Closer to home, Oregon’s future as a regional biking Valhalla hinges largely on the ambitious Bi-State Regional Trails System, 250 miles of interwoven trails and greenways in Oregon and Washington designed to seamlessly connect 32 cities, six counties, and two states to nature on both sides of the Columbia River.
Mike Wetter is a senior advisor with Metro and the de facto executive director of the newly established Intertwine Alliance, the umbrella coalition of park, city, and regional officials that is overseeing the creation of the Bi-State Regional Trails System. The future jewel in their master plan is the Mount Hood Connections trail, which will carve a path from the skyscrapers of the state’s most populous city to the subalpine firs of its highest peak.
“Can you imagine the draw?” Wetter says. “You start in downtown Portland, stop on the Clackamas River and camp, then get up the next morning and ride to Hood. It’s tremendous.”
Only problem is, right now the trail will get you only as far as Boring. Like many of the Intertwine’s trails, it exists in a series of fits and starts, nowhere close to completion. And at the current rate of construction, the Intertwine would take another 190 years to complete.
A big obstacle, of course, is a lack of funds. While cities that earn a scenic bikeway designation will have access to small start-up grants and help with signage and printing materials, they’re pretty much on their own when it comes to finding money to complete any project. Congressman Earl Blumenauer has requested a $2 million appropriation to help complete the Intertwine’s bike paths, including $280,000 for the link to Mount Hood, a nice gesture that still falls far short of the route’s final $75 million price tag.
Naturally, Wetter is frustrated, but there’s reason to hope. “You look at Intertwine meetings, and at the table are people who haven’t typically worked well togetherpeople from TriMet, Metro, the City of Portland, and nonprofitssaying, ‘We’re ready to think bigger than we are,’” Wetter says.
And bigger than Minneapolis, too.