Last Saturday, fellow IMBA employee Rod Judd and I attended training to become patrollers for our local group, the Boulder Mountain Bike Patrol. Although I'm still too injured to ride, I can do trailhead outreach, as I will do with another patroller this coming weekend.
The BMBP has to deal with three different land management agencies within the group's coverage area, which means that patrollers need to know whose land they're on while patrolling, and the requirements set by each agency. Since Boulder has a very transient community (and I'm not talking about the panhandlers on the walking mall), the patrollers are on a constant mission to educate trail users such as tourists, college kids out on their campus bikes, and the ever-growing population of people new to town, who have no knowledge of the access battles that have been fought here. And those battles continue to boil, both in city/county meetings and in the press, since virtually everyone who lives here uses the trails. As a result, the land managers are deeply grateful for the BMBP, and look to them as a valuable part of their trail management strategy.
And as such, the patrol is trained by the land mangers themselves. The city, county and Forest Service each send someone to instruct the patrollers on how to handle issues for each agency. For example, the FS requires new patrollers to work with a buddy (not necessarily another patroller) for their entire first year, because those lands are more remote and have more complicated issues such as illegal camping and firearm use. Alternatively, the city is happy for patrollers to work solo, but asks them not to attempt to educate users about certain complex regulations (that's what the website is for). And so on.
Lastly, a group of equestrians attends the training each year and helps patrollers understand the unique challenges faced by horse riders on Boulder's crowded, multi-use trails. I thought I knew quite a bit about horses, but I learned one very valuable thing: Don't use a bike bell when approaching equestrians. Horses are easily startled by the sound, and they do not understand that mountain bikers are actually humans. They interpret our swift movements and crouching posture as that of prey. Instead, use your voice -- that way the horse knows you are human and they feel no urge to flee. If you've ever had an equestrian yell "Announce yourself!" at you, now you know why.
At the end of the day, I felt welcomed and well-equipped to begin patrolling - or at least helping out at trailheads. I was impressed by the dedication of the group: they logged 2,700 volunteer hours last year, and they have an impressive list of sponsors supporting their work. Rod and I were among 15 new patrollers being trained, which brings the group's total to almost 60 patrollers. They have a fairly close-knit relationship, with happy hour social gatherings and group rides outside of patrol time, which helps keep people involved and prevents burnout by folks trying to be "single soldiers."
Boulder's patrol provides a great example of how mountain bikers can make themselves invaluable to land managers, as well as the important role patrollers can play in access-troubled areas. Huge thanks to all patrollers for their hard work!