I pointed out earlier that in many situations, MTB and other user groups have had great success in preserving trails and access through maintaining good relationships with land and license holders. I mention the latter because sometimes knowing your local logging company also very important. Some examples have been pointed out in the Sea to Sky corridor. In some cases, these âgood relationshipsâ are understanding that the landowner doesnât want to know and doesnât want to care about what goes on, and is comfortable with people accessing his or her land as long as they donât erect buildings or start fires. In other cases, those good relationships are based on the user groups acknowledging risks, and taking steps to help the landowner control liability. These good relationships in some cases require technical savvyâ¦.in all cases they require people skills to establish positive conversations. Letâs talk about what skills and assets are required for preserving trails and access.
One must first ask what actual level of power is actually held by recreation groups in decision-making processes around private land, and what their best strategies are for preserving access as development advances.
I think we can safely assume that development will continue, and many private lands that we now enjoy access to will change over the coming decades. There has been some (at times wild) speculation on this board about the plans for certain areas, and the intentions of certain landowners with respect to land development. Without delving into the morass of assuming corporate intentions, we can simply take for granted that some land will develop. I would suggest that there is a long list of factors affecting the decisions around development (zoning, environmental, housing supply, market, regulationsâ¦.) and that recreation groups are only one of many influencesâ¦ and not necessarily a particularly powerful influence when it comes right down to the final decision.
One may even suggest that recreation groups are merely humored and accommodated by development because they are part of the community. If developers can get some support from rec-groups, it is simply a bonus to the marketing of their plan, but they will just as easily bulldoze over us if push comes to shove.
Thus, one may argue that the best strategy for preserving trails and access is building positive functional relationships with landowners, and taking steps to help them, and others involved in the decision-making processes, to see the trails as an asset and a feature to be retained during planning. In contrast, preparing for a fight and vesting oneself in confrontational strategies and court challenges may be less viable. There certainly may be cases in which more assertive action is warranted. However, the best bet for MTB and other rec-groups may lie in the ability to bring people together, maintain internal cohesion, and support leaders that can help negotiate continued access in a civil and cooperative manner. In this respect, it is important to consider the skills and qualities needed to succeed here.
Some people are simply naturals at buildingâ¦this includes building trails and building communities. I speak to the latter here- about supporting and getting behind people with the right âsoft skillsâ for helping MTB navigate trial access issues. Indeed, it also takes technical and regulatory savvy at times. However, it seems that in this CMHC case, the day was âwonâ not by the people with the most compelling legal argument, but by the people that rallied community in communicating the value of these trails, and establishing positive links with CMHCâ¦not by focusing on grievances and demands and conflict. In contrast, some people try to change the world through asserting power, or they are easily threatened and seek to respond with force. I will concede that I myself sometimes fall into this camp, and perhaps may disqualify myself as an ideal leader because of my tendency toward not backing down, when the best tactic is really to ignore and walk awayâ¦my tolerance level is simply very low for certain behaviors. I know of course that I am not alone, and others here have similarly disqualified themselves in leading the charge for managing trails. Of course, I do not presume to lead, and prefer to observe and analyze. Others just want to ride! However, this post is not intended to be either confession period or the Spanish Inquisition. It is an attempt to look beyond the trolling and arguing, and extract learning outcomes from this CMHC case that can help the MTB community grow and prosper as an effective influence on recreational access (for riders and others). Thereâs been a lot of wasted energy in this thread and the entire CMHC case, and it would be a shame for the ridership to focus on the crap, and not on the process and the lessonsâ¦...this is not about pointing out things people did wrong, but what were the things that were done right?
It goes without saying that this consideration of âskills requiredâ is germane to election of NSMBA Board of Directors, as well as other processes of choosing leadership. Perhaps these ideas go without saying given the good job done thus far in establishing MTB as an effective player in recreation (here and elsewhere). But I also want to ask readers to consider what they learned in this thread and this process. Donât remember the best burn, or worry about separating accusations and counter-attacks.
What did we really learn? What was the outcome of the CMHC process, and how should it inform future action? Who were the leaders that actually brought people together, and what qualities helped them achieve their goals? What does this tell you about how MTB has grown, and what is needed for it to continue to grow?