What Has Boulder Mountainbike Alliance Done for You?
Do you like riding the Wild Turkey Trail or the Picture Rock Trail at Heil Valley Ranch? Do you prefer heading down south to Doudy Draw, Flatirons Vista, Prarie Vista, the High Plains Trail, or the Springbrook Loop? Maybe your attention turns to the mountains and the West Magnolia or Brainard Lake areas?
Regardless of where you ride, chances are bikes were not allowed there five to ten years ago. Mountain bikers have trails and access in many parts of Boulder County due to the efforts of Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) over the last 20 years. Are you ready to join the charge? If so, we'd love and need your help.
Political Advocacy - Those of us in BMA advocacy team are marathoners. Nothing here gets done quickly; we like to call our efforts the art of making good things happen, ie, "getting to YES" and keeping bad things from happening. Just about every trail you ride on in Boulder County has directly benefitted from BMA political advocacy... some simply would never have happened.
Four agencies, The US Forest Service(USFS), Boulder County Parks and Open Space(BCPOS), the City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks(OSMP), and Eldorado Canyon State Park all have staff, decision makers, and elected officials and "processes" that we need to know and understand to get things done on our public lands.
Over the years, we have found the sweat equity isn't near enough to influence an outcome; there hasn't been a trail decision made that wasn't political at the core. Personal relationships are key in this vocation, and having a memory of what has come before definitely helps as well.
All of these people work for us, but they are the ones either elected or paid to maintain our public lands, so they get to define the conversation about what gets planned or actually put on the ground.
What’s on tap for 2012
Regional Trail Planning
Roughly two thirds of Boulder County is currently in public ownership. Almost all of the big parcels that could be open space have already been bought. We won’t see another Heil Ranch open anytime soon. We also know that increased user pressure on the current inventory of trails in Boulder County will continue to increase, and there is no agency willing to expand the trail system on their current properties to accommodate. When management plans were drawn up, no thought was given beyond the fenceline, no consideration given about how OSMP trails can hook into County trails and so on. Government workers are not encouraged to look beyond the scope of what they are told to do, so after 20+ years of two open space programs, we have “islands” of recreation destinations, making the public drive to get their recreation fix.
If we could work together to link together these “islands” with trails, we can increase capacity, disperse use, and get more people out of their cars.
As you might think, getting the agencies to the table to discuss this concept is like herding cats, and getting the user groups to the table to have this discussion is even more challenging. So we have our work cut out for us.
The good news is that the political side of the equation is agreeing that it’s time to do regional trail planning now. Both Boulder City Council and the Boulder County Commissioners are onboard. The USFS has been ready to go for years, so now it’s BCPOS and OSMP management need to wrap their collective heads around it.
More to come in this space.
Walker Ranch Management Plan Revisit
BCPOS has been working on this management plan revisit for over two years. Planning staff has promised the conclusion of this process this year, but don’t bet the house on it. When open houses were held last year, we drove home the need to look behind their fencelines and consider connections east, west and north. Eldo to Walker, connections west to the Dots, West Mag and Nederland, and over to Boulder Canyon via Chapman Drive.
We can expect meetings to commence before the end of summer. We’ll see what they have in store.
Political Advocacy: Volunteers Needed
For political advocates, new trails don't start when shovels break ground. They start long before, often years before - around meeting tables and late at night over pizza. They start with people who think big, and know the impact a few people can have on their community. Boulder was one of the first communities where mountain biking emerged - and we were the first to ban it. But that was some 25 years ago, and with successes like the opening of Doudy Draw Trail to mountain bikers, the creation of Picture Rock Trail, and Valmont Bike Park, we've shown that mountain bikers are here to stay, but more importantly, that we're here to be good stewards and valued partners.
BMA's Political Advocacy Committee is always looking for more people interested in the exciting behind-the-scenes world of trail advocacy. Okay, exciting is a stretch, but calling it rewarding, indispensable, and yes, often frustrating, is nothing short of the truth. Getting involved can mean as little as showing up to a public meeting or as much as serving on the committee and developing and driving a strategy for the next ten years. No matter your availablity or level of commitment, you're involvement is a huge asset to us all. If you're interested in learning more, click here to email the Political Advocacy Committee.
Do All Mountain Bikers Have a Chip on Their Shoulder?
Well, yes. That's what happens when one user group is unilatterally banned from open space. While many mountain bikers think that Boulder City Council's decisions to ban bikes from city open space in 1983 and 1987 were unfair, we like to think of it as the best investment Boulder ever made in open space. By taking this action, City Council created the most energetic, passionate, and politically active group of volunteers on open space issues the city has seen in a generation. While we owe a huge debt to the folks who dreamed up open space and followed that passion, most of that effort focused on one thing - buy the land before the developers do. And thank your diety of choice those committed people followed their passion.
But an unfinished task in the great Boulder open space experiment remains. Namely, now that we've bought all this land, how are we going to manage it? Luckily for Boulder, by kicking mountain bikers off the trails, they caused us to introspect and research. Do we really destroy the environment? Do we really erode trails? In response to these accusations, mountain bikers have become the best trail builders in the world - innovating ways to make trails more sustainable, minimize user conflicts, and protect the environment - not just for mountain bikers, but for all trail users. In many places, the trail design techniques developed by mountain bikers to resolve these issues are replacing long standing, and unsustainable trail building practices. And yes, we make the trails fun too - fun for everyone.
So, do we have chips on our shoulders or are we carrying the open space torch proudly into the future? We like to believe the latter. For like the open space visionaries on whose shoulders we stand, our passion for open space is tempered by knowledge, endurance, and a belief that we must plan for the long term sustainabiity of Boulder's greatest resource. [remove feet from soap box] :)
Active Political Advocacy Issues