Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

CORBA and IMBA Membership Drive

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

This fall IMBA is doing a membership drive. Between now and October 30th, by joining or renewing your membership to CORBA and IMBA, you’ll be eligible for a drawing for a Yeti SB 5c mountain bike, and a year’s supply of nutrition from CLIF Bar including set of Maxxis Tires (27.5 or 29). If you’d rather not support new trails, but want to be eligible, you can sign up for an entry at https://www.imba.com/2016-membership-contest-signup.

yeti-flyer-square2

Women who join or renew before October 30 will also be eligible for a prize from CORBA, to be drawn at our upcoming Rocktober event in Castaic. We have goodies from REI, Ergon, and others.

So go ahead and join this month. If you’re membership isn’t expired, an additional year will be added to your membership so there’s nothing to lose. Support CORBA and become a member today!  You might end up with a cool new Yeti mountain bike, or other goodies.

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
President Obama signs the proclamation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

President Obama signs the proclamation, October 10, 2014

Next month, October 10, 2016 marks the two-year anniversary of President Obama’s proclamation declaring the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. We’re also two years in to the three-year deadline imposed on the Forest Service to develop a Management Plan for the new National Monument.  The management plan development process is well on track to meet the October 10, 2017 deadline for completion, with a draft Environmental Analysis (EA) and draft Management Plan released on August 17, 2016. The public has until November 1st to submit comments on the EA and draft Plan.

Since the Proclamation, the Forest Service has conducted the Need to Change analysis, identifying what needed to change in the current Forest Management Plan to fulfill the mandates of the Proclamation. CORBA and thousands of others subhttp://need to changemitted comments on what we thought needed to change, which the Forest Service considered when developing the EA and draft Plan. The comment period has been extended until November 1st, to ensure everyone ample time to review, while still keeping on track for the 2017 deadline.

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Thousand Oaks Planning Commission Hearing for Sapwi Trails

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

In 2012, CORBA put out the call for the public to come to Thousand Oaks to show support for a new Bike Park facility at what was then called Lang Ranch.  You responded in droves, and the Conejo Rec and Parks District heard. Now renamed the Sapwi Trails Community Park, the re-envisioned park includes many items the mountain biking community asked for.

In our last bike park update we had little news other than the environmental process was moving forward.  The project’s environmental review is now complete.

The most recent iteration of the park’s master plan includes a beginner pump track at one end of park as a component of a smaller, local neighborhood park. The neighborhood park at the corner of Erbes Road and Scenicpark Street also includes restrooms, a boulder garden, picnic areas, a practice disc golf basket, parking areas, and trail connections to the rest of the larger Community Park.

The larger Community Park includes disc golf, a multi-use trails network, bicycle skills features along some of those trails, interpretive exhibits, additional parking, and a non-motorized model glider port among other things. It also features a dedicated area for a bike skills park. The plan shows two pump tracks and skills features, but is there only as a placeholder. The Bike Park will undergo a separate design process, based on input from the bicycling community.  The master plan is available at the CRPD web site, and archived here.

Sapwi Trails Conceptual Bike Park Plan THousand Oaks

Note this is a “conceptual” placeholder design for the bike park area.

The plans will be presented to the City of Thousand Oaks Planning Commission for approval on October 10 at 6 pm.  We urge anyone, especially those local to the Conejo Valley, to attend the Commission hearing, fill out a speaker card, and express your support for the plan, including the trails and bike skills park components (and any other components you’d like to support).

 

Help build another new trail during the COSCA Annual Trailwork Day, October 15

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Join CORBA, SMMTC, COSCA and other volunteer groups to work on the Conejo Open Space trails in Thousand Oaks.

This year we’ll be building a new trail, about 0.7 miles long, that leads from the top of the steep ‘Baxter Road’ in Newbury Park around and down to near the south end of the Hawk Canyon Trail in the Western Plateau / Conejo Canyons.

There will be a thank you lunch and prize drawings at noon after the work. This is a great event with lots of like-minded folks to help out. If you use the trails in Thousand Oaks, come out and help build and maintain them! No prior experience is necessary and all volunteers work at their own pace, taking plenty of time to rest and chat with other trail enthusiasts!

This annual Conejo Valley event always helps to put some very sweet trails into good shape. Be sure to stay afterwards for the free lunch and raffle.

Details are available on our 2016 COSCA Annual Trailwork Day event on Meetup.com. While there, register online to show your support!

Things to bring:

• work gloves
• long pants and long sleeved shirt
• water, snack
• sunglasses and sunblock

Tools and instructions on how to use them safely will be provided. There will be a free thank-you lunch and prize give-away afterwards from noon until 2:00 pm.

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument Management Plan Released

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

San Gabriel Mountains National MonumentOn August 17, the Forest Service released the remaining chapters of the draft Environmental Analysis (EA) and draft Management Plan. The plan will guide the management of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (Monument) by the Forest Service.

The biggest changes are those mandated by the Presidential Proclamation, including the development of a Transportation Plan, to address parking and overcrowding. Nothing in the draft plan changes mountain bike access to trails within the Monument or the National Forest. It does however, update the current Management Plan to include the Pleasant View Ridge and Magic Mountain Wilderness areas which were designated after the current Forest Management Plan plan was last updated in 2005.

Some sources have described the draft plan as “toothless.”  It is short on specifics and lacks details of how many of the objectives and desired conditions will be achieved. However, it isn’t meant to cover specifics. Those are on-the-ground project-level decisions, that must be in compliance with the Plan. The draft Plan takes much of the current Forest Management Plan’s existing language and direction, which provides management guidance that was deemed to be in compliance with the mandates of the Presidential Proclamation. Therefore many of those sections weren’t considered to be in need of change. The Plan appears as Appendix C of the draft EA.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement and more specific direction. The San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative (Collaborative) is undertaking a deep analysis of the plan. CORBA will be submitting comments, and will also submit comments as a member organization of the Collaborative. We encourage all to attend a meeting or the online webinar and submit comments, expressing your support for continued and improved mountain biking recreation.

Meeting dates and locations:

September 10, 1 – 3 pm, Online Webinar. Register at http://bit.ly/monumentwebinar

September 14, 3 – 8 pm, Pico House, 430 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

September 15, 4 – 8 pm, The Centre, 20880 Centre Pointe Pkwy, Santa Clarita, CA 91350

September 17, 10 am – 2 pm, ANF Headquarters, 701 N. Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91006

October 4, 3:30 – 7:30 pm, Big Pines Lodge, Angeles Crest Highway, Wrightwood, CA 92397

The Collaborative have requested that at least one of the public meeting presentations be recorded and made available online for those whose schedules don’t allow them to attend one of the public meetings.

Public comments are due by October 17. Comments can be submitted through the project website at http://bit.ly/monumentpublicmeeting

The Forest Service aims to have the final plan, addressing any comments received, next spring, followed by a formal objection period for anyone who submitted comments and believes they were not addressed. The proclamation mandates the plan be completed by October 10, 2017.

 

IMBA’s Member Survey is now Live

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

IMBA is conducting a nationwide member survey. If your membership was current on April 30th, you should have received an email invitation to complete the IMBA Member Survey during the first week of April. Invitations are unique to each member, and the survey can only be taken once. You have the opportunity to save your survey and come back to it. Surveys must be completed by May 17.

Since IMBA reorganized to unite all of California into the same region, we have had the good fortune of working with Laurel Harkness as IMBA’s California/Hawaii Regional Director.  However, we face a unique challenge here in Los Angeles. We have the largest population base of any IMBA Chapter, yet one of the smallest Board of Directors, and an disproportionately small membership base. We have a City of Los Angeles blanket ban on bicycles on trails, new and existing Wilderness proposals, and other issues threatening or preventing our access to new trails. We have several opportunities for new trails and bike parks, but are stretched thin on maintaining what we have.

By participating in IMBA’s Survey, you can help inform IMBA of our local needs. Los Angeles is one of the largest and most complex mountain bike advocacy mosaics in the country, and we can use all the help we can get, from our members and supporters, from the local bike industry, and from IMBA.

Meanwhile IMBA’s Spring Membership Drive continues into May, with all those renewing their memberships being eligible for some great prizes. It’s a great time to renew your membership to CORBA/IMBA and help us grow mountain biking opportunities in the area.

 

 

California Trails and Greenways Conference 2016

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
The Historic Mission Inn, Riverside, was the official conference hotel.

The Historic Mission Inn, Riverside, was the official conference hotel.

The 2016 California Trails and Greenways conference was held in historic downtown Riverside from April 7 – 10, 2016. The conference theme was “loving our trails to death,” something many long-time trail users are realizing is becoming the norm, not the exception. This is especially true on our crowded and increasingly popular trails in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers talk trail etiquette

Equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers talk trail etiquette

Steve Messer, CORBA’s President, was on hand. Laurel Harkness, IMBA’s California Regional Director, had a booth and gave a presentation on “providing great, sustainable trail experiences. IMBA chapters from Orange County, San Diego County, Folsom, and the Central Coast were also represented. We took the opportunity to get the IMBA chapters together for an update on issues, strategies, and directions for each of the chapters.

The conference is also a great way to network with land managers, decision makers, trail professionals, and other user group advocates. In the six years that I’ve been attending these conferences, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Mountain Bikers are, more and more, being considered a legitimate and valuable contributors to the trail user community. With more IMBA chapters attending, and many presentations by mountain bikers and mountain-bike-friendly land managers and professionals, its obvious we are here to stay.

CORBA Founder Kurt Loheit introduces the dignitaries from the Santa Monica Mountains NRA

CORBA Founder Kurt Loheit introduces the dignitaries from the Santa Monica Mountains NRA

As a great example of the improving relations with the trail community, Steve Messer teamed up with the California State Horsemen’s Association, Trails4All, Riverside County Backcountry Horsemen and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council to give a presentation on trail etiquette best practices. The presentation was well-received, but it was apparent we were “preaching to the choir.” The last slide of the presentation actually thanked the choir for listening to us preach!  During the presentation, Dale Skinner, State Park Trails Manager for the Angeles District (Santa Monica Mountains), gave Steve and CORBA kudos for our approach to providing solutions and being exemplary stewards of our trails.

David Szymanski, Joe Edmiston and Craig Sap talk about completing the Backbone Trail

David Szymanski, Joe Edmiston and Craig Sap talk about completing the Backbone Trail

Another important presentation was Thursday’s lunch time plenary by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area superintendent David Szymanski, State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap, and Santa Monica Mountains Conservency executive director Joe Edmiston. They discussed the current status of the Backbone Trail, and the 65 years it has taken to bring a 65 mile trail from concept to completion. Currently there are two incomplete segments. One is the bypass around the gates at the west end of Etz Meloy motorway. The NPS has begun construction on a re-route that will bypass the closed gates. It’s constrained by a narrow easement from the private property owners, forcing a less-than-ideal alignment, but it will be much better than a closed segment of trail and no alternative. The other outstanding issue is a private parcel owned by former governer Arnold Schwarzenneger, west of Kanan. The NPS is hoping to secure a trail easement from Schwarzenneger and his partners soon.

During the talk Craig Sap gave a noteworthy shoutout to CORBA and to the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council for our contributions to keeping the trails in good shape, and making up for some of the agency’s deficiencies with their reduced budgets.

They hope to open the complete Backbone trail on June 4th, as part of National Trails Day. They also plan to submit the trail for inclusion in the National Recreation Trail system. We believe the trail is worthy of such recognition.

Other notable presentations were from Rick Gunn who rode a bike around the world. Not only was he an amazing storyteller, he had an amazing story to tell. As a former journalist and photographer, his photography and the range of emotional lows and highs he experienced over two years had all the conference attendees in silence, awe, and at times, even in tears.

Aside from the State Parks employee training, for which they get continuing education credit, the sessions covered a range of topics, from sustainable trail building, trail surveying, working with public-private partnerships, and a number of project-specific presentations.

Project specific presentations were given on the current status of the Castaic Trail Master Plan, the LA River Trail (bike path), and a number of other project-related presentations. There were presentation by the Backcountry Horsemen on how they can assist in trail maintenance by packing in tools and supplies.

Ride, Hike, and Bike event on Santa Ana River Trail

Ride, Hike, and Bike event on Santa Ana River Trail

After the conference sessions were completed, a group headed out for the traditional multi-use ride/hike/bike event. Local equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers converged on the Santa Ana River Trail to ride/hike together, as an expression of solidarity and multi-use cooperation.

Each year we look forward to participating in this increasingly useful and relevant conference. It covers issues unique to California, is attended by both land managers, conservancies, trail advocates and user groups. It brings everyone together, simply for a passion for trails. We are loking forward to next year, to be held in Monterey about the same time as Sea Otter.

President’s Message: The Wilderness Debate

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Trail in the Fish Canyon Recommended Wilderness

Currently mountain bike advocacy is facing one of the the most important long-term issues in our history. The issue is whether mountain bikes should be allowed on trails in Wilderness areas. How mountain bikers and advocacy leaders respond to this can either be polarizing or make us an even stronger voice in the trail user and land stewardship community.

In Idaho Montana, the Wood River Bicycle Coalition, an IMBA chapter, worked with IMBA to build support for a National Monument rather than a Wilderness area. Over a period of several years,  negotiations with wilderness advocates, motorized and other recreation groups and elected officials formed a broad coalition of support. However, raw ugly politics ultimately produced a Congressional designation for the Boulder White Clouds Wilderness. This was a painful and well-publicized loss to the mountain biking community. The land protection provisions they had negotiated in good faith to produce a bicycle-friendly National Monument designation were ultimately lost to a crass political maneuver to deny President Obama any semblance of a success. Congress passed a Wilderness bill and the Castle Divide and Ant’s Basin trails were closed to bikes.

Meanwhile, attorney Ted Stroll had been continuing his research into the Wilderness Act, and the congressional debates and intent surrounding that landmark legislation as it was enacted in 1964. He had concluded that the original intent was never to exclude bicycles, as a human-powered form of low-impact recreation, from Wilderness areas. Further research led him to believe that, in accordance with our constitution, we have the right to bring our grievances to the U.S. government. To do this, he formed the Sustainable Trails Coalition (STC), whose sole mission is to pass legislation that would allow local land managers to open trails to bicycles in Wilderness, and to authorize the use of machinery that would allow the most cost-effective and efficient maintenance on Wilderness trails, on a case-by-case, trail-by-trail basis.

How many mountain bikers view the wilderness ban on bikes

The timing of the Idaho defeat brought heightened attention to the STC and their focused, single-issue mission. It cast doubt in the mountain biking community about the effectiveness of IMBA’s approach of building broad partnerships and seeking compromises to both protect bicycle access, while protecting the landscapes through which we ride bikes with a mix of Wilderness boundary adjustments, cherry-stems, and alternative designations. This approach has been highly successful in many instances, but there have been some exceptions, with this loss in Idaho being the most recent and the most publicized.  

20071201007a-Condor Peak OTB, MTB

Condor Peak Trail – Wilderness advocates are still proposing a Condor Peak Wilderness.

Here in the Angeles National Forest, we’ve lost access to much of the backcountry trail network on our Forest. This has placed increased use pressure on non-Wilderness trails by all user groups. Trail maintenance on Wilderness trails has come to a near-halt in many areas, and all user groups are losing those trails to nature. We don’t have any bicycle-legal singletrack options to traverse the San Gabriel Mountains north-south, or east-west, because of numerous closed trails, Wilderness designations, and restrictions on bicycles on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Similarly, in the Sierra, Inyo, and Sequoia National Forests there are vast swaths of Wilderness and a few isolated areas that are open to bikes, many of which are currently being evaluated for Wilderness (and, remarkably, the folks who maintain many Wilderness trails and can’t keep up with the workload have objected to any new Wilderness.).

These Wilderness losses are very much a localized issue, affecting California and the Western States disproportionately to other areas. California has the most Wilderness areas of any state, and is second only to Alaska in Wilderness acres. Here in CORBA’s territory, we have the largest population base in the country near a National Forest. 1 in 20 Americans live within easy driving distance of the Angeles National Forest, with its five Wilderness areas and additional Recommended Wilderness taking nearly one third of the Forest.

Condor Peak Trail

Condor Peak Trail

Recreational activities are greatly reduced in Wilderness areas compared to non-wilderness areas, even if bicycles are left out of the equation. Maintenance efforts are greatly reduced and near-impossible for the Forest Service to schedule, as the cost of manual labor to rebuild trails (no mechanized tools allowed, even wheelbarrows) means these trails often don’t get worked on. While the same can be said of many lesser-used non-wilderness trails, this doesn’t bode well for the future of Wilderness trail recreation.

It also disproportionately affects a smaller subset of the mountain biking community who seek out, relish, and live for backcountry wilderness-type settings that can be experienced by bicycle. It’s why I started mountain biking, and what inspires me to continue exploring and experiencing these majestic landscapes. Sure, I love purpose-built flow trails, downhill trails, and our many favorite local trails. They are needed, but they don’t offer the same experience and escape that some of us live for. We need a broad spectrum of experiences and trail types to cover the many diverse reasons for which people ride mountain bikes, including wilderness-type experiences.

There have been calls for IMBA to take a stronger stand on the Wilderness access issue in print media, the blogosphere, and on social media. In fact, if you have followed closely, the amount of grandstanding on both sides of the bikes in wilderness debate has escalated. From reading some of what has been published, one could easily come away with the assumption that mountain bikers have to pick a side: either support the Sustainable Trails Coalition or support IMBA. Over the past month there have been many calls, emails and forum posts asking to cancel IMBA memberships.

Some writers in the print media have accused IMBA of taking a hardline stance against the STC, but there is much more nuance to their statements that has been overlooked. IMBA hasn’t condemned the STC or opposed their efforts. In fact, IMBA has for many months taken a neutral public policy position toward STC’s strategy, neither supporting nor opposing. Publicly, IMBA has simply stated that the STC approach is not appropriate for IMBA’s mission, given STC’s  single focus, uphill battle, risks and uncertain future.

Singletracks.com, an internet blog, found the vast majority of mountain bikers surveyed support bicycle access to wilderness. The Angry Singlespeeder gave his take on the issue, calling it the most pressing of our time, and followed it this year with an Open Letter to every IMBA member calling on us to demand IMBA to listen to its membership and take a more proactive stance towards the STC. Former IMBA Board Member John Bliss explained why he joined the STC board, with some compelling arguments.

Pressure continues to mount calling for IMBA to support the STC, or at the bare minimum, take a more conciliatory stance and acknowledge the common ground that exist between the two organizations. IMBA have held a press conference explaining their position, posted an FAQ on land protection strategies they will continue to utilize, and conducted four Chapter Leader Executive Briefings with question and answer sessions with approximately 100 chapter leaders nationwide, which I attended.  Many forum comments have construed their public arguments and tone as denigrating and dismissive of the STC, but in direct conversations with IMBA staff, that tone is much more nuanced.

With all this attention on Wilderness, one could be misled into thinking that this was the only issue facing mountain bikers. Admittedly, it is probably the most far-reaching issue that could fundamentally change our approach, as mountain bikers, to land protections nationwide, and especially in the Western states like California. But there are still plenty of more immediate issues and opportunities that need immediate, focussed attention, and that is where IMBA has chosen to put its limited resources and energy.

We see this “us vs. them” dichotomy as far from the case. The fact that IMBA has chosen not to support STC does not infringe upon anyone’s first amendment right to speak up for and support the STC, including us as a chapter of IMBA. IMBA’s (and CORBA’s, for that matter) plate is full with current mountain biking issues, and the vast amount of attention and resources needed to achieve the STC’s mission and focus on Wilderness access would hinder our ability to tend to more immediate threats, identify new opportunities, take advantage of current opportunities, and just get things done now.

We believe we need both organizations. STC’s single, focussed mission is to enact legislation that will allow management of wilderness trail access (and mechanized maintenance) to happen at the most local level feasible. STC is not a membership organization and as such is not structured for or able to do anything on the ground right now to open closed trails to bikes or develop and maintain positive relationships with land managers that are key to our future successes. It will be a difficult struggle and take some time before STC’s efforts may prove fruitful.

IMBA chapters are currently doing the vast majority of advocacy and access work at the local levels. If STC is eventually successful in passing their legislation it will likely be IMBA chapters doing the necessary outreach and hands-on work to give the STC’s legislation teeth, by working directly with local land managers to open trails under the authority of STC’s Human Powered Wildlands Travel Management Act of 2016 (HPWTMA).

Despite what has been claimed by the Wilderness Society and others opposed to bicycles in Wilderness, the STC bill doesn’t open ANY trails to bikes or mechanized maintenance. It allows the “most local” land managers feasible (likely district rangers and supervisors) to make those determinations on a case-by-case, trail-by-trail basis. That’s why IMBA chapters will need those strong relationships when and if the time comes.

You can bet the opposition to bikes will only get louder when that happens, both locally and nationally. It will be IMBA chapters with current, strong land manager relations that will be best positioned to follow through on any STC success. Land managers aren’t just going to open trails to bikes in wilderness areas if the STC bill is eventually enacted.  If the STC bill does go through–and let’s be clear that we hope it eventually will–IMBA Chapters will need to actively engage with local land managers to open trails to bikes under the newly granted authority of STC’s legislation. Even then, those trail openings will probably require a lengthy NEPA process, and may come with restrictions. Permits, capacity limits, mandatory leave-no-trace classes, or other hurdles could be put in place as a part of that Wilderness access. Passing of the HPWTMA is just the starting point to opening trails in Wilderness.

In the meantime if people start choosing to drop support for IMBA chapters to support the STC, that will impede our ability to get things done now, such as bike parks, trail maintenance, new trails, and being a crucial voice in current land management and trail planning efforts. If CORBA/IMBA is weakened by an attrition of supporters now, it will hinder our ability in the future to build upon any STC success, and open trails currently closed to bikes by Wilderness designations.

One of the best things that STC is doing is bringing more attention to this major access issue. What saddens and frustrates us is that social media are misinterpreting some of IMBA’s responses, and turning this into an “us vs. them” situation, which will weaken our efforts on both fronts. We’d much preferred to have a more conciliatory tone from IMBA towards STC, even in the absence of outright support. IMBA has alienated a portion of their members through their statements and firm stance. That just doesn’t need to be so.

There is room–and a great need–for another group like STC to give the Wilderness issue the razor-sharp focus it will need to see through.

IMBA is a 501c3 and cannot directly lobby our government to introduce new legislation, endorse political candidates, and other restrictions. IMBA (and CORBA) are set up as 501c3 public benefit corporations, that can only influence existing laws and policies through public comments, broad-based partnerships with other organizations, and encouraging our members to speak up with their own comments and letters to elected representatives and land managers.

STC is set up as a 501c4, with the specific purpose of directly lobbying congress and our elected officials to enact change at the legislative level. They are able to do things that IMBA and CORBA cannot. It’s important to note that the Sierra Club is a 501c4, just like the STC. They have a companion 501c3, the Sierra Club Foundation, which collects tax-deductible donations that can then be used to support the lobbying efforts of their 501c4. They also operate under budgets 100 times larger than IMBA’s. Most mountain bikers are decidedly lackadaisical in their approach to advocacy–until their favorite trail is closed, or threatened to be closed. And as previously mentioned, while most mountain bikers support opening some trails in Wilderness to bicycles, the number of riders who may eventually utilize wilderness trails is likely much lower.

The mountain biking community has never had a 501c4 organization to stand behind before the STC came along. Just as the Sierra club leverages both a 501c3 and a 501c4 for various, but related, purposes, the mountain biking community has needed both a 501c3 and a 501c4 voice. As mentioned, where we see things have gone awry is that IMBA’s firm but neutral stance has been twisted and construed in social media and the blog/print media as an “us vs. them” situation.

IMBA’s approach is appropriate for IMBA. The STC approach is appropriate for STC. Together, they have brought more attention to this contentious debate, and hopefully helped engage a new cadre of concerned mountain bikers ready to advocate for continued access to trails–both inside and outside of Wilderness. Both organizations are advocating for increased trail access. They are just employing different strategies and tactics.

Let me re-iterate that in the long run, if STC is successful, strong IMBA chapters will be best positioned to make the changes that STC’s bill will authorize. We’ll then need to leverage our ongoing track record of being good land and trail stewards, and work side-by-side with local land managers to open trails in Wilderness areas. We’ll need to work hard to usher those requests through the NEPA process, and deal with the opposition to bikes that will inevitably emerge. If our voice is weakened by a lack of support now, we’ll be in a more difficult position to ask for trails to be opened under the STC bill’s authority in the future.

If STC is unsuccessful, IMBA chapters like CORBA will continue to work to make a difference, just as we have been doing for more than 29 years. We just hope to have the continued–and even increased– level of support we now get from our members.

But things at IMBA have changed somewhat. Their 2016 advocacy position clearly states that they will continue to fight more aggressively to keep trails open in the face of Wilderness proposals, wherever there are local chapters available to do the local on-the-ground work needed. They have been emboldened to take a firmer stance than ever before to prevent trail closures, within the constraints they operate under as a 501c3. Wilderness and environmental advocates are finding it increasingly difficult to pass Wilderness legislation when advocacy groups like IMBA and its chapters are directly and strongly opposed. IMBA is also investigating the merits of a legal challenge to recent trail access losses in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho. They have expressed a desire to legislatively adjust existing Wilderness boundaries to open trails that have been closed to bikes (without any changes to the Wilderness Act itself). But their stance falls short of lobbying for sweeping change at the legislative level, which is precisely what STC is positioned to do.

CORBA and IMBA have on a number of occasions asked for “language-based exemptions” to prohibitions on bikes on specific trails in new Wilderness proposals. We’ve usually been turned down on these requests as being “incompatible with the intent of the Wilderness Act” even though numerous language-based exemptions exist for purposes other than bicycle travel and recreation, and the STC’s contention that the “intent” of the Wilderness Act has been misinterpreted in current regulations.  Yet what STC is proposing is making such language-based exemptions (or, more accurately, allowing Forest Service orders to authorize access) for bicycles and trail maintenance,  an integral  part of an amended Wilderness Act.

Let’s not have this issue divide us, weaken us, and allow us to be conquered. Our members can support both STC and CORBA/IMBA, and both organizations will be stronger for it. While we applaud the STC for their approach, CORBA will continue to work on efforts that have immediate, near-term benefit to all mountain bikers and our public lands: trail maintenance, management plan advocacy, currently pending bills, land manager relations, education, and stewardship.

We also hope that one day, CORBA will be in a position to ask our local land managers to open trails in current Wilderness areas to bikes, under the authority of STC’s legislation. But until then, we have to stay strong, stay united, and keep striving towards making immediate, short-term differences, happy in the knowledge that STC is working on a long-term strategy that most of our members agree would be a step in the right direction for all of us. 

Join our Board Meeting every 4th Monday

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

Come and join us to learn about current issues and let us know what concerns you! Always open to the public, the CORBA Board of Directors’ meeting is held the 4th Monday of the month in Woodland Hills. REI is kind enough to let us use their meeting room, for which we thank them profusely!

Every month (except December, when we have no meeting), we discuss these topics:

  • Issues of trail access for mountain bikers
  • Mountain bike advocacy and ambassadorship
  • Public involvement
  • The latest news from the land managers, including State Parks and National Park Service
  • Trail building and restoration
  • Furthering woman’s mountain biking
  • Bike parks and other dedicated mountain bike facilities or trails
  • Education and etiquette
  • Anything brought forward by members of the public

The meetings are 6 – 8 pm at the REI in Woodland Hills:

6220 Topanga Canyon Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
P: (818) 703-5300

Google Map and Directions

We look forward to seeing you there!

CORBA’s Steve Messer Receives NICA Award

Monday, February 29th, 2016
All the 2015 NICA Award Recipients. Photo by Karl Nielsen

2015 NICA Award Recipients. Top row: Todd Wells, Hal Miller, Scott Armstrong, Austin McInerny, Jeremy Call, Kade Brantington, Hannah Heydinger, Robert Parks, Mark LaPaglia, and Mike Perry. Bottom Row: Lucas Euser, Liam Ruff, Steve Messer, Nash Dory, Preston Bagley-Gurtner, Esmée DeBarssi, Zoë Mae Dunn, Kathy Parks, Robert Kertesz, Gary Fisher and Lauren Duensing. Photo credit: Karl Nielsen.

On January 30, 2016, Steve Messer was the honored recipient of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s Community Impact Award, sponsored by QBP.  The award came as a complete surprise to CORBA’s President, and was equally unexpected by SoCal League director Matt Gunnell, with whom Steve and CORBA have work since the league’s infancy to support High School Mountain Biking and getting more kids on bikes.

Read about all of NICA’s 2015 Award Recipients at Nationalmtb.org

Sixteen outstanding participants in high school cycling leagues across the U.S. were honored at the 2015 National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Awards, held at Clif Bar & Company Headquarters, in Emeryville, California.

NICA presented awards in ten categories to individuals and organizations considered to be the most outstanding student-athletes, dedicated coaches, and the most supportive volunteers and sponsors to have helped advance the high school mountain biking movement over the past year.  Photos of the entire event by by Karl Nielsen are available, and a short recap video will be posted soon.

Matt presenting the award

Matt Gunnell introduces Steve Messer

Steve has been involved since a young riding buddy introduced him to high school mountain biking as the League was beginning its second season in 2010. The SoCal league’s first season had proved the NorCal model could be replicated, and led to the formation of NICA. Steve has been involved in getting student-athletes and teams out doing trailwork, doing major Station Fire restoration projects, helping secure venues for high school league races, and calling on High School teams to use their voice in advocacy efforts.

Steve was introduced by Matt Gunnell, director of the SoCal High School Cycling League, with whom Steve has worked, strategized, and even presented at the IMBA World Summit on the synergies between high school mountain biking and advocacy.

Matt’s introduction to Steve:

I am very honored to present the Quality Bicycle Products Community Impact Award to Steve Messer. Reading from the nomination submission for this award, I quote…”Steve does it all. He’s an inspiration. He’s indefatigable. He’s designed and built courses, mentored coaches and students, helped with administration, helped launch new teams, established partnerships between teams and IMBA chapters to do trail work, and more. This is just a sketch of his contributions. His commitment to the SoCal League is immense, and he still makes time for CORBA/IMBA advocacy leadership as well as general road bike advocacy. With 1000 Steves, mountain bike opportunities would be improved a thousand times over. Sadly, there’s only one of him.” It is with great pleasure that I present this award to the one and only Steve Messer!

2015 NICA Awards. Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/2015 NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/2015 NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/

Steve gives acceptance speech. Photo by Karl Nielsen

Steve’s Acceptance Speech:

What a privilege to be here at the Clif Bar headquarters surrounded by so many people dedicated to getting more kids on bikes.

Thank you Matt for that introduction, and thank you so much NICA for this unexpected honor. There are many people I have to thank, especially the teams, coaches and volunteers of the SoCal League, and NICA for thier leadership. I know there were other equally-deserving nominees whose work is just as impactful and important as what I’ve been trying to accomplish. I’m just one of many, many mountain biking advocates around the country, striving to preserve and create great mountain biking experiences for our future generations.

Just five months after 76 SoCal League student-athletes raced the inaugural SoCal finals in 2009, and NICA was just getting going, our local National Forest and most of our favorite trails were destroyed by the Station Fire and subsequent El Niño storms. We had this burgeoning high school sport, and most of the trails I had ridden for more than 25 years were suddenly closed or gone. The Mountain biking community was devastated. My motivation to restore the trails, and some forward-thinking coaches who were already doing trailwork, grew into a serendipitous partnership between CORBA and local high school teams that needed places to ride and train.

Working with a half-dozen or more local high school teams and their coaches, boy scout troops, and other groups, we collectively restored most of the front-country trails within three years of the fire. We’re still working on restoration projects, and continue to have student-athletes joining us. In fact we have two teams coming out next weekend for trailwork. Not coincidentally, the recipient for the Distinguished Alumni Award, Jeremy Call, will be bringing out his team next weekend. It’s a win-win for the teams, for our public lands and for all trail users.

2015 NICA Awards. Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/2015 NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/2015 NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/

Matt Gunnell and Steve Messer. Photo by Karl Nielsen

Early on it became obvious to me that this was the next generation of land and trail stewards, advocates, and even land managers. Restoring trails and giving these student-athletes a place not only to ride and train, but to develop a deep connection to the mountains and the Forest as I have been fortunate enough to experience, is its own reward. The most gratifying aspect of all this is that I’m seeing the passion I have for trails and our public lands instilled in so many young riders.

Having an increased presence of well-behaved, responsible trail users that NICA’s leagues are producing is really helping foster more responsible riding. The equestrian community in our area certainly has noticed  Slomo Bro is helping spread the message that responsible riding is a form of advocacy.

Within the high school mountain biking family, I’ve made some of my closest friends, my strongest supporters and allies, and feel a true community spirit. I’m awed to feel this trail love spreading throughout this community. Seeing the types of partnerships CORBA began to develop, now built upon and expanded as the nationwide Teen Trail Corps Initiative with IMBA and REI gives me great confidence in the future of our sport, our trails and the places we ride.

Again, I’m truly honored by this recognition, especially since it’s for something I just love doing. Thank you NICA, the SoCal League, QBP for sponsoring this award, all the volunteers who have helped me along the way, my spouse who is so supportive of what I’m doing, and everyone who has contributed to this incredible journey.”

2015 NICA Awards. Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/2015 NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/2015 NICA Awards Ride, Emeryville CA Photo by Karl Nielsen http://www.karlnielsenphotography.com/

SoCal was well represented: Jeremy Call, Steve Messer, Kathy Parks, Robert Parks, and Scott Armstrong. Photo by Karl Nielsen

Southern California was well represented at the Awards, with Scott Armstrong, the SoCal League’s Chief Course Marshall receiving the Clif Bar Volunteer Service Award, Coach Jeremy Call from Simi Composite team receiving the Camelbak Distinguished Alumni Award (and then bringing his team out for CORBA trailwork a week later!), and coaches Robert and Kathy Parks of the Temescal Canyon High School receiving the SRAM Coach of the Year award.

NICA leagues are now up and running in 19 states, with more coming online each year. There are now over 10,000 student-athletes participating in middle school and high school mountain biking races around the country. To learn more, visit http://SoCaldirt.org, or http://Nationalmtb.org.