Mountain biking voices heard on Capitol Hill

By Gary Boulanger,

Last week, cycling representatives from 46 American states convened in Washington, DC from March 4-6 for the National Bike Summit. Mountain bikers were well represented and many were there to lobby on behalf of the National Park Service, which is preparing for its 100th anniversary in 2016. President George W. Bush and Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne have proposed massive funding increases to restore parks and programs to their prior glory in the United States.

The Challenge would dedicate US$100 million a year for 10 years to park operations, generating US$1 billion. An additional US$100 million a year would be allocated to special signature projects to go above and beyond general park maintenance.

The eighth Annual National Bike Summit featured 70 International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) delegates. With record-breaking total attendance topping 500 in 2008, a unified voice for mountain biking was heard on Capitol Hill from IMBA.

On March 6, IMBA delegates were asked to urge their state's members of Congress to co-sponsor and urge the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee members to pass HR 3094 or S 1253, the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund Act. Members of Congress were also urged to support funding for the Centennial Initiative in the Department of Interior Appropriations bill.

Specifically, IMBA delegates learned first-hand about two major initiatives directly impacting trail maintenance and access in the United States: a Congressional resolution on bicycling and a National Park Service Centennial initiative.

Jenn Dice, IMBA's government affairs director, spoke to a packed auditorium about the importance of "the ask" to all Summit participants on Wednesday, March 5, specifically about the 100-year Vision for National Parks: Creating Bicycle-Friendly Parks. Attendees were trained and versed in the fine art of lobbying on Capitol Hill. Dice also participated on the panel to train first-time advocates on March 4.

With 319 units across the country, chances are each Summit attendee has a Park Service site in their congressional district that might be eligible for new or improved trails open to bicycling.

"IMBA supports the National Park Service Centennial Initiative's commitment to restore and repair our nation's parks to their former glory in time for the 100-year anniversary in 2016," Dice told the Summit audience at the Reagan International Trade Center. IMBA signed a partnership agreement with the NPS in 2005 to improve riding opportunities for the nation's 40 million mountain biking participants by building more trails and opening existing, appropriate dirt trails and roads.

"More than 40 NPS units are open to mountain biking, and IMBA is working with park staff to improve conditions at these and other parks," Dice added. It helps that US President Bush is an avid, dedicated mountain biker whose passion for the dirt will help influence policy makers in Washington.

IMBA's next event, the World Summit, is scheduled for Park City, Utah from June 18 to 21.

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