Page 5 of 6
In 2002, the Oregon Department of Forestry discovered that a small
group of riders had been building trails and small jumps in the area. This was
technically illegal, but instead of shutting down the trails, the department
asked the riders to form a club and get their work approved. If they would
manage and maintain the trails, the Forestry Department would let them add
jumps and other features. Black Rock opened in December of 2004, and since
then, Bontrager figures usage has tripled, as riders from Portland, Eugene and
even Canada, the holy land of freeriding, have flocked to its trails.
The mountain bike association takes its responsibilities seriously.
When the Forestry Department found an illegal trail in the area, the Black Rock
cyclists decommissioned it in a week; they even got one of the offending
trail-builders to apologize on the association’s website. "It was
jeopardizing our trails," says Bontrager. "Our goal is to make sure
that Black Rock stays."
Black Rock is smack in the middle of prime spotted owl nesting
territory. This means that during much of the year, when the owls are laying
eggs and raising young, the association can’t use chainsaws or earthmovers to
work on the trails. The Forestry Department’s John Barnes says it’s a minor
inconvenience, adding that without the owl, the freeriders could be kicked out
to make way for logging.
"I’m not objectionable to logging. Falls City is a bit depressed,"
says Bontrager, who always stops at the town’s small grocery on the way to
ride. "But we’re trying to show that we can bring Falls City and Dallas
money every year, not just every 40 years" when the timber can be
Despite the owl’s presence, Bontrager hasn’t had any run-ins with
environmentalists, and he doesn’t worry about wilderness issues because Black
Rock isn’t near any wilderness.
The bike association is working with the Forestry Department on a
long-range plan for the area. Bontrager hopes the park, which already sports
six miles of trail, will continue to grow, possibly to include a cross-country
loop. "I love converting cross-country guys," he grins.