Saturday morning at 8:30 AM found me slogging my way up NW Thurman, cursing the chilly air, cursing the hill, and cursing the NW Trail Alliance's decision to hold its "Share the Park" rally at an hour when I would usually still be toasty in bed. I was skeptical many other people would make the early morning rally protesting Parks Commissioner Nick Fish's recent decision that there will be no new trails opened to bikes in Forest Park for at least two years, so I was genuinely surprised to come around the corner at the top of the hill and see a crowd of about 80 cyclists gathered at the head of the Leif Erikson trail. And they had free coffee.

NW Trails President Tom Archer says his group formed twenty years ago around the issue of winning more mountain biking trails in forest park and, most recently, he sat on the Forest Park Singletrack Cycling Committee which recommended opening up more of the 70 miles of trails in the park to bikes.

"We are obviously disappointed with the recommendations," Archer told the crowd, which booed and hissed at the mention of the city's decision. "We have to have some form of recreational cycling. It can't just be about commuting."

Currently, bikes can ride on 30 miles of trails in the park, but only 1/3 of a mile is the narrow singletrack trail that's best for mountain biking. Frustrated mountain bikers sparked controversy when they carved an illegal trail through the park last spring.

Nick Fish staffer Emily Hicks was at the protest and admits that the trails open to bikes in Forest Park are not the funnest places to ride. But she defends the city's decision to spend at least two years studying the environmental situation in Forest Park before moving forward with applying for permits for new bike trails.

"We understand bikers are frustrated with not having more trail options," says Hicks. "We're not trailblazing new trails for bikes at this time because we recognize there's this huge call to action around environmental protection." As a bit of a compromise, the city has promised to prioritize singletrack trails in the new Gateway Green park out along I-205 and construct two temporary skills parks somewhere in the city.

The NW Trails Alliance is not content with that decision—Archer says that the closest good mountain biking in the area is a 40 minute car drive away in Sandy Ridge. "We really believe there is capacity in Forest Park to expand these trails, it's really a matter of where and when," says Archer.