Over 70 Chapter officers representing 32 Chapters, guests, and speakers met for SORBA's Fall 2013 Board of Directors meeting on November 16th in Jacksonville, FL's beautiful Hannah Park. With a full agenda to address, the meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m. and convened at 2:00 p.m. After the meeting, attendees were treated to guided rides, courtesy of SORBA Jax and the Pedal Pixies. Saturday evening was spent at Blue Water Island Grill, where the group enjoyed food, refreshments, and a raffle fundraiser benefitting the trails at Hannah Park. SORBA Jax sold all 2000 raffle tickets and raised $800!
Three new chapters were inducted into the SORBA fold: Flint River Mountain Bicycle Association, Albany, GA; Northwest North Carolina Mountain Bike Alliance, Lenoir, NC; and SORBA Orlando, Orlando, FL. SORBA President Paul Farrow reported on the status of SORBA's 501c3 dissolution. The IMBA Board is considering this carefully and thoughtfully, seeking a solution that will keep SORBA and what it stands for intact, while absolving us of responsibilities to the IRS. No action has been taken, and none will be taken until all parties are satisfied with a new arrangement. As insurance costs continue to rise, SORBA finds it more and more difficult to pay chapters' insurance. All other IMBA chapters pay their own insurance bill, but SORBA pays for its chapters. The Board voted to recommend that IMBA raise its membership dues to cover the cost of insurance for all chapters. The Board also discussed how to advise land managers on trail closures for events not involving SORBA. Many felt that SORBA's existing Rain Policy could be shared with land managers, and recognize that in this situation we can advise only.
After the business part of the meeting concluded, the Board attended presentations from Colin Smith and Leslie Kehmeier on SORBA Trail Love, our new tracking program for trails and volunteer hours, and mtbproject.com, IMBA's user-centered trails mapping program. With Trail Love, chapter officers and staff can see a hierarchy of trails and trail systems, based on land managers, as well as the volunteer hours spent on work parties and other chapter events. Trail Love is a powerful tool that we'll use to show land managers the value that our volunteers bring to their trails. mtbproject is "the next generation of trail maps", consisting of a web site and a mobile app. The web site houses maps and trail information, as well as photos, about mountain bike trails. The mobile app creates a GPS track of your ride, which can then be uploaded to to mtbproject.com.
SORBA Vice President Dan Zaffuto shared Pro Tips with the group. Pro Tips are small things that you can do that go a long way to creating relationships with members, land managers, and sponsors. Things like, "say what you're going to do, then do it when you say you're going to", "hand-written thank you notes are a more valuable currency than emailed notes", "talk to people you meet in the parking lot, and have a postcard to hand them, telling them how to become involved". These tips may seem obvious, but sometimes the obvious is overlooked, and it is good to have it pointed out to you.
Communication Director Robin Allen shared our National Forest Mountain Biking Survey results, which told us information about your favorite mtb trail, the trail you ride most often, and the trail you prefer as a destination, as well as information about how often you ride, what style of riding you prefer, and what type of bike you ride. The most popular trail system for a Destination Trail is Nantahala National Forest (Tsali Recreation Area), with Pisgah National Forest second, and Cherokee National Forest and Chattahooche-Oconee National Forest vying for third. Pisgah National Forest has the top Trails Ridden Most Often, with the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest second, and Sumter National Forest (FATS) third. Pisgah National Forest contains the vast majority of Favorite Trails, with Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in second, and Sumter National Forest (FATS) and Nantahala (Tsali) vying for third.
Ann Christensen, Director, Recreation/Wilderness/Heritage/Interpretation for The US Forest Service Region 8, spoke to the group about the importance of our volunteers, and the commitment that the Forest Service has made to creating excellent riding experiences for mountain biking in SORBA's territory. We still have much work to do to translate the MOU and the survey into trail experiences, but SORBA and the USFS Region 8 staff are making progress toward that goal.
The final speaker for the day was Richie Daigle of biketoursdirect.com, a SORBA corporate sponsor. biketoursdirect.com offers cycling tours around the world, and they have created special tours only for SORBA members in Oaxaca, Mexico and Scotland. You can learn more about these special tours at http://www.biketours.com/sorba. Richie also reported on Euan Wilson's recent visit to our area, via the Highland Tour. Euan toured SORBAland in October, joining group rides on many of our favorite trails, so that his touring company in Scotland can better treat its customers to riding in the Southeastern US. You can learn more about Euan's adventures on our trails on his blog.
After adjouring, we hit the trails. Hannah Park offers 17 miles of Florida fun, winding through an Ocean Hammock. Hammock is used to refer to stands of hardwood trees on the coastal plain from North Carolina to Mississippi. These stands of trees form an ecological island in a contrasting ecosystem. To our eyes, it was a lush, verdant, shady trek where we kept our eyes peeled for 'gators. The tread was sandy, but stable, due in part to SORBA Jax's efforts to make it so. Most of the trail was flowy and fast, but the Z Trail offered challenge by virtue of tight, twisty singletrack, liberally studded with tall logs and roots that kept you alert and constantly maneuvering along its track.
We rounded out the day with a social, bid adieu to our hosts, and headed home the next day, ready to take and share our experience with our members, helping SORBA to grow.