Hansen Dam Advisory Board Meeting
MWBA was present at the Hansen Dam Advisory Board Meeting on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 to support the biking community against a group that vilifies us. If you want a synopsis of the meeting from fellow mountain biker, advocate and champion of women mountain bikers, click here to get Wendy Engelberg’s perspective. It is very good and will fill you in nicely.
I Was Pumped!
I walked away from the meeting with a different perspective than when I walked in. I was ready to battle, to argue and fight for our rights (queue Beastie Boys now). The mantra of a mountain biker is; let no man take away any trails from us, lest they try to take all the trails from us. We’ve been the new kids on the block, the underdogs, the misunderstood community…
However, I walked out of that meeting feeling a bit more introspective and wondering if we shouldn’t be more nuanced in our reactions and interactions with the other user groups in our community.
Trail Advocacy For All
As your chosen representative for trail maintenance and advocacy in the San Gabriels, I ask you to hear me out, not because I can boast a long standing, influential history of advocacy or a deep understanding of the battle that’s been waging for decades and was the impetus for the birth MWBA. I can’t, but as a human, I know what it’s like to be completely misunderstood or not heard. I know what it’s like to be motivated by fear.. We all do. ALL of us. We should remember when we encounter people who unilaterally hate us, it’s not because they actually hate us, it’s because they are fearful.
We Have a Lot in Common
I learned last night the equestrians are fighting tooth and nail to protect their small areas where they are capable of riding. They don’t hate us per se, it’s just we are another reason why the areas they ride are getting smaller. At first, I didn’t care; they choose to limit themselves to these areas because they hate us and don’t want share the trails with us. That is not entirely true, there are some safety concerns, not just from an inconsiderate biker bombing down a blind corner spooking the horse and rider. But because horses are animals that are unpredictable and reactionary. These two thousand pound animals can harm their riders as well as other trail users. And it’s not just us they resent, they resent developers and anyone else who is taking away their limited trail use.
We as a user group have been in this situation before, we were once the minority, our trail use was fairly limited and other user groups hated us because we were new and different. I ask you, why are we treating the equestrian community in the exact same manner they treat us? Look where it’s gotten them. It earned them a lot of vitriol, resistance and lack of respect. If we behave in the same manner, precedence maps out the outcome. We will be vilified, resisted and not respected. And more importantly, we will not be as influential in affecting change.
MWBA was created to help spread the word to mountain bikers to be cool on the trails and respect other users. We advocate for shared-use and trail etiquette all the time. We specifically teach by example how to interact with equestrians on the trails and we teach the high school racers as well as anyone who rides/works with us. Our bell program has been a positive way to alert hikers, equestrians and other bikers of our presence.
We Made New Friends!
After the meeting, we received a few inquiries from a few of the equestrians who attended the meeting and they have signed up for the next trail work day. This is a first for us. And probably for them. I beg of you to interact and represent your community in a positive way. It’s easy to fall back on the usual platform of “us against them.” Let’s not do that this time. Let’s try and open the minds of the horse community one equestrian at a time. With the new budding interest from the equestrians and delicate relationships we’re forming as a direct result of the meeting, we’re already a head of the game.
Thanks, Jenny. Very well spoken and points out the importance of understanding the fear behind some groups negativity towards us, and focusing on our being positive and seeking solutions. That will increase our credibility with land managers. Much of the fear is not warranted and we can try to educate, but it is so important for us to ride and behave in a way that reduces any actual hazards. At the same time, equestrians and especially hikers with dogs need to train and control their animals (equestrians mainly know this, it seems like dog owners often are oblivious). Equestrians cannot expect more than a limited number of equestrian only trails, just as we can expect only a limited number of bike specific trails. I do think there is a place for both.
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