High school mountain biking takes place primarily on trails. Most of those trails happen to be multi-use trails on public lands which are subject to wear and tear from trail users, weather (running water), erosion, and fires. Unlike most high school football fields, ball diamonds, and gymnasiums, there is no school groundskeeper to maintain them. This is where high school mountain biking comes in.
SoCal League Director Matt Gunnell, NICA Executive Director Austin McInerny, and Concerned Off Road Bicycling Association (CORBA) Vice President Steve Messer had the opportunity to address this subject at the IMBA World Summit in Santa Fe, New Mexico this October.
“To mountain bike you need a bike, a body, and a trail. All three need to be maintained,” said Messer, who helps organize trail work and advocacy for CORBA in the greater Los Angeles and southern Ventura Counties. A few years ago, he and Gunnell teamed up to start pairing local high school teams with CORBA and other trail advocacy groups.
“SoCal League teams are not advocacy groups and most coaches don’t have the background or the time to become trail maintenance experts,” said Gunnell. “What they do have is access to groups of motivated, teen student-athletes. We are working to instill the philosophy that trail work should simply be a part of the yearly training cycle that every team does. What better way to do that than to pair with local trail organizations that have the tools, the expertise, and the relationships with land managers.”
NICA Executive Director, Austin McInerny, is also on an IMBA advisory board, and believes that pairing high-school teams with IMBA chapters at the local level is a great way to strengthen the relationship between the two organizations. They both have broad national visions that draw on work and activation happening at the chapter and League levels.
Up to this point, the pairings of high-school teams and trail groups has been very casual, and while articles highlighting trail-work activities have appeared in NorCal’s and SoCal’s Single Track Times for many years, there has never been a quantification of their positive impact. SoCal is beginning to quantify that relationship in the 2013 season by offering a section on their website that provides contact information for high-school teams to find a local trail groups to work with. The site also provides a simple form so their work can be recorded, tallied, and submitted. SoCal is challenging all the NICA Leagues to adopt a similar program so that we can show what a positive impact high school mountain biking can have on sustaining trails across the country.
SoCal League Director