This information was shared on the Disciples of Dirt Yahoo Group last week by the DOD Executive Board and I thought it was important to share with the general bike community as well. One of the missing pieces to Eugene’s Platinum Bike Friendly Community status is good local mountain bike possibilities. Making trails accessible for people without the need to drive to them, especially for getting kids and families out there, is an important goal for us to be working towards. So far there has been a lot of talk and some dashed hopes from the Parks department when it comes to getting more trails in town. What we need is action. Thanks to DOD members putting time and effort towards this goal! Please consider contacting City leaders and Parks & Open Space staff to tell them if you think this is important as well (information at the end of the post).
Last week, members of the Disciples of Dirt (DOD) Executive Board met with City of Eugene Parks and Open Space (POS) staff in hopes of beginning the formal process of adopting Arlie Park, which would have involved the Disciples of Dirt agreeing to construct approximately 5 miles of trails that would be open to bikes as well as hikers. These discussions have been going on for several months, and everything we were hearing suggested that we may be able to begin building trails before the end of 2011.
In this meeting, the DOD Board were told some very disappointing news. The City of Eugene’s funding problems will prevent them from doing the required preliminary work that would be needed prior to beginning trail construction. City of Eugene Parks and Open Space Division has a significant Parks maintenance budget shortfall, and they are taking drastic measures to try and reduce their operating expenses. While DOD was prepared to provide volunteer labor for all the construction work and future maintenance needs, and even to hire consultants to work through the land use permitting process, there were some planning and design tasks that could only be done by City of Eugene POS staff. We were told that there is not likely to be funding or staff available to do this required work for at least the next 18-24 months. It is unlikely that funds will be available that soon unless Oregon’s economic improves. There were no guarantees that funding will ever be available.
With this news in hand, the board asked about the possibility of other opportunities to expand the amount of trails open to bikes in the area. Last year (around the Ribbon Trail closure), parks staff agreed to do an assessment of the entire Ridgeline trail system to re-consider whether mountain bikes could safely share the existing trails with other trail users, and to look at possibilities of approving new trails for bikes in the Ridgeline trail system. As you can guess, the same budget issues have prevented Parks staff from being able to find the resources to consider this issue. They are not able to begin this process for at least the next 18-24 months. Again, there was no guarantee that funding would ever be made available for this study.
Parks staff also confirmed that there are no trails that have already been approved and are “shovel ready” that the DOD could construct to add to the existing trail network open to bikes.
All this news is a huge disappointment to DOD’s Board. We have worked to develop relationships with City of Eugene’s Parks and Open Space staff in hopes of securing more trail access in the near future. It now appears that we will not be able to achieve our goal. We recognize that this issue is beyond the control of individual City staff, and don’t blame the City for making this decision in such difficult economic times, however, the fact is that we are unlikely to see any expansion of the MTB trail network within the City of Eugene anytime soon. This is a major setback for the local mountain bike community.
The question remains, how should we move forward with our advocacy efforts within the City of Eugene? We hope to continue to do a few trail work projects annually on the Ridgeline trail system, but we have limited resources as a group, and maybe our time and energy would be better spent focusing on other options.
The Disciples of Dirt Executive Board are confident that opportunities exist to build more trails near Eugene/Springfield. While we had hoped the Arlie Park trail construction would move forward in the near future, the park will eventually get developed, and mountain bike trails will be constructed someday. In the meantime, let’s stay positive, and brainstorm to identify other potential sites for trails. We hope to pursue some other opportunities to build more trails (possibly Springfield? Walterville? Elsewhere?) in surrounding communities. We will work with City and County officials in an attempt to identify potential sites for trails expansion. We will be looking to identify any large tracts of private property with owners that may support hosting a trail network if it was built and maintained by volunteers. We will also continue working with USACE and BLM staff in hopes of adding more trails on federal land in the near future.
If anyone would like to send feedback to The Mayor and Eugene City Councilors, or to City of Eugene Parks and Open Space staff, we do believe that it would be a good idea. Let them know our disappointment in this decision, and encourage them to find funding to get this project rolling. I’m not sure if they get to hear a lot of feedback regarding the impacts of the budget crisis from parks users. Adding your voice to the discussion can only help our cause. Please remember to be respectful and remember that you are speaking as part of a larger community. You can email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Disciples of Dirt Executive Board