Feature: Portlanders Turn to Crowdfunding for New Bike Park, Greenspace

Update: Build Gateway Green – How to get great trails for the price of an inner tube.

An inner tube costs roughly $5. When you get a flat in the middle of nowhere, that $5 investment seems like a small price to keep rolling. Portland’s Build Gateway Green project can do even better–it can turn that fiver into trails, making not only the riding there better but potentially where you live too. And while that may indeed be the deal of the century, BGG needs your help getting over the hump.

This photo rendering shows a potential kids riding feature in Gateway Green. Image by Build Gateway Green/IMBA.

A while back, we reported on the crowdfunding campaign to convert an unused parcel of land in Portland into a mountain bike park and greenspace. And while contributions towards the $100,000 goal spiked in the first week, they just as quickly tailed off. As of today (9/26), the fund sits at just over $55,000, some $45,000 short as the fundraiser speeds toward their Oct. 7 deadline.

We see the crowdfunding model as a potential boon to other mountain bike-related projects across the US, helping to, pardon the pun, kickstart such efforts and get them past the critical first hurdle–funding the planning process. Any contribution you can muster not only helps the folks in Portland, but might help set a precedent that will someday benefit mountain bike projects where you ride. So let’s all take a minute, make a few clicks and drive the Karma Meter up to 11.




Elevation changes, technical surfaces, berms and skinnies are all among the possibilities at Gateway Green. Image by Build Gateway Green/IMBA.

As you watch the promo video for Build Gateway Green, a crowdfunding project in support of a new urban bike park and greenspace project in Portland, you’d be forgiven if you expected Fred and Carrie to pop in with the punch line. But this project is no laughing matter–with nearly a decade of planning and maneuvering invested by local advocates, the organizers know too well that there’s still some serious work ahead of the serious fun. That said, they must be smiling at least a little now–since launching the campaign yesterday, they’re already one-quarter of the way to meeting a $100,000 goal to fund the formal planning process.

If that planning process leads to what organizers envision, Portland mountain bikers will have much to be happy about. Preliminary plans for the 38-acre site include flow trails, dirt jump lines, BMX elements, singletrack, and a cyclocross training area.

“As great as Portland is for biking you still have to drive 45-to-60 minutes to get to legal mountain biking,” said Friends of Gateway Green Board Member Tom Archer. “This project will not only bring mountain biking right into town but benefits the whole community in East Portland.”

The sliver of land for the proposed park is the former site of a long-closed jail that became entrapped by the construction of the I-205 and I-84 freeways. It sits in an area dense with residential and commercial development yet under-served in terms of recreational opportunities. The site also happens to feature some desirable topographic features, according to Archer.

Left: This 1976 aerial photo shows Rocky Butte Jail, the former occupant of the gateway green site before it was demolished to make room for the I-205 freeway. Right: This aerial photo of the present-day site shows the mix of forest and meadows, as well as the island effect created by I-205, I-84 and rail tracks. Photos by Build Gateway Green.

“The property has some forested areas, and kind-of a bowl with 100-200 feet of vertical to play with for gravity features,” he said. “I think we could have the same types of features that they have at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, just on a smaller scale.”

The culmination of a lengthy political process which still requires the approved but not-yet-completed transfer of property from Oregon’s Department of Transportation to Portland Parks and Recreation, the fundraising campaign represents a tipping-point for the project.

“We’ve done the necessary coalition building, solved some fairly complex ownership and right-of-way issues, and completed what project-level planning we could to this point,” said Archer. “The Build Gateway Green crowdfunding should help us get the ownership transfer complete and enable the detail planning required for getting the larger grants, allocations from jurisdictions, and donations to actually build the park.”

The existing space supports wildflowers, has existing double track and trails, but holds so much more potential. Photo by Build Gateway Green.

Archer says the formal plan will determine the timeline and exact budget requirements, though he expects something in the range of $2-3 million.

“The bike trails are only part of the costs,” he explained. “We have no services out there, so water, power, sewage and general infrastructure will be a big expense.”

A state agency called Oregon Solutions is using the Gateway Green crowdfunding model as prototype in hopes it can help other projects get through the difficult stage of funding the planning process. Other mountain bike groups around the country might do well to keep an eye on Portland for the same reason…and maybe toss them a few bucks for the privilege.

To donate to Build Gateway Green, check out the promo page on crowdfunding site Indiegogo.


About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry that landed him at his current gig with Santa Cruz bicycles. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.

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