The good, the bad and the better all got plenty of air time last night at perhaps the biggest communal gathering ever of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance at Duthie Hill, which by the way is coming along nicely as a miniature Whistler mountain bike park in the Issaquah highlands.
Upwards of 100 folks turned out to ride the loops, the logs and the structures, then talk about where Evergreen is headed as an organization. Aiming for greater professionalism and an advocacy seat at the table of recreational parks, forest and urban planning in the Puget Sound region, Evergreen found itself being second-guessed by longtime members used to a less formalized and more social agenda. Yesterday’s “Town Hall” was an attempt to clear the air a bit and set goals for the alliance’s future direction.
After opening remarks by Jon Kennedy, program and communications director, and Jennifer Lesher, president, the gathering broke “World Cafe” style into groups of seven to 10 persons for discussion. Each group had a leader with a broadsheet to document what the alliance is doing right, what it’s doing wrong, and how it could improve.
Although barbecues wafted tantalizing scents across the park clearing, no eating was allowed until the rap sessions closed some 30 to 45 minutes later.
My group, which included a former board member and some well-known veterans from Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club days (the Alliance’s previous name), came up with a host of talking points, including the under I-5 Colonnade skillz park, the save-Kettle Crest movement, communication gaps, fiduciary question-marks, fundraising opportunities, volunteerism and Jon Kennedy’s broken chain. Yes, it’s true. Kennedy snapped his big-hit bike’s chain right before he was headed for a monster huck off one of the new structures…but that’s another story (he did get it fixed in time to throw down some cool moves on the freeride section, see video. Note: Jon, who’s pretty stylin’ on the extreme stuff, later did the full run, I just didn’t catch it on the iPhone. Further note: Click here to see full-screen of video).
Basically our group put in a pitch for more balance. There’s a sense the Alliance may be weighted toward in-close, bike park style development at the expense of wilderness and high-country access (Justin’s presentation referenced below may help mitigate this one). There’s a sense established members avoid posting on the ride calendar (“maybe rides have gotten too popular,” one of our group said), and that newcomers or slower riders feel somewhat intimidated to sign up for rides that are posted. There’s also the feeling volunteers could be used far better, and that mechanisms need to be set up for better use of members’ talents and interests.
On the kudos side, the Alliance’s reputation-building, media visibility, agency outreach and Web site got props for making a mark in the region (some people felt the Web site could be more welcoming to newcomers).
We were supposed to re-gather in plenary to go over the main themes, but it was getting dark and people’s stomachs were growling and if the leadership had made us talk any more another theme would have arisen along the lines of cannibalism, so we’ll have to wait for further reports back.
Kennedy did circulate a detailed action plan for the Alliance, outlining advocacy, planning and fundraising goals. And Justin Vander Pol added an inspiring update on the South Fork Snoqualmie project above I-90 that will create classic high-country singletrack with spectacular panoramic views an hour’s drive from Seattle. Work has commenced on the project, which has funding and agency commitment for completion.
All this, and the food was a cut above as well (thanks to whoever thought to bring veggie burgers for us non-carnivores). More to come, but for now the word is to get on out to Duthie and see what’s transpiring at the hands of Mike Westra and the gang.