Forest Trails Talk: A Speaker Panel on Upper Campus Mountain Biking

Last quarter, I participated in a Girls Gone Wilder mountain bike ride (Wilder as in Wilder Ranch State Park, of course). It was my first time joining them. The Facebook description for the group reads, "We're a Santa Cruz women's mountain biking group with a lust for the great outdoors. We're fun, welcoming, beginner-friendly and beer-positive. Join us!" I had a blast, and afterwards, everyone celebrated the awesome turnout with a beer at the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery.

While enjoying the bike-induced endorphins and beer,  I met some really awesome people, Traci and Eric of Hilltromper, "the nature-worshiping, fun-loving adventurer's guide" to Santa Cruz and Dave Robinson of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, "a non-profit mountain bike advocacy organization and a chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA)." We got to talking about how many of the trails in Santa Cruz, and particularly those in the upper campus of UCSC, are illegal and the many issues surrounding this: criminalizing biking, people ride there anyway but trails can't be maintained for safety and environmental protection, Santa Cruz bike industry is huge largely because of these trails but they're illegal, etc. Someone suggested that there ought to be an event to talk about the issue and get all the stakeholders involved. I suggested hosting it on campus, and since I'm a residential adviser in Stevenson, I could easily create a program around the event and get the students there. We decided that night to make the speaker panel happen.

The panel was designed, planned, and ready to go (though we hadn't gotten confirmation from any UCSC administrators, despite our attempts). The Facebook page was exploding with comments, concerns, excitement, anger. We were stoked for the event to happen, and it was scheduled for November 20. But there was also a labor strike scheduled for that day. Given the uncertainty of when the picket line would end, we ultimately cancelled the event and promised to reschedule.

Fast forward to January, when we re-secured the location and retraced our steps for outreach and communication with speakers. Since we essentially had a test-run back in November, we were more effective this time at promoting the event. We also conducted a survey so we'd have some data to share about people who ride in upper campus. We were still, unfortunately, unsuccessful at getting UCSC administrators to participate, but we had an awesome line-up of speakers from various perspectives, tablers, and awesome press coverage.

Rather than rehash the story of the incredibly successful event, which happened on January 29, 2014, I'll share some links to articles covering the panel below. I will say, though, that I was amazed at the turn-out and the enthusiasm, as well as hope, that came out of the event. Seeing students, staff, faculty, and community members represented in large numbers at this event was awesome, and hearing the conversation and interest in exploring this topic between mountain bikers, hikers, environmental advocates, and others in the room was inspiring. There are ways to support and care for the environment while also allowing people the freedom to engage with the environment in ways that speak to them. It was clear that the mountain biking community in general is willing to lend a hand in making trails more environmentally protected and to work with those who have the knowledge of how to protect ecosystems. This event brought those different perspectives and voices together and created an opening for conversation and action regarding ways to work together.

Ultimately, it seemed that everyone in the room that night values and cares about the beautiful land of upper campus at UCSC and wants to see it protected. If we can rally behind that cause as a collective group, working together to share the places up there will be more likely to happen.

Thank you to Traci, Eric, Dave, and the UCSC students from Stevenson College to helped make this possible. This is just the beginning of a really important conversation and action regarding this issue. To continue this conversation and share your thoughts, visit the Civinomics workshop here.

Here are stories and articles about the panel, in chronological order:

Forest Trails Talk: A Speaker Panel on Upper Campus Mountain Biking (Facebook)

Mountain Bike Access at UCSC: A Panel (Hilltromper)

Survey: Mountain Bikers and Upper UCSC (Hilltromper)

Video recording of the panel (YouTube)

Panel at UC Santa Cruz to address illegal mountain biking (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Hope for Solutions at Trails Talk (Hilltromper)

Illegal single-track trails at UC Santa Cruz subject of talk (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Forest Trails Talk - A Narrative on Addressing the Elephant in the Room (Civinomics Tipping Point blog)

Panel Discussion Examines Unauthorized Trail Use on Campus, Draws Full Crowd (Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz)

How should we deal with illegal mountain biking trails at UCSC? (Civinomics workshop, where you can continue the conversation and share your thoughts)

Photographs from the event (Facebook)


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