The "Ride Along"
Landuse on the ground, users taking politicians on the trail
By Del Albright
Getting to know our politicians so that we can get them on our side is probably the biggest challenge we face as off pavement recreationists in the upcoming years; and especially as we move into the future. Without their support and active involvement in our sports, we're doomed.
I know that might sound harsh to some of you; but the handwriting is on the wall. There's only so much our local, state and national organizations can do for us. We're extremely out-numbered by those who would rather see us park anything with motors. We need to get our elected officials on board and singing our tune!
Federal lands are being "closed unless signed open." Roads are being closed by the thousands of miles per year. Radical enviro groups are swaying legislators and therefore public officials to reduce the use of motorized equipment all over the nation. If you start adding up the figures, there's no one sport that's safe (save walking). Boating is under major attack. Dirt biking and four wheeling are targets of obliteration. Even mountain biking is prohibited in Wilderness areas. Snowmobiles are being pushed out of the high country in the west.
Where will it end? Your guess is as good as mine is. But we've got to whip up our fight to a new frenzy. And that means politicians. The folks we elect are the folks who can keep our sports alive.
How do we get them involved? It's not that hard. First off, get involved in an organized group that represents what you like to do. Send some money to a national group that is working to enhance your sport. Donate to a legal defense fund. THEN, start making a concerted effort to know your local politicians. Call the field office of your congressperson and ask for an appointment with a Field Representative. Come prepared to introduce yourself, your concerns and the objectives of your local club/group. Be concise; be accurate; and be non-confrontational.
Leave them with an invitation to join you/your group on a club run. I like to think of it as a ride-along. Pick something scenic, but not too rough. Follow up your invite with a phone call to ensure they make it. Be persistent. Get them on the trail! There's nothing more convincing than an actual experience. The ride-along idea has no equal in my book. They'll feel what we feel; smell what we smell; and learn what it is that rings our bell!
Attend a few of their fund raising or "townhall" type meetings. Wear your club patch/hat. Get a vest and sew patches all over it that represent the organizations you belong too. Show them you're proud of what you do and believe in. Make sure they know you're "out there."
We must make these efforts to get our politicians involved in our sports. They don't have to be motorheads; but they do need to understand the thrill and excitement, as well as learning, that we experience as we adventure out into the wilds of this great country. Good luck.
Go here for more on how to get involved.
More on Dealing with Bureaucrats.
More on letter-writing.
More on leading volunteers and organizing a convoy or event.