State of the MMBA -March 2014
Last year, when elected president for the MMBA for 2013, I posted a couple of “Why an MMBA” threads.
The MMBA became a victim of its own success. I read through some meeting notes dating back to the formation of the MMBA and it was a fascinating trip through time. The names on the documents at the formation of the MMBA are, frankly, legendary in my opinion. These guys were the revolutionaries of our sport creating a new organization! But eventually mountain biking became mainstream into the 2000’s. There were, for the most part, fewer initiatives which attacked our access at the state level. There was also less room to expand mountain biking on state lands as well. The focus to expand turned to county and municipal lands and the MMBA chapters could tout the state actions and record to convince municipal/county land managers to grant access. This turn to local advocacy uncoupled from the state DNR issues led to a less unified organization, in my opinion. Why foster and support a statewide group when all your work is local and not linked to what is occurring statewide anymore?
So the board three years ago opted to morph the MMBA into an umbrella group and break the chapters off to IMBA. Frankly, we also dodged a bullet as this devolution was in progress as the “horse bill” was in legislative committee and was a threat to our existing trails statewide! Some may differ on how real the threat was, but there’s no escaping the fact that unless mountain bikers are unified, any future threat will be less easy to combat. The MMBA was able to combat that and earlier threats which were the genesis for the formation of the MMBA. My concern is that as an “umbrella” organization, any future such fight will be less effective.
The MMBA is the umbrella organization which can be the central repository for documentation, presentations, etc., for lessons learned within each chapter. The MMBA can pass on the information to other chapters so they can learn from success of various activities whether trail design, how to approach land managers, information on preparing presentations. Additionally, set-backs or losses can be learning experiences and should be retained for future reference. The MMBA is the tool to do that.
In this regard we have only been marginally successful. To be sure there are a couple visible examples of sharing information. The advocacy efforts with regards to Poto-Waterloo have been very public (thanks to Jason Aric Jones) so that other chapters can benefit from their efforts as benchmarking. There have been other successes in the state but the means and approach to those successes have been shared less.
So that key aspect which I think we’ve lost is that “member driven” ethos.
In order to connect the MMBA to individual mountain bikers we embarked on a few changes which I think were positive:
1. Changes in the forum such as moving advocacy to the top of the page and opening the REI trail school segment to public view and changing the title
2. Implemented the Michigan Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. This move was to highlight the long heritage of the volunteers who came before us and built the MMBA.
Some less visible changes included:
a) Adding two new associate advocacy directors to monitor activity in Lansing and elsewhere which may affect our sport.
b) The CPS took a slight change as long-time experienced promoter Brent Walk agreed to step in as CPS director.
Probably the low point was the less than fully successful Expo. We did partner with the League of Michigan Bicyclists and the Michigan Trails & Greenways to create a “BICYCLING EXPO” but our reach-out to them was too close to the expo to enable their assistance making the event bigger. I do think that some impact of the decreasing attendance (as well as the lessening number of chapters that choose to have a booth) is a direct result of the move to IMBA chapters. So we have some decisions to make as we progress through 2014 in regards to the Expo.