IMBA good, old-fashioned advocacy
Since there have been several comments lately advising IMBA to return to advocacy work, I thought I'd post to show that IMBA continues to do just that kind of thing.
"IMBA's Jeremy Fancher and Patrick Kell recently traveled to Tucson, Arizona, to attend a conference on National Historic and Scenic Trails. With assistance from Pivot Bicycles, they helped a variety of trail groups gain a better understanding of the experiences MTBers seek, and how mountain biking is compatible with other trail activities."
IMBA Attends National Scenic and Historic Trails Conference | International Mountain Bicycling Association — with Jeremy Fancher and Patrick Kell.
Hypothetically, this could work to a trail building effort, helping retrofit a segment of a national scenic/historic trail for shared-use status. IMBA's Trail Solutions would be well qualified for the job -- which is why IMBA's advocacy and trail building work goes hand in hand.
Your trying too hard. The people that your trying to hold sway over with the party line are out of ****s to give. The IMBA has alienated too many people too many times and the pool of potential members is shrinking. Respectfully, a former IMBA member.
Gotcha. Except last week posters here were asking for someone at IMBA to weigh in, so I gave it a try.
Originally Posted by Dirty $anchez
Membership is growing ... sorry we lost you though.
"With assistance from Pivot Bicycles, they helped a variety of trail groups gain a better understanding of the experiences MTBers seek, and how mountain biking is compatible with other trail activities."
Mark, this comment threw me. Especially after the flurry of threads the past few days that show the there is no general consensus on what "MTBers" seek. Suggesting that all or even most mountain bikers want one type of trail or terrain or riding experience is like saying all girls like the color pink or all bears are white.
I seriously hope that IMBA doesn't go into an area and try to apply a cookie cutter formula for advocacy and trail building. I've built trails all over Canada and I can say that even a few hundred miles can drastically change the local perception of what a good trail is.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
I think there's a conceptual issue taking place here. I'm pretty sure IMBA understands the precept that location will vary the view of whether or not a trail is "good" - take a trail from one part of the country, put it somewhere else, and suddenly it sucks, or it isn't popular any more. The only evidence I feel inclined to give of this is their trail grading system, which stresses that when grading the difficulty of a trail, keep in mind how it compares to other trails in the area.
I'm sure there are a lot of people upset with IMBA over one thing or another. But riddle me this: Do you think bashing them repeatedly on this forum is going to help? If you want IMBA to change, if you want them to step their game up, or do less of something, or more of something else, or even try something completely new, the only way to do it is through conversations that you simply aren't going to have on a forum.
I'm not standing here blanket-defending IMBA. Like I have said before, my experience with them has been some good, some bad. The bottom line is, I still pay dues, and I still have an IMBA sticker on my truck. Does that mean IMBA gets credit for building a new 9 mile trail system where I live? Nope. What I'm trying to get across is this: There's a lot of very juvenile whining about slights, either real or perceived, taking place every time IMBA, either in name, or by way of representative, sticks its head up around here. You're entitled to your opinion, but the whining and playing the victim is going to get old fast.
If you want satisfaction from IMBA for some past action, I recommend you use some of the very available email addresses for people within the organization, and start a conversation about a topic in an open minded and mature way. I realize, that if you watch the news, and see how our government operates, that there aren't a lot of good examples of how to do this, but try to remember the good manners and baseline respect that your parents (hopefully) taught you for other people, other human beings, and go from there. IMBA is not your enemy, even if they did elbow you in the eye when they turned around. You may not understand every move they make, but you'll never recognize the good they do if all you do sit there and yell at them because they moved again and you're afraid of getting hit.
I'm very happy that people have chosen MTBR to discuss their interaction/problems/success stories with IMBA. Otherwise I would have no idea of the "other side" of the story. I even gained a little insight in to IMBA's "inner thoughts" that they don't publicly announce on their website. I am able to take anything I read with a grain of salt and form my own opinions.
I want to hear the horror stories along with the success stories. That's why I read reviews on almost anything I plan on buying of getting involved with.
I have learned a lot about IMBA over the last couple of weeks. I knew very little about them before except what I read on the IMBA website. I think a mountain bike discussion forum is the perfect place to discuss the world's largest mountain bike organization. I'm glad that Mark has weighed in and has a very thick skin.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
Originally Posted by Cotharyus
I'm also glad for the public discussion of IMBA's faults and strengths. Maybe I'm just cynical because 99% of what I do professionally is interaction with government on some level, but from where I stand, people in power don't change their behaviors because someone privately asked them to. The only time they change is when everyone is aware of what they are doing and don't approve. So a public, critical discussion is the only thing that's going to improve IMBA. And this needs to happen.
IMBA is not the sport of mountain biking, criticism of IMBA is not hurting the sport, nor is it criticizing all mountain bikers.
With regard to the original post, I applaud IMBA for pursuing access on National Scenic Trails. As an advocate for returning mt. biking to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (we were unceremoniously booted in 1988, when there really wasn't an IMBA or anyone to fight the closure), it is great to see IMBA seeking out these opportunities to be part of the discussion, and do the things that will slowly (hopefully) increase access to these iconic, public trails. If I'm not mistaken, the conference mentioned above is the first time IMBA has attended this conference. Thank you!
Some people accuse IMBA of only going after low hanging fruit. In the National Scenic Trail family, the PCT is not low hanging fruit. Because so many years passed before the original closure was rightfully challenged, pure entitlement from other trail users had long set in... making the PCT a fruit that is darn near the top of the tree. Still, IMBA is going after portions of it (non-designated Wilderness) that are suitable for mountain biking.
Does this mean, if we/IMBA are successful, hundreds of miles of "Perfect Cycling Trail" will be altered to be in compliance with IMBA trail standards? I hope not! Even though much of the PCT was built before the modern mountain bike existed, the trail doesn't need to be fixed to accommodate bikes, because the bikes have been built (even rigid bikes) to accommodate the trail.
One of the reasons why trails that pre-date the modern mountain bike are so desirable to many of us is because they are narrow, raw, and can be challenging. They represent everything many modern trails aren't. If a new PCT were built that was 4' wide from Canada to Mexico, I'd probably still prefer to ride the narrower version... just like hikers and equestrians prefer.
Thanks for entering the ring, IMBA. It's a battle that cannot be won by one person, or one loosely formed group, or one IMBA Chapter. It'll take all of them and then some, and the legitimacy IMBA brings to the table on a National level is huge. Bikes will be allowed on the PCT again one day... I just hope it happens in my lifetime!
More info on the PCT: Sharing the Pacific Crest Trail
Mark, this comment threw me. Especially after the flurry of threads the past few days that show the there is no general consensus on what "MTBers" seek
Not at all, tried to do the opposite. We just showed them the differences between a trail bike and a DH rig with the hope of showing that not all MTB experiences are the same and that each has a place.
OK, I misunderstood the statement. I like this explanation much better. It's similar to what I have to do. "No, I'm not putting dirt jumps on the hiking trail."
Originally Posted by IMBAcile
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a public discussion. But bashing isn't discussing. When it takes ten posts for someone stop with the venom and actually state what's eating them, and then tells people to "go read about it to get the facts" when the "facts" are so twisted that everyone who takes a shot at "what actually happened" is told they're wrong, it's not productive. Tell us what the problem is, what really happened, why you think it's wrong, and what you think should have happened, and lets talk about it.
This is what I don't like...using a non-profit cover to advertise and promote a for-profit business.
Originally Posted by Mark E
Not true. IMBA Trail Solutions is a fee-based program, but in no way a for-profit business. The IRS keeps a close eye on such matters. Many non-profits offer fee-based programs, and some of them are big operations. Look at the Sierra Club's Outings program -- guided trips, many of them international, and with fees in the thousands of dollars. There's no reason why IMBA can't offer fee-based trail design and trail building without compromising its nonprofit standing.
Originally Posted by TheBigV
This reminds me of what I deal with at my local trail. Every year the trail sees more and more riders. Most of whom are very happy with the trail HMBA has built. I do get suggestions from riders for what we can do better. I listen to the suggestions and take them into consideration on future projects and trail work sessions, but, the suggestions of each individual rider have to be considered against:
- The difficulty rating of the trail
- The resources available
- What the Park system will allow us to do
- Emergency rescue plan
- What our insurance will allow
- The general theme of the trail
- And how this person's suggestion compares to the suggestions of others
The hardest part is balancing the wide range and often conflicting suggestions I get from riders. One rider wants more optional challenges and would like the challenging lines to be the fast line (to give technical riders an advantage), Another rider doesn't want technical lines on the fast line, because it messes up his lap times. One rider wants tight technical turns and another wants big sweeping banked turns, etc...
Of the riders who provide suggestions, most understand why all of their suggestions aren't implemented. But, there is always a small group who are pissed off that we didn't build or modify the trail exactly to their desires. The riders who are pissed generally have different reasons for being pissed off. One is upset that we built a log pile on the fast line, one is pissed that we didn't build a elevated wood feature, one is upset that a new turn is too tight for his 29er, etc...
But they do agree that I or my group are the problem. I can't tell you how many times over the last 10 years, I have been told my organization was going to fail because someone and all his friends weren't going to join.
While the internet is a good tool for communication, it can also provide a bully pulpit for a small group to project their views as representing the majority. It also allows small groups with unrelated grievances to pile on.
As I read through the various threads, I see several different complaints: Pro contracting, Trail Difficulty, Legal/Illegal trail building, Local Support/Staying out of local issues. I haven't really seen anyone provide a strong argument against IMBA on these topics. Stating vaguely that IMBA has "lost it's soul" is not something that can be objectively debated.
While I don't have any place to weigh in on issues at Sedona or Park City, I can comment on what I have seen in my area. We took advantage of the IMBA Trail Care Crew from the beginning of that program. That program and the IMBA Trail Solutions book were key to us developing a strong core trail building group and to gaining access to build trails. We have taken advantage of IMBA grants and the information available on the web site in our trail building and advocacy efforts. We have attended IMBA World Summits, traded emails and phone calls, traveled to met and work with IMBA Trail Solutions staff, brought IMBA staff into our area, etc...
There have been bumps along the way, but we continued to worked with IMBA. The IMBA Chapter program that is being rolled out is the result of IMBA listening to groups like mine as well as groups across the country.
We have managed a $150k RTP grant, a $250k State Trail Grant, and are currently running another $120k RTP grant. We were offered IMBA Trail Solutions for the State Trail Grant, but instead used our local Pro trail builder (Who are organization helped develop). We have not been forced to use IMBA Trail Solutions for any of our projects, but I would not hesitate to use them if we need extra trail building resources.
I have had the chance to meet and work with many of those who wrote the IMBA Trail Solutions Manual or who are part of IMBA Trail Solutions Staff. They do want to see advanced trails built.
We have built very difficult trails, and very difficult trails can be built that use the principles of sustainable trail design.
On the regional and National Level, I see a lot of great projects that will raise the bar for mountain bike access and trail construction. While it may seem like a small thing, the construction of a Mountain Bike trail in a National Park (Mammoth Cave), is a very big deal. I see more skilled Professional Trail Builders, I see more IMBA members and local Chapters, and I see IMBA having more National influence with Wilderness issues.
So my opinion is that IMBA is on track and doing a good job as a National Advocacy organization. As with any organization (including my Chapter), there is room to grow and develop, to become better advocates and trail builders. But there are also always going to be folks who are critical of IMBA, just as there are going to be folks critical of my organization. There is no way IMBA can make every mountain biker happy.
Mark, I'm getting quite an education here. Thanks for your input. I appologize for my lack of knowledge about IMBA.
I'm a trail builder. I've been doing it for almost 50 years. I'm not associated with any clubs or organizations. I advocate for trails and build them entirely on my own, sometimes with a little help from local riders. For the last 15 years I've averaged about 20 hours a week building bike trails. I've never made a cent doing this. As a matter of fact I've spent thousands of dollars of my own money, worn out several vehicles and lost one wife because of my "hobby". The only reason I don't spend more time building trails is that I have to work to pay for all this. I would love to build trails full-time as a career. I know hundreds of very good trail builders all over the world who would gladly do the same. Here's where I see a problem.
IMBA now has a trail building program that can most likely undercut any professional trail builder who might want to bid on a project. You can go in to an area, use your standing as "the authority" on trail building to advocate for the trail and then offer your crew to do the building as well. This is great for the trails and the local riders but it leaves many professional builders and dedicated volunteers who wish they could be professional builders out in the cold. There are thousands of gung-ho wannabe trail builders who would gladly spend all day building trails if somebody would just pay them so they could afford the time.
Please address this. Correct me if I'm wrong about any of it. Take it into consideration if I'm right. Consider using Trail Solutions as a contractor and hiring local trail builders to build the trails or find local professional trail builders to sub-contract the work. I know that sometimes if you didn't offer a very cheap solution, trails wouldn't get built. In my area the only way trails get built is because it's free. There is no money for trail building but we probably have more singletrack pre-capita than anywhere else in the world. A lot of it would make IMBA cringe (think Vancouver North Shore).
I'm almost done trail building. I'm almost 60 and getting worn out with old age but I work with a bunch of kids who I'd love to see have the chance to make a living building trails. I'll bet there are people like that all over the world.
Edit: while I was writing my post, indytrekracer was writing his. Thanks, that addresses some of my questions. I'd still like to hear from Mark.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
Trail Ninja, forgive me for being brief here -- I need to get back to some other writing projects today. In short, here are a few things to factor into your analysis:
- IMBA Trail Solutions frequently uses locally based sub contractors.
- Many professional trail builders got their start with IMBA, then left to start their own trail building firms.
- A few years ago at the professional trail builders association conference, every new member who joined their group over a year-long period got their start with IMBA.
- IMBA fully recognizes that their are many skilled trail builders out their who are not professionals.
- IMBA also recognizes that there are very talented builders that are not associated with IMBA. Many of them do excellent work purely on a volunteer basis.
- IMBA and its local groups perform more than 500,000 hours of volunteer trail building/trail maintenance efforts every year. That's a HUGE contribution to public lands.
- IMBA remains committed to performing all of its trail activities fully in partnership with land managers. When it comes to public lands, our view is that mountain bikers get the best, most enduring results when they partner with land managers.
Path to Pro Trail Building
One thing to keep in mind is that when a job goes out for bid for a project on government land, there are typically many requirements other than being a good trail builder. To bid you must be an incorporated and insured business. You also have to be able to handle the business end of things. You will need to pay employees, deal with employee benefits and legal issues, healthcare?, buy/rent equipment, the financial and technical ability to fix broken equipment in the field, etc... and you will need to have the financial ability to build trails, knowing that you will not get paid until after trail is built.
To be honest the business side of being a professional trail builder is as or more important than being a good trail builder.
The challenge for us who raise money to build trails is to ensure that we end up hiring contractors who are great trail builders and not just good businessmen. I don't want Bob's Landscaping company to win the bid to build mountain bike trails.
The reality in most cases is that the local trail builders do not have the business end of things in place to even be able to bid on trail building jobs. So IMBA Trail Solutions isn't taking work from them.
The challenge for IMBA Trail Solutions as well as most Pro Trail builders is that their work locations move from place to place, for many they work in a multi State area, or in the Case of IMBA Trail solutions, a National area. Every project I have been involved with or know about (IMBA and non IMBA), has involved hiring of local folks. The first place we look to hire is in the volunteer trail building ranks.
If you or someone you know wants to be a Pro Trail builder, they should reach out to established professional trail builders and seek employment. This will require travel. You may have to live in a hotel room, tent, or the back of your truck to follow the work. Use your time on the job to learn the business end of trail building and to build your resume.
If you are in the US and need to find an established pro trail building company to work for, I would suggest starting here.
Contractor Search - PTBA
If you would want me to consider hiring you for a project you at a minimum would need to be in the process of becoming a member of the PTBA.
So I would suggest looking at their membership requirements. Become a Vendor Member - PTBA
One last point, is that IMBA Trail Solutions is a member of the PTBA. So questions about IMBA's business practices really are a matter for the PTBA to discuss. Their fellow trail builders are in the best position to understand if they are acting appropriately. Keep in mind that IMBA and IMBA chapters are creating a lot of work for all the good trail building companies. My concern is more with having enough good pro trail builders to keep up with the work that is coming in the near future.
I'm sorry that you had to write all this. There's nothing in your post that I'm not well aware of. I know what's required to be a professional trail builder. I guess I came off like some kid "I wish somebody would pay me to build trails." That was many years ago. I'm familiar with PTBA and know a lot of the members. I understand the bidding process and and how to run a contracting business. I've owned several companies and had many employees. I've also bid on (and won) many government and private contracts.
Originally Posted by indytrekracer
I guess I didn't phrase my post properly in order to find out what I was after. I was trying to figure out where IMBA's Trail Solutions stood in relation to other trail building contractors. A subsidized bidder on a trail building project obviously has an unfair advantage in the process. If they bid competively I see no problem. If they use what I've always considered to be advocacy membership fees to subsidize their trail building department bids and put legitimate contractors out of the running, I see a big problem.
Still not knocking IMBA. Just trying to figure out how things work there.
" My concern is more with having enough good pro trail builders to keep up with the work that is coming in the near future. "
I'd also like to throw in another suggestion. If it doesn't already exist. A heavily IMBA sponsored trail building course similar to the one Jay Hoots teaches at Capilano College in Vancouver. You'll soon have more qualified builders than you could use. We do up here in Canada.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
indytrekracer, your post above would be a very good sticky all on it's own. I does explain the process quite well for anybody looking to get into trail building professionally.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja's Son
As with many things in life there likely isn't a black and white answer here.
Originally Posted by Trail Ninja
One could argue that because you build and maintain trails for free, that you are undercutting park employees or pro trail builders. Same goes for me. I design trails, develop master plans, build trails, and do trail maintenance. All of which could be contracted out.
How about if I do all the leg work to get approval to build $400,000 worth of trail. Instead of hiring a pro trail builder for $400,000, I use volunteers to build $200,000 worth of trails and hire a pro trail builder to do the other half?
We (mountain bikers) are having a big impact on convincing people that trails are facilities and that they should be funded like facilities. Fund raising to hire Pro trail builders wasn't an option when we started advocacy here in Indiana because most people didn't think of trails as worthy of speeding money on.
As an mtb advocate, who supports IMBA, if I can get more trails built using IMBA Trail Solutions vs. someone else, then I want more trails and will use IMBA. Keep in mind that IMBA Trail Solutions only plays in the MTB trail arena. Pro trail builders can work on hiking, horse, atv, trails as well and there is plenty of work to do there.
IMBA helps to keep trails open. IMBA staff have worked hard for years on issues in Montana, and carried this task to Washington DC on many occasions. Advocacy for existing trails does and should take precidence every time over development of new trails. At 5 to 10 dollars per foot for a machine created trail, existing trails have an almost incalculable worth. IMBA recognizes this difference. While celebrating the triumphs of new trails around the country that cost thousands, IMBA staff also try hard to save our great backcountry trails that are worth millions. They DO know about old fashioned advocacy. IMBA needs more members and we are IMBA if we care to join.
I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark
I don't think IMBA actually builds any trails. They provide guidance so others can build them. I imagine it's a lot cheaper to hire IMBA to consult, and have volunteers do the work, than to pay a trail building company to do everything. I can't believe how much some of the trails out there cost-sometimes $50,000 or more for a mile of trail. Then there are some areas where there are miles of awesome trails that cost as much as a few hand tools, a few pairs of gloves, and some gas for the saw and truck. Funny thing, the cheap trails are often more fun to ride, more fun to hike, require less speed to get the same rush, less obtrusive, cause less resource impact, draw less criticism from non-bikers, can be equally, if not more sustainable, and provide a sense of adventure often lacking in heavily constructed, less natural trails. Don't get me wrong, I think there is a place for the wide freeride/flow trails that are being promoted nowadays, but I hope the minimalist approach is not forgotten by IMBA or the MTB community. I think that might be my main criticism of IMBA-even though they don't necessarily object to this style of building, the photos in their books, website, videos, and newsletters seem to focus on showcasing the heavily constructed trails. I know there are good reasons for doing that-easy to see the great work, instead of showing something that blends into the landscape and doesn't show up in the photo well. They also want to appeal to the younger riders by showing cool features and high speeds. Anyway, Mark E, just saying, maybe do more promoting of the simple, natural, minimalist approach. Thanks
IMBA does both. Trail Solutions is a professional trail building outfit and they do indeed build trail. I even had the pleasure of riding some IMBA build trail a few months ago. I have also worked alongside IMBA trail care crew reps who were building trail just like the other volunteers. In my book "building trail" can mean anything from discussing trail proposals with land managers to digging a 3' bench cut.
I don't think IMBA actually builds any trails. They provide guidance so others can build them.
A trail which costs $50k per mile is not something volunteers are going to build with simple hand tools in a time efficient manner. I would expect there to be dynamite or heavy equipment involved at that price point.
I can't believe how much some of the trails out there cost-sometimes $50,000 or more for a mile of trail.
If you forget to include the value of the volunteers' time then yes. Otherwise figure $15 to +$25 per hour for that time. It may even cost more than professional built trail if the volunteers don't know what they are doing or lack the proper tools.
Then there are some areas where there are miles of awesome trails that cost as much as a few hand tools, a few pairs of gloves, and some gas for the saw and truck.
An individual's definition of "fun" is subjective so I cant argue that point. If you like that type of trail then great! But claiming such trail has lesser impact on the land and is more sustainable is, under most conditions, false. Minimally constructed trails can usually only exist with minimal user frequency unless built in a very rocky areas. Moderate to highly constructed trails are necessary when there will be heavy use and more erodible soils are present. Most of the minimally constructed trail I have encountered has been built without permission from the land manager/owner. Such trail is built to minimum standards because that is all the "builders" could manage with with their limited workforce and tools. A minimally constructed trail is in many cases a sign of poor planning/design/execution.
Funny thing, the cheap trails are often more fun to ride, more fun to hike, require less speed to get the same rush, less obtrusive, cause less resource impact, draw less criticism from non-bikers, can be equally, if not more sustainable, and provide a sense of adventure often lacking in heavily constructed, less natural trails.
Thanks for the info; I didn't realize IMBA had trail building crews, hence the claims that IMBA steals work from "for profit" builders. The way I look at it is, MTB'ers want trails, and if IMBA can do it cheaper, fine. AS IMBA members and taxpayers, I would think we are trying to get trails built as cost effectively as possible. Of course the local clubs and land managers have the choice of who they hire, if anybody. Sure, you can figure in the value of volunteer time, but that is not actual cost. And sure, the volunteers need good tools and guidance, that goes without saying.
The most I've heard for a trail cost was 1.6 million for the 14 mile Paradise Royale Trail in California, and I sure hope it covered NEPA. I think $20-$60,000 per mile is about the cost for building trail nowadays with a pro crew, but you folks that know can chime in and tell us what some bid ranges have been per foot or mile of trail. As far as needing mechanized equipment to build trail, the Sweeco and Bobcats are relatively new to trail building. In fact all trails in Wilderness areas were built by hand, many back in the 20's and 30's using good old Mcleods, Pulaskis, and rock bars.
As far as resource impact goes, it stands to reason that a well designed trail that is 18" wide and uses only hand tools causes less damage to the environment than a 4' wide trail built with dozers. Less than half the amount of ground disturbance and less unprotected soil that is available for sediment transport.
I think we're actually on the same page, but I think maybe "minimalist" to you is a poorly built bootleg built by some teenagers. And yes, I think trails have to be widened in some spots to prevent sloughing of the trail edge, etc. Minimalist is certainly not the appropriate technique for all trail construction. I just think good solid trails can and are built without dozers, that can be narrower, follow natural lines, are low cost, and super fun to ride! Anyway, thanks for your input, Aero109.
There is a lot of good information in this thread, hate to see it die.
He/she who works the trails does so in their own image.
Speed just slows me down...
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