Last night the NWTA held their monthly meeting in their new venue in southeast Portland, at the Roots Brewery. One of the main talking points was regarding the trails in Scappoose on land owned by Longview Fiber, now known as Longview Timber.
Recently Tom Archer and Slovak of the NWTA met with representatives with Longview Timber in an effort to formalize an agreement in regards to mountain bike access on the popular trails located near Portland. These user built trails have been utilized by hikers and mountain cyclists for years, but access to the trails on private land has always remained a grey area. Like any private land owner, Longview Timber is reasonably concerned about protecting their assets. They kindly have allowed public recreation on their property, as they recognize the value of having responsible users on their land that can aid in policing others. With more than 600,000 acres of private forest land, managing that much space is a major investment in time and labor. While the NWTA clearly doesn’t represent all mountain bike users, Longview Timber has identified them as being the largest organized group of riders, and chosen to meet with them to discuss their issues with mountain bikers riding trails on their property.
In essence, Longview Timber was NOT stoked on:
- Unauthorized events held on their property
- Cars blocking gates
- Disregard for areas closed for logging
- Night riding
- Additional trails created without authorization (they aren’t happy about the increased number of trails)
- Trees that were cut in clearing corridors for trails
- Wood structures created from local timber
- Signage placed on trees using nails and/or spikes
- Erosion caused by unsustainable fall line trails
At this point, NWTA hopes to retain access for mountain bikers that enjoy riding the trails in the area, and thankful for the opportunity for a face-to-face with Longview Timber. Now that direct communication has been established, they hope that they can demonstrate how we as mountain bikers can police each other, and follow the rules the land managers have posted.
As an organization, NWTA hopes to show that they can be stewards of the trails, and negotiate an adopt-a-trail agreement to formalize use of the trails, including the opportunity to add signage. (something that has never happened to date, as access has always remained a grey area) This will only happen if other riders respect the rules. For an outsider unfamiliar with the process, this may sound restrictive, but in the long term, NWTA sees this as an opportunity, and that Longview Fiber Reps will recognize that efforts are being made by the community, that will in turn be brought to their board.
In the long term, this could have long standing repercussions, not just in Scappoose, but on other popular trail networks located on private timberland, like the Longview and Knappa trails near Astoria.
I’ve heard from some riders, unpleased about this train of events, especially in regards to the DH and FR trails being modified and restructured. As a someone that identifies as a DH/FR rider, I can see and understand that point of view. However, I think it is pretty obvious that there are sections of trail that really don’t work, or flow with the rest of the trail. Riders upset about proposed changes should consider this: rerouting unsustainable sections of trail that have ruts caused by user displaced erosion is not a bad thing. A good trail, DH or XC, shouldn’t have to rely on how steep the grade is for a kick-ass user experience. One of the main issues the land owner has concerns erosion, and any knowledgeable trail builder knows better than to build a trail straight down a fall line. This applies to the steep climbs on the “XC” trails as well.
There are a number of unsustainable sections of “XC” trails that have the same issues-the difference is the frequency of use, (ie, shuttle riders get a lot more riding in due to multiple runs in a typical riding session) and that the channelizing isn’t as apparent yet. Skidding down a trail causes more soil displacement than spinning out on a climb, but it all causes erosion. Consider this: the reroutes don’t single out the shuttle friendly “DH” trails, but any section of trail that doesn’t follow sustainable design practices.
If these trails were built or modified to a more sustainable standard, it would be less likely to be an issue- “DH” or otherwise.
In regards to the wood features, building features out of wood without permission is the fastest way to piss off a land manager. The sad fact is that in our litigious society, anything built using wood as a construction material brings up insurance and permitting issues. Without addressing these detail prior to trail construction, it most often results in an unhappy ending, regardless of the quality of the construction of the wood elements.
The reality is that as mountain bikers, we’re on the verge of losing this area as a riding spot at all. Unlike the debacle at Forest Park, if a trail is shut down in the Scappoose area, it is because the land manager/owner wants it to be. The reality is that access at the moment remains precarious, and unless mountain bikers as a whole don’t make an effort to self police, this access could be lost.