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GOVERNMENTCAMP - The U.S. Forest Service recently approved Timberline Ski Area s plan to build a mountain biking skills park on Mount Hood.

The park would consist of 17 miles of mountain biking trails that would zig-zag across the lower half of the ski area.

Riders would take the trails down and use a chair lift to haul their bikes back up the mountain.

The park would be open to visitors in the late summer and fall months.

It would be fun, I know we'd take advantage of it, said mountain biker Rochelle Comeaux.

But some worry eight bike trails would destroy native vegetation, erode the mountain s fragile volcanic soil and even impact salmon.

Unfortunately, the runoff from this trail will end up in the headwaters of Still Creek which is critical habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead, said Olivia Schmidt with BARK, Defenders of Mount Hood National Forest.

Dennis Chaney with Friends of Mount Hood has been fighting against the mountain biking park for years. He worries it will negatively impact the historic Timberline Lodge.

It deserves better than the carnival atmosphere that goes along with this type of sports, said Chaney.

But Jon Tullis, spokesperson for Timberline Lodge, says operators will manage all the environmental impacts.

There s a lot of restoration and mitigation measures put into the decision that will improve the existing condition, said Tullis.

Tullis adds the park would actually benefit the forest by offering mountain bikers who are now using unauthorized trails a managed area to ride.

Timberline operators had hoped to start building the park this summer and perhaps even open a few trails, but with an appeal they say a summer of 2014 opening is more realistic.

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