Road Trip! - Ride Center Edition
Trails are local. Certainly, you have a favorite destination, or list of destinations where you want to ride, but we can truly agree that the local trails are where you invest your sweat equity. For some it’s where they learned to ride, for others it’s the place where we get to ride after work. But all local trails take collaboration, community, and planning.
Recently, mountain bikers in Dane County, Wisconsin received great news—the Department of Natural Resource’s Natural Resource Board approved the amendments to the Blue Mound State Park Master Plan. Mountain bikers, after much effort, were able to preserve the current trail corridors in the park and enhance some pieces of these trails while creating new trails, including a beginner trail. (I see some similarities to IMBA’s mission here). You can read more about the group’s work and specifics of the plans here.
Capital Off-Road Pathfinders (CORP), the Dane County Chapter of IMBA, didn’t get lucky. The trail stewards for the park had a plan. They had been working collaboratively with the DNR and when the time for a master plan amendment came (this is one of the only ways to add trails to Wisconsin State Parks) they were able to put this plan to paper and clearly explain and defend it to park staff, the public, naturalists, and many others.
But this story is about more than a plan. This story is about collaboration. One of the Blue Mound trail stewards and CORP board member, also joined the Friends of Blue Mound group because he cared about the future of the park. Through his Friends role he could share the story of the chapter and the work mountain bikers engage in with others who care deeply for the park. When the master plan review opened, he was able to share the mountain bikers’ perspective with this group and the group supported the chapter’s efforts.
Yet still, there is more to this story. The collaboration goes beyond working with the Friends group to working very closely with the DNR and with IMBA. CORP board members spent many hours in conversation with the DNR planners, taking time off of work and engaging in late night emails and phone calls. I attended some of these meetings, but the local advocates were the familar faces at every meeting. They listened carefully to the concerns of the DNR and methodically worked to overcome these concerns to negotiate a consensus.
I worked very closely with CORP board members throughout the process to draft an action alert to share with other CORP members, other chapters in Wisconsin, industry partners, and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, attend meetings, and other endeavors. Representatives from all entities attended the public meetings, provided appropriate feedback to the DNR through public comments and, in the end, saw success. This success reaches beyond the master plan amendment, as CORP now has promises for funding of the new trails, possibilities for more trails in other areas and an open dialogue with DNR staff.
The key component of this story is that this work didn’t happen in a vacuum nor did it happen overnight. It happened through diligent relationship-building and working with others toward a mutually agreeable result. It happened over a number of years and at the local level. It happened because CORP and IMBA worked to build a community comprised of mountain bikers and other park users, and collaborated with many other entities to reach a common goal.
Work like this occurs every day, and IMBA chapters are often times in the center, playing a key role. This is why it is so important to engage in the public process, join your local chapter to stay informed, and build relationships with those you will one day work with.