There appears to be no easy path to a planned mountain bike park at Timberline on Mt. Hood. This past week the Sierra Club joined a lawsuit brought by local environmental groups in Oregon against the planned construction of a 17-mile network of singletrack and downhill trails on the lower slopes of the mountain. The lawsuit against the Forest Service says the trails would increase erosion into the sensitive headwaters of Still Creek and the West Fork of the Salmon River and disturb summer recreation such as hiking, and possibly disturb wildlife, including elk, that rely on high alpine meadows during calving season.
Timberline says the suit’s claims are identical to ones the environmental groups brought during the formal appeal process — an appeal that was dismissed because the USFS found the park would cause “no significant impact.” Perhaps the most compelling statement in all of this is simply this: “Our plan to build a world-class bike park is consistent with the Mt. Hood Forest Plan and is consistent with Timberline’s original and essential purpose,” which was envisioned by President Franklin Roosevelt as “active and egalitarian recreational use.” Or, to read between the lines, this isn’t a national park. There are ski lifts that already provide access to hikers, and ski resorts nationwide are seeing an opportunity in a growing mountain biking demographic — hiking, by contrast, isn’t in the midst of a youth movement. The Sierra Club likely joined the suit because they fear Hood as a bellwether for ski resorts. But unreliable snowpack means environmentalists are going to be up against such plans at an increasing clip. And a common complaint by mountain bikers is just this: Shouldn’t the Sierra Club be fighting oil pipelines and coal mines, not people who would otherwise be their allies?
Photo via Gravity Logic