What do you do when someone takes away something you really love? When it came to mountain biking and the DNR ban in 1989, I felt called to action. The problem started for two main reasons. Many trails traditionally used for hiking were slowly becoming used by mountain bikers, which caused periodic conflicts. The Michigan DNR, without a policy in place responded to the conflict by outright banning mountain bikes in all the state parks and recreation areas. I remember seeing the article in the Detroit News in December 1989 about the ban. I immediately got on the phone and started calling people all around the state who were involved in the industry or shared a concern for access. I then put an ad in the Ann Arbor News announcing a meeting. About 200 people showed up at the meeting, which culminated in the formation of the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association (PMBA). With a group in place, we were able to split the tasks and get more done.
Our strategy was to present a scientific report with local and nationally collected data, which showed that shared trails was feasible, and that mountain bikes did not cause the severe damage that was alleged. Our report included soil maps, topographical maps and plat maps. We walked all over the Pinckney, Island Lake, Brighton, and Waterloo recreation areas. We walked not just the trails, but overland (before gps units!). The report was called the Grand Master Plan for the four parks, recommending certain trails to be open and certain areas ripe for trail development called “bike study zones”. The plan included connection of all the parks into one gigantic trail system. One of the original report copies may be seen at our store… just ask to see it.
I used to do political consulting, and was therefore able to catch the ear of state representive Kirk Profitt, who helped set the meeting with the Assistant Director of the DNR. We presented the report, and two months later the law was reversed. I was interviewed on NPR and the story ran nationally for a week. In the meantime, we formed the MMBA, and merged the PMBA into it as it’s first “Chapter”. When I moved to California, I became friends with the founders of IMBA, touting the MMBA’s achievements. The IMBA advocacy kit is now largely based on our initial strategy from 1990, and I continued to advocate land access on behalf of IMBA during my international travels for Cannondale.