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Crown Zellerbach Trail attracts riders of all levels

For Bike Safety Month, get out and explore the CZ Trail


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - A large portion of the Crown Zellerbach Trail used to be a railroad. Originally constructed in 1906 the rail was converted into a logging road in 1943. in 2004, Columbia County purchased the road from the Hancock Timber Company with Grants from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon State Parks.The 23-mile-long Crown Zellerbach Trail that connects Scappoose to Vernonia is a wide path with a grade of no more than 2 percent.

The trail lazily winds through deciduous forests and alongside South Scappoose Creek. It's a perfect ride for Sunday cruisers looking for a gentle afternoon outside, or cyclocross (mountain bike and road bike hybrid) riders who want to zip through the trail all the way to Vernonia.

Paul Barlow, owner of Barlow Bikes in St. Helens and member of the St. Helens Bike and Pedestrian Commission, has been riding bikes in Columbia County nearly all his life. Barlow sat on the board for developing the trail in 2003 in order to help bring the CZ Trail to fruition.

This August, local officials plan a ribbon-cutting ceremony to announce the CZ Trail's official opening. At the onset of its consideration, planners had pledged not to mark the official opening until the concerns of residents living along the trail had been addressed.

And, as May is Bike Safety Month, what better way to illustrate the joys of safe bike riding than a forested ride up the CZ Trail on unseasonably warm spring day?

“It's a great trail for someone just looking to get outside. It's nothing extreme, but it's the only public trail we've got around here,” Barlow said.

Barlow explained there are plenty of great mountain biking trails in the area for experienced riders, but landowners recently put out a directive to take down all signage and structures promoting the trails in order to decrease traffic. “Rocky point is one of the best spots to ride in the Portland area,” he said.

In his time riding through the hills of Columbia County, Barlow said he's seen elk, deer and plenty of birds. “This is probably my favorite thing to do,” Barlow said, pedaling down the gravel trail with ease.

Barlow hopes to start a weekly riding group to pedal the CZT in the near future. Last year, Barlow rode the trail all the way to Vernonia on his cyclocross bike.

The St. Helens BMX track has been one of Barlow's major projects lately. “Right now, we've put up a couple new buildings, a concession stand, an announcement tower and an electricity tower. We're also working on track surface redesigns and grooming the surface,” he said. Barlow Bikes will begin to host racing events June 1. Races will run every Saturday through October.

Barlow has been busy holding fundraising events for the track improvements. Last year, Barlow Bikes held a memorial race for Balrow's brother, Phil Barlow, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 39.

Track renovations have also been undertaken by donated labor and time. The BMX track is currently open to public use.

For more information about the weekly CZT riding group, call Paul Barlow at 971-563-8786.