It's June 5th and we're about to eclipse 3200 members and 760 add-ons. We ended last year at 3342 members and 278 add-ons. Despite a wet spring, things are stronger now than ever. The sun will make its grand entrance soon and when it does - game on! The chapters have been up to some amazing work already this year - you've seen much of this in the latest newsletter. Over a dozen new trail projects, numerous new landowner relationships, two new chapters and few new VMBA organizational initiatives will push us through the '17 season. Here's a quick recap of the VMBA advocacy agenda this year:
- VOICe (Vermont Outdoor Innovation Coalition) is the first group to unite the excitement shared among commercial operations in Vermont with the tireless dedication of nonprofit volunteers. Over the years VMBA and chapters have found incredible support from businesses - they understand the value of trails. Until VOICe they had no way to unite around this excitement and make their enthusiasm known to state leadership. As the new administration works towards defining an "outdoor economy," VMBA will play a center role in ensuring that the trail-based nonprofit sector is well represented. Being a part of Vermont businesses doing well is important and VMBA is excited to continue being a part of that picture. It is equally important that Vermonter's way of life (and trails) are protected. This will depend on access to building on public land at a pace that matches the public's demand. Want to protect your trails? Join Us.
- Private landowner protection is a critical element of securing a future with amazing trails. Over 85% of Vermont is privately held and over 70% of chapters' trails reside on private land. Antiquated approaches to permitting trail development hurts us all - chapters, landowners, businesses and state agencies. The trail development sweet spot is achieved with chapters are building on public and private land at a representative ratio. Thoughtful planning and communication can create any future we value. It can be done and now is the time to dig in.
- Representing chapters regionally is a huge concern as Vermont trails gain more notoriety. Capturing support for our trails in a way that chapters can use when visiting riders return home is a big deal. VMBA has established the Northeast Regional Alliance to encourage rides from everywhere to join the association and choose the chapters they ride most often when they visit. We've partnered with six regional trail-based nonprofits this year. It will take a year or two to gain traction, but this is meaningful work that will translate into more chapter support.
- Vermont bike shops play a huge role in the success of VMBA and chapters. VMBA hopes that you have seen our presence in more shops this year - bike hangers, window decals, etc. The hope is that shops will encourage riders to become a member on the spot. This does a few key things. First, it more closely links riders to their shop. It also creates stronger connections between the shop and their local chapter. Lastly, it augments the chapter trail grant and helps to keep VMBA rolling.
- VMBA has made significant programming changes this year with one goal in mind - connect more riders to each other. We've done this through Trailside Fix Clinics, more event participation, the new shops program, sponsored kick-off parties & BBQs, cross-chapter building projects and more chapter support during trailhead sits.
- VMBA is supporting more robust communication with chapters. Every two weeks chapters are being sent an update about what the office is up to, advocacy news and more. These updates have meant a more complete events calendar, better cross-chapter communication, better member support services and better newsletter content.
Not many riders know that the chapter add-on portion of our membership platform is one of a kind. VMBA is the only MTB organization in the country that supports that level of functionality for members/chapters. What's the big deal? So far this year the add-on platform has generated over $21,000 extra bucks to chapters' trail projects. Also, VMBA is the first nonprofit in the country to develop the 10-year Landowner Access Agreement with the Federal Highway Commission. This is key as it allows chapters to apply for federal grants and spend those resources on a private landowner's land without seeking an easement. That's a big deal for private landowners.
It cannot be overstated how much the amazing the effort and talent (and in some cases patience) of the chapters has meant to riding in Vermont. It's unreal - they account for over 25,000 hours of volunteer time every year. As the executive director, I am humbled and grateful to work with this group of people and on behalf of their trail day volunteers and all the members.
You keep digging in at the local level and VMBA will keep advocating. The combination is uniquely productive and unstoppable. Thank you.