Green Trails, Greenways, and an Ecosystem of Trails
Part one of a three-part series on amplifying the collective voices of mountain bikers to influence policy.
Mountain biking has a rich history of advocacy. The access that mountain bikers currently enjoy is a result of decades of advocacy work by IMBA, its Local partners, and numerous other groups and individuals across the country. Impactful advocacy doesn’t just happen in federal agencies or the US Capitol. It can start in your home district.
Every August, members of Congress head back to their respective states and districts. This is a great time for constituents to engage in in-person advocacy and build relationships with their representatives. It is also a good time to take stock of what issues are important to your organization, what you have going in terms of advocacy, and what else you could be doing.
Engaging with decision makers
Show Congress events are meant to connect a member of Congress to mountain biking by having them participate in an event such as a trail opening, ribbon cutting ceremony, trail work day, or group ride. It’s a great opportunity to show off trails your group has built (or get attention on trails that need repair) and introduce your lawmakers to a growing mountain biking community, which also happens to be part of their constituency.
Arrange a Meeting
It may be challenging to get on your lawmaker’s calendar. If you are able to schedule a meeting, be sure to make the most of this valuable time.
Is there a specific issue you are working on? Invite community members who can effectively and persuasively speak on this issue. Be prepared with photos, videos, and testimonials that can help you make your case.
This can also be a time to just meet with your officials, build a relationship, and establish credibility. Show them what you have accomplished and who you have worked with so that next time there is a project or funding for trails available, your group is top of mind. Be sure to leave your contact information with their staff.
“We've been at it so long that we developed the relationships at the city and county level, at the forest service. We're on a first name basis with most of those people. Over the years, it ripened into a relationship that has really allowed us to write grants, go after monies, get plans together that everybody is on board with.” - Sarah Bennett, Trails Utah
Attend Lawmakers’ Events
Another way to get some face time with your lawmakers is to attend their events, such as a public speaking engagement or a town hall. Depending on the situation, you can have a representative from your organization approach the lawmaker for a chat and exchange contact information. You can also come in large numbers–get your members, their families, and partner groups to join you.
Oftentimes, lawmakers have their own agenda dictated by congressional leadership. Find out where your interests align. This will help you craft your own messaging that will help lawmakers understand how issues in mountain biking affect larger issues in the district or state.
“You have to turn this into a connection to what’s valuable to them. And what’s valuable to them is to be able to check a box to say in my goals, I met this. Within my goals, I connected to the community.” - Ernie Rodriguez, MORE
IMBA works to activate its partners to influence planning, legislation, and policy decisions that benefit mountain biking. On a local level, we also want trail organizations to be effective advocates for mountain bike trails and access. Below are some tools to aid you in that work.
- Advocacy 101 gives an overview of the topic and outlines the different ways your organization can engage in mountain bike advocacy.
- Federal Funding Briefs - We put together information on nine federal funding sources trail organization can tap into, as well as information on the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). The funding briefs include an overview of the grants, timeline for application, and things you need to know before applying. These are available to IMBA Local Partners through the Leader Dashboard under Grants: Federal Grant Program Briefs.
- Action Cultivator Tool - The Action Cultivator Tool (ACT) allows Local partners to reach more people and engage them on timely and relevant issues affecting the mountain biking community. Local Chapters and Affiliates can tap into IMBA’s expertise in the planning stages of an advocacy campaign, as well as mobilize IMBA’s wide network of members and partners through alerts, geographically targeted emails, and other advocacy campaign strategies.
Interested in hearing about the advocacy efforts of mountain biking groups? Stay tuned for part two where an IMBA Local partner tells us how they successfully worked alongside the Forest Service to make sure mountain biking was considered in the forest management plan.