The Summit was great, enjoy this report.
Friday saw everyone checking in and meeting at one of the cabins for a social gathering. The gathering lasted for several hours until everyone had their fill and headed back to their campsite, for camp fires and a good night's sleep in the brisk night air. (30 degrees F!)
Saturday morning saw the start of the more business like portion of the Summit.
First, a proposal to charge an access fee to use our state forests. Under the suggested plan a user fee would be charged to all State Forest users with either the entire fee or a portion of the same earmarked for the TWRA (read hunting activities). In other word, mountain bikers and other non-hunter users could end up paying a fee to TWRA to use non-TWRA lands, specifically our state forests, in effect subsidizing hunting activities. (This is not to suggest that TWRA shouldn't be allowed to charge access to land managed by TWRA which are specifically set aside and maintained for hunting as the primary purpose of TWRA managed land is for hunting.)
Second, a proposal to designate 17,785 acres in the Cherokee National Forest, Southern Division, as Official Wilderness, which would forever prevent mountain bike access to the same. The proposal should raise concerns for mountain bikers in that it would prevent the ability of trail users from creating a long liner trail that would allow mountain bike access. Presently there are a number of hiker only, long liner trails in the eastern United State, including the AT and the partially finished Great Eastern Trail, which prohibit mountain bike access. Thus, if mountain bikers wish to have a similar trail, they need to be sure that potential routes are not closed off by Wilderness designations, especially when the land is not immediately threatened, and there exists a number of other designations that would offer very similar protections while preserving mountain bike access.
In addition to closing off the possibility of a future long linear multiuse trial that would allow mountain bike access, the proposals requests Wilderness designation of 4,400 areas which sit between the very popular multiuse Tanasi trails and Big Frog Wilderness. Should the land in this area be designated Wilderness it could have the result of a huge net loss of mountain bike accessible trails in the near future. This is because of the Corridor K highway project may be constructed directly through the Tanasi trails, requiring a like number of miles of replacement trail be constructed. This 4,400-acre section of land would be the most likely candidate for the construction of the replacement trails. Also, due the currently existing Wilderness, which includes Little Frog Wilderness and Big Frog Wilderness, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find another area locally where replacement trails could be constructed that would provide a similar trail experience to mountain bikers.
While mountain bikers support designations that protect and preserve our natural areas, mountain bikers should be very careful before supporting any designations that would directly on indirectly result in a loss of mountain bike access or prevent future mountain bike projects.
Third Session: This was a panel discussion, which reviewed opportunities for mountain bike access. The panel consisted of Joe Cross, from Big South Fork Mountain Biking, Shana Payne, from SORBA-Mid TN, and Gary Patterson, State Parks Trails Administrator. During the session the panel discussed and answered questions from the floor about the potential of increasing mountain bike access in Tennessee, specifically in State Parks. One item noted by Gary Patterson was the continued, inaccurate belief that mountain bikers cause greater trial erosion than other user groups. Ideas were discussed about helping educate park managers, including potentially having an expert speak to park managers at their next statewide meeting. Additionally, the participants discussed the potential for gaining mountain bike access on non-peak days of the week or during the park's off-season, which generally runs from November 1 through March 31. Gary Patterson concluded the sessions by stating that he looks forward to working with us in the future.
Following the third session, everyone headed to the cabin for a lunch provide by the good folks of SORBA-Mid TN, before heading back for the afternoon sessions.
Fourth Session: Darryl Glascock, from SORBA-Mid TN, discussed the National Mountain Patrol program and it importance in securing greater access. He noted that he was planning a statewide certification course tentatively set for March of 2009.
Final Session: This was a panel discussion to determine if those in attendance wanted to form a statewide advocacy organization. The panel consisted of Joe Cross, Shana Pyne and Jeffrey Schaarschmidt. I noted that all of the other user group organizations have already formed statewide organizations and that mountain bikers' voices would be diminished should we fail to form such a group.
After discussing various structures and other concerns those in attendance voted to form a statewide mountain bike advocacy organization. The organization was officially named Tennessee Mountain Biking Alliance, after an advocacy blog I have maintained for the past year, with the formal mission being "Devoted to protecting and promoting mountain bike access in Tennessee." The organization was structured as a coalition of existing mountain biking organizations from across the state of Tennessee. This will allow each group to act independently when working on local issues but come together as one voice when mountain bikers are faced with state-wide issues. The group will seek to meet annually near the first weekend of November. The meeting concluded with me nominating Shana Payne to head up the new organization with her being elected by unanimous vote. Congratulations Shana!
At the present time Shana is surely making plans to make the Tennessee Mountain Bike Alliance the best statewide advocacy group in the nation. At the same time Brandon Johnson, from the Northeast Tennessee Mountain Bike Association, and myself are working to establish a web presence.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone who took time away form their lives to attend and help advance mountain bike advocacy in Tennessee. All the speakers who sat on the various panels did a right fine job and are to be commended. Thanks to our sponsors, Heed, Clif-Bar, National Mountain Bike message board, Oskar Blues Brewery, Tennessee State Parks, IMBA, Hammer Nutrition, SORBA-Mid TN, and SORBA-Chattanooga.
Hi all - sorry this has taken so long for the follow up, but I wanted to make sure I did follow up with everyone from the Summit now that the holiday season has ended and life is getting back to normal. I want to thank everyone who attended - I know the date was not ideal, but we had a great turnout and I think we all learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I would also like to thank our amazing sponsors again for all of their support. Our major sponsors, TN Trails & Greenways donated the conference room for the Summit, helped with the TMBA Summit Cabin (party central), IMBA-SORBA donated some great SWAG, along with providing lunch on Saturday, and New Belgium Brewery donated cases of Fat Tire for our Saturday evening social.
TMBA 2009 Summit Recap
2009 Summit Report
2008 Summit Report by