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  1. #1
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    new club building club/agency relationships

    Any words of wisdom for a new club when it comes to dealing with government entities? I think the hardest thing is when we've got lots of enthusiasm, but the speed at which dealing with certain governmental organizations moves is almost disheartening it's so slow. Two months to get a reply to a letter? And now we want to set up a meeting to formalize some things, it seems like it takes weeks to get phone calls returned.

    Being a new club, we are trying to be super careful to make sure we've got all our i's dotted and t's crossed. We had one tiny little misstep/assumption we made that might have been one step back to a few steps forward. How have you guys handled "mistakes" ( large or small) in process that your club has made? For us, I just stepped in and as President wrote a seriously brown nose apology letter , and am waiting for an answer.

    Last year we were given informal approval for trail maintenance on existing trails only, but jeez... trying to get a return phone call to confirm that for this year is proving....to require a lot of patience. Is this typical of building a relationship with a governmental org? I can see that once we've proven ourselves, and have some history and more formalized agreements, that it could be different.

    I'd really appreciate hearing what others have done, are doing, experience. Most of us in this club are new to doing this kind of thing... thanks
    formica

  2. #2
    occasionally good
    Reputation: Mountaingirl1961's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by formica
    Any words of wisdom for a new club when it comes to dealing with government entities?
    Good on ya, Formica, for your new club! Hope it really works for you!

    I am part of the rec pod of the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group, which is a volunteer organization that was formed in the late 1990's, attempting to work with agencies and local ranchers to try and improve habitat to keep the sage grouse from being listed on the Endangered Species List. God, what a can of worms. There have been successes but it's slooooooow going, complete with plenty of turf battles between the Stewardship group and the agencies.

    Our pod is working on recreation issues specifically pertaining to travel management and the development of mountain biking trails. Silly me - I thought the USFS would be so happy to see a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers they'd be happy to work with us on getting stuff done. WRONG! We've had to be extremely creative in finding ways to get this stuff funded and approved without active participation from the agency - it seems like they want everything handed to them on a platter because "it's just not in our budget to do things like this." Up to and including the NEPA necessary to get new trails done. We've had so many agency people tell us the myriad reasons why things can't be done that it's super-exciting when finally you start hearing a cautious "yes."

    You can't get in a hurry on this. And you need to find allies within the agency. The district ranger and rec staff from two districts that are NOT the ones we're working with on the trails are providing some much needed support for this project. And we're finding allies in unexpected places - most recently a local rancher, a county commissioner, and one of the key guys at the Division of Wildlife. You take your victories where you find them and learn to eat elephants a bite at a time.

    And enjoy the taste.
    Don't ask me a question unless you really want to hear what I think.

  3. #3
    Wandervans
    Reputation: smilycook's Avatar
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    network..networking...networking

    get to know your land managers and also your congressional staffers. If you think you are getting snowballed then call someone above that person and setup an in personal meeting. It is much harder to say no when you are face to face. A call from a congressional staffer can also lite a fire.

    Checking in and sending thank you notes is also a good idea too. Or invite them to your meeting to see the excitment your club has.

    Ocassionally you get goverment workers who don't want to get anything done in that case go to the superior and hope they get replaced.
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  4. #4
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    I believe that the basic aggresive "sales call" approach works well.

    -In your letter let them know you will follow up with a phone call.

    -When you talk on the phone let them know you want to come in for a meeting with all the department personnel involved in making a decision to get approval for your project. (if they delay the meeting move up to a higher authority...and so on) (if that doesn't work it's time for political action)

    -During your meeting find some common ground to agree. Mention the benefits that a positive recreational activity has on the health and well being of children in the community and kids who learn to appreciate nature at a young age become adults who strive to protect it. Then schedule a walk thru of the trails area.

    Trails are also a way to invigorate a community and increase the quality of life. Make a list of all the benefits as well as solutions to possible objections.

    -After your face to face meeting, make an appointment to hike the proposed trails with all the department personnel involved in descision making and during the hike show them all the positive changes the parks can make by partnering with a responsible user group.

    -At that point tell them you willflag the proposed trails and find out who needs to get the route approved..etc. Never leave a meeting with out sheduling another meeting.

    If they don't return your phone calls...call them every few days to remind them your politely waiting for a return call...they are hoping you go away.

    Make it known you will not go away until you get an agreement. Hopefully you won't have to do that too often...you'll need to get a number of park's personnell on your side...if you only get one person to agree and that person gets transferred or retires...you have to start all over...that happened to us.

    Three Main Issues

    Environmental Impact...is there going to be environmental damage?
    Social Impact...are there going to be conflicts among different user groups?
    Mountain Bike Desires...what type of experience do mountain bikers want on the trails?

    I read some books on sales and "win-win" negotiating...which helped.

    Persistence pays off...if you have been hounding them for two years before you even get permission for the trails...they feel it's a good indication that you should be around for awhile to maintain the trails...it's kind of a way to filter out the ones who are a flash in the pan and then disappear leaving a mess for the parks to clean up.

    Good Luck and keep us updated.
    Last edited by sick4surf; 03-04-2006 at 11:40 AM.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilycook
    Ocassionally you get goverment workers who don't want to get anything done in that case go to the superior and hope they get replaced.
    Well, I know the question was working with gov't agencies, bu to be fair, this trait is not unique to gov't employees.

    The point is, you can find that some people, instead of confronting you and saying outright "I don't like your goals", will be polite, noncommital, and use contrived delays to bog you down.

    You need to be patient, yet persistent, and clarify what steps are needed to get from A to Z.

  6. #6
    Builder of Trails
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    What we've been able to establish here are relationships with the managers at the lowest levels, those who make the immediate decisions in the parks, i.e. each specific park manager. When we need to communicate to the city PARD, we go to that specific park manager and communicate with him. If the issue requires a higher authority, he will be the one to initiate contact, which seems to help keep the communication flowing. It becomes an internal question, which gets answered more quickly.

    Information about who manages what park should be public knowledge and very well may be listed on a web site.

    Good luck!

    Dewayne

  7. #7
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    Asking questions as well as good old fashioned knocking on doors and phone calls have worked for me (so far) whether it's land managers or event sponsors.

    Good luck.

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