Engagement is not an isolated step in the trail development process—it flows throughout the project and continues beyond. Successful engagement results in strong and positive partnerships that will strengthen advocacy efforts for trails.
The Walden's Roster
Walden’s Ridge Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a project of partnerships. The collaboration between North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, Land Trust for Tennessee, SORBA Chattanooga, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, Hamilton County Parks, and the City of Chattanooga is what pushed Walden’s through from plan to completion. Community engagement sparked a fervor of support early on: Walden’s Ridge received one of IMBA’s first Trail Accelerator Grants, and remains the largest Dig In fundraiser to-date. The park, just minutes from downtown, was planned, designed, and constructed by IMBA to emphasize intermediate and advanced gravity riding, along with hiking trails and climbing access.
What are Engagement and Advocacy?
Engagement is the process of establishing meaningful relationships with individuals and community leaders to further trail development and strengthen the trail community. This relationship-building process usually begins with a strategic plan for key partnerships, and continues to develop organically as new connections are made. Forging relationships across a diverse range of people and organizations in the community–from enthusiastic trail users, to youth program directors, to local business owners–can leverage needed skill sets and even funding for trails.
These relationships and partnerships are critical to strong trail advocacy, for both new and existing trail systems. Advocacy is the act of engaging in local, national, and global processes to build support for and protect mountain bike experiences. When a broad, diverse trail community is seen working together toward a goal, support will multiply. Strong partnerships could include a combination of local trail user groups, land managers, tourism and visitor’s bureaus, health foundations, youth groups, local businesses, and other community organizations, depending on the community’s trail vision.