Tuesday, June 26, 2007

10th Anniversary of MBOSC

This year marks the 10th anniversary of MBOSC. In honor of the 10th anniversary, I would like to share this article by Keith Kelsen (the founder of MBOSC and the first President) on the beginning of MBOSC.




The headline in the newspaper I was reading was bold and unexpected - "Gray Whale Ranch Bought by Save-the-Redwoods League". Right away I thought, "Wow,this is great!"

Gray Whale Ranch is adjacent to Wilder Ranch State Park. A riding haven on the west coast near Santa Cruz, it had been a favorite of mine to ride for years before it was purchased and trespassing laws enforced five years earlier. But now Save-the-Redwoods League had just purchased the 2,500 acre property with coastal vistas, redwoods, long meadows and chaparral for some 12 million dollars. Save-the-Redwoods League, a nonprofit, has been purchasing land for state parks since it's inception in 1920's. In exchange, they were asking the community to repay $600,000 of the purchase price.

The article also stated that the open space alliance was involved in putting on an auction to help raise some funds. Well, I called some of my riding compadres and told them I would put in $100 if they would put up the same. In no time we had a $1,000, so I raised the anti to $200. So we had $2,000. Not bad, but hey, we could do better than that.

I called the local paper and told them that local mountain bikers... uh... Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz... were pitching in to raise money for the purchase of Gray Whale. They printed the article and a couple of weeks later we had raised close to $7,000.00 and Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz was born.

To raise a portion of the $600K we decided to hold a raffle - the "WIN A BIKE and a Place To Ride Raffle". Our goal was to have our name on a grove ($20K) and more if possible.

We went to manufactures and local bike shops. They were very supportive and gave us over $23,000.00 (retail) worth of donations, including 9 bikes (3 full suspension). And I would like thank them all for the incredible response.

We received media support through co-sponsors for print, TV and radio. We produced commercials for both TV and radio and created ads for print. Along with the commercials we produced a 9 minute documentary on Gray Whale which aired on the local cable channel.

We selected two dates to hold the raffle and distributed tickets to bike shops, who agreed to sell the raffle tickets. The idea was to advertise and bring people into their shops to buy tickets. I was told it was an impossible task. But we kept up on the media and articles in the paper and Gray Whale became a visible movement in the community.

We were also very fortunate to link up with ROMP in the Bay Area to get their help with ticket sales. Also, ROMP donated $1,350 on behalf of its members. IMBA was a great help as well. They published an article in DIRT and IMBA members mailed in their money for the raffle tickets and support. One IMBA member, Tom Shepard, won 5 out of 20 times including a front suspension VOODOO.

For each raffle we opened up Gray Whale just for the day for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Over 400 mountain bikers showed up for the first raffle and 200 for the second. We finished with $20,000 from the raffle. The total we raised with donations from riders and a Giro donation of $5,000 was $31,000. Not bad for a challenge between friends.

The side benefits to all this were incredible. We have a full-fledged club, we do trail work, a news letter (qtrly), group rides, brochures and actively present a positive image for mountain bikers in the community. We actively seek trail use in other parks. This organization is an idea who's time has come. The work is actually just beginning!

The Big Picture

I've been spending a lot of time in Google Earth these days. For years I have wanted to catalog every mountain bike trail and large land parcels in GE so I can plan for new trails systems and look at the entire inventory of large public and private land holdings to seek opportunities for more access. I seem to have a lot of time these days so I've been listening to a lot of internet radio and clicking, clicking, clicking...

The image above captures the state of legitimate mountain bike trails in Santa Cruz county that I'm aware of. If you know if any other legal mountain bike trails in Santa Cruz County then please contact me. The orange and yellow lines represent dirt roads and single track respectively. The white lines represent paved roads which act as connectors within and between parks. Technically, Butano State Park is in San Mateo county but I count it as part of the Big Basin trail system.

There is a lot of opportunity for more mountain bike access in the land holdings which do not have any trails open to bikes. We are currently working on initiatives and projects to expand legitimate access for mountain bikes. If you want to help out then please contact me at http://www.mbosc.org/about.html

Old MBOSC newsletters are online

This year is the 10th anniversary of the founding of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz so I have been going through the archives to get a sense of history.

I got a new scanner a couple of weeks ago and I have been scanning and cleaning up the old newsletters. I've put the online as pdf files here:


We no longer produce a Quarterly newsletter (does anyone want to do this?) but it has been really enjoyable to look back at the archives and see some familiar names.

It's amazing how many of the issues that we were discussing back in '97 are like Gray Whale are still unresolved. 10 years later, there are probably many more mountain bikers in Santa Cruz but local mountain bike advocacy doesn't seem to reflect it.

The Gray Whale and Nisene Marks issues seemed to have soured the riding community from getting involved with advocacy. Many riders feel that we have a great collection of unauthorized trails and can't see why they should invest time and energy into expanding the legitimate trail network. The answer is that it could be much better. There is a lot of public and private land in Santa Cruz county that could be potential riding areas. Open up Google Earth and look at the area bounded by Big Basin, Empire Grade, the Coast and the Santa Cruz city limits. There are existing trails, road and other off road goodness that is utilized by locals only. This is our playground. With effort and persistence we can open this up to the global mountain biking community and create new economic opportunities for our residents.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sea to Sky Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study

About 6 months ago, I blogged about the Yukon Study about the economic potential of mountain bike tourism. That study analyzed the potential and demographics of the global mountain bike tourism market. It was a great document which used market research to identify the mountain bike tourist and contained case studies of communities which embraced mountain bike tourism. It was a great document to introduce a community to the potential of mountain bike tourism and want to know more about the market.

Earlier this year the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) released a study which illustrates the economic benefits of a mature mountain bike tourism industry. This study complements the Yukon study in that it shows the economic results for Whistler, BC - a community which embraced mountain bike tourism.

The economic impact study gives credible data on the economic benefits of mountain bike tourism. The executive summary states (all numbers in Canadian dollars (1 US$ = 0.93 CD$) ):

"Total visitor spending in Whistler attributable to mountain biking exceeded $34.3 million over the period June 4 to September 17, 2006 supporting an estimated $39.1 million in new economic activity (GDP)."

Not a bad summer season! Whistler continues to be a positive draw of the global mountain bike tourism market. This study discusses the survey methodology, breaks down visitor origin, size of the party, number of nights stayed and spending per visitor. The benefits of out of town visitors to a community can not be overstated:

"The study found that mountain biking draws visitors to Sea to Sky communities and generates significant overnight stays. Overall, 20% of non-resident riders stayed overnight in Sea to Sky communities, staying an average of 4.8 nights and having an average party size of 2.8 people."

It emphasizes the need for authorized trails in order for the tourism economy to succeed:

"The authorized trail system in the Whistler Valley generates considerably more economic activity than the trail systems in Squamish and the North Shore where few authorized trails exist. Whistler has been able to capture higher visitor expenditure in part by having the ability to promote its municipal trails and associated services (bike rentals, guides, camps, etc) directly to visitors both within the Resort and externally."

The bottom line of the study is something that should please local business and government:

"In total, mountain biking has a sizable impact on the summer economy of Whistler and British Columbia, with total expenditures totaling more than $34.3 million between the valley trails, the Bike Park, and Crankworx. This spending generated more than $39.1 million in economic activity, and supported more than $26.5 million in wages and salaries and 798 jobs throughout the Province. Mountain biking in Whistler also supported considerable tax revenues, with over $8.5 million and $7.3 million in government taxes paid at the federal and provincial levels, respectively; while municipal revenues throughout the province exceeded $2.1 million."

These numbers only shows the direct economic impact of tourism. However, I'm sure there are further benefits to the BC bike industry due to the world class mystique of the free ride style of riding. Rocky Mountain, Norco, Cove Bikes and Brody have probably benefited from being part of the BC bike culture which exploding onto the public consciousness around 1998. Many visitors were introduced to the local bikes and may consider taking a bit of BC's finest back with them.

10-15 years ago I lived in Vancouver and rode the Whistler and North Shore trail systems when they were unauthorized. Back then only the locals rode the trails and there were very few tourists (friends of friends). In 10 years, revenue from mountain bike tourism in the Sea to Sky area has gone from immeasurable to CD$39 million.

These are impressive numbers and I really believe that Santa Cruz County has the potential to realize a similar level of mountain bike tourism economic activity.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mitigating Risk for Private Land Owners

There are many advantages of allowing mountain bike access on private land. The trail design can be more "creative" and trail networks on private land are generally not subjected to the same level of scrutiny as trails on public land.

One of the biggest obstacles to gaining access to private land are the land owner's concerns of exposure to liability. There are a number of tools that we can use to engage private land holders to allow mountain bike access.

The following page at IMBA has a great discussion on the issues of liability for land owners.

The relevant section for private land owners concerns "Recreational Use Statutes". There are a few important points to note:

"Recreational Use Statute" is a term given to legislation generally intended to promote public recreational use of privately owned land. The statute does this by granting landowners broad immunity from liability for personal injuries or property damage suffered by land users pursuing recreational activities on the owner's land."

Justification for the RUS policy:

"The underlying policy of a Recreational Use Statute is that the publics need for recreational land has outpaced the ability of local, state, and federal governments to provide such areas and that owners of large acreages of land should be encouraged to help meet this need."

How it works:

"Under prior common law (law made by precedent), the landowner had different duties of care depending on whether a person was on the land as an invitee, licensee, or a trespasser. The greatest duty of care was owed to an invitee and no duty was owed to an unknown, adult trespasser. Under an R.U.S., recreational users are treated in the same manner as trespassers and thus the landowner owes them no duty of care. The protection of the statute is lost, however, if the landowner charges for the use of the land or if the landowner is guilty of malicious conduct."

Generally, a land owner is not liable for recreational use on the land if they do not charge for access and there is no malicious conduct on the part of the land owner to create a dangerous situation.

How this may manifest itself as challenging trails on private land:

"If a landowner has no knowledge of a dangerous condition, he or she is under no duty to investigate the land for dangerous conditions."

The full text of the California Recreational Use Statute is here. A summary brochure can be found here.

Be nice out there!

I just got an earful from an angry hiker who read the Good Times article. She saw that the article mentioned "jittery horses" but she wanted to know if we were doing something about 'jittery hikers".

She then went on a rant about how all the mountain bikers she has encountered while hiking race by her at high speed. I tried to get her to talk about a specific incident and location but she just vented. I can sympathize at how frustrated she was needed an outlet.

I can't claim to represent all mountain bikers who ride in Santa Cruz but I think her assessment is unfair. Most mountain bikers are conscientious trail users and respect other trail users. However, I recognize that there are minority of cyclists on the trails who do not yield to other trail users. These riders spoil it for the rest of us.

She wanted to know what I was doing to solve this and didn't come up with anything practical other than that we emphasize the multiple use trail guidelines: mountain bikes should yield to hikers and equestrians. User education is the one avenue that we have been pursuing. Biker only trails is another novel solution. What else could be done? The IMBA book Managing Mountain Biking has a lot of practical solutions which include strategies for education and trail system design.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be good trail citizens. We should all get along with other trail users and ride responsibly. Trail user conflict and the perception of conflict is our biggest issue in gaining access to trails.

Please be nice out there.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mountain Bike Tourism in Santa Cruz County

The Santa Cruz weekly newspaper Good Times has an article about MBOSC this week. This article makes it public that the focus of our organization is the promotion of mountain bike tourism as a sustainable economic activity for Santa Cruz County. We have been developing a tourism initiative for a while now among ourselves so we may as well explain our strategy.

Mountain bike tourism is a global market and a sustainable economic activity. Communities from all over the world are recognizing the economic potential of this form of eco-tourism and have been embracing it to revitalize their local economies.

Santa Cruz has so many natural advantages for the development of mountain bike tourism including:
  • A tourism based infrastructure already in place
  • Nearby greenbelt areas and parks within riding distance of hotels and motels
  • Spectacular redwood single track and coastal views
  • Alternative activities for non-biking guests and family members
  • Supportive bike industry and bike culture
  • World-class destinations including San Francisco, Monterey and Silicon Valley less than 2 hours away
We believe that there are a number of benefits of mountain bike tourism which could benefit the community of Santa Cruz County including:
  • City of Santa Cruz: More hotel and sales tax revenue.
  • Local bike industry: increased sales and opportunities for new businesses.
  • Local businesses: hotels, restaurants and tourism.
We wish to engage the local business community, visitors center and city council to recognize the economic potential of mountain bike tourism. These partnerships with civic leaders could help us cut through the red tape and get the resources to open more legitimate trails and promote Santa Cruz County as a destination. More legitimate trails and embracing mountain bike tourism could create opportunities for mountain bike events like 24 hour races, fat tire festivals and the development of new businesses to support mountain bike tourism like shuttle and guide services.

Mountain biking is a healthy, eco-friendly, and fun form of outdoor recreation and it should be encouraged for its low-cost, low impact use of public and private land. Santa Cruz is well known as a mountain biking destination to active mountain bikers in Northern California. The city and county can market Santa Cruz as a world-class mountain bike destination with very little investment and effort.