WHEN members of the North Shore Mountain Bike Association stood up last month at a Santa Fe, New Mexico conference to present on the success of their Trail Adoption Plan, the world was watching.
Association program manager Mark Wood and president Mathew Bond were among the presenters at the 2012 International Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit, held in Santa Fe, Oct. 1013 that saw approximately 350 delegates attend. The duo presented at a session focused on planning for the future health of trail systems and trail communities.
"We really feel that we're at the point where being invited down to this world summit that we're global leaders in creating a program of this magnitude and the amount of involvement from the community," says Wood.
"It was a good story that we shared and we're very proud of the work that's being done and we were excited to share it with everybody at the conference," he adds.
Thanks to significant community involvement, the association's Trail Adoption Plan program has experienced tremendous growth since its inception in 2011. TAP was launched in response to an aging trail network, compounded by the region's extreme rainfall and high number of trail users (of all kinds), as a means of revitalizing the trails to improve them and make them sustainable for use by all long into the future.
"Part of the equation of sustainability is doing maintenance on the trails and so that's in essence what TAP is doing," says Wood.
The community-based initiative sees local, national and international businesses adopt a North Shore trail and commit to participating in trail work days over the course of a year. Adopters are led by a certified NSMBA trail builder, someone who is familiar with trail building techniques and who has attended the North Shore Trail Builder Academy, another educational incentive the association has created. The trail builder creates a work plan, assesses the trail and works with the volunteers to address environmental issues and erosion to retrofit the trail in a modern, sustainable way.
In 2011 there were 11 adopters and in 2012, 23 groups decided to join the program. The number of trails was more than doubled from nine in 2011 to 19 in 2012.
"There is huge potential with people wanting to give back to the community," says Wood. "Because of these organizations being passionate about being in the outdoors, whether it's hiking or biking or just being out walking the dog, everybody is really connected to the trails and it just makes a good sensible closing of the loop for these businesses, based mostly on the North Shore, but again, we've got some national and international businesses, to give back to the trails."
Today, there are hundreds of volunteers involved in the program. "We gauge our success not just our group as an organization, but the whole community being behind these initiatives," says Wood.
The 2012 adopters are still completing work on their respective trails with anticipated completion by December.
"We're just starting to enter talks with a number of new adopters so we expect the program to expand even further than what it already is," says Wood.
In addition to time spent working on their trail, adopters make a financial commitment of $2,500, which covers all costs associated with the retrofit.
Wood and Bond's session at the Inter-national Mountain Bicycling Association World Summit was well-attended and the response was "huge," seeing them receive lots of "pats on the back" and interest expressed by groups wanting to launch their own version of TAP.
Wood says the experience in Santa Fe proved eye-opening, referencing the expression, "you can't see the forest because of the trees."
"Once you leave this region you really see how heralded our trail network is. The North Shore is famous. It's one of the most famous spots on the planet for mountain biking. It started here long before many other places. There's always a huge, huge interest when you travel abroad or when you talk to people outside of this region, there's always a huge interest in people just having this understanding of the history here and how profound the history is."
The duo also appreciated the opportunity the conference provided to learn from other groups and walked away with ideas regarding more improved and better ways to build trails and community, how to share the sport from a tourism aspect and how to grow their organization to get more people involved. "We're at the point where we're asking, 'what's next?' We want to get to the next level and what is next and it really gave us food for thought for a number of different areas as to what the next steps are to continue to build on these successes that we're having right now and keep that momentum moving forward," says Wood.
For more information on the NSMBA or to become involved in the Trail Adoption Plan for 2013, visit nsmba.ca.