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SORBA’s Spring Advocacy Leadership Training Weekend

SORBA has some of the best mountain biking advocacy leaders in the country, and representatives from 25 of our 33 chapters gathered in Knoxville, TN over the weekend of March 31st to inspire and be inspired. SORBA’s Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) graciously hosted our annual spring meeting because they had a story to share—a story of a community coming together to create something very special, a story about creating an urban wilderness where mountain bikers share the trails with their neighbors.  

Dave Wiens, a mountain biking legend and advocate in Gunnison, CO, joined us as well, to inspire us with his work with the Bureau of Land Management, and who left us feeling inspired by the stories our advocates shared with him.

Tennessee Valley Bikes and The Public House were opened to us Friday night for our evening social, where we gathered for good conversation, great beer, and some of the best pizza and hors d'oeuvres I’ve come across in a long time.

We started early on Saturday, meeting at the Gateway Regional Visitor Center. Mayor Madeline Rogero welcomed us to her city, and talked about how her administration has made greenspace a priority for Knoxville. Speaking to our advocates was clear evidence of her commitment. The Executive Board then swiftly conducted the business meeting, and we moved on to our first session, the Knoxville success story. Carol Evans of the Legacy Parks Foundation and Brian Hann, AMBC Chapter President, told us how the Urban Wilderness project came about and how it succeeded. Thanks to the City of Knoxville, the Legacy Parks Foundation, AMBC, and a long list of other user groups and community backers, Knoxville has created a 1,000-acre urban wilderness connected by sidewalks, greenways, and pathways.

So much of what advocates do revolves around being effective communicators, so Regional Leadership Advisory Council member Sig Hutchinson spoke to us on how to improve our skills. Building rapport is key. Help your land manager solve problems.

Dave Wiens took the podium after lunch, saying, “I want to thank you for asking me here. You guys are on the cutting edge. I have learned a lot from you in the last 18 hours”. Dave went on to speak of the freedom his bike gave him, starting with his first bike at age six. He spoke of his racing career, and his famous win over Lance Armstrong in the Leadville 100. He coined a motivational phrase that could apply to us all, “Prepare as though Lance will be there.” That phrase guides him through his daily life; it keeps him patient as he spearheads advocacy in his backyard through Gunnison Trails, which he founded in 2006.

Our next speakers were Dan Zaffuto of SORBA Jax, Annabeth Rice of SORBA Atlanta, and Mark Muro of BUMP. These three chapter leaders have been in the trenches, making trails happen, and we appreciate the inspiration they give us by leading by example.

An afternoon thunderstorm interrupted the group ride, but we did get a taste of singletrack surrounded by a profusion of wildflowers before the clouds burst. After washing bikes and bodies, the group assembled for dinner and the Trek Volunteer Rewards program. Our volunteers are the ones who really get things done, and we love rewarding them for their hard work.

All who attended this meeting got something out of it. I hope you get this--if you’re in Knoxville for business or pleasure, bring your bike, and enjoy what this community has accomplished.

Additional reading:

Read RLAC member Chris Strout’s blog post about the meeting.

See the Roll Call, know which chapters were represented at the meeting.

IMBA-SORBA thanks our sponsors for their support of our meeting:

Maxxis

Trek

Thomson

Hawley

Swiftwick

Legacy Parks Foundation

Ijams Nature Center