Mission accomplished? A timely question for the 2014 IMBA Chapter Congress
Mountain bike journalist Seb Kemp recently ruffled a few feathers by admitting his affinity for flow trails. You can read his confession for yourself in this recent Dirt Magazine essay, The Truth About Trails - Smarten Up, Don't Dumb Down.
While other readers of Kemp's article worked themselves into a frenzy about the merits or flaws of purpose-built trails, it was a different issue he raised that caught my attention. In the paragraph below, Kemp ponders the history and direction of mountain bike advocacy:
Do you remember when mountain bikers were public enemy number one? A plague on the countryside, and a cancerous scourge of skidding idiots who were kept at bay by the stick–wielding geriatrics who rambled about the fields and forests like doddering sentries? I don’t care if mountain biking becomes a mainstream activity but it’s really quite pleasing to see that it has gained enough respect, toleration and acceptance that now we are spoilt for options as to where we can bike.
Trail access has opened up where once it was forbidden, new mountain bike specific destinations have had public (and private) finance funneled into them so we have somewhere to ride our bikes and, best of all, a lot of this development has been managed and governed by mountain bikers so we aren’t just getting palmed off with appropriated approximations of what others think mountain biking is."
(The bold font for emphasis is my addition.)
"Managed and governed by mountain bikers" provides a much-needed nod to organized advocacy efforts, the sort of efforts that are most often led by passionate volunteers. Mountain biking thrives today because so many volunteers sacrificed riding time so they could show up, speak up, dig trails and steward thousands of miles of beloved landscapes.
So ... are we done? Can we hang up the suit and tie and do nothing but ride? Is all the effort to build national, regional and local organizational capacity unnecessary going forward because our advocacy mission is already accomplished?
You may have guessed that my conclusion is not that IMBA's work has been laid to rest. But I'm truly curious about what our core constituents think the organization should do to proceed with advocacy efforts. Kemp's words made me ponder if IMBA and its local chapters need to consider a new mission. What is it, and how do we best organize locally and nationally to achieve it?
These questions and more will be the focus of the 2014 Chapter Congress, held in conjunction with IMBA’s World Summit, August 20–23, in Steamboat Springs, CO. If you are part of a local chapter, especially those in chapter leadership roles, please take advantage of this important, in-person dialogue because it informs and directs IMBA’s mission, purpose and programs. Register now.