Forest Service approves Timberline bike park

Record of Decision shows ‘no significant impact’; pending appeals process, resort hopes to begin trail work next summer

Supporters of a proposed mountain bike trails and skills park at Timberline Ski Area got an early Christmas present last week from Mt. Hood National Forest Supervisor Christopher Worth.

In a lengthy document signed on Nov. 19, Worth outlines reasons for the decision to approve an amendment of RLK and Company’s (operators of Timberline Lodge and Ski Area) Special Use Permit to include a proposed lift-assisted mountain bike park and associated trails. The document is the result of a MHNF Environmental Assessment, which concludes with a Finding of No Significant Impact assessment for the project.

This latest development comes more than two years after RLK submitted a proposal for the mountain biking park, which would utilize ski area terrain in the summer months and would be served by existing ski lifts modified to carry bikes. Implementation of the decision is still unclear, as a 45-day appeal filing period is in effect. If an appeal is filed the outcome will be delayed until a ruling on the appeal.

If approved, Timberline’s timeline for the project would be to begin the first phase of trail work in early summer of 2013 and would likely be open for full operation in the summer of 2014, with the possibility of some trails opening in fall 2013. Timberline has employed world-renowned Gravity Logic Design of Whistler, British Columbia, to design and oversee construction of the park.

In the proposal, the top of the 17-mile trail network would be near Timberline Lodge and would extend below the lodge throughout the ski area’s lower-elevation terrain. Bike trails would not follow ski trails; instead they would crisscross runs and follow a more gentle grade that allows for better flow on mountain bikes and results in much less erosion than fall-line trails. The system is described as appealing “to families and features predominantly beginner- and intermediate-level trails, as well as features to aid in learning biking skills and riding etiquette.”

Opponents of the proposal cited environmental impacts the developement, and increased human activity, could have on sensitive wildlife, vegetation and soil and aquatic resources in the area.

Worth outlined specific responses to issues raised by opposition and summarized that the project and associated activities would have no significant impact.

Furthermore, integrated into the decision are design elements to prevent erosion and damage to vegetation, as well as watershed restoration projects to correct pre-existing sedimentation issues that would be implemented concurrently with the bike park and trails construction.

“Timberline Lodge and Ski Area were envisioned by its founders as a place where Oregonians would enjoy the benefits of four season active recreation, in the world-class alpine setting represented by Mount Hood,” Worth commented. “FDR amazingly foresaw this potential opportunity when he dedicated the lodge 75 years ago.”

In his Decision Notice, Worth included a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1937 Timberline Lodge Dedication: “Those who will follow us to Timberline Lodge on their holidays and vacations will represent the enjoyment of new opportunities for play in every season of the year. I mention especially every season of the year because we, as a Nation, I think, are coming to realize that the summer is not the only time for play. I look forward to the day when many, many people from this region of the nation are going to come here for skiing and tobogganing and various other forms of winter sports. Among them, all of those visitors, in winter and summer, spring and autumn, there will be many from the outermost parts of our Nation, travelers from the Middle West, the South and the East, Americans who are fulfilling a very desirable objective of citizenship — getting to know their country better.”

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