only BMX specific shops in the area, GoodsBMX, and is one of the loudest voices for the BMX community. He hopes to establish a dialog with The Grotto in a hope to save and even possibly sanction the trails. At the moment, the Grotto management have yet to agree to meet with him. Let’s wish him luck.