Written by Ahmed Yusuf, Stewardship Coordinator – City Nature, Portland Parks & Rec
Portland Parks & Recreation’s Youth Conservation Crew (YCC) was proud to collaborate with Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA) in early August! Together, we provided a chance for eight young people and four adults to experience mountain biking. This was the first time that YCC staff have partnered with NWTA, and it was also these participants’ first time mountain biking. We went to Gateway Green, Portland Parks & Recreation’s unique hiking and off-road cycling destination, located at the confluence of I-205 and I-84 and accessible via the I-205 path from Gateway Transit Center.
Offering enriching recreational experiences to young people who have not yet had them is a very important part of YCC. The opportunities that Portland Parks & Recreation and our valued partners provide can teach youth new skills, broaden their minds about what is possible, and help build community. Enjoying an enrichment activity every other week also helps young Portlanders stay motivated and interested in work through outdoor fun.
We met up close to Gateway Green with NWTA coaches Jenn and Elaine. We went through our safety briefing and ensured the young riders knew how to shift and brake properly. We proceeded down the I-205 bike path to the entrance of Gateway Green, where we planned to go down a trail through the wooded part of the park. We paused every couple hundred meters to regroup and make sure everyone was doing well. The group stopped on a few occasions to scout and strategize for the upcoming terrain. At times, some riders fell, but what counted most is that everyone who did got up like champs and continued!
After riding the forested section of Gateway Green, we proceeded to the park’s pump track – a set of rollers and berms where riders use their momentum and body to create speed. A goal of this part is to make it around the entire circuit without pedaling. Later, a few riders tried out a more challenging part of the course. This section had multiple different paths, some with large jumps!
Here are some thoughts that participants shared about their experience:
Ruth said it was her first mountain biking, and it was a little scary but a good experience and a fun time. Megan, Mateo, and William said they would be interested in buying mountain bikes after enjoying the experience.
One of our crew members had never ridden a bike before and so stayed behind in the parking lot with one of the instructors and Ahmed to learn how to ride before rejoining the group. They learned how to ride a bike within an hour (!!) and could practice riding on flat ground for the rest of the day. Not only was this a great experience for the crew members but the crew leaders, Dylan and Hannah, also had an amazing time learning new skills.
The YCC’s first time doing a mountain biking enrichment program was a heartwarming success. The effort that was put in to make this happen was well worth it. We got to try many different features of the park, and there were many opportunities to push ourselves at our different experience levels. This activity was one of our favorites this year and was an incredibly worthwhile experience. We would fully recommend this as an enrichment in the future, and we can’t wait to do it again!
About the Portland Parks & Recreation Youth Conservation Crew (YCC)
The Youth Conservation Crew (YCC) provides employment opportunities for a diverse population of Portland-area youth. Crews protect, restore, and manage Portland’s parks and natural areas while developing job skills and exploring environmental career paths.
For more information: https://www.portland.gov/parks/environmental-education/youth-conservation-crew