"Time will tell" is a saying usually accompanied by healthy skepticism. At this moment, time and history are on everyone's minds here at IMBA as we reflect upon the 25 years since IMBA's birth.
There is a danger in doing this. Winston Churchill said, "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." I recently came across a piece of history written for IMBA in the form of a 1998 Mountain Bike magazine article. The author, Dan Koeppel, posed seven questions rife with healthy skepticism that essentially said, "IMBA is failing."
I appreciate the questions Dan posed. I like his aspirations for the sport and believe they were aligned with the thinking of many mountain bikers in 1998. It's clear that his passion for the sport was his motivation for calling out IMBA (and all who are passionate about mountain biking). Fourteen years since the piece was published, what does time have to tell us?
Like Dan, mountain bikers radiate passion. That has not changed, and those of you who support IMBA and its chapters and clubs are equally driven. As it was 14 or 25 or 30 years ago, mountain biking remains a sport filled with passion, and with that comes an exceptional commitment to volunteerism and activism for the conservation of trails and their landscapes.
Dan's article also delved into "coolness," and he held up the Surfrider Foundation as the model. I agree. IMBA often looks to Surfrider as a paradigm, but not in some enviable effort to be cool. We look to Surfrider because it is a mature, well-organized group that is making a significant difference and achieving its mission. Surfrider also has a growing and effective chapter network that is enviable and very cool. In that respect, I want IMBA to be like the Surfrider Foundation. With 120 IMBA chapters, we are certainly getting there.
Finally, Dan threw down a challenge and asked, "Where are the initiatives?" He wrote that IMBA needs to "capture the imagination of mainstream mountain bikers" and specified initiatives in national parks and urban parks. I like his aspiration, and if urban and national parks are the indicators of an effective IMBA, then we have arrived.
IMBA drove the initiative to change a very onerous rule for how bikes are managed in national parks and, as a result, we are now seeing many National Park Service land managers planning for and pursuing mountain biking. As for urban parks, we are just getting started with that initiative. Already, I can't keep track of all the new urban bike projects underway across the country.
Using Dan's questions and aspirations for IMBA's effectiveness as a measure, I have to say that we are on the right track. But the passion and the aspirations of our members and supporters keep us from thinking we have arrived because it reminds us that there is still so much more to do. Is the IMBA of 2013 a more effective, cooler, risk-taking, creative and legit representative of mountain bikers' aspirations than Dan perceived it to be in 1998? We will find out when history is written 25 years from now.
Time will tell.