The past weekend marked a significant milestone in the history of Portland cycling. After years of planning and development, the Dirt Lab at Gateway Green was opened to the public in an event titled the “Gathering at Gateway Green.”
The day had hundreds (if not thousands – we’ll update this post when we receive an accurate head count) of cyclists, runners and neighbors visiting the site to tour and play on the site of Portland’s newest park.
The energy on the site was infectious – there was no shortage of stoked riders. The final addition to the park, the skills zone was by far the most popular section of the park. Ironically enough, a few weeks ago, it was just a flat, graded area.
Down to the wire
Construction on the skills area began in earnest only a week or two before, and team at Flow Ride Concepts really went the extra mile. They could have easily stopped with a row of table top jumps and embedding a few of the pre-fabricated wood features to fulfill their contract, but the Denver, Colorado based team of bike park contractors went above and beyond what had been asked of them, creating a myriad of lips, landing and hips with potential transfer lines all over.
When the fill soil that was schedule to be delivered failed to show, the team utilized what they could with the local soil. Although there is a good amount of gravel content (many of the future work parties will involve removing the rocks) due to the lack of a filtering method, the soil has a good amount of clay content and has been compacting far better than hoped for or expected.
More importantly, it allowed the creation of this:
We stopped by the site after work several times in the days leading up to the event; with the opening date fast approaching the team was working non-stop.
I joined the crew Friday evening after a social event to find them still hard at work. Picking up a shovel and rake to assist, when I left them two hours later they were still at it. At this point it was almost 10pm and they continued to work using lights. When I returned early the next morning, they were still working as if they hadn’t left. The team has been pulling 12-14 hour days non-stop in the effort, which is much appreciated by everyone.
My hands are still cramping from the two days I put in this week and it’s 3 days later; knowing what these guys have done, they’re freakin’ super heroes in my book.
Open for Business
Continuing the work from the night before, much of the soil was still soft the morning of the event; Tom Archer (lead steward from the Friends of Gateway Green) watered as we raked and continue to groom and hand pack what we could. I wasn’t even sure the landing would be firm enough to safely accommodate riding at first, but after allowing the soil to sit for the next hour, it packed down nicely as the first test runs were taken. (a big sigh of relief was heard all around)
By 10 or 11 (I lost track of time at this point but activity in the a park was buzzing) we had lines of riders inquiring on when the track would be open. Before setting tires to the dirt, we gathered everyone present and walked the area, using our shoes to pack the surface down and picking up any and all loose rocks we could find, before heading to our bikes to begin the test runs.
Then we set everyone loose and the beginning of the all day session began! A non-stop train of riders followed, as hundreds of runs were logged by all present.
The only downside? The access road was super dusty, and the occasional vehicle coming through made it even worse.
The jump line opens
We’ve been waiting for this one for a long time! Although the last set and the run-in to the wall ride wasn’t quite ready for prime time, it didn’t stop a session of riders that boosted and flowed their way through the new jumps.
The first bike specific single track mountain bike trail in Portland Oregon
While there may only be a little more than two miles of new trail at Gateway Green, its the first cycling specific designed trail the city has ever seen. Much of the trail lies in a wooded section that feels much more like an experience in the backcountry than in what was previously an urban waste land. While the constant roar of freeway traffic means you’ll never quite forget where you’re at, if you put on some headphones and download the sounds of nature you’d never know.
We were running around the event half wiped out and completely missed documenting Portland’s city council members that made an appearance. Fortunately, Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org was there documenting the elected officials in attendance. (there was a disappointing lack of news crews present)
The massive crowd had to have had an impact on them, and now time will tell what kind of effect it has on the city’s planning in the future. There’s no way they can deny the need the city has had for this type of facility and off-road cycling opportunities moving forward.