NOTE: Permitting details are now available on the MCAS Miramar website HERE
Most of us know that advocacy for trails and getting projects seen through to completion takes a long time. But the authorization of the Historic Stowe Trail that connects Santee and Poway may take the cake. It has taken over 20 years of advocacy work to realize this connection.
The Stowe Trail extends just over two miles from north to south along the extreme eastern boundary of MCAS Miramar between Santee Lakes and Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Preserve. Over 100 years ago, the Stowe Trail was a vital transportation link connecting the township of Stowe and Poway to Santee and El Cajon. This trail was even dedicated as an official Millennium Trail in 2001. Decades ago, the military absorbed this extreme eastern section of trail cutting off legal access. Lacking a legal connection, residents continued to use this historic trail for recreation and commuting. Despite the best efforts of the community and elected officials, an official legal route was never finalized. The true trail champion has been County Supervisor Dianne Jacob who has been working on this project for over 20 years.
“Opening up this historic trail to the community represents a huge victory for the public, along with those of us who have fought for access for decades, ” stated Dianne Jacob.
In January of 2016, conflict erupted with almost 50 bikes confiscated by Military Police. The San Diego Mountain Biking Association took a leadership role pushing for a viable solution all parties could embrace. This vital community connector would be valued by all trail users – mountain bikers, equestrians, hikers, and trail runners. Part of this effort included a very large SDMBA advocacy meeting that took place on February 1, 2016. You can see the energy of that meeting in this video.
For the rest of 2016 and into the new year, SDMBA volunteer advocates – including large lifts by SDMBA President Kevin Loomis and Vice President, Ben Stone – worked closely with representatives from MCAS Miramar and other concerned groups to get a plan in place to get the trail approved for use. SDMBA leadership along with representatives from the Marines spent days out in the field, refining the placement of signage, identifying the desired alignment, and also determining routes that would be decommissioned.
On April, over 50 volunteers representing different trail user groups worked alongside Marines to brush and block off the determined decommissioned routes to get the designated trail ready for use. SDMBA appreciates the support of groups such as the San Diego Trails Alliance in this effort.
The successful negotiation of this project involved not only the Marines, but the Cities of San Diego and Santee, the County of San Diego and the developers Pardee Homes and HomeFed Corporation. Many local elected officials in addition to Dianne Jacob, also took up the cause, including Congressman Duncan Hunter, Congressman Scott Sherman, City of San Diego Councilman Scott Peters, and City of Santee Councilman Brian Jones.
SDMBA President, Kevin Loomis stated, “In today’s political environment where there is fighting among almost all parties, it is a joy to see that in this case everyone came together to gain access to this historic trail.”
Projects like this would not happen without a vibrant trails community working together. As a membership organization, SDMBA values every trail user and invites you to join and tell your friends! JOIN or RENEW
Here at SDMBA we fully support the efforts of the Sustainable Trails Coalition and we wanted to share with you their most recent update on their lobbing efforts for H.R. 1349.
It is time for a status update and a long-term perspective on our progress.
H.R. 1349 – The House Bill
As most know, we have a bill circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1349. The author, Rep. Tom McClintock of California, is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands of the House Committee on Natural Resources. One could scarcely ask for a more influential author of the legislation STC seeks, or one more committed to getting it passed.
Working in close coordination with Chairman McClintock and his staff, as well as other interested parties supporting the bill, we are now underway with a broad lobbying campaign throughout the House to recruit cosponsors for the bill. As we add more sponsors to H.R. 1349, we will amass the requisite support to move the bill through committee and ultimately to the House floor.
One person expressed concern that Chairman McClintock’s bill goes too far the other way by forcing Wilderness land managers to open trails to mountain biking. It doesn’t. Numerous rules and guidelines in the Code of Federal Regulations and federal agency policy manuals and handbooks allow the Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management to regulate when, where, and under what circumstances people can visit federal land. The bill merely puts mountain bikers in the same category as campers who can’t camp by certain lakes, hunters who can hunt only in season, hikers who can’t hike if a trail is damaged or it would disrupt a species migration, or canoeists who can’t bring in a boat contaminated with invasive species.
What We Need People To Do !!!
Once again we ask everyone to write, e-mail or call your member of Congress asking him/her to support, co-sponsor, and vote for H.R. 1349. This is CRITICAL. Please do this even if you already did it last year or earlier this year, pointing specifically to H.R. 1349. Politicians listen to their constituents. If you want to get rid of the biggest no bike sign on earth, make yourself heard.
As for the U.S. Senate, last year Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced S.3205, the Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act. This was wonderful, but it came too late in the session for the bill to advance. We expect them to be introducing similar legislation in this new Congress, and we’re working to secure bipartisan sponsorship. Toward this goal of having both Republicans and Democrats on the bill, we urge you to write your two Senators. Here are talking points.
You might also consider writing a letter to the editor of the largest newspaper in your area. Again, talking points can be found on the STC website.
Assessment of Our Long-term Progress
When we started STC in 2015, two lobbyists for the bicycle industry assured us we wouldn’t get anywhere and we were wasting our time.
That assessment didn’t surprise us, since no one else had ever tried before, including those jaded critics, who didn’t try even when we had a mountain biking president in George W. Bush. Those members of Congress who had heard of Wilderness at all probably didn’t know bicycling is excluded. Same for the Pacific Crest Trail.
In 2015, frustrated mountain bikers facing trail losses were doing desperate things like writing online petitions, which get no traction on Capitol Hill.
Since then, we (meaning you and STC) have:
Lit a fire on Capitol Hill. Whether a U.S. Senator or member of Congress is for or against us, almost everyone knows about the bicycle bans. It has become part of the national agenda.
Received huge amounts of press coverage. Two years ago even most regular backcountry visitors probably didn’t know about the bicycle bans. Stories and op-eds in many newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times and Washington Post to Outside, National Geographic, and Men’s Journal, as well as various regional newspapers in the West, have alerted the whole country to these unfair bans.
Probably made it much more difficult for another Boulder–White Clouds loss to happen. Hundreds of you have written your senators and member of Congress. Reporters are asking questions. Congressional staffs read newspapers containing articles about the bicycle bans. Boulder–White Clouds got through because Wilderness bicycle bans were sufficiently uncontroversial and invisible that power brokers could ignore mountain bikers. No longer is that so true.
Still, we wish to be candid. Our professional trail access lobbyist—the only paid lobbyist who has ever tried to get the Wilderness and Pacific Crest Trail bicycle bans overturned—tells us the current main problem is the politically toxic climate in Congress. Lawmakers are angry with one another, whether it’s over health care, Supreme Court appointments, foreign relations, travel restrictions, ethics—you name it. We, like many other good causes, are swept up in a tide of partisan ill will.
Let’s put it this way: If Congress could vote by secret ballot on these bills (which isn’t allowed) or by voice vote (which is), they’d pass overwhelmingly. But votes on the legislation will likely be formally recorded and not be done by voice, so it’s politics that govern, not reason.
For example, the staff of one liberal western Democrat recently let our lobbyist know they understand and like what we’re doing. But their boss may still feel unable to go on the record in support of access reform. We won’t understate the difficulties.
Finally, and as always, we thank you for your generous financial support. If you’d like to help us keep pushing, please consider donating again , or buy a shirt, and ask three friends to do the same. We’re fund-raising among prospective major donors, so please don’t feel we’re asking you, our loyal crowd-funders, to bear the whole burden.
$35,000 could leave San Diego from your “SDMBA Membership Dues” this year.
When I took over as President of the SDMBA (San Diego Mountain Biking Association) 2 ½ years ago, we already were an IMBA Chapter (International Mountain Biking Association). To entice clubs to join, IMBA promised many benefits for their 60-40% IMBA/SDMBA membership dues split. Clubs could fall under IMBA’s 501c3 (non-profit) status – important for smaller clubs. IMBA also took over membership management and became a hub for advocacy and created resources and professional development opportunities for Chapters to grow. They had a national Trail Care Crew to train land managers on building sustainable trails and were our voice nationally. To remain locally relevant, IMBA hired Regional Directors representing local MTB interests.
IMBA’s goals were/are noble. They united Chapters – collectively making our mountain bike voice stronger resulting in many national wins. SDMBA benefited from multiple Trail Care Crew Visits building out SDMBA’s expert team of trail builders. IMBA also helped us with the hiring, training and oversight of our Executive Director, Susie Murphy. They also hired a California Regional Director, Laurel Harkness, who is deeply involved in the political arena to push back Wilderness Designations on National Forests and State Parks.
Looking at all this, $35,000 going to IMBA sounds almost OK, but is it?
That is the question we’ll be asking SDMBA members in the next few weeks. While times looked good, for years IMBA had been in an unsustainable position. The previous Executive Director – Mike Van Abel – ignored calls to shore up finances and stiff armed Chapters growing concern with trails being lost to Wilderness. Furthermore, the IMBA board charged with overseeing the executive team failed to establish processes to oversee IMBA’s finances and strategic plans. Until recently, they did not even have committees or metrics in place – resulting in a net loss in the Chapter Program for 2015 of $500,000! Facing serious concerns to remain an organization the IMBA board belatedly started developing a plan.
Mike Van Abel for years relied primarily on a single donor – Subaru. When the Chapter program was established, it was to be self-sustainable – it was not. Ignoring red ink and calls for a more sustainable plan, Mike downplayed the tenuous financial health of IMBA. Even though the board was also alerted – they too ignored calls to shore up finances while backing Mike as the IMBA Executive Director. Once Subaru left, IMBA had no plan. They immediately reduced personnel by a third, eliminated the Trail Care Crew and fired most Regional Directors (local IMBA reps). IMBA released some proposals to chapters in order to rectify their situation. They are considering raising membership dues 40% to $49. For Chapters, services currently offered for free would become ‘pay-per-use.’ To add insult to injury, the new Executive Director, Dave Wiens, publicly stated IMBA cannot support any organization which promotes a change in the Wilderness Designation – allowing bikes in Wilderness. For many Chapters (SDMBA included) which support a change in the Wilderness Act, this major policy difference could potentially force Chapters to leave IMBA.
Over a year ago, SDMBA had increasing concerns with IMBA. After creating a SDMBA committee to review the issues, we pushed for the firing of Mike Van Abel along with the unification of California into one region headed by a California Regional Director. SDMBA also pushed IMBA to conduct a member survey which they did. IMBA shifted Laurel Harkness to represent the entire state. Due to this progress, the committee advised the SDMBA board to remain a Chapter – conditionally. The committee also identified weaknesses SDMBA needed to address if we decided to leave. Since then we’ve migrated to a new website and software platform allowing us to fully run our organization. Many IMBA back office benefits can now be done locally.
However, splitting from IMBA also has consequences. Leaving will require SDMBA to become self sufficient. Marketing, membership and payroll will need to be brought in-house. Furthermore, members will no longer have a joint SDMBA/IMBA subscription – both organizations will vie for your membership. If too many California Chapters leave, we’d lose our state representation. To remain relevant, CA MTB groups would need to create a stand alone State CA MTB organization – outside of IMBA. While the benefits are obvious, we’d also be pulling resources from IMBA. This would hurt IMBA when they need our support. IMBA is a critical international advocacy organization for mountain biking which has done amazing work. I’ve spoken with Dave Wiens, Bruce Alt, Dan Brillion along with others at IMBA to discuss potential solutions. While we do not know what IMBA’s ultimate solution will be, we have suggestions:
Board Representation – the IMBA board for years has operated anonymously lacking Chapter or Executive Director representation. This needs to change with forward thinking, successful Chapter Presidents and Executive Directors being added.
Board Terminations – any IMBA board member serving over three years needs to resign. Their leadership failure helped foster IMBA’s financial demise. IMBA needs true leaders with real vision for IMBA’s rebirth.
Wilderness – IMBA needs to drop their opposition to organizations promoting a change in the Wilderness Act. Their current stance could require Chapters to drop their opposition or be forced to leave IMBA. Ironically, IMBA is out of touch with their own membership based on their survey. Roughly 48% of IMBA national members and close to 70% of western members want the 1964 Wilderness Act restored. SDMBA wants the Wilderness Blanket Ban on Bikes lifted.
Revenue Share – the split of membership dues needs to be adjusted. IMBA cannot expect Chapters to pay the same while reducing services.
Membership Rate – IMBA needs to drop the proposed 40% membership dues increase. Roughly 40% of SDMBA members pay $35 in dues – we desire to increase memberships not decrease them. Furthermore, IMBA’s model showed little additional revenue being created by the increase.
Transparency – IMBA has been notorious for their lack of transparency. IMBA needs to publicly release on their website all IMBA board minutes. In addition, IMBA needs to fully and publicly open their books. Had these simple actions taken place, Chapters would have seen these problems years ago.
Circling back, what are your thoughts? There are no easy decisions here. Until we know what IMBA decides, we are in a holding pattern. Between now and then – get vocal, ask questions and demand change! We suggest you start at the top. Please email:
The San Diego Mountain Biking Association is excited to announce that the first planning steps are being taken to create a mountain bike specific trail system in San Diego County! SDMBA has received a Letter of Intent signed by Will Metz, Cleveland National Forest Supervisor, to work in partnership with the Cleveland National Forest to develop a conceptual plan for a mountain biking specific trail network in Pamo Valley! Pamo Valley located north of Ramona is surrounded by approximately 23,000 acres of non-wilderness contiguous Forest Service ownership.
SDMBA has already started preliminary discussions with a professional trail design contractor on a conceptual plan for the area. Quotes are being gathered from firms that are experienced in conceptual plans across the country including Forest Service designs and extensive implementation experience in the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process. We hope to produce a quality plan that will include all skill levels from beginner to expert and downhill. We are operating within Forest Service trails standards so we will be limited to natural features only, but with great topography and extensive rock formations this area is prime mountain biking territory.
We have great partners to work with at the Forest Service and specifically at the Palomar District Office where this project will originate. We have some significant hurdles to cross before we get to an implementation phase, but we have identified mechanisms to assist in fast-tracking unbudgeted
projects in the NEPA process. We will also be signing on to assist in the building, and ongoing maintenance of these trails. Further as the Forest Service does not have the budget for these types of projects we plan to fund the initial part of this project through a mixture of grants, corporate and industry support, and crowd funding.
We know everyone will have a lot of questions about this project, but let’s be clear this has been a project San Diego County has needed for some time. We have always envisioned a legal network of mountain biking specific trails in our own backyard. Located only about 40 minutes from central San Diego, this is a massive area with nearly unlimited potential for recreation and will offer a year around destination for mountain bikers! We foresee this project being implemented in a phased approach, there are several roads that bisect the property and potentially offer a good guide for how the project could be phased.
Donate to the Pamo Valley – Orosco Ridge Trail Concept Fund here:
Please email any project questions to email@example.com
From the desk of Ben Stone, SDMBA Vice President and Advocacy Committee Chairperson —
In full disclosure, these are my opinions and do not reflect a stance San Diego Mountain Biking Association has taken – yet. IMBA has had a tumultuous year and is working to restructure its chapter program in order to make itself more sustainable. In the past month, IMBA has hired a new Executive Director, Dave Wiens, and sent all current chapters an initial restructuring proposal which is still evolving as we speak. Some features that have been proposed include:
an increase of basic membership fee from $35 to $49 annually
eliminations of all regional directors and the creation of Subject Matter Experts
new fee schedule pay per services for any special request or questions
a new low cost insurance program
membership revenue share restructuring between IMBA and SDMBA of 40%/60%
Many people may be scratching their heads as I was, and some may be saying, “What was SDMBA giving IMBA before?” Generally, IMBA keeps 60% of your membership dues and SDMBA gets 40%. I was scratching my head asking myself if we are increasing the cost of membership, there must be an increase in value or services offered to the chapters or members? So far, it is not obvious what that increase in value might entail.
Over the last two years, the SDMBA Board has reviewed our IMBA chapter charter for many reasons, and after each of these reviews we decided to stay with IMBA even with some dissent. Now, the Board has started a third review of our chapter status as this current proposal surfaced. We are not only concerned with an increase of dues to our members, but a lack of value to our members and our chapter. Two years ago we fought hard to get a California specific Regional Director and we got it. Then, one year ago we raised hell with IMBA following public comments against supporting bikes in Wilderness and nearly working against Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC). We also grew more and more disturbed at what seemed to be a new cozy relationship IMBA was forming with eBike manufacturers and a softening position on eBikes on trails. We raised big concerns behind the scenes with IMBA and we thought we had been part of the reasoning there was a softening of IMBA’s stance against STC and eBikes.
Then at the World Summit in Arkansas in November 2016, we sent a significant contingent to help voice our concerns. I was disturbed by not only a further cozy relationship with eBike manufacturers, but unfair and biased panels that vilified the efforts of getting bikes into wilderness. It was obvious that significant funding issues have also hit IMBA with the loss of Subaru as a sponsor and shuffling of high end staff. I also was amazed at a disconnect between some of IMBA’s board members and advocacy efforts on the ground. The Chairman of the Board of IMBA actually has lived in Carlsbad for some time. Now, I had never seen him at a SDMBA meeting or witnessed him at a trail work event. Even when I spoke to him about trail issues in his own backyard of San Diego, he was completely unaware and seemed indifferent to them. When he spoke it became obvious that his views were diametrically opposed to those of the SDMBA Board and members. Although I had a good time on the trails in Arkansas, I left somewhat disturbed and concerned.
So why would California chapters leave IMBA? Well, much like tax revenue in the U.S., California is contributing a significant amount of funds to IMBA without equal representation. We have a significant amount of Federal Wilderness and nearly 46% of our State is owned and managed by the federal government (nearly 46 million acres). A further 1.5% of the State is owned by California State Parks managing nearly 1.5 million acres. In San Diego County alone, there is 103,548 acres of Federal Wilderness, 43,000 acres of recommended wilderness and about 600,000 acres of State Wilderness. According to the County of San Diego, about 1.5 million acres of land is in State or Federal ownership (unincorporated San Diego County), that means that about 50% of our public lands at minimum are managed as Wilderness and doesn’t even count other public entities like Federal Wildlife Refuges, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or private land trusts. So the short answer is Wilderness is a big issue for California and is not the small problem IMBA keeps making it out to be.
From Wilderness to State Parks we enter a whole new realm of severe difficulty to access in California. One thing nearly every chapter in California shares is extreme frustration with California State Parks. State wilderness isn’t the only issue, but the fact that most State Parks do not allow bikes on trails or even roads is just the beginning. By default all California State Parks do not allow bikes on trails or roads and each District Superintendent must sign an order to even open up roads to bikes. To open a trail to bikes they must undergo what is called a “change in use designation” and this in many cases has turned into a prolonged 3-5 year process. The California State Parks Trail handbook that dictates trail standards for multi-use is so rigid and arduous that many times to bring a trail into compliance for multi-use a whole new environmental study must be completed for rerouting small sections. Further, State Parks seem to not want volunteer help. By far, our volunteers have the most difficulty working with State Parks to build new trail or maintain existing trail. In San Diego we have it pretty good as there is a long history of mountain bikers volunteering at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. But nearly every other IMBA chapter in California has a horror story of their ongoing problems with State Parks.
Now, on to eBikes and a deep division and what I think is a lack of understanding. I have had many long conversations with eBike manufacturers and what has become apparent to me from them and IMBA is they don’t understand land use in California. Nearly all of our California parks, preserves and open spaces are governed by conservation first and recreation second or even further down the list. For example, here are some of the mission statements of land agencies in San Diego County that mountain bikes have access to:
San Diego Wildlife Refuge – US Fish and Wildlife
“The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”
California Department of Fish & Wildlife
“The Mission of the Department of Fish and Wildlife is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.”
California State Parks
“To provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.”
As you can see from this list mountain biking is not mentioned anywhere, further recreation is only mentioned in one and it’s purposely in the last part of the sentence. Unfortunately, ebikes are the manifestation of every fear and claim many of these conservation minded groups have been waiting for. The argument traditional cyclists have always pushed that they are not mechanized and are passive trail users just like horseback riders or hikers. Now we are entering a realm where it becomes more difficult to argue for access in conserved areas because we are being pooled with pedal assist bikes that are obviously mechanized. I wish we didn’t have to take such a critical stance on this, but we will lose future and current trail access if we do not denounce ebikes on trails.
So, this brings us back to the decision of remaining an IMBA chapter or having SDMBA be an independent organization. Is there value for San Diego to remain a chapter? Does it amplify our voices on issues that matter to California? Would California benefit from its own statewide mountain bike advocacy group that can go directly to Sacramento? Is there too much of a rift between California’s priorities and IMBA’s priorities? These are all questions California Chapters are asking themselves. I wish IMBA was leading the way on this, but currently they seemed embroiled in how to balance the books. Meanwhile many chapters in California are assessing their own needs and I believe San Diego Mountain Biking Association with its over 1,100 members can help lead the way forward.
I have never been to this part of the country. All I knew was that Bentonville is the world domination headquarters of Wal-Mart. And, yes, it is true. There is a Wal-Mart Museum here.
Attending the 2016 IMBA World Summit to represent SDMBA were myself and four board members: Kevin Loomis (President), Ben Stone (Vice President), Jose Galaz and Robert Hubbard.
Traveling to this event on election day added a little extra excitement as we landed at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and they couldn’t manage to get the door open on our plane. This resulted in all of us just barely missing our connecting flight. We debated about renting a car and driving the five hours to Bentonville but then came to our senses and let American Airlines buy us hotel rooms for the night. Ben was particularly enamoured with the brisket nachos we had when we finally reached the Marriott Hotel restaurant. We caught another connecting flight early on Wednesday morning to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. We got an amazingly polite and knowledgeable Uber driver to take us to Bentonville.
We traveled through beautiful fields and trees that were just starting to turn every shade of autumn and caught glimpses and hints of trails heading off into the woods. We knew we were in for something special. The state of Arkansas, and the region around Bentonville, with the help of the Walton Family Foundation, have created a mountain biking destination that is exploding with mountain biking enthusiasts. A unique system of connected trails and bike parks was purposefully planned and built that showcases the natural beauty of the scenic Ozark landscape.
After settling into the Air BnB Victorian house we had rented, we set off walking through the quaint streets to find the Expo area.
Robert brought his own bike but the rest of us had to rely on the amazing fleet of demos (Trek, Giant/Liv, Yeti, Specialized, Salsa, Advocate, Orbea, Haibike, and more) that were brought in for the event.
I had signed up to participate in the Liv Cycling Women’s Clinic on Wednesday afternoon, so I soon was set up with a sweet Liv Pique Advanced. Liv had gathered an amazing group of cycling ambassadors to lead the clinics of varying levels. I was paired up with Tandie Bailey, a local shredder, who I later found out is the star of this amazing new video released at the World Summit by the OZ Trails Council.
We got ready and headed straight from the downtown venue of Compton Gardens onto a bike path leading straight into the woods. Within less than 25 yards we cut off onto some singletrack that paralleled that bike path. Whizzing past trees, we encountered smooth singletrack interspersed with skinny rock elements and wooden bridges for some extra fun. Before shooting out again onto the bike path, we whipped through a flowy section of five smooth as butter berms great for practicing cornering. We had just left downtown! I couldn’t believe it. Tandie told me that they planned it that way so that people on the paved bike path would be able to see all the fun riders were having on the singletrack.
Still somewhat stunned by the bike friendliness of this town, we headed to the Summit opening reception. Good snacks and beverages were accompanied by presentations which included the introduction of Dave Weins as the incoming IMBA board chairman.
We awoke to a sunny but crisp morning and headed to the opening session of the summit. Jenn Dice, director of People for Bikes, spoke about how mountain biking development fits in with national level advocacy efforts. Hans Rey, all around living legend and fun guy, gave the keynote address talking about the scope of his amazing career and the advocacy work he has done for mountain biking around the world. He is an amazing ambassador for our sport and for IMBA. Other legends roaming around the place included Gary Fisher, Danny MacAskill, Ryan Leech and Shaums March. These guys can all shred like nobody’s business but they also do their part in giving back to their sport and to advocacy issues that face all of us. Then our SDMBA delegation headed off in different directions to attend breakout sessions on subjects including nonprofit board development and management, Wilderness access issues, and e-Bike access on public lands. It was a full day of sharing and learning best practices and meeting like minded people from all around the country and the world who all have a passion for making mountain biking better for all of us.
Kevin represented SDMBA as a presenter on a panel called “Successful Advocacy Messaging” where he shared the story of our issues and continued progress with the Marines and the Stowe Trail access. Attendees from across the nation are well aware of our little “problem” with the Marine patrols and the confiscated bikes but are also impressed that SDMBA has made progress on this front.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Being an Art History Major, I did take a small intermission at lunchtime for a stroll through the amazing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (free admission by the way. Thanks, Walton Family Foundation) with CORBA president and all around super-hero, Steve Messer. We found we share a love of art and creativity that balances our love for mountain biking.
We managed to carve out some time for a working happy hour at the local cycling hangout, The Pedaler’s Pub, with all the IMBA California attendees and our Regional Director Laurel Harkness. It is valuable time spent talking California issues and ideas with people who understand the opportunities and constraints peculiar to the Golden State. Ted Stroll, President of the Sustainable Trails Coalition joined us and gave us an update on the bill s.3205, Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act.
For the evening festivities, we all headed back down to the beautiful Crystal Bridges Museum for a fairly swanky reception (by mountain biker standards) with an address by Tom Walton. Yes, that Tom Walton – avid mountain biker and trail advocate and one of the heirs to the Walmart empire. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson also addressed the crowd. Governor Hutchinson has been instrumental in making his state is an adventure sport destination with mountain biking being a key component. Governor Hutchinson also gave an award of a new Trek mountain bike package to a young inspirational female NICA racer for her stellar participation in the Teen Trail Corps Program.
The galleries of the museum were still open so I took another look at the breathtaking collection with NICA SoCal League Director Matt Gunnell and Associate Director Brandon LaRue. I know that this has nothing to do with mountain biking but we had wonderful conversations about life and art that somehow must lead to getting more kids on bikes!
This schedule was pretty non-stop. Needless to say we headed back to the beautiful victorian we stayed in and went straight to sleep to get ready for Friday, which turned out to be epic.
The day began with a talk given by Neil Kornze, the National Director of the Bureau of Land Management. He rides mountain bikes and the BLM has promoted the development of mountain biking across the country.
Then the breakout sessions began again. I stayed to hear about the new Unself app which IMBA has been developing in partnership with the Unself developers and selected chapters, SDMBA being one. Unself will be beta tested soon by SDMBA. Think of it as Strava for volunteers which will help with tracking hours and projects.
Patrick Kell and Susie Murphy
After that, I was honored to present a session with Patrick Kell (IMBA Southwest Regional Director) called “How to Fund Your Trail Project.”
We talked about traditional and alternative funding sources that all chapters can explore in their own communities as well as listed some tools that chapters need to experiment with such as peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding. We also emphasized the importance of communications and social media marketing development in order to tell a chapter’s story to members and potential donors.
The real fun started when everyone started to load up the shuttles to head to the Railyard Bike Park in Rogers, Arkansas.
What a treasure for this community and the surrounding region. There were kids of all ages and families enjoying the safe space to practice their skills in a progressive environment. This is built on about three acres. An amazing connected trail system led off into the woods for miles. We got to hang out with our friends Robin Baloochi and the gang from WD-40 Bike, Adam Watkins from BIKE Magazine, and Jackie Reseigne from Jenson USA. Bike demos were available to hit the trails down around Lake Atlanta. I borrowed an Advocate Cycles Hayduke with 27.5+ 3.0 tires! What fun! Did a few laps on the beginner and intermediate bike park lines with a little coaching from ICP certified coach and SDMBA super volunteer, Jason Liebrecht. An amazing trials demonstration was put on by Hans Rey, Danny MacAskill and Ryan Leech to entertain the huge crowd.
The Railyard Bike Park
We headed back to town with big smiles on our faces but still wondering why San Diego is so behind when it comes to bike park infrastructure and amenities like bike parks. SDMBA is getting closer to getting a bike park in partnership with the County of San Diego after almost 9 years of work. If our government officials could just see a stellar bike park like the Railyard in action, they would understand! Lots of work to do here! Stay tuned.
We enjoyed an amazing southern dinner at the Flying Fish of fried catfish, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fried pickles, hush puppies…you get the picture! We hit the hay early after all that fried goodness so we could get ready for the big Saturday ride.
Ben Stone, Back 40. Photo by Jose Galaz
The glorious weather continued as we hopped the shuttle to Blowing Springs Park, south of Bentonville. The entire IMBA expo vendors and demo fleets made the trip too. I got set up on a Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp Carbon 6Fattie and headed into the woods towards the trails known as the Back 40. Here’s a shot of Ben on a smooth Pivot ride. (Check out SDMBA Facebook page for more of Jose’s great photos..as usual.)
Did I mention the rides here do NOT involve any fire road? Really! Not a single foot. It is all singletrack, all the time. You have to watch the fallen leaves as they can be slippery. The occasional outcroppings of limestone and small water crossings lend some variety to the trails. The terrain is constantly rolling so you never really stop pedaling for long. Some folks found even the short route of 15 miles to be more than challenging. Those that completed the 30 miler were sure ready for the delicious lunch of gumbo and hot dogs from Pedaler’s Pub with beer provided by Core Brewing.
Susie Murphy with Jenny Johnson (Mount Wilson Bicycling Association) and Leah Dilbeck (Inland Valley MTB Association)
We piled back in the shuttle to town to get cleaned up for the evening’s VIP event that included a silent and live auction and a room full of some of the most influential folks in the business. The energy was high as everyone shared their experiences from their rides. Tom Walton passionately shared the path that Bentonville has taken to become a world class mountain biking destination with over 260 miles of interconnected trails. In the end, lots of folks took the opportunity to step up and support IMBA in its mission of creating, enhancing and promoting great mountain biking.
As if all of this wasn’t enough for one epic day, there was an after party at the Meteor, a guitar shop and music venue hosted by the Phat Tire Bike Shop. Great live music by Crescent City Combo provided the perfect atmosphere to celebrate a great week of riding and progress for mountain biking.
We packed up on Sunday morning and called Uber to take us to the airport. You know you are in a small town when you get the same driver as the day you arrived. As we sit in the Dallas airport trying to get home, the five of us share our thoughts and discuss the people that we met and the inspiration that was gained.
How should we prioritize the work that needs to be done in San Diego to improve our riding experience?
How can we better tell our story and demonstrate the need for trails to our land managers and elected officials?
How can we serve our members to make SDMBA the best IMBA chapter in the country?
What is the best way to cultivate volunteers and other supporters to take initiative and drive SDMBA’s mission forward?
We barely scratched the surface as far as the riding opportunities in Northwest Arkansas. There is definitely reason to return here one day soon. After all, I never made it to the Wal-Mart Museum.
After nearly two decades, trail users will SOON be allowed access to MCAS via the Historic Stowe Trail in Santee. While this does not affect Mission Trails and East Elliot, new legal trail is currently under review via the Mission Trails Regional Park Master Plan Update! There are many logistical details to be determined here, so please be patient while plans are finalized.
During this period, it is critical everyone remains off all land north of the 52 and south of Goodan Ranch.
It is due to remaining off their land, MCAS became convinced a partnership could be formed with the community. Thank you for respecting the closures – it worked!
Check out the VLOG for more information and stay tuned!
The San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) is happy and proud to celebrate the one year anniversary of our Executive Director (ED) – Susie Murphy! While these efforts originate from our awesome volunteers, coordination starts with Susie. Furthermore, our relationships with IMBA, the City, County and State agencies have never been stronger – opening new exciting opportunities. Mountain bike voices are being heard and sought after, pushing trail advocacy towards unprecedented levels.
Read Susie’s year-in-review below!
Hiring Susie was a big investment – it took SDMBA twenty years to save enough! After months of meetings, interviews and extensive benchmarks, we knew San Diego riders needed an employee to represent them. With that in mind, we hired Susie “Part-Time” with the desire to shift her full-time after a year. Susie has exceeded virtually every benchmark and is looking towards the next year. Furthermore, our finances have never been stronger but we need your help! At this month’s Board Meeting, the Board will vote to shift the Executive Director position to full time. All members are welcome to attend and listen to Susie’s ‘year in review’.
Can we count on you to help fund her salary, allowing San Diego’s momentum to continue?
We invite you to partner with us through a generous donation (any size!) Help fund our ED role to full time allowing SDMBA to continue the progress we’ve all enjoyed. It can be a single donation, a monthly donation or quarterly donation – every dollar is deeply appreciated! Unlike your membership – every penny stays in San Diego helping SDMBA climb to new heights! THANK YOU!!!!
A letter from SDMBA Executive Director, Susie Murphy –
Dear SDMBA members and mountain bike friends:
It is hard to believe that I am about to celebrate my first year as Executive Director of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. The time has gone by so quickly. I have had the opportunity to visit and ride in new places across the county. But, the best part is meeting all the people who believe, like I do, that access to trails and open space are vital to the health and well-being of our community.
The volunteers who spend their time helping SDMBA are the ones who are truly helping us climb to new heights. Over the past year, our volunteers have:
Worked over 2700 hours on building and maintaining trails at over 23 work days around the county and opening new trail at Cuyamaca Ranch State Park, Black Mountain, Tijuana River Valley and Del Mar Mesa;
Led over 35 rides of various levels throughout the county at no cost to participants;
Participated events such as Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day, San Diego River Kids Days, and Explore Mission Trails Day, getting over 250 kids on their bikes;
Maintained the Bike Bell Program in areas around the county to educate trail users about proper trail etiquette;
Produced the 2016 Archipelago Ride raising over $16,000;
Staffed community events such as Bike the Bay, Tour De Fat, and the Tour of California to let everyone know about SDMBA’s work; and
Attended countless meetings, including SDMBA monthly board and advocacy meetings, to help SDMBA fulfill its mission
SDMBA is building on the momentum of this past year! We want to continue to push the message that we need more quality, natural surface, purpose built trails in San Diego County with everyone we meet. SDMBA membership stands at 1050 individuals and is up over 27% over last year. This gives our volunteers more leverage when meeting with land managers and officials. This growth and these efforts are paying off as we are recognized as the trail authority in San Diego.
Over the past year, SDMBA has been awarded grants from REI, Patagonia, and the National Environmental Education Foundation, and with the help of volunteers progress is being made.
Five Bike Work Stations have been installed in 2016 with support from REI. SDMBA working on funding more of these stations for locations around the county;
Work on new trails at Black Mountain Open Space Park will continue during the 2016-17 season;
Work with the San Diego River Park Foundation on the eastern portions of the San Diego River Park Regional Trail;
Partner with San Diego Canyonlands and Urban Corps San Diego on a grant from the San Diego Foundation for work on a truly urban trail in the City Heights area;
Assisting the San Dieguito Valley River Conservancy in maintaining the Bernardo Summit Trail;
Assist U.S. Fish and Wildlife with trail rehabilitation at Mother Miguel in the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge; and
Working on a three year Strategic Plan to direct and prioritize our work.
In reviewing all that has been accomplished over the past year, I am awed at the dedication of our volunteers and our great sponsors, like San Diego Trek Superstores, Ride Cyclery, Pardee Homes, and all the others. There is always plenty of work to do and the time and talent of our volunteers and support of our sponsors is invaluable. There are plenty of opportunities to help.
A highlight for me is seeing comments like this from a loyal social media follower:
“What’s truly rad is the amount of trail and bike repair stations that have been installed this year thanks to SDMBA, REI, and our awesome mtb community here in San Diego. I am honored to ride and serve alongside these amazing people getting work done!”
I want to thank all of the SDMBA members, volunteers, partners, donors, and sponsors who help promote trails in San Diego and get more people on bikes. I am honored and humbled everyday to be able to work together with you to help SDMBA climb to new heights!
This is not good news for trees….or trails.
The Escondido Creek Conservancy has instituted trail closures (area west of Elfin Forest recreational Reserve) because of infestation of the Shot Hole Borer invasive beetle.
Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Trails are still open at this time. Rangers are evaluating the situation.
These bugs are bad news for California and beyond. Most of the trees in the Tijuana River Valley have been killed by this pest. Talk to the land managers and The Escondido Creek Conservancy and learn about how you can stop the spread.
Trail closures may help stop the spread but the way the bugs travel most is when people carry firewood from region to region. ?#buyitwhereyouburnit?
The Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act S.3205 has been introduced in Congress by Senator Mike Lee of Utah. San Diego Mountain Biking Association has supported the vision of STC from the beginning.
An article on Singletracks.com sums up the bill and next steps that you can take to help.
The STC states that “There’s absolutely zero connection to any other legislative agenda. All the bill will do is (1) allow local land managers to decide if mountain bikers and other currently disallowed human-powered travelers can use a particular trail, and (2) remind the agencies that they can use hand-held and hand-maneuvered tools like wheelbarrows to maintain Wilderness trails better than they now do. All nonmotorized Wilderness visitors should support this legislation.”
The STC will post a form soon so you can send your voice of support to your elected officials. We will share as soon as it is available.
Spread the word! Tell your friends! All ?MTB voices will be needed here.