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How IMBA and the Local Chapter Protected Trails For Monterey and Sea Otter

How IMBA and the local chapter protected places to ride in the Fort Ord National Monument

Fort Ord National Monument is a stunning 14,658 acre landscape in Monterey, California. From 1917 to 1994, nearly 1.5 million U.S. Army troops were trained at Fort Ord. When the base was officially closed the majority of the property was entrusted to the care of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Since that time the property has become a regional recreation destination with an abundance of trails. With weekend visitors from all over California’s central coast, it is also home to several cycling and adventure events, including the Sea Otter Classic.

As part of a big picture strategy to preserve the natural and recreational value of the whole landscape, a campaign to designate the BLM portions as a National Monument was conceived and put into action. As the campaign picked up steam IMBA became involved to provide expert guidance so the monument designation would not diminish the quality of mountain biking or access to these places to ride.

The first step was to understand the issue and whether or not it presented a threat to mountain biking. In this case this involved a Presidential Proclamation under the authority of the Antiquities Act. In order to avoid the loss of trail access the proclamation language could not prohibit “mechanized use.”

The next step was to contact the decision makers and influencers. This included the BLM, the local Congressman and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), a division of the Executive Office of the President. In the initial conversations IMBA stressed the value of the space to mountain bikers and asked for collaborative solutions to ensure that bicycle access would be protected.

The Monterey Off-Road Cycling Association (MORCA) a Chapter of IMBA, played a huge role in initiating and continuing this effort and campaign. Chapter President Gary Courtright and others attended countless meetings to provide input from a mountain biking perspective.

Fortunately, the Sea Otter Classic had recently completed an economic impact study showing the substantial amount of direct and indirect revenue brought to the surrounding communities by having approximately 70,000 attendees visit the region every year. This made for a compelling story to the Presidential Administration. Additionally, political pressure was applied by local business and citizens to ensure the Congressman knew the importance of these recreational assets.

On April 20, 2012, the Sea Otter Classic kicked off its 22nd year with President Barack Obama signing a proclamation to designate Fort Ord National Monument. And because of the momentum created and the relationships that were built by mountain bikers and the local community that supports those recreational impacts, language was used to preserve access to trails for mountain bike use.

Jeremy Fancher worked with IMBA's Government Relations team from 2010 to 2015.

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