Mount Hood, OR – The multi-year heated debate over whether or not the Forest Service will allow mtb bike trails at Timberline is almost over. In late November, Timberline Lodge received approval by the Forest Service regarding their proposal to build a Gravity Logic-designed bike park. After years of development, this is a significant step in the right direction toward the creation of an amazing mountain bike park on Mt. Hood.
But of course, there's bound to be a catch... The publication of the approval was followed by a 45-day public appeal period that just ended. Unfortunately, two appeals were filed against the project. One appeal was filed by a conglomeration of groups including Friends of Mt. Hood, Bark, Mazamas, Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club. The other appeal was filed by an individual: Lori Ann Burd, Esq.
MtbParks.com hopes this in-depth article will help explain why it takes so long to get a recreational activity such as downhill mountain biking to happen at your local ski hill...
Below are portions taken from an article published by the Oregonian outlining some of the opposition Timberline has had to address over the years:
Conservation on Mount Hood: A bike park at Timberline is a threat to our forest
As expected, the Mount Hood National Forest recently concluded the study of the controversial mountain bike park proposal at Mount Hood's Timberline Lodge with a "Finding of No Significant Impact," or, in the language of bureaucratic acronyms, a FONSI. This decision will allow the bike park proposal to move forward to an expected administrative appeal higher up the ladder. The FONSI decision was expected because the U.S. Forest Service, which is the federal agency in charge of our national forest and Timberline Lodge, has stacked the deck in favor of development over conservation.
The state of Oregon publishes the odds of winning the lottery so at least you know how the game is played. But the Forest Service dressed up its decision with a 354-page report full of charts and maps, and unless you are in the know, you may be fooled into thinking it is a fair and accurate analysis.
Here is an example of how the deck is stacked against a fair analysis. You might think a basic question to be answered is, "Are there alternative locations for a bike park other than historic Timberline Lodge?" Well, believe it or not, the Forest Service answers this question by stating that the question is "outside the scope of the analysis." Welcome to Kafka's alternate world of bureaucratic think. And when it was discovered that "mitigation" failed to stop damage in the last lift project at Timberline, the Forest Service just reported that it would be fixed when the same types of mitigation are done for this project.
Sadly, focusing on the bike park issue is a redirection effort that diverts attention from the most serious problem on Mount Hood. You may believe that the Forest Service is the one agency that has an overriding goal of preserving Mount Hood for the generations that follow us. You would be mistaken to think this. There is no long-range planning to ensure that future generations will experience Mount Hood in a natural state. The only planning is for future development. When the operator of Timberline Lodge and the ski resort, RLK and Co., submitted its master development plan, the Forest Service accepted it without any public input or comment.
The Forest Service will only accept input from the public, which actually owns the lodge and the entire national forest, when each individual building project is submitted, not on the master development plan as a whole. When it is pointed out that another lodge and more parking lots are described in the master plan and that the approval of a bike park will attract more people, which will then be used to justify more parking lots and day lodges, the response is the same Kafkaesque "outside the scope of the analysis."
There is one undeniable fact: With the exception of the designated wilderness, we are slowly building and paving over critical pieces of the mountain one acre at a time. You need only look at another national scenic landmark, Yosemite Valley, to see the future. The federal government first deemed the area worthy of preservation and then partnered with private enterprise to extract a resource, in this case "recreation." And 50 or so years later, the government is spending huge sums of money to repair all the damage and bring back the natural state, aka the Yosemite Valley Plan of 2000. A cynic with a sense of humor might call this generational job security.
Oregonians, we can do better than this. Another meaning of FONSI is "Finding of Not Sufficiently Important." Is this what we Oregonians really think when we view majestic Mount Hood on a clear day? If we really believe that Mount Hood is worth preserving, we need rational planning now or we will end up paying for huge restoration projects in the future.
Environmental advocacy groups, led by BARK in Oregon, are likely to file an appeal.
In his decision dated November 19th, Mt. Hood Forest Supervisor Christopher Worth stated that the plans for a mountain bike park would, "have neither a significant beneficial or adverse impact because the area affected by the bike park and restoration projects is a very small percentage of comparable acres at that elevation on Mt. Hood." He also pointed out that a mountain bike park is consistent with the Mt. Hood Forest Plan, which calls for, "areas of high quality... recreation opportunities" which include, "hiking, mountain bicycling, and horseback riding."
Furthermore, Worth referenced a quote from former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who dedicated the Lodge in 1937 and made it clear that the area was intended for, "the enjoyment of new opportunities for play in every season of the year."
Timberline Lodge, photo source: byways.org
"Roosevelt made clear that Timberline would be valued for active recreational use occurring throughout the four seasons," Worth wrote. "I believe that mountain biking at Timberline represents yet another new opportunity for play in every season of the year."
This decision is sure to be lauded by mountain biking advocates who worked hard to turn out support for the project. Last we reported, construction would begin as early as this summer. There's still a chance this decision could be appealed, so we'll keep you posted on any changes or developments.
Timberline Lodge says:
The Forest Service must respond to these appeals by the end of February, at which point we will know if any changes to the project will be necessary. Our hope is that they are able to defend the work they have done to reach their “Finding of no Significant Impact” and overturn the appeals that have been filed. We feel really good about our entire approach to the project so far and feel that we are looking out for the best interests of the community, our business, and the future of Timberline Lodge. For now, we get to wait and see.
In the meantime, we’re getting everything in order to begin building this summer. We’re ready to dig and build 7-days a week as soon as the ground is ready and complete 2/3 of the planned trail network before the snow flies. Builders are being contacted, and we’ve already assembled a team of amazing talent that will represent the different build styles found around the Pacific Northwest.
Thanks for all of the support you’ve given this project so far. Thousands of letters poured in to us, and the Forest Service, supporting this project and all of the benefits it will bring to the area including better recreation opportunities, economic stimulus, job creation, and a professionally designed and maintained downhill mountain bike area.
We couldn’t be more stoked on all of the positive energy!
If you would like to learn more about the US Forest Service Decision Notice and “Finding of no Significant Impact”, click here.
Check out this map that shows the draft plan of the trail layout…
"While there is much planning and work to do, we have set a course toward offering the region's best lift-serviced down hill mountain biking trails."
What's on the agenda for Timberline once they pull the trigger and move forward?
World Class Facility
We have contracted with Gravity Logic, a consulting firm out of Whistler, British Columbia to design and develop our mountain bike trail plans. Gravity Logic is the creator of the world-famous Whistler Mountain Bike Park that has earned the position of being the gold-standard by which other mountain bike areas are measured.
Commitment To Quality
Building fun trails is one thing. Building, managing and maintaining a quality mountain bike experience is another. We’re positioned to do the latter with solid commitment, expert consultation, and an eye for detail. Trails will be constructed using tested methodologies created by professional groups such as IMBA (International MountainBike Association) and NWTA (Northwest Trail Alliance). If it isn’t fun, strong, and built-to-last — you won’t find it at Timberline.
With homegrown mountain bike trails popping up all over the forest, a major difference with our project will be the ongoing, active management of the area. A full-time trail maintenance crew will be employed to ensure the initial design is maintained. This will create a more consistent environment for mountain bike riders and will also maintain the areas integrity with the surrounding environment.
Scoping & Planning
An in-depth planning and scoping period is underway to ensure all angles of the project are considered. The USFS is leading an analysis in which potential environmental impacts are addressed. We’re also looking to the mountain biking community for feedback on our plans. We want to ensure our creation is above and beyond expectations on opening day!
Long Term Commitment
Timberline was built in 1937, and has been operated by RLK and Company for over 50 years. We’ve been and will continue to be here for the long haul. We see mountain biking as an integral part of our year-round recreation plan, and will treat this project as one of the primary pillars of our company’s future. This will continue our tradition of creating new jobs and providing a boost to the local economy.
Our commitment to quality will also include an emphasis on safety through proper management, design and signage. Additionally, we will have a volunteer bike patrol, first aid services and trail guides.
A fundamental principle of Timberline is to provide quality recreation within the capabilities of the ecosystem. We care deeply about the environment on which we recreate. Before erecting our newest chairlift – the Jeff Flood Express — we embarked on a multi-year Environment Impact Study which involved a team of scientists, specialists and concerned citizens. That study will be used, in conjunction with new data, to ensure our impact to the environment with this project is well within the limits deemed appropriate by the US Forest Service. By creating an amazing venue for mountain biking within our managed boundary, our hope is that it will lessen the impact of the sport in other areas of the forest.
Current Timeline (*Subject to change)
Project Scoping :: Now
Phase 1 Build-Out :: Early Summer 2013
Trail Preview Opening :: Late Summer 2013
Full Operation :: Summer 2014
Source: bikeportland.org, oregonian.com, timberlinelidge.com