Our Trail Care Crew weekend in Birmingham, Ala. (well, Pelham, Ala. home of Oak Mountain State Park, an IMBA Epic), started and ended on two wheels, yet completely differently.
On Thursday evening, we rode with some BUMPers (that’s what we’ll call the amazing group of Birmingham Urban Mountain Peddlers) at Oak Mountain. It was 25 degrees out. And nighttime. If there hadn’t been some climbs to get the blood flowing to our extremities and mitigate potential frostbite over our 16-mile ride, we might have called it.
On Sunday morning, we met up with more BUMPers for another ride. A 60-degree day, it felt balmy by comparison, and we got to see the park in a whole new light, since it was literally light out.
And everything we learned in between showed us that BUMP is a model mountain biking club that knows how to have fun. A club is usually a volunteer-run organization, with people putting in time on top of their jobs, families, and other responsibilities. That means that in order for a club to be effective, its members need to like each other and have fun together. As a club, you accomplish this through positive changes (e.g. new trails), fun events (e.g. well-run group rides), and positive relationships with land managers (e.g. relationships that enable the club to create positive change in the community). They all go hand-in-hand.
BUMP started slowly, but took time to develop relationships with the land managers, show sophistication, and build new singletrack in the park that created visible on the ground successes. Oak Mountain State Park became a destination for local riders, who paid individual or annual fees to use the park. As new revenue came in, the park managers realized the economic benefits of trails and allowed more to be built. BUMP epitomizes our number one message to clubs working with land managers: don’t ask what the land manager can do for you, tell them what you would like to see happen and exactly how you will help them accomplish it. The rest will come more easily for everyone.
BUMP is a well-oiled machine, and the fun they have is both the reason and the result of that. At Oak Mountain, BUMP has a hang out area next to their large tool shed, with a changing room, bike wash, beer cooler, and covered standing area, right at the trailhead. It’s a family environment; somewhere people can relax before or after riding. BUMPers also take time out of their trail building to get to know the park rangers, and the reason they have these facilities is because of them. When we asked the lead park ranger his favorite thing about the trails, he replied “the revenue it brings into the park.” BUMP created an opportunity for rangers to increase revenue in the park, and in turn the land managers created opportunities for them to have awesome trailhead facilities, not to mention spectacular trails.
As we left the trailhead on mid-day Sunday, the parking lot was packed with cars, most of which had bike racks. Kids were riding all over the place, parents were hanging out while keeping an eye on them, and hundreds of riders were using the trails. A perfectly fun Sunday that left us wanting more.
All of the pictures from the weekend can be found here.