A Linfield professor’s research is changing the debate about bike trails in Portland’s Forest Park.
Since 1993, Associate Professor of Biology Nancy Broshot has been collecting data about trees from 24 sites at the park. Her data shows a high mortality rate of young trees at each site, which Broshot said may be a result of the park’s urbanization.
The Forest Park Off-Road Cycling Advisory Committee will meet next week to discuss the construction of new bike trails.
The park’s administration is likely to support the construction of new trails, Broshot said.
“They would be going against the master plan of the park, which is based on land laws,” she said. “There could be some legal action against them.”
Broshot said new trails would increase the amount of land park visitors damaged.
“I’m not against mountain bikers, but any new trails will cause significant damage to the park,” Broshot said.
Her research has faced skepticism from Parks Bureau Natural Area Supervisor Dan Moeller.
“I’m not ready to apply any one paper to the entire park,” Moeller said in a May 14 story featured in The Oregonian. “The important thing is that we’re talking about this, and it’s raising questions.”
Moeller has tried to save bike trails by marginalizing Broshot’s findings, she said.
“They promised new trails to the cyclists without considering the effects,” Broshot said. “According to the park’s master plan, there needs to be studies done first.”
Broshot, who released her data earlier this month, is on sabbatical this semester to spend time on her research.
“I’m coming out with my research now because this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and look at my data,” she said. “Most of my time has been spent on writing papers and trying to get them published.”
By releasing her data at a time when the construction of new bike trails is being discussed, Broshot said she found herself in the middle of the debate.
“I felt like I stepped into a hornets’ nest,” Broshot said. “But I thought it was something that people need to know.”
Similar studies have shown a high tree mortality rate worldwide, Broshot said.
“The authors of these pieces thought the cause of it was global warming,” she said. “But it seems to have something to do with urbanization and possibly air pollution.”
Hikers who go off trails also cause damage in Forest Park, Broshot said.
“There is a network of little trails everywhere,” she said. “Off-trail hikers compact the soil and introduce invasive species.”
Senior Charlotte Trowbridge, a Portland native, has also noticed changes to the park.
“There are always new stressors introduced to environments,” she said. “Even though I’ve really enjoyed being able to take advantage of the trails that are in place, I think we need to protect the park.”
Trowbridge, an environmental studies major, said that protecting Forest Park is important to Oregon.
“A lot of people in the area are proud to say that they have easy access to wilderness,” she said. Parks and trees are especially important in the Pacific Northwest. I think we need to ensure that the environment remains healthy.”
News reporter Broshot
Shawn Fisher can be reached at email@example.com