Working with Your Local Land Management Agencies
It's probable that the land on which your local trail system lies is owned, or at least managed by, a local, state, or federal land management agency. A good working relationship with local land managers is the most important component of a successful mountain bike patrol. Each area has its own unique trail use issues and local land managers are aware of these.
Local land management agencies include city, and county parks and recreation areas. State level agencies include parks, forests, and recreation areas. At the federal level, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), United States Forest Service (USFS), and National Park Service (NPS) are the key agencies.
BLM, USFS, and NPS manage almost one quarter of the land in the US. Land managers oversee recreation on public lands and they are responsible for decisions regarding trail access, new trails and trail closure.
The first step is to find out whom you need to talk to. You will need to work closely with the local land manager when patrolling on publicly owned land. Use the agency web pages to locate the right person to talk to, then set up a meeting. Explain to them how you are an avid mountain biker and that you and your fellow riders want to volunteer some time on behalf of the mountain biking community. Be sure to explain that while the Patrol performs many functions, enforcement is not one of them. Faced with dwindling resources and budget cuts, most land managers will welcome the idea of having a volunteer mountain bike patrol.
Meeting With The Land Manager
When meeting with your local land manager for the first time, it's a good idea to have a list of benefits that the patrol intends to provide to him/her. In many cases, acting as the eyes and ears for the land manager is the patrol's best service. Other benefits may include providing the land manager with regular reports covering trail hazards, trail sections in need of repair, incidents involving other trail users, facilities in need of repair, missing or confusing signs, feedback/suggestions from trail users, etc... Land managers will be pleased to know that NMBP Patrol members are prepared to provide first aid, mechanical help, directions, local advice, water, and even sunblock to trail users. Trail sweeping for downed trees, fallen rocks, and other potentially dangerous obstacles is also something patrollers can easily do.
Be prepared to provide the land manager with a list of support items that the patrol might need. These might include access to radios, report forms, fanny packs and first aid supplies, badges or pins identifying patrollers as agency volunteers, and training in the use of radios, agency policies, and possibly even first aid/CPR training. The land manager may be able to offer other benefits as well.
Work with the land manager to identify activities that the patrol and agency could do together, such as trail maintenance projects or joint response to medical emergencies, search and rescues, etc.
Complete the process by having a signed agreement in place between your patrol group and each relevant land manager. This document will lay out the expectations from both sides, as well as clarify liability questions. For assistance with these agreements, contact NMBP Coordinator patrol [at] imba [dot] com (Marty Caivano).