Admit it; whether you wrote them down or now, we’ve all made a few New Year’s Resolutions. From fitness to family time, recycling more to calling mom, resolutions are a great way to put the things that matter to us back at the top of the list. Resolutions are really priorities, and the new year is as good excuse as any to get them back in order.
One of the efforts we hope mountain bikers will make this year is to attend a meeting off your local trail association. Many Michigan mountain bike associations offer public get-togethers that allow the board to update members on what’s going on in the world of trails. These meetings are a great way to get a better look at all the hard work that goes on off the trails and out of the woods. Many trail folks wish they could spend their time making or repairing trail, but getting their hands dirty is just one small part of a happy, healthy singletrack.
We put together a quick look at a few interesting things you might be surprised to learn once you attend a meeting. We know these first-hand because we lived it; many of us had no idea how many moving parts some organizations have to work with to make the trails possible.
The Real Landowners. Your local trail association doesn’t ‘own’ and inch of land, and who actually has the legal rights to a trail could be any number of entities. Different trails in Michigan are owned by different parts of state land, city parks, county parks, private landowners, and even unique bodies created specifically to manage certain parcels of land. When riders ask why a trail association doesn’t just “go out and make trail”, that’s often because they’re responsibly managing property on behalf of the landowner.
It Takes More Time Than You Think. That fresh slice of singletrack you love? Sure, it’s only a mile long. It may have only taken a few days to cut in. But that stretch of heaven could have been years or even decades in the making! Trail permits take a long, long time to be passed by Michigan DNR, and with good reason. Many acres of state land requires the signatures of a dozen or more departments before trail can be built. From forestry to wildlife to water, the DNR invests time making sure new trail won’t affect the delicate ecosystem and resources it crosses through.
There’s A Lot Of Tool Talk. No matter what trail association you’re a part of, all are equally tough on their equipment. It’s not just big equipment and trail implements, either. Even work gloves wear out, and it’s not unheard of to see a single trail volunteer go through a few pairs between March and December! Those expenses add up and feature prominently in the financial planning of any board.
It’s A Lot of Fun. No one sits on a trail association board without reason. The people involved have a deep passion for mountain biking, but that passion extends to the trails and the forest itself. These folks truly love what they do and value the places that they do it. That’s why trail associations treasure their relationships with the landowners, with their volunteers, and with every single rider who gets out to enjoy their time on the singletrack.
Over the next twelve months, make a commitment to your local trail association by becoming a member, and make sure you join them for a board or member meeting at least once this year. You’ll be glad you did!
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