<UPDATED>We’ll just get to the point regarding the Flow Trails at the Marmot Dam area. Freeride trails were not authorized for the area, and will not be sanctioned at this time. All the wood structures featured in the previous post have been decommissioned.
Does it suck? Yes. It is heart breaking to see the hard work put into building trails go to waste. I know the feeling, having seen DJ trails I’ve helped build dozed time and time again. It is the reason I started to work within the system in the first place.
On Monday evening, I met with Tom Slovak, Trail Care Director for the Northwest Trail Alliance, and Zachary Jarrett, Lead Outdoor Recreation Planner with the BLM, to discuss the Marmot Dam area, and the need for shuttle friendly freeride trails. Tom and I have been discussing the need for trails near the Portland Metropolitan area for riders that enjoy the more technical/ rad side of mountain biking. The NWTA is interested in reaching out to the Freeride community, which in my opinion is huge, considering the reputation of its previous incarnation as PUMP. Tom had the idea of asking me to serve as a liaison of sorts to the Freeride community, and I’ve agreed to step forward to do what I can in bridging this gap. As I want more trails with sweet berm action and big jumps, (like the rest of the regular readers of the site) this seems to be an offer I can’t refuse. My goal is to help create opportunities for riders to build stuff that will be around for the next generation of rippers to hone their skills on. Not to mention my own.
In the meeting with Zach and Tom, the first thing I wanted was clarification on the situation at Marmot Dam.
The long and short of it, is that Zach is and has been interested in developing this area as a recreational use area in the long term. Mountain bike friendly multi-use XC trails being part of the equation. DH and Freeride trails unfortunately are not. The area the existing trails are on were simply too close to the road, and too hard to ignore. The popularity of the trails resulted in resulted in complaints from neighboring land owners. In response to the complaints, the BLM representatives found the unauthorized wood features, (which present a major red flag to the land owners- for the record, having wood features to an unauthorized trail is the quickest way to draw attention to it), which the BLM felt compelled to respond to. (Here’s a tip to pirate trail builders: do a better job hiding your secret trails!)
That was the take, summarized from the BLM position. The bottom line was they are not going to permit development at the Marmot site at this time.
This isn’t the end of the story
Zach has been working for the last several years, doing all the background work that comes with proposing and developing an area for recreation use. This includes directing staff, balancing budgets, attending meeting after meeting, and performing all the work that most people doesn’t even realize has to be done just to get this stuff off the ground. The site he has been focusing on is now known as the Sandy Ridge Trail System. What I didn’t know initially and soon found out, is that Zach is a man with a plan. A very big plan. A plan that makes my heart swell with the knowledge of how completely awesome it is.
You see, Mr. Jarrett is a rider himself. A rider positioned in a very good place to benefit the public, particularly the mountain biking public, and that includes my DH/ FR lovin’ friends. From what I hear, he knows how to handle a bike, and over pints we even discussed pump track design, and his plans to squeeze a pump track into his own backyard, which regular readers will know I have some experience with.
Zach’s vision for Sandy Ridge is based on the model trail system, a concept pioneered and developed by experienced trail designers at IMBA. A model trail system takes into account the recreation experiences for all types of users in the design. For example, shorter, basic loops with a mellow and wide tread are available for beginner riders. In contrast, long, high mileage stretches of trail way out in the backwoods would be created for the advanced XC rider. And of course flowy, fun-as-hell all mountain trails for those of us that value the quality of a trail experience over the quantity. Hide and Seek is a prime example of what a trail can be like when it is purpose built for a specific user experience.
What we didn’t know is that DH and FR riding use is also accounted for in this vision. He already has a spot set aside for a full blown DH trail, and is quite interested in a FR-oriented skills development area for all levels of riders. That even includes a pump track and skills area near the parking area, which would be ideal for warming up on. (A good example of this would be the Family Man and Drop Out area in Hood River.)
There are currently two unauthorized social trails (TNT & Little Monkey) built by local riders in the area currently referred to as Road 14. In our meeting we discussed a framework for developing and managing this area. There are two issues looming: one: Clackamas County Parks owns this land. Making all this happen is contingent on their approval. Two: BLM has limited resources. As all of them currently are going to developing the rest of the trail system, they are hoping to partner with a group that has the ability to make this happen. There is also a requirement that many builders don’t even consider: a minimum of $1 million of liability insurance.
On the upside, I’ve just been privy to an email. Clackamas County Parks Director Dan Zinzer and Parks Planner Tonia Burns are supportive of the project, and it is moving ahead.
The only thing that remains is for a group to adopt the trail. As the NWTA is the most established advocacy group in the area, and due to the fact they already have a partnership to maintain the trails at Sandy Ridge, the BLM would prefer to work with them. Fortunately, both Tom Archer (President of the Board) and Tom Slovak of the NWTA are completely behind the project. Tom Archer loves the area and is out there all the time. All that remains is to get the support of the board, and then the design phase can begin.
The project appears to be moving ahead, although the time line is less immediate than previously hoped for. At the moment the project is in the pre-design phase, until a management plan can be drafted and approved. Inventory of the current trails and the existing features needs to be taken, and assessed for safety. The wood features look like they will probably have to come down for the time being, but Mr. Archer is doing what he can to keep them intact and add them to the proposed plan. I’ve also identified an area where the jump line transitions into the trees that needs to be addressed, as it is a major liability. Insurance appears to be quite a bit hurdle as well. Although the insurance requirements have come down significantly from the initial amount, insurance remains a major stepping stone that needs to be met.
Moving forward, any new building needs to be pre-approved by the BLM and County. What a lot of riders don’t realize is that if you build a trail, and someone is hurt on it, you can potentially be named in a lawsuit. That is a sobering fact and reality of our current society. Designing a trail that accounts for safety and minimizes risk, while providing the high level of excitement riders like us enjoy can be challenging. It needs to take into account the progression of its users, allow for creativity, and not only that, rescue equipment must be able to access the area in the case of a serious injury. Black Rock is run and managed by the same standards, and we can all agree it is an incredible place to ride. It is more than possible, and it is time for Portland riders to finally lay claim to something closer to home.
At this time, the gate blocks access for shuttle vehicles. This is unlikely to change in the near future, as the road acts as the pedal up route for many of the trails. Downhill riders shuttling all day, and buzzing by riders pedaling up would impede on other user experiences. However, the main reason given for the lack of access, is the close proximity to the watershed and the public water supply. Zack had to fight just to get permission for the current trail plan. However, this site does represent a major stepping stone in securing sanctioned Freeride and DH trails, and will lay the ground work for the future, where we hope to secure a sanctioned, shuttle friendly location. Unlike Black Rock, the push up is on a paved road, and it is fairly mellow, so it really won’t be that bad.
Interested in being involved?
Drop me a line or leave a comment below, with the level of of commitment you are interested in. I am planning to aid in coordinating work parties when the project moves ahead to the final construction phase, and we’ll need lots of bodies to make it happen. If you are interested in contributing to the design of proposed trails, also let me know.
This is exciting stuff, and while the apparent demise of Marmot is unfortunate if not depressing, this can still stack out as a big win for Freeriders in the area.