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  1. #1
    YRG
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    Betterride drops IMBA

    Check out the article at betterride.net! Gene starts a discussion about how IMBA has lost it's soul and no longer benefits mountain bikers. Lot's of great discussion and ideas.

    Some questions asked are:
    1) Is imba using not for profit status to under bid legit trail builders?
    2) Do they kinda suck at building trails?
    And many more interesting thoughts
    Check it out and start a dialog.

  2. #2
    Cleavage Of The Tetons
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    "We LOVE cows! They make trails for us.....

    And then we eat them."

  3. #3
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    Pretty weak if you ask me.

    Come on...they are cutting back the cactus too far...really?
    www.JORBA.org
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    "The rides to short to not kick against the pricks" M.F.

  4. #4
    YRG
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob W View Post
    Pretty weak if you ask me.

    Come on...they are cutting back the cactus too far...really?
    Yeah, I thought that was weak also
    Rideit, the website doesn't have good link, go to betterride.net and click articles. It is the second one

  5. #5
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    IMBA definitely helped build the trails that Betterride will be using for their camp that utilizes our local trails! We wouldn't be where we are at today without IMBA, the local land manager requires affiliation with a national organization.

  6. #6
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    Locals' Guide to North Shore Rides http://mtbtrails.ca/

  7. #7
    YRG
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    Quote Originally Posted by airwreck View Post
    IMBA definitely helped build the trails that Betterride will be using for their camp that utilizes our local trails! We wouldn't be where we are at today without IMBA, the local land manager requires affiliation with a national organization.
    Could be why Gene was an imba supporter for so many years. The questions being raised concern what they are doing now. But if you have to affiliate with a national organization and there is no one better, then you really have no choice except to maybe help imba get back on track.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    Could be why Gene was an imba supporter for so many years. The questions being raised concern what they are doing now. But if you have to affiliate with a national organization and there is no one better, then you really have no choice except to maybe help imba get back on track.
    What they are doing now? They are providing legitimacy to satisfy the land managers. Our new trail built this summer and other skills areas under construction now would not have been built without IMBA and Trail Solutions assistance. I'm sure Betterrides customers will enjoy them. Unfortunately commercial activities are prohibited on these trails. See what I'm getting at? IMBA has been on track for our situation, we are trying to manage growth of the activity, unsuccessfully until we solidified the relationship with IMBA. Not much to complain about...

  9. #9
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    The trails we've had IMBA's help with.. are tame and boring and I believe we could have done better without them. All they really seem to be interested in doing is putting their logo on everything and taking credit for they mostly didn't do (when the local club brings a 5-6 hundred volunteer man-hours, and they bring a so/so "crew leader" (who was in no way essential), it's not "an IMBA project" no matter how much they want to claim it is.
    And the details of IMBA's first proposal for us as a chapter make me so angry I can't even talk about them. The gist was IMBA gets 60% of our membership dues and all decision-making for our club (there was even a clause that we couldn't use our logo or name without an imba logo or "an imba chapter" attached), and in return we got... nothing at all.

    Now some of Gene's complaints like IMBA web site offering info for free that one used to have to buy from a shop, are so weak that they detract from his valid point: that, at least from where I'm sitting, these days IMBA is more about egos and power than access or trails. I'm well aware they've done important work in the past, but I don't see them having done much lately.
    And the IMBA-built trails I've seen do kind of suck, in the sense that they aren't innovative or challenging, but pure lowest common denominator stuff that a first timer could ride on a hybrid wearing flip flops.

  10. #10
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    Our local chapters experience has been the complete opposite of what I am reading here. I would like to hear what some of these locations are with all these "problems" and hear what the land managers have to say about it.

  11. #11
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    Great thought provoking article Gene. All mountain bike advocates should read this because for the most part, WE are IMBA, and IMBA is US. Most if not all IMBA employees are just local advocates who decided to take their skills(or lack there of!) to a national level. If we don’t like it ….we should change it.

    They’ve done a lot of good in our state, though they’re not perfect. I hate saying “they!” (See above)

  12. #12
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    I don't agree that IMBA is "us." They have taken dues from the SF Bay Area for 25 years and done precious little here. I'm a mountain biker of nearly 30 years, an advocate of 15, a leader of riding programs of all this time and and substantial advocacy leader for 5 and IMBA certainly is not me.

    Maybe they used our dues in your neighborhood but not in ours. How nice for you.
    I don't rattle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob W View Post
    Pretty weak if you ask me.

    Come on...they are cutting back the cactus too far...really?
    When cactus is the only thing that keeps singletrack narrow in the desert, this is a BIG deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    Maybe they used our dues in your neighborhood but not in ours. How nice for you.
    Lots of people from your neighborhood ride in ours. How nice for them. Sorry about your attitude, maybe that is part of your problem.

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    Calling my opinion "attitude", arrived at through years of working this equation, is pretty dismissive. As one of the 3 founding organizations of IMBA and the Northern California nexus of advocacy which IMBA took over, this opinion is shared by a very large group of advocates around here.

    Where is your neighborhood?
    I don't rattle.

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    You said it Mike. Biggest mistake was letting NorCamba die on the vine. Regional organizations with paid staff are going to give the most bang for the buck. I moved from the Bay Area up to Seattle four years ago and we've been able to build an organization with paid staff that is able to get things done...meet with land managers, we have our own project manager and trail builder, and we've built an amazing Mtn bike park, Duthie Hill, and are adding miles of local trails in the hardest terrain to build in. IMBA wants in in a desperate way, but they would give us nothing! And the local land managers agree. Of course you won't read anything about what we are doing in the IMBA newsletters...

  17. #17
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    Glad we have helped get this discussion started. In each of the past few years, Gene wrote blog articles about why he was donating so much money to IMBA (and other trail orgs). This year, he wrote and article about why he is donating to other groups instead of IMBA. Not meant to attack, but rather to question a group that has done lots of good, but may be straying from it's mission.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike View Post
    I don't agree that IMBA is "us." They have taken dues from the SF Bay Area for 25 years and done precious little here. I'm a mountain biker of nearly 30 years, an advocate of 15, a leader of riding programs of all this time and and substantial advocacy leader for 5 and IMBA certainly is not me.

    Maybe they used our dues in your neighborhood but not in ours. How nice for you.
    Why haven't you used IMBA for your local initiatives? Has IMBA been an enemy to your local advocacy efforts?

    They've been helpful to us in educating our membership with regards to trailbuilding, advocacy, growing our group, etc. We partner with them when we can and it makes sense, but we've done a lot on our own too. We have strengths, they have strengths. And we've built ALL kinds of trails, all of them to the specs WE CHOSE and all of them contour and obeying the rules of good trailbuilding, sustainability whatever you wanna call it. Anybody who says you can't build a techy trail to "IMBA" standards is just plain wrong and isnt looking hard enough. There's plenty of sustainable trails that are bulletproof. ie. Squirrel Gap, Laurel in Pisgah, Schooner at Brown Co, Jekyll and Hyde at Oak Mtn, Sinkhole at Santos.

    Don't get me wrong, we've had a few disagreements with IMBA thru the years too, but the overall picture has been good. Heck, we have disagreements within our own local group(roughly 400 paid members)too, but what dynamic group of individuals don't have a few rough patches that an epic ride and few beers can't solve!?!

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    Maybe our club (Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew) has been gifted a smooth ride by the mountain biking gods, but we have not had any of the issues mentioned above.

    Also, in Minnesota at least, Trail Solutions has never undercut a bid, so I can't speak to that.

    Look, IMBA is an organization made up of people like you and me. Because of that, they are imperfect and make mistakes. On top of that, you can never please all the people all of the time. So no matter what they do, someone is going to complain.

    A few things to keep in mind though:

    1. The IMBA Chapter program has been a raging success here in the upper Midwest. Maybe its because we don't have a lot older clubs that are set in thier ways, but everyone seems happy with the process and program so far.You don't get "nothing" for the 60% of dues your members pay. You get IMBA taking care of all the membership paperwork and a LOT of the back end stuff. That costs money. Either money your club would have to pay or tons of volunteer hours from your club members. Also, its nice if you have questions and need help on some matter to have a direct personal contact with IMBA be a phone call away.

    2. I've heard the complaint about "sanitized" trails and I'm not sure how much IMBA itself has to do with that. The Trail Solutions guidebook and standards allow for lots of diversity. But what gets flagged and built often is more about time and budgets than diversity. Then you get "I don't want to be sued" land managers. Work with your land manager and use club build days to personalize the trail some.

    3. One more thing about "sanitized" trails: it seems the people that complain about this most are bike jocks with some serious skills. But not everyone is that. Having trails that only appeal to that segment loses people that aren't that or will never be that. I've seen that when I visit Indiana. The trail builders down there do love their log crossings (even in supposed "everybody" trails) and aren't too forgiving about doing run-arounds or helper ramps off to the side. The result? Every trail I've been to down there seems to used by mostly bike jocks, and mostly male ones at that. (Or at least that is who is on the trails and in parking lots when I'm there.) Contrast that with trails in MN. We do our technical stuff mostly as b-lines or dedicated XX trails with the main trail fairly rollable. The result is that all riders can feel comfortable and progress skill wise. I think it shows in who uses our trails: on the weekends it is nearly 50/50 male/female and lots of families. In the long run, which rider group will foster good growth for our sport?

    4. If you want IMBA to change its direction, more will get accomplished from inside the system then outside. We here in the Midwest have some frustration will IMBA's focus on the West for trails. It would nice to see more of our dues go to a new trail system in MN,WI, or MI than yet another trail expansion in Park City, UT. But taking our ball and going home isn't going to help that happen. Working with your IMBA Regional Director will, however. (Shout our to our Regional Director, Hansi Johnson, who has been amazing.)

    5. Help yourself if you expect IMBA to help you. There is no nice way to put this: sometimes mountain bikers hurt IMBA's cause and then expect lots of help from IMBA. A lot of illegal riding happens in certain localities and it has soured many a city, county, or state park and lands department on mountain biking. Then many of the same jackwagons that ride trails illegally complain about a lack of mountain bike trails in an area. Take responsibility for your area, stop hurting the cause, and work with local authorities and land managers. IMBA will take notice then, trust me.

    Rideon makes a good point: people disagree. There is nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is when people won't try to work on fixing it.

  20. #20
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    I love it when people feel it's better to neg rep than actual contribute to a discussion...

    Got this one from "sambs827", berkely mike's "attitude" can be chalked up to the absurd amount of heart and soul he's poured into SFBA biking. dig around a bit and you'll see what i mean.

    Well sambs827, Mike's attitude I'm referring to is in regards to his forgetting that IMBA isn't here only for the bay area or Sedona.

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    funny to see this- COPMOBA was thinking this as well.

    From what I recall 2 years ago, my gf was interviewing a staff at COPMOBA for her rec management term paper. The staffer mentioned COPMOBA were thinking of dropping COPMOBA because they felt the IMBA were straying from its mission as well. Don't know ended up with that.


    Quote Originally Posted by BetterRide View Post
    Glad we have helped get this discussion started. In each of the past few years, Gene wrote blog articles about why he was donating so much money to IMBA (and other trail orgs). This year, he wrote and article about why he is donating to other groups instead of IMBA. Not meant to attack, but rather to question a group that has done lots of good, but may be straying from it's mission.

  22. #22
    YRG
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    Maybe our club (Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew) has been gifted a smooth ride by the mountain biking gods, but we have not had any of the issues mentioned above.



    2. I've heard the complaint about "sanitized" trails and I'm not sure how much IMBA itself has to do with that. The Trail Solutions guidebook and standards allow for lots of diversity. But what gets flagged and built often is more about time and budgets than diversity. Then you get "I don't want to be sued" land managers. Work with your land manager and use club build days to personalize the trail some.

    3. One more thing about "sanitized" trails: it seems the people that complain about this most are bike jocks with some serious skills. But not everyone is that. Having trails that only appeal to that segment loses people that aren't that or will never be that. I've seen that when I visit Indiana. The trail builders down there do love their log crossings (even in supposed "everybody" trails) and aren't too forgiving about doing run-arounds or helper ramps off to the side. The result? Every trail I've been to down there seems to used by mostly bike jocks, and mostly male ones at that. (Or at least that is who is on the trails and in parking lots when I'm there.) Contrast that with trails in MN. We do our technical stuff mostly as b-lines or dedicated XX trails with the main trail fairly rollable. The result is that all riders can feel comfortable and progress skill wise. I think it shows in who uses our trails: on the weekends it is nearly 50/50 male/female and lots of families. In the long run, which rider group will foster good growth for our sport?



    5. Help yourself if you expect IMBA to help you. There is no nice way to put this: sometimes mountain bikers hurt IMBA's cause and then expect lots of help from IMBA. A lot of illegal riding happens in certain localities and it has soured many a city, county, or state park and lands department on mountain biking. Then many of the same jackwagons that ride trails illegally complain about a lack of mountain bike trails in an area. Take responsibility for your area, stop hurting the cause, and work with local authorities and land managers. IMBA will take notice then, trust me.

    Rideon makes a good point: people disagree. There is nothing wrong with that. What's wrong is when people won't try to work on fixing it.
    Very nice contribution to the discussion, Thanks
    Like to comment
    2) Sanitized trails. I like BC's response to IMBA's trail theory (specifically about safety) , which essentially said: "yeah that's nice, but we don't need to do that because our environment is unique" Sounded like they were saying: yeah, that may be good, but we can do better. Which of course they do, by a lot. I believe there is a way to balance the idea of fun with the idea of "I live in america and whatever I do is not my fault". Meaning we can have fun trails and protect ourselves from stupid people trying to say their stupidity is the trailbuilder's fault.

    3) Sanitized trails vs. ability. I live in a town with poor riding skills (Park City, Utah). Since most of our riders are unskilled, we think we have a great trail system. Mostly because we have so many trails. I believe any rider can develop skills. I believe average people can be expert riders. So I believe there should be beginner trails up to extremely difficult trails and everything inbetween. I also believe that every trail should be fun. I know beginner trails that are a total blast to ride. Trails can also accommodate a wide range of ability. Things like alternate lines and different take offs.
    Mostly, I don't like the conversation of sanitized trails. I do like the conversation of fun trails with defined ability ranges. There should be trails I can't ride until I can ride at a certain level. This is where the frustration comes. Take a trail that people can ride. Say 5% of the people can ride all of it. 95% have to walk some. Perfect! There is no better way to remind a person that skills can be improved than by walking something other people ride. I hate it when we try to take an existing trail and make it so an average rider can ride everything. That lowers the bar. Let's train the rider.
    5) Illegal riding has been a driving force for advancement and problems. I think it has done more good than harm. Moab's best trails were illegal. Pirate builders cooperating with land managers has been a great evolution to mountain biking. I think this conversation is to ask IMBA to stop it's new practice of hurting mountain biking. Maybe this is only growing pains but I see them as:
    Bad for my community, by reinforcing the idea that our poorly built trails are epic.
    Bad for riders, there idea of a certified instructor is seriously lacking
    Bad for fun, THEY just don't build great trails. We have a company here in Park City who build most of our trails and they kinda suck. They say they are giving the people what they want. (unimaginative trails, bull dozed in straight lines with switchbacks) But that is like saying, bad riders should stay bad and not learn to be good riders.
    Let's be better riders and let's have great trails. IMBA should want that! If they have to get out of the way to do it, so be it

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    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    Illegal riding has been a driving force for advancement and problems. I think it has done more good than harm. Moab's best trails were illegal. Pirate builders cooperating with land managers has been a great evolution to mountain biking.
    Clearly, you have never had to deal with not getting/loosing trail access over the issue of illegal trails. Its happened before and its happening currently. Our club gets a lot "how did you guys do it" calls and we occasionally get some groups that have awesome terrain, awesome clubs, but are having a hard time getting expansions going due a culture of illegal riding. It becomes this sort of thing: "Why should we approve new trail? You guys are adding your own without our permission anyway."

    Quote Originally Posted by YRG View Post
    I think this conversation is to ask IMBA to stop it's new practice of hurting mountain biking. Maybe this is only growing pains but I see them as:
    Bad for my community, by reinforcing the idea that our poorly built trails are epic.
    Bad for riders, there idea of a certified instructor is seriously lacking
    Bad for fun, THEY just don't build great trails. We have a company here in Park City who build most of our trails and they kinda suck. They say they are giving the people what they want. (unimaginative trails, bull dozed in straight lines with switchbacks) But that is like saying, bad riders should stay bad and not learn to be good riders.
    Let's be better riders and let's have great trails. IMBA should want that! If they have to get out of the way to do it, so be it
    I get what your are saying, but its not exactly 100% IMBA. If the trail builder is building bad trails, the first question I have ask is "why"? Is it a failure of IMBA standards? Is it a failure of plans and specs? Is it failure of flagging/inspection? Of those three, only one is IMBA's baby unless they are designing the plans and specs or flagging it (which they do very little of). Cuyuna was built to IMBA standards and its usually praised for its flow and fun. Copper Harbor is too. As a Dirt Boss I don't believe its the trail standards. That means the onus is on the plan and specs person and the flaggers/inspectors, not IMBA.

    To be honest, that is my only issue with Gene Hamiliton's article. He suggests every bad trail builder is somehow IMBA. Unless he lives in a part of the country where every mile of trail is built by Trail Solutions, his beef isn't with IMBA. He mentions that Trail Solutions underbids other trail builders. That may happen in his neck of the woods, but its not happening here. As someone that does engineering/survey/planning work for a living and has for years, I can tell you that for any trail on a non-private (i.e. municipal, state, federal) land, a bidding process is REQUIRED by law. So if the builders he likes aren't winning the bids, that's not IMBA's fault.

    I agree with you about IMBA needs to be more rigid on the standards as to what is a "Epic Ride". Mileage just isn't enough. Its got to be quality vs. quantity.

    On sanitized trails - Cuyuna has about no where near the amount of b-lines and technical features it was supposed to. Some might complain its "sanitized". That actually happens a lot, technical features dropped to ensure the project is completed. But this is where locals, working with the land manager, can come in and add some real personality.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by slop View Post
    You said it Mike. Biggest mistake was letting NorCamba die on the vine. Regional organizations with paid staff are going to give the most bang for the buck. I moved from the Bay Area up to Seattle four years ago and we've been able to build an organization with paid staff that is able to get things done...meet with land managers, we have our own project manager and trail builder, and we've built an amazing Mtn bike park, Duthie Hill, and are adding miles of local trails in the hardest terrain to build in. IMBA wants in in a desperate way, but they would give us nothing! And the local land managers agree. Of course you won't read anything about what we are doing in the IMBA newsletters...
    Isn't your "organization" an IMBA affiliate?

    I'd say sanitized trails v. techy trails and trails with more challenging features are more due to the local biking culture, terrain, local building partners, land manager requirements, etc. than the IMBA trail building guide book. Just ride Sandy Ridge in Oregon, a partnership between IMBA, the local affiliate NWTA and BLM. The trails there can challenge riders of any skill level.
    Sometimes, you need to go fast enough that the trail is a blur to find clarity. -- Wild Bill

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    Affiliate yes, chapter no. The only real benefit we get is membership insurance.

    Here is my point: We are getting a whole more done with local paid leadership. This did not happen overnight, but the results speak for themselves. And if Seattle can support a paid local organization to get new trails built, why can't the Bay Area. You get a full time local person who can meet with politicians and meet with land managers, and you can get results.
    Your other point is valid. Local this and that should have more say in what gets built. I just think money is better spent if it stays local.

  26. #26
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    Keep it going

    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    Clearly, you have never had to deal with not getting/loosing trail access over the issue of illegal trails.
    Very true, we have had the opposite. Our trail growth was rooted in illegal trail building. One guy got busted building on mine property. The company looked into more closely and hired him to build more trails. Unfortunately, the company that builds our crappy trails, put him out of business.

    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    Cuyuna was built to IMBA standards and its usually praised for its flow and fun. Copper Harbor is too. As a Dirt Boss I don't believe its the trail standards. That means the onus is on the plan and specs person and the flaggers/inspectors, not IMBA.
    Very nice to hear success stories. Congrats! And I like your point about responsibility. It really does come down to the designers and builders.

    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    To be honest, that is my only issue with Gene Hamiliton's article. He suggests every bad trail builder is somehow IMBA. Unless he lives in a part of the country where every mile of trail is built by Trail Solutions, his beef isn't with IMBA. He mentions that Trail Solutions underbids other trail builders. That may happen in his neck of the woods, but its not happening here. As someone that does engineering/survey/planning work for a living and has for years, I can tell you that for any trail on a non-private (i.e. municipal, state, federal) land, a bidding process is REQUIRED by law. So if the builders he likes aren't winning the bids, that's not IMBA's fault.
    I didn't get the feeling that Gene was suggesting every bad trail is IMBA's fault. His point about the underbidding is based on an unfair advantage IMBA holds when bidding against professional builders. So even though municipal, state, and federal projects require bids, other companies don't have the tax status that imba has and can't compete.

    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    I agree with you about IMBA needs to be more rigid on the standards as to what is a "Epic Ride". Mileage just isn't enough. Its got to be quality vs. quantity.
    Agreed, this is the one that really pisses me off!
    Park City's gold award legitimizes some really poorly built trails and it's embarrassing when some of us are actually thinking we are at the top of the heap. If you were to take every foot of high quality trail in PC, it would fit inside of two or three trails at whistler. (All of Canyons fits in one)

    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    But this is where locals, working with the land manager, can come in and add some real personality.
    Quoted for truth

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rideon View Post
    Why haven't you used IMBA for your local initiatives? Has IMBA been an enemy to your local advocacy efforts?

    They've been helpful to us in educating our membership with regards to trailbuilding, advocacy, growing our group, etc. We partner with them when we can and it makes sense, but we've done a lot on our own too. We have strengths, they have strengths. And we've built ALL kinds of trails, all of them to the specs WE CHOSE and all of them contour and obeying the rules of good trailbuilding, sustainability whatever you wanna call it. Anybody who says you can't build a techy trail to "IMBA" standards is just plain wrong and isnt looking hard enough. There's plenty of sustainable trails that are bulletproof. ie. Squirrel Gap, Laurel in Pisgah, Schooner at Brown Co, Jekyll and Hyde at Oak Mtn, Sinkhole at Santos.

    Don't get me wrong, we've had a few disagreements with IMBA thru the years too, but the overall picture has been good. Heck, we have disagreements within our own local group(roughly 400 paid members)too, but what dynamic group of individuals don't have a few rough patches that an epic ride and few beers can't solve!?!
    Rideon, they've been everywhere but here, on our dime, because it was low hanging fruit; the only way anyone seems to be able to explain they saw what we had to face. Just too hard. And now they've come back here because it us important to have a piece of the one of the largest Mtb markets in the world. And do you know what they want? Half of everything.

    Dude, we know how to build trails.
    I don't rattle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    He mentions that Trail Solutions underbids other trail builders. That may happen in his neck of the woods, but its not happening here. As someone that does engineering/survey/planning work for a living and has for years, I can tell you that for any trail on a non-private (i.e. municipal, state, federal) land, a bidding process is REQUIRED by law. So if the builders he likes aren't winning the bids, that's not IMBA's fault.
    To clarify on this, some pro builders claims that Trails Solutions use the IMBA non-profit status as a way to reduce their price, which underbid the rest of the industry. To some, this is considered unethical. This was addressed at the last PTBA conference with IMBA-TS boss.
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  29. #29
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    I think IMBA is a great resource but should not be put on a pedestal. It provides great insurance, federal level advocacy and a focal point for industry to plug into a comparable corporate beast. For clearly... based on their annual gross revenue... they are a beast.

    Our glassy eyed admiration for IMBA faded when we got our first big shot at building a 18 mile trail into the Downieville Ca area. Although we had the resources (equipment and skills) to build the trail, we really needed coaching on working with the agencies and preparing grants. The response was a $$$ price tag that blew my mind. Since then, we have built around 60 miles of trail without their help. Other than our insurance (which will not cover any compensated staff) there is no direct benefit.

    Building trail is mostly labor after you have equipment. Developing your own skill sets and investing in equipment is definitely a best option if you are so inspired. This and managing your own membership is a no brainer if you have the support, but the reality is that for every 100 riders... you have one person willing to contribute. Finding competent individuals and developing the infrastructure to manage especially larger communities of people can be difficult and that is where the chapter program could possibly help.

    This is the same for building trail, if you have more $ than initiative, hire Trail Solutions or a competent trail contractor. My experience is IMBA TS is very competent and competitive in their contracting capacity. 95% of the trail design and standards are set by the land manager. PTBA is a great starting place to find other trail builders to compare.

    I think the biggest disappointment is that I think IMBAs main push should be providing education and resources. Based on what they build and do through Trail Solutions, they provide around 3% of the available wisdom to help people build their own trail. My suggestions to IMBA to boost their web support to builders... forums..., resources...(affordable) workshops, equipment discounts and training etc... all are absent in lieu of TS, the biggest trail contracting corporation in the world.

    I think there is a bit of a conflict of interest.

  30. #30
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    Interesting discussion.

    NEMBA has been a good partner for Fairfield County riding. We're close to NYC and probably could go or have gone IMBA with our chapter, but having a regional organization who builds in the same terrain and knows what we're dealing with is awesome. We thought about it, but having the contacts regionally and infrastructure locally (or closely) available is huge.

    Do we have our gripes? Yes, but we're empowered and know we can call in regional support if we need it for advocacy.

    Regarding sanitization: Funny how when you're cranking out new trail and your techy lines get built last people complain about sanitized trail, then when you deliver the techy lines, no one wants to ride them? Whenever we build "biker jock" trails from the start folks don't ride them and then volunteers don't want to come out again cause they can't ride what's been built... so its all a balance.

  31. #31
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    Here is an x-post from AZ Forum, where IMBA has in my opinion totally effed things up and sold out the locals. Form your own opinions, but please read this and other similar threads over in AZ. I will not ever join IMBA, I have little use for a National org that wants to control local issues. I think they should stick to high-level advocacy and being a resource for local orgs needing help with specific expertise.

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  32. #32
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    IMBA offers the best and worst of a figurehead advocacy support group. Our LM is happy to turn to them on reputation. Using IMBA trail building standards allows us leeway to work in our national park, which is good. However, when IMBA recommended to the LM that our entire trail system be made unidirectional, without any consultation with local volunteers or their local club chapter, they illustrated an arrogance that is disrespectful to locals and poorly thought out. This is an established (if mostly illegal) trail system of about 60km. It is not a design plan that can be constructed unidirectional from scratch. It is an unenforcible recommendation and one that increases liability and risk in our opinion. More to the point it halves the available trail and and immediately creates a point of conflict that is not constructive.

    Advocacy is not a one way street. If IMBA is to be an umbrella advocacy group, it has to advocate in both directions via consultation. A lot of the angst in this thread is due to the perception IMBA makes decisions without due respect to local issues.

    "Regarding sanitization: Funny how when you're cranking out new trail and your techy lines get built last people complain about sanitized trail, then when you deliver the techy lines, no one wants to ride them? Whenever we build "biker jock" trails from the start folks don't ride them and then volunteers don't want to come out again cause they can't ride what's been built... so its all a balance."

    Totally agree about optional and harder trail sections being ignored by riders. Further, tech sections that are put in to fuel the need often get taken apart to make riding easier. However, there are 2 main sanitisers that are not being mentioned. The first is machine construction where the line has to be made generic, rather than finessed by hand. Second is 29er bikes - the ultimate trail sanitizer. You can never get it right and people forget that time changes trails. They do toughen up with use and erosion.

  33. #33
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    I'm IMBA's communication director, so some may dismiss this as shilling. But I wanted to offer a few recent news items for your consideration.

    IMBA engaging in advocacy: Remember IMBA's "Long live long rides" campaign? We are bringing it back, with a new purpose — to create better mountain bike access to long-distance trails across the U.S. Long Live Long Rides! | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    IMBA building trails for advanced riders: Just another double-black diamond MTB trail on public land, thanks to the 2013 Bell Bike Helmets "Bell Built" grants. 2013 Bell Built Grants: Copper Harbor, Michigan on Vimeo

    IMBA building trails for beginner riders: IMBA and the Boise Area Mountain Bike Association are teaming up to build a bike park designed especially for kids on no-pedal bikes. North Boise park to get new bike trail for kids » Idaho Statesman Blogs

    IMBA creating opportunities for trail development where none exists currently: A new bike park and singletrack trails network is on tap for a 100-acre parcel of wooded land in Cleveland, OH. Check out the initial project details for Kerrush Park: New Project on the Radar for Cleveland | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    IMBA raising money and distributing it to regional programs across the U.S. IMBA and its chapters are improving riding opportunities near you. Learn about current and upcoming projects in your region and how you can help. Support the Annual Fund | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    IMBA supporting a fundraiser for a local chapter: Bikes, BBQ and Bluegrass! Join Richmond (VA) MORE at Pocahontas State Park THIS Saturday, Oct. 26. The event is a fundraiser for the Richmond Region Ride Center. $25 gets you food, entertainment, guided rides and, more importantly, you will move the future IMBA Ride Center forward.

    IMBA Trail Care Crew helping a local group build sustainable trail that they are stoked about: Jesse and Lori of the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew had a great visit last weekend in Jamestown, NY. They re-routed a section of unsustainable trail, adding almost 1,000 feet of distance. They did it with members of the Northern Allegheny Mou...See More Long Day, Amazing Results. | International Mountain Bicycling Association

    All of these efforts have soul, at least if you ask this corporate shill. And this is just a sample of stories from the past few weeks.

    -- Mark

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    Appreciate the discussion in here. Our local IMBA affiliated club is contemplating making the jump to chapter status. We've had some moderate success getting approval for trail work, but it's clear that the land managers would appreciate the clout that would come with IMBA affiliation.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by zachi View Post
    I think there is a bit of a conflict of interest.
    I used to be a provincial rep for IMBA for 5 years before starting my own trailbuilding company. I had to leave IMBA for obvious conflict of interest reasons.

    TS in Canada is only doing design/consultation work, not actual trailbuilding. Can't tell for the States.
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  36. #36
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    Mark E, you are just tooting the IMBA horn, posting press releases, but it has no relevancy to this discussion of us local trail builders and personal experience with IMBA. Put the pom-poms down.
    "The physician heals, Nature makes well" - real fortune cookie

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  37. #37
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    Read the stories and tell me if you think they don't reflect a lot of people's positive "personal experiences" with IMBA's work. And guess what -- plenty of local builders are involved in these projects. Rah-rah-sish-boom-bah!

  38. #38
    Cleavage Of The Tetons
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    Mark, thanks for chiming in on this thread, clearly there is a discussion occurring that IMBA shouldn't ignore.
    Can I ask you to be candid, and possibly review what IMBA could do, (or plans on doing) better in the future?
    "We LOVE cows! They make trails for us.....

    And then we eat them."

  39. #39
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    Here are some thoughts along those lines -- I started this essay in reply to Gene H's "has IMBA Lost Its Soul" blog. I decided not to publish my piece because others were defending IMBA, and the discussion was doing fine without me. I'll post it here in hopes of adding something useful to this discussion, though I'll admit that some posters seem to have their minds made up that IMBA is doing things wrong.

    Anyway, here's what I drafted:

    Mountain bikers have every right to have high expectations for IMBA, and to call us out if they think we're coming up short. As Gene Hamilton points out in his recent blog, he has been a supporter of IMBA in the past, including making donations both as an individual supporter and through his mountain bike skills instruction company, Better Ride. He writes that if IMBA addresss his concerns he will consider supporting us again.

    Fair enough. I'll try to address some of the concerns Gene raises:

    The first point he makes is that IMBA no longer focuses on mountain bike advocacy. This concern is easily addressed: In the eight years I've worked for IMBA we have steadily increased to number of staff members who focus on advocacy efforts. IMBA has expanded its reach in Washington D.C. by working with top-notch strategic advisors and lobbyists, resulting in significant advances for mountain bikers. On the state and local level, our Public Lands Initiative campaign imba.com/pli supports mountain bike groups in multiple states with more and better advocacy resources than ever before. And, IMBA's network of region directors devote much of their time and energy to advocacy work, again on the regional, state and local levels.

    Gene also asserts that IMBA's Trail Solutions arm acts too much like a for-profit business. It's true that Trail Solutions usually charges fees for their trail building services, which sometimes leads people to believe that it's a "for-profit" effort. In fact, many nonprofits collect fees and offer revenue-generating activities. So long as those activities fit with the nonprofit's mission, there is no problem with collecting fees. IMBA's mission is to create, enhance and protect great mountain bike experiences. If you read the Trail Solutions blog for even a few minutes you will find dozens of examples that show that their work fits perfectly with IMBA's mission. imba.com/blog

    Much of Gene's blog focuses on the allegation that IMBA dumbs down trails, detracting from their appeal to advanced riders. It's the old "trail sanitizers" label that IMBA critics have invoked over the years. It's frustratingly difficult to defend IMBA from this criticism. On one hand, there are groups that accuse IMBA of building "high speed, high thrill" trails that cater the mountain bikers but disappoint other types of trail users. On the other hand, there are mountain bikers who crave challenge and are dissapointed with any trail that they deem too beginner-friendly.

    There's also the IMBA tenant of building sustainable trails, which Gene recognizes as a positive thing, but describes in his next breath as "being done to feed someone's ego as the great 'Trail Dictator.'"

    I know that IMBA's Trail Solutions team jumps at every chance they get to build trails like Oregon's Sandy Ridge — trails that are both sustainable and challenging.

    But not every land manager is ready to approve trails designed for advanced skill sets and optimized for bikes. Many times IMBA's name is invoked (whether we built them or not) when tamer trails designed for shared use are built. Yes, trails in this mode are often too tame for an intermediate or advanced rider — IMBA will continue advocating for the idea that mountain bikers need a diversity of trails, including ones for experts to test themselvs on. Because we have built a 25-year legacy of trust with land managers, we're getting more opportunities, but they will are not coming fast enough to please everyone. Unfortunately, we don't get to dictate what kinds of trails get built as much as we'd like.

    As for IMBA's role in the professional trail building world, here are a few points to consider:

    - IMBA's books, Trail Solutions and Managing Mountain Biking, have a huge influence of land managers, helping them see the value of bike-friendly trail designs and construction carried out by trained volunteers and professional builders.
    - Our in-development book about bike parks strongly emphasizes the value of hiring professional bike park designers and builders.
    - Trail Solutions has built excellent examples of shared-use and bike-specific singletrack trails all over the nation, and indeed the world, providing land managers and the public with real-world examples of trails that enhance public lands. This has encouraged land managers to hire professional trail builders instead of relying on their in-house resources.
    - IMBA has successfully lobbied for legislation that enhances the professional trail building community, most notably the federal Recreational Trails Program which provides millions of dollars of funding for trails in all 50 U.S. states. The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Act is another example of a bill that IMBA lobbied for successfully and has had a positive impact on the trail building industry.

    If IMBA didn't do these things, who would? There are many more examples of IMBA's work that benefits professional trail builders.

    IMBA isn't perfect, and Gene or anyone else who wants to point out our flaws has every right to do so. At the end of the day, IMBA is nothing more than a community of mountain bikers. We argue and squabble amongst ourselves all the time. Sometimes the arguments stem from a lack of information, or a rush to judgement. My role is to fill in the gaps of information so mountain bikers can decide for themselves whether to support us or not.

  40. #40
    zrm
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    Quote Originally Posted by thefriar View Post

    Regarding sanitization: Funny how when you're cranking out new trail and your techy lines get built last people complain about sanitized trail, then when you deliver the techy lines, no one wants to ride them? Whenever we build "biker jock" trails from the start folks don't ride them and then volunteers don't want to come out again cause they can't ride what's been built... so its all a balance.
    I'd say that 80% of the riders out there are still what these days what is categorized as "XC" or XC oriented "AM". Some people talk loudly about how trails are too "boring" and aren't "techy" enough for them but 1) people with those "mad skilz" are relatively few in numbers and 2) a lot of those guys who talk loudly go around rocks and roots, skid, etc just like the "noobs" do.
    .

  41. #41
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    Regarding IMBA... I am a dual IMBA & NEMBA member. They are, and (I hope), will continue to be separate entities that share common goals using similar methods.

    I expect IMBA to lead the charge on the National Advocacy level; taking the stand against anti-MTB sentimented groups; investing in getting the word out about responsible trail use; spending time to research trail design and sustainability (and getting the word out about user impact); and to generally support the rest of us out there as an aggregator of information on advocacy lessons learned. And where there is no advocacy base and needs to be, to help out the locals to get organized, etc.

    I think on this they do a great job!

    I expect NEMBA to provide the State relationships, club/admin support, and have the track record that when our local chapters go to local gov't or Land Managers, the NEMBA reputation opens the door. I expect that I and my fellow Chapter board members develop OUR LOCAL relationships and that we stay ALIGNED to the principles of shared-use, fun sustainable trail building and maintenance from IMBA and NEMBA.

    If we need state wide firepower we use NEMBA to organize the state chapters and solidify a single voice. Also, expect NEMBA to step up and help local chapters or groups of riders get organized and established (similar to IMBA, but just for New England).

    If IMBA offered us more $ per member and XX hours of Trail Care Crew or TS consultation time per year, plus better marketing (member & shop) and club development resources, maybe we'd consider it. But that's tough cause they don't have the State and regional Fed resource access or recognition with local MTB bike businesses/DH hills/etc.

    If I were to see another mtb organization pop up advocating maintenance or building at parks our Chapter works with, I'd wonder what the heck NEMBA, and our Chapter is doing wrong. Would probably not happen because we try to be pragmatic and represent the community and are open to hear issues, sometimes we can help, other times it's not our call to make (i.e. Land Manager goals/guidance; trade off between losing access or whole trail and having access and a non-techy/less "fun" reroute).

    Advocacy isn't easy, and if you do have to pick your battles. But if you can establish the trust and make concessions and prove your method and commitment, we have found that we can build what we want. Takes time and patience, which some people don't have and a year or two is too long for them.

    Quote Originally Posted by zrm View Post
    1) people with those "mad skilz" are relatively few in numbers and 2) a lot of those guys who talk loudly go around rocks and roots, skid, etc just like the "noobs" do.
    .
    Truth. I have some awesome b-lines sighted for trail we built this year and its nearly getting to TTF build season (Nov/Dec), we'll see how much use they see by end of next summer, but guessing it'll be hit or miss and most will get modified for friendlier access at least once during the next year.

  42. #42
    parenting for gnarness
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark E View Post
    Read the stories and tell me if you think they don't reflect a lot of people's positive "personal experiences" with IMBA's work. And guess what -- plenty of local builders are involved in these projects. Rah-rah-sish-boom-bah!
    the SW regional director's actions -- and the consent and support he received from the national org -- toward locals, local problems, local history is what turned me against IMBA. how does your org respond to the BS that went on in Sedona? No one from IMBA has yet offered a mea culpa. This was one of those bells that for many of us can't be unrung. You are National, not local, #1 on your mission statement should be to take a secondary role to the locals. Offer support, expertise, help build consensus, but ultimately defer.

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by chollaball View Post
    the SW regional director's actions -- and the consent and support he received from the national org -- toward locals, local problems, local history is what turned me against IMBA.
    Being in the (local) advocacy end of this whole thing I have a question: Is the basic issue you have with IMBA the fact that the Regional Director moofed the pooch or that IMBA took the Forest Service's side in this?

    Here is why I as ask: All my reading of the Sedona issue makes the situation look like this: there is illegal trail building; someone, either IMBA or the local club, makes a deal with the Forest Service to get illegals trail made legal and pinky swears to do things by the book after that; yet, the illegal trail building continues; the Forest Service gets a little annoyed at this given the aforementioned pinky swearing; IMBA throws the local chapter under the bus (without warning/explanation); tells the Forest Service they will be dealing with another bike group. Please correct me if I got the gist of what happened wrong.

    Because if that is the gist of the situation, I get your issue with the Regional Director, he should have had a 'Come to Jesus' moment with the local club before any other action was taken. But illegal trail building is still wrong. Period. And if the above description of what happened is even close to what happened I could see how IMBA would feel like they had to choose sides and chose access to the Forest Service lands over the local chapter.

    I get your annoyance with the Regional Director, but I wonder if putting yourself in IMBA's shoes might not change your viewpoint on this. The last thing they want is someone within the Forest Service firing off emails and letters to the effect of, "the mountain bikers lied to us about stopping illegal trail building".
    Last edited by snowboy76; 11-07-2013 at 10:36 AM.

  44. #44
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    A quick note. IMBA DOES NOT have STANDARDS of trail construction.

    IMBA is a clearing house of information on current best practices, not standards. If you claim standards, then things become measurable to the red tape and legal crowd. IMBA itself says they do NOT publish standards.

    [QUOTE Is it a failure of IMBA standards?. Cuyuna was built to IMBA standards and its usually praised for its flow and fun. Copper Harbor is too. As a Dirt Boss I don't believe its the trail standards.

    I agree with you about IMBA needs to be more rigid on the standards as to what is a "Epic Ride". .[/QUOTE]

  45. #45
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    Oh, this is Sedona. There have been personality stuff there over the years.

    There are sample links below.
    Sedona has a history or personality conflicts on mtbr.com. Lots of accusations. I recall there being contentious displays between a petition author and IMBA. I would like to know if all of the same people are involved in these issues.

    Cross Posting From Arizona Forum

    Further in this thread it is revealed IMBA does not support this petition.
    Pettition to keep mountain bikeing leagal in Sadona.

  46. #46
    parenting for gnarness
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    Quote Originally Posted by snowboy76 View Post
    Being in the (local) advocacy end of this whole thing I have a question: Is the basic issue you have with IMBA the fact that the Regional Director moofed the pooch or that IMBA took the Forest Service's side in this?

    Here is why I as ask: All my reading of the Sedona issue makes the situation look like this: there is illegal trail building; someone, either IMBA or the local club, makes a deal with the Forest Service to get illegals trail made legal and pinky swears to do things by the book after that; yet, the illegal trail building continues; the Forest Service gets a little annoyed at this given the aforementioned pinky swearing; IMBA throws the local chapter under the bus (without warning/explanation); tells the Forest Service they will be dealing with another bike group. Please correct me if I got the gist of what happened wrong.

    Because if that is the gist of the situation, I get your issue with the Regional Director, he should have had a 'Come to Jesus' moment with the local club before any other action was taken. But illegal trail building is still wrong. Period. And if the above description of what happened is even close to what happened I could see how IMBA would feel like they had to choose sides and chose access to the Forest Service lands over the local chapter.

    I get your annoyance with the Regional Director, but I wonder if putting yourself in IMBA's shoes might not change your viewpoint on this. The last thing they want is someone within the Forest Service firing off emails and letters to the effect of, "the mountain bikers lied to us about stopping illegal trail building".
    I think you got most of it, there are some details that might sway your view somewhat, providing some context as to why what IMBA did was so ****ty. Some I will relay below, some really i only have 2nd hand so will just misstate if I try. If you've read about it, you know who to talk to for first hand info.

    1. IMBA was invited by SMBC (the locals, renegade builders etc). This club is an mtb club, locals, largely responsible for a lot of the mtb efforts. IMBA then basically took over after not agreeing with SMBC, propped up what is by most account a predominantly roadie club (VVCC) as their local chapter, and gave the FS a deal -- a political out to a conflict 10 years in the making. They literally shut out SMBC, said everything was grand, all stakeholders were now in agreement. That did not need to happen. If you are finding yourself in conflict with the locals, GTF out! don't take sides, don't insert yourself. This was not just the Regional Director, he did not act alone. IMBA was the last one to the table, but took over when (some of) the locals decided they did not want IMBA.

    2. The FS was far-and-away behind the curve in development in Sedona. Very very little new was happening that was approved, for years. Then some of these trails became wildly popular, and were tacitly condoned, then the hammer came down on bikers. Yes the renegade builders had a hand in the conflict, but the FS really did mismanage its duty to the people.

    3. There are many questionable stories about the decisions made by the FS head, about how her significant other was a trail boss. I don't know the details, but it seems very sketchy.

    4. I don't agree with your blanket view on illegal building. Let's not get into it here, I'm sure we both have strong feelings on it. but based on reports it seems like the mtb builders were singled out vs. a lot of hikers, homeowners etc who had also built many social trails. Sedona is a very difficult piece of land because you have new development backing right up to the forest, lots of 'changes' and not equal enforcement.

    5. One of the most infamous builders was native american, and the FS could not touch him. There is the perception that others were punished to send a message. That is not justice.

    6. The FS then banned bikes-only on a lot of trails, with incredibly suspect reasons.

    So IMBA stepped into this ugly mess, and even though items 2-6 were not their making, they took sides against the very people who built most of these now-adopted trails and who transformed Sedona into a top destination. I've been in AZ 15 years, rode Sedona about 5 times in my first 10, then about 15 times in the last 5. There is a route known as 'The Triple H' in Sedona now, all are now system trails, and its an amazing epic experience about what is possible on a bike. All of the 3 H trails (Highline, Hangover, High on the Hog) were illegal a year ago. Meanwhile, it does appear that the conflict and pressure has somewhat resolved and there are good things ahead for Sedona. I think IMBA's role in this perhaps helped the FS pull their heads out of their asses, but if IMBA deserves credit i think its more by accident. It got worse, before it got better. They could have done this so much more diplomatically, inclusively. The Regional Director was new to the area, but he for sure did not act without support. Fact is that they put 'something' ahead of the local riders, and that simply does not fly for me. The FS are Federal employees, they are so much more disconnected to the people they serve than local land managers, but I dont think we citizens should live in fear from them. They are here to serve the people, not the other way around. Banning everyone cause of a few people they mismanaged and alienated or simply could not prosecute as individual wrong-doers? Talk about being on a power-trip. And, IMBA gave them the political escape from this instead of making them eat their own cooking. If anything, IMBA helped enable federal bureaucrats to continue being dumbasses instead of facing the consequences of their mismanagement.

  47. #47
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    It is frustrating that Sedona drama takes over every IMBA discussion on MTBR. The original discussion just dies, and we get the self righteous entitled renegades of Sedona trying to justify their actions.
    "The physician heals, Nature makes well" - real fortune cookie

    CCCMB trail work for trail access - SLO, CA

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    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus View Post
    It is frustrating that Sedona drama takes over every IMBA discussion on MTBR. The original discussion just dies, and we get the self righteous entitled renegades of Sedona trying to justify their actions.
    *rolleyes* the guy posted a polite and thoughtful post, I gave him a polite and thoughtful response to his question. Sorry if I didn't raise my hand first.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus View Post
    It is frustrating that Sedona drama takes over every IMBA discussion on MTBR. The original discussion just dies, and we get the self righteous entitled renegades of Sedona trying to justify their actions.
    Really? 47 posts of good discussion in this thread before Sedona. And really it's on-topic, no? Besides, the Sedona renegades don't post on mtbr much, especially the guy that got banned.
    "Fart in a paper bag, after eating the #17 plate from filibertos. STRAVA!" M77Ranger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slocaus View Post
    It is frustrating that Sedona drama takes over every IMBA discussion on MTBR. The original discussion just dies, and we get the self righteous entitled renegades of Sedona trying to justify their actions.
    I disagree. The point that many of us are trying to make is that IMBA does not listen. Look at Mark's posts. He posted a bunch of propaganda that he created to cheer on their own efforts and uses it to show how people are happy.

    The Sedona issue is the current crown jewel of how IMBA does not listen to local needs and wants. IMBA will never make everyone happy, but they have their heads so far down the ostrich hole it is not even funny anymore.

    Mark's comment about being a corporate shill hits the nail on the head. IMBA is no longer a non-profit. It is all about the money and forcing its will on its members. I want a member driven organization back!

    When was the last time you got a ballot to vote for the board of directors?

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