Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jeff's report from the 1st annual SORBA Southern Conference

Just getting caught up a little bit and figured I would send out a
report on the first annual SORBA Southern Conference. It was held in
Brevard March 25-27 and I heard there were about 160 people attending.
First off, the Trailblazers were EXTREMELY well represented and should
be commended for a great turnout. Edward, Mark, Jim, myself, Bob, Cam
and Frankie (I hope I didn't leave anyone out) all made the trip West.

Cam and I left the 'ville about 9 so we missed the opening remarks and
much of the Land Manager's training. I had already seen the
presentation twice and it was oriented more towards the folks who manage
the trails as opposed to those of us who build the trails. After a good
lunch, land manager's told us what to expect when dealing with them.
They kept pushing patience and protecting the resources. It was
interesting to see the different "styles" between the different
agencies. Success stories were up next. Casey and I, along with 2
other projects, spoke about how we got to where we are now. LNSP was up
first and I felt pretty good about our accomplishments (about $125K in
grants and closing in on 30 miles of trail by the end of 2013) until the
next speakers told about their projects. Santos, Florida has 84 miles
of trails and the Coldwater Mountain project in Anniston Alabama is
going to be a super-cool destination and has already raised $600K. All
of a sudden, I felt like I had training wheels on again!! We then got
to ride the greenway around Brevard and did a little bit of trail
riding. The new section of greenway is stunning as it goes along the
river with all the rock outcroppings and mountain laurel. The ride was
followed up by a (free) beer social and then dinner at Dugan's Pub.

Breakfast at the hotel was followed by Sig Hutchinson, who for me was
the highlight of the weekend. Sig has done some fantastic stuff in the
Raleigh area with greenways and trails. He was a very inspiring speaker
and got me revved up to work more with local governments to get our
voices heard. If we could clone him, cycling would be everywhere!
Unfortunately for the forest service folks, they had to follow Sig which
was a tough act to follow. Randy mentioned he didn't want to be after
lunch since it is hard to keep everybody's attention but then said after
lunch would have been better than after Sig. We don't have much
national forest around here so the presentation wasn't as useful for our
immediate area. Lunch was once again catered by Poppie's and was
tasty. After lunch, the officers attended the board of directors
meeting and the rest of us went through the IMBA great trails and club
care presentations. Once again, much of it was common sense but it is
nice to have it reinforced and I always pick up a few new tidbits of
useful information. The constant rain killed the afternoon ride so we
ended up at wandering around downtown Brevard and then to the Square
Root for some local beers. For dinner, we were shuttled out to a camp
where they set up a great meal of the various bbq meats, cornbread, cole
slaw and green beans along with Fat Tire and Ranger on tap. The Pisgah
area SORBA folks held a silent auction to raise funds. I know Jim, Cam,
myself and Ed all picked up some goodies. Might be an idea for a future
Trailblazers fund raiser? Not sure how much they raised but is should
have been several thousand dollars.

Sunday was to have been a ride at the DuPont State Forest but the rain
killed it.

I think the interaction between like-minded individuals was my favorite
part. It was great to hear how others had made their trails better and
overcame problems. There was a great sense of "community" among everyone
who attended. Hopefully, all of us will be able to share what we
learned and be inspired to improve the trails along with the club.

If you ever get a chance to attend one of these events, it is well worth
the time and effort!

Jeff Archer
First Flight Bicycles
216 S. Center St.
Statesville, NC 28677