The 20-20-20 plan|
Thursday, April 01, 1999
by Tim Blumenthal
IMBA's list of tangible accomplishments is growing. On the other hand, we realize that we need to do so much more.
We broke the ice with the Sierra Club, solidified good relations with the U.S. BLM and U.S. Forest Service, and established an effective national office in Colorado. We have improved our work on behalf of IMBA-affiliated clubs by assembling new educational materials, spending more time strategizing on the phone, and attending a record number of meetings, hearings, and conferences. We're getting into the field more and helping break barriers between mountain bikers and other trail-user groups by sharing success stories and establishing common ground.
Our measurable progress has inspired the bicycle industry to increase its support of IMBA's work. Our industry membership list is longer than ever and includes several companies who have joined for the first time. What this backing means to IMBA is an opportunity to do better work and better fulfill our mission. What it means to mountain bike clubs is increased support (strategic, educational, and financial) from IMBA. And what it means to mountain bikers is, ultimately, more trail riding opportunities. Maybe.
I have doubts because I remained frustrated by our inability to inspire more mountain bicyclists to get off their saddles and work for trails and the future of off-road cycling. All year - in person and on the phone - I heard the same story from clubs everywhere: too much to do and not enough volunteers. Most club work is performed by a small, dedicated nucleus of volunteers, usually a half dozen diehards. In many cases, it's worse than that: one or two people do everything, including newsletter production, meeting and hearing representation, and membership fulfillment.
Universally, these activists are exhausted. They need help and they need to be relieved to recharge their batteries but they keep going because they love the sport and they recognize the importance of their work.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not whining about the situation. But I am very concerned. If a stronger spirit of volunteerism doesn't take hold in our ranks, singletrack riding - at least on public land that is available without paying a fee - is doomed in much of the U.S. and probably abroad. Population growth, development pressure, and the preferences and political power of traditional trail-user groups will combine to push trail cyclists on to ski area property and into mountain bike parks that charge a daily fee.
Many mountain bikers (though probably not many IMBA members) will scoff at this prediction. They'll say that off-road cyclists are in many places already the largest group of trail users and that ultimately, the strength of our numbers will prevail.
I don't believe this. In my mind, there is only one way for our sport to prosper. It's a combination of responsible riding, volunteer trail work, and political activism - NOW. This formula, if adopted by most riders, is a sure bet, and following it will do nothing to sap the sport of its best elements.
One theme is based on the idea of a 20-20-20 vision. The first 20 is 20 bucks to join your local mountain bike club, because local involvement in trails is essential and clubs need workers and money to be effective. The second 20 is $20 for IMBA because mountain biking needs a credible, broad-based voice to push for trail-riding opportunities and put forward a positive image for our sport. The third 20 is 20 hours a year for trails: maybe one day of trail maintenance work in the spring, one in June on National Trails Day (we want every IMBA member to be involved), and a third in the fall. If you don't want to work on trails, or can't, you can fulfill this obligation by attending trail meetings or volunteering to help your local club behind-the-scene.
Does this 20-20-20 vision sound painful? Not to me. Forty bucks, 20 hours...per year. That's not much. The trail maintenance days are guaranteed to be fun because they always are. Do you think we can get more mountain bikers to do this?
One of mountain biking's greatest assets is its spontaneous nature. You ride when you want, alone or with friends depending on your inclination, and you ride where you want (as long as you follow the rules). You don't have to join anything to be a mountain biker.
We need to change that notion. We need to challenge our friends who ride but don't contribute and tell them they need to pay to play. And we can't accept no as an answer. If they won't give time, they can give money. If they won't give either, they'll have no right to complain when they open their wallet to fork over $10 bucks for a one-day trail pass at their local singletrack park.
Mountain bicycling shouldn't come to that. And it doesn't need to, particularly if we can get riders everywhere to think 20-20-20.