Sometimes we get caught up in the political hullaballoo and forget to realize that our politicians, and their staffers are normal human beings too. Well, at least most of them. They too get caught up in the drama of Washington and are forced to deal with topics and issues that they have absolutely no interest in, just as many of us have to at times in our own careers. Regardless of which side of the capitol their office is on I noticed a resounding theme in my numerous meetings last week on the hill. They all wanted to hear our stories, some asking for more. They all believe that creating opportunities for their constituents to live an active, healthy lifestyle is important. They all understand the positive economic and environmental impacts of natural surface trail systems in their communities.
One thing is true; almost everyone has a memory of a bike. There is a reason why there is a saying, “it’s like riding a bike.” In a few meetings we found ourselves listening to stories of how a representative loves to ride their bike and challenge other political figures in friendly competition. In that same meeting they also asked for more, more stories, more data, more opportunities for them to witness the success of the efforts of the advocacy groups in their districts.
Reflecting back on the entire experience, the congressional meetings, the conversations with advocates from across the country, and the challenges we all face, I have come to this conclusion. We need to “Make it Meaningful, Make it Matter, and Make it Local.” Share the intimate stories of your chapter and the impact you are having on the community. Take the time to make the effort to gather the data and research to sell the project quantitatively, and make it matter. Most of all make it local. Reach out to your local congressional districts regularly; invite not just your representative but also their staffers to an upcoming event, especially when they are home on recess. Get the press involved, work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and sell the vision. It will get back to DC.