The MMBA was founded in the late-80s/early-90s by a small group of mountain bikers to advocate for our sport. The threat at the time was a statewide ban by the DNR which would outlaw mountain biking in all state parks and recreation areas. At the time, these areas were the best venues for riding. Over the years, MMBA lobbying and efforts on the part of numerous members molded the MMBA’s progress and facilitated growth in the sport and protection of our access. Factors that did so included the weight of having a statewide group speaking for the mountain bike community with one voice. Additionally, advocacy and access proposal were captured in a lessons-learned manner so advocates in other parts of the state could learn from (and use) actions of success accomplished in another region. Trail building and design were codified using established sustainable principles. Presenting this scientific approach also bolstered the MMBA as a spokesperson for mountain bikers statewide.
Over the years, as mountain biking became mainstream and access on state lands became somewhat standard (though maybe stagnant for growth), I think the mountain bike community became complacent. Further, seeking additional areas of access, the advocacy efforts shifted to local areas such as county parks and municipal properties. I think the ability to access these local venues was a direct result of the two decades of work mentioned above as well as the view of mountain biking as mainstream.
Another MAJOR contributor to our success was MMBA volunteers! Very few other organizations demanding access to lands for recreation put in the actual physical contribution to their sport. The trails we ride are, for the most part, are actually created and maintained BY volunteers and as such cost the land managers zero dollars while in some cases bringing in money in terms of park sticker fees, etc.
That last aspect is what I think has gradually become lost. The MMBA was always a MEMBER DRIVEN organization. From top-down, it was members who made up the board, the chapter boards, the advocacy teams. But the actual operation of an organition takes a toll. Members get burned out even as functions need to be maintained. The MMBA was mired in insurance and membership issues which took up a lot of time. In the meantime, as chapters became successful on the local level and access remained solid on the state level, I think there was a thought going around of, well, …
“Why an MMBA”?
I think we can answer this question in the next installment. Stay tuned!
Dennis B Murphy, President MMBA