Before we jump into 2017, let’s take look at where we’ve been. 2016 was all about proactively addressing the changing needs of Stowe’s trail network and planning for the future via relationship building, strategic planning and even a bit of politicking. (Potentially not the sexiest way to start a newsletter, but it’s the truth.) Ironically, the support and interest that’s given rise to this trail network has also left us with a few infrastructure challenges:, parking shortages, trail maintenance, and trail pod connectivity among others.
Addressing these these needs may not be glamorous in the short term, but it’s vital to the long-term sustainability, expansion, and enhancement of Stowe’s trails. Ultimately all of the behind-the-scenes work is underpinned by the goal of building more trails and establishing a more cohesive trail network.
2017: LOOKING AHEAD
So what does this mean for the year ahead? In this case, it’s not just the year ahead, but the years ahead. The SMBC board is putting the finishing touches on a strategic plan that will help to guide operations in both the near and far term. The plan, condensed into an easy-to-digest one-page visual, will be ready for viewing on the SMBC website by the end of this month. Additionally, the assembly of committees that support SMBC’s core competencies as outlined in the strategic plan will ensure a more agile, productive organization. (Interested in joining a committee? Give us a shout: StoweMTB@gmail.com). There’s a LOT of work to be done, and with increased participation, we can fast track some of these projects.
The second and potentially more important phase of 2016’s strategic planning effort is the Five-Year Trail plan. The assembly of this plan has been a dominant theme throughout 2016 and involves identifying trail corridors that fit the needs of the network, aligning property owner interests with trail building goals, securing the necessary permits and permissions, pinpointing potential funding sources, and establishing partnerships that will help make these plans a reality.
In short, the Five-Year Trail Plan is all about providing greater connectivity via the construction of new singletrack; providing a means by which we can connect the different trail pods without having to ride the road while ensuring the “backcountry” feel for which some of Stowe’s trails are known. There are still some i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed but the Plan will be ready for unveiling at the SMBC Annual Meeting on Saturday May 6th (stay tuned for location details). Bringing this plan to fruition will, at the risk of sounding cliché, be very much a community effort – if you want to see more trails get built in Stowe, now’s the time to get involved.
EVOLUTION, NOT REVOLUTION
Fact is, the Stowe Mountain Bike Club is no longer a “club.” SMBC is a trails stewardship, a mountain bike advocacy group, a platform by which businesses can engage with both local and visiting trail users, and most importantly, a place for the community to gather and share our collective obsession with mountain biking and the amazing terrain we inhabit.
Operationally, this evolution away from the word “club” is not indicative of any kind of substantive change: our mission statement and day-to-day objectives will remain focused on building more trails, connecting our existing trail pods, and ensuring the long-term protection of the trail network. But SMBC’s new identity will more broadly represent the work we do, give us a stronger voice on both the State and local level, and create an image that’s in line with the mission statement.
This is not a decision that was undertaken lightly: we formed a committee, representing a diverse cross-section of the SMBC members, and worked with several members of the Stowe MTB community that specialize in just these kinds of evolutions in order to ensure a smooth, successful transition. Is it necessary? Is it a worthwhile endeavor? Time will tell, but the back end research that’s been put into this, with nothing more than the long term preservation and protection of the trails in mind, all point to the answer being yes.
As the saying goes, you gotta play to your strengths. So this year, SMBC has entered into a few new partnerships, the goals of which are to streamline fundraising efforts (more trails!) and improve operational efficiency.
So that’s 2017 in a nutshell: more trails, better connectivity, and hopefully a membership that continues to thrive and expand. Ultimately, this organization is only as strong as its members. Membership is the lifeblood of the trails and your input matters. Your support matters, your feedback matters, your opinion matters, and your involvement matters.
I’ll look forward to seeing many of you at the Season Kickoff Party on April 27 (check back for details on location!), until then, keep it rubber side down and let’s hope for a snowy second half of winter.
Stowe Mountain Bike Club Executive Director