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E-Bikes could come to Stewart, other state parks

TRAIL ­— Electric bicycles could be gliding down the bike trail at Stewart State Park along Lost Creek Lake under a new proposal to allow e-bikes on some state parks pathways.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is proposing a rule change that would allow e-bikes on trails eight feet wide or wider that currently allow pedal traffic.

The agency is taking public comment on the proposal, with the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission scheduled to review and vote on the proposal at its June 18-19 meeting. A location for that meeting has not been set.

E-bikes are defined under Oregon law as vehicles with electric motors under 1,000 watts and travel less than 20 mph. They currently are excluded from bike paths at state parks because current rules ban motor-driven bikes.

“The rules were written before e-bikes became a thing,” said Katie Gauthier, the department’s legislative and policy coordinator. “This will allow them on trails that are wide enough.”

Locally, that means only the 4-mile Stewart State Park bike path linking the park’s day-use area with its campgrounds, Gauthier said. Bikes are not allowed on the hiking trail there, she said.

At Valley of the Rogue State Park, the bike-eligible path there is not eight feet wide, so it won’t automatically qualify if the proposal is adopted.

However, the new proposals include provisions for paths thinner than 8 feet to be deemed e-bike worthy if the park superintendent and department staff determine it would be appropriate after an internal review process, Gauthier said.

The 8-foot width was deemed good for biking safety, she said.

The agency estimates that about 130 miles of trails would qualify if the new rule is adopted, Gauthier said.

“It’s probably more than that,” she said. “But unfortunately we don’t have an accounting of the widths of all our trails.”

E-bikes would not be allowed on coastal trails within western snowy plover management areas. Three biking sections of the Columbia Gorge Highway Trail totaling 12 miles would be open to e-bikes under the proposal.

The agency will take public comment through May 18, which includes a series of public meetings statewide, the closest of which is April 30 at the Bandon library on the coast.

Comments can be submitted online at www.oregon.gov/OPRD/RULES/pages/index.aspx or emailed to OPRE.publiccomment@oregon.gov.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Stephen Gagne rides his electric bike in Ashland. E-bikes might be allowed on some state parks bike trails under a proposal being considered by state officials. - Mail Tribune / file photo