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Thread: Advocate Heros

  1. #1
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    Advocate Heros

    We all know an advocate hero. They take risks. They are not always right or well loved, but often passionate and doing what others are too shy or introverted to do. Certain advocates will hang it all out there, trying to tell the truth. And they can get frustrated that we are not there watching their backs. An acquaintance of mine posted this note on FB the other day. He is an advocate.

    "If I were to write a blog about my experiences as a mountain-bike advocate today's would go like this:

    Today I attended a meeting on the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, and Scapegoat Wildernesses. The first thing I noticed was the sea of cowboy hats and the lack of any Lycra. At that point I felt like sneaking out, but two people had already commented on my shirt that has an image of the front end of a DH bike and the words "Behind Bars For Life". The Meeting started by each person standing and stating who they were, what they were there for and any organization they were involved with. I was in the corner at the back of the room and most everyone there that stood and spoke before me made me realize that I might have come to the wrong meeting. Too late to run now, It's my turn to speak. I swallowed hard and give out my name, organization and then when I said I was a mountain-bike advocate I noticed several heads snap in my direction. I continued and said we offer a tool to excite our youth and could help reconnect them to the great out doors and by doing so our kids can leave the couch and find a healthier life style. To end I mentioned the reality of not seeing any young in our forest anymore, and to this I noticed a few heads nodding in agreement. After the introductions they turned to their agenda and the meeting was off. The District Ranger for Spotted Bear acted as the facilitator. She asked if there was anything anyone would like to see come out of this meeting, there was no response, so I stood up again and said "find ways to get our kids back out into the forest". She wrote this down and waited for any others to add but that was it. The meeting went into discussions as to how to manage stock, ways being used to keep their food out of reach of bears, where there is enough vegetation to allow their horses to graze, what means they have been using to contain their stock, what structures they are building and if they should be removing them or leaving them for others. All good topics relating to the Wilderness and those that are caring for it. We stopped for a break and a woman from the Montana Wilderness Association came over to me and said that they too were trying to find more ways to get more and younger volunteers out on the trails. I told her we are another user group and that when given the chance we have proven to be a good resource for trail volunteers, but we can't be expected to work on trails we as mountain-bikers aren't allowed on. She said she would be in contact with me. The meeting continued with the a spokesperson from each district telling what issues they've been seeing, such as areas of weeds, camp conditions, trail issues, user issues and so-on. When 12:00 rolled around we broke for lunch. Most of the group left to get food in town. I was approached by a gentleman who started the conversation with "Horses and mountain-bikes should never be allowed on the same trail". This is the point when I started to feel the hair on the back of my neck and a surge of heat in my face. He continued with his reason why. He was on a trail in Colorado, coming down when a mountain-biker ran into the back of the horse he was on, sending him into his first rodeo. After being bucked off and the horse blaming him for everything and trying to trample him, he confronted the mountain-biker, who had rented the bike at the same place he rented his horse. I interrupted him and said I see where his problem came from. He was on a horse he was not use to, there was a biker on a bike he wasn't use to and I could assume both novice riders. Just then another man stepped toward me and said "You must be that dick that K---h H----r warned us about". This was the point were I knew what a sheep in a pack of wolves feels like. I took a step back, looked around and decided I had wore out my welcome. It was time to go. I walked between them and to the front of the room toward the exit. I stopped at a table where the district ranger sat eating her sandwich. I told her that I felt that this meeting would be more productive without me distracting them from their goal. She told me that she saw my point and that as the meeting was to continue she would press what I wanted to see out of the meeting, ways to get our kids back into the forest. She finished by telling me she also would be in contact with me about bike trails on her district. As I left the meeting I felt like I was thrown under the bus, by you, the bikers I was there to defend. Not one of you felt this was important enough to come show a little support. But I found some support from unexpected sources and from this maybe something can grow. So, was this a meeting worth all the stress? If this gets more of our kids off the couch, away from their X-box and computers then yes it was worth it. To ME!"

    Maybe some of you know others like this. I think the passionate ones eventually begin to move the awareness, move the conversation toward truth and solutions.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  2. #2
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    Thank you to your friend for fighting the good fight! A big takaway for me is there are people that are against mtb'rs, if we are not there to defend ourselves we will become more and more isolated and viewed at the enemy in landmanager's eyes.

    I was in a similar situation. I had shown up to provide input on a NY DEC state wide guidance document for our state forests. It was the first DEC document EVER in NY that listed mountainbiking as a legitimate recreational use. Seemed like a pretty important meeting for us mountainbikers.

    The meeting was filled with what seemed like grumpy old guys (hunters, timber harvesters, ATV'rs, etc), I was the only mtb'r there. I was last on the list to speak, I commented on the document listing my concerns and sat down. After I sat down a very vocal ATV'r stood up and started yelling about how ATV's don't have access and he's pissed that others (clearly me) whined about stuff. Made me feel very much alone and isolated.

    However, after the meeting I approached the DEC staff there, introduced myself and they all thanked me for my comments and applogized for the guy that yelled at me. Relations have improved significantly and that initial connection was the calatyst for future relationships between our local MTB club and NY DEC in our area.

    For those questioning if it's worth it? I say YES!

  3. #3
    Sheepherder/Cat Herder Moderator
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    Nice write up
    ...building wherever they'll let me...

  4. #4
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    "Horses and mountain-bikes should never be allowed on the same trail".

    Realistic Non PC response.

    I agree. Horses are 1500lbs of prey instinct and possibly on of the most dangerous animals that you can meet on a trail. They can kill with a single kick and many times will try and defend themselves from anything that is new or different, endangering not only those on the ground but the rider. Based on past encounters with horses I give them as much room as possible. Green (under trained) horses are an even greater threat and they are way too common. A green rider on a green horse shouldn't even be allowed out of an arena. Also, these is nothing more scary than meeting two ya-yo racing at a full gallop on a multi-use. The reason that didn't turn out bad for my small children riding down the trail was the thundering hooves gave sufficient warning to get the hell out of the way (true story in the Redmond Watershed). Should we go on about the trail and ecological damage that horses do or stop here?

    Just once' I wish I responded that way, but I guess I'm polite.

    BTW Thanks for sticking it out. It looks like you made two good contacts and ranger is worth knowing. Likely a big chunk of the district's recreation budget comes in the form of grants and a grant proposal that starts with "get our kids back out into the forest" might just end up higher in the pile than one that starts with "provide facilities for a user group with the income to own and maintain a horse"

  5. #5
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    Smile

    "Equestrian and hiking groups have donated money to CCCMB for trail construction and maintenance and have collaborated to fund environmental assessment for new trail projects for cash strapped land managers. This unity among user groups has resulted in increased trail access for all."

    The Dawn of a Golden Age for California Singletrack? « Adventure Sports Journal

    This is Michael Kelly, one of the IMBA founders, about to ride a horse.
    Advocate Heros-img_0357.jpg

    More cooperation. Michael had his bike helmet on.
    Advocate Heros-cimg0857.jpg

    Advocate Heros-cimg0898.jpg

    Advocate Heros-cimg0888.jpg

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    "The physician heals, Nature makes well" - real fortune cookie

  6. #6
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    Last week I traveled north to an important advocacy meeting. Sat next to the mentioned hero for two hours. This was our first time meeting in person. Along with a third biker we spoke for bicycle advocacy and access. My hero has big heuvos and a good message. Make sure that your plans for the future speak to our children; inspire them to get out and live, enjoy the outdoors. In his spare time he is now building a children's trail on private property, at a new bicyclist retreat in Whitefish, MT. I'm further inspired and encouraged.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  7. #7
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    nice write up greg.

    I have always loved the mountains and have enjoyed many, many ways of utiltizing the mountains. It has always amazed me at the hatred amongts all user groups for other user groups. It is too bad. There is alot to be learned from one another.

  8. #8
    humber river advocate
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    i feel your pain, went through a similar situation. most recently had to deal with that attitude in eastern canada forum. about the trails being dumbed down. (it's a good read, but in the end they put sanctions against me). the best advice i can give is keep at it. stick to your agenda, be polite yet firm, show up at every meeting, have your facts and information handy. the good part is that i'm now making real progress with the land managers, hikers/equestrians. i've also been appointed to a policy forming committee that has input not only for the lands in the region, but for the province also.
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  9. #9
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    In San Diego there has always been plenty of anti-bike sentiment among other user groups. But many of our advocates have spent countless hours attending all sorts of public meetings (local CAC, city, county, state, federal). They should be considered heros just for sticking it out for so long!

    We have developed good or great relationships with a lot of our local land managers and other user groups. At a recent meeting about Cuyamaca State Park all of the equestrians who stood up to speak were complementary of their interactions with mountain bikers, which is great as the State Park is proposing to open more trails to bikes, going so far as to move back the State Wilderness Boundary in one case to make this possible.

    There are still a lot of people out there who simply hate bikes or want the trails all to themselves. Some hikers will even complain about seeing other hikers on the trail. These are often the most vocal people, and in between lawsuits against the Forest Service they will spew out all sorts of rhetoric about how bikes destroy trails, destroy nature, kill wildlife, run terrorized hikers off the trail, etc etc. In most cases there is little or no factual basis for such claims - they are just a red herring for the fact these people are simply unwilling to share. We as mountain bikers know this, land managers know this, and I'm sure even these anti-bike haters know this. I have often thought we are better off to let them rant so that land managers can see how crazy and unreasonable they truly are.

    Meanwhile, as mountain bikers we try to encourage respect for other users, regardless of their opinion; we bring fact and reason when we attend meetings; when we work with land managers we work toward things that achieve our goals and where possible, also helps the land manager do their job; we are willing to compromise and collaborate.

    This approach will bring us success in the long run. Every generation is more accepting and tolerant than the last, and as MTB continues to grow and become more mainstream it will become more accepted universally. The haters will get old and die. Hopefully their grandkids will be out in the woods having fun on their bikes. There is plenty of trail out there for everyone, even in crowded SoCal. We will be a lot better off if users can work together like in Cuyamaca, than if we are constantly fighting each other.

    Thanks to everyone out there who works tirelessly so we can have access to more trails, and better trails!

  10. #10
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    I've been in the same situation, the minority mtber among hiking and equestrian groups. I've also done workshops with equestrian groups, training shy horses and sharing tips and experiences with equestrians.

    However, my typical answer when posed with the mtbs on trails question: no mtbers shouldn't be on the same trails. Yes, they can exist together, but why would mtbers want to ride the same trails? Hiking/horse trails are usually either boring as hell or unsustainable/unrideable. We have progressed from borrowing others trails and deserve our own bike-specific trails.

    Some mtbers do it "for the kids" and some do it for the wilderness/nature experience, but I fear that a lot of times we just use these causes for good merit, and to counteract the the redbull riders. Why can't we just say that its a fun sport, just like basketball or tennis or skiing.

  11. #11
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    Been a while since I've posted here. My advocate hero is still going strong. Here is his latest statement.

    "Now is the time to get involved in the Flathead National Forest's Plan! The decisions made through this process will dictate how the forest will be managed for at least 15 years (current plan was passed in 1983). If we can't figure ways to get our youth back out into the forest we stand the chance of shutting-out an entire generation and then what are our chances after that. If you want your children to be able to enjoy the same opportunities that you had in the forest, stand-up and have your voice heard. Get involved! There is too much at stake to stand on the sidelines!"
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  12. #12
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    The advocate hero is not slowing down with winter coming on. There was a big wind event and a popular trail was buried under deadfall. He gathered some friends and they went to work. Six tanks of chainsaw gas and just over 100 trees were cleaned from the trail. It's a role that some of us have embraced from time to time. He does it between bouts of making public waves about bike access.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

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