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photoJoe Brown makes a point to the crowd at the Mountain Bike Allliance meeting.

Methow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance

“How many mountain bike specific trails does the Methow Valley have?” Joe Brown, owner of Methow Cycle and Sport, asked a group of about 30. After a few wrong guesses, he responded, “We have zero, and we’ve always had zero, and we are going to change that.”

After a half hour talking trails, bikes, rides, and scars over beers, chips and cookies at the ice rink, a group of mountain bikers headed inside to learn about the newly formed Methow Valley Mountain Bike Alliance, a new chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, a Seattle based non-profit to “create and protect sustainable mountain biking opportunities in Washington.”

The meeting lasted just over an hour starting with an introduction from everyone in attendance. Brown led the conversation, “Wow, awesome turnout. I was kind of wondering if we were going to have six or eight. Thanks everyone for coming.” He discussed membership, starting at $30 per person, where the money goes and how mountain biking in the Methow Valley is going to improve because of this alliance.

Brown said, “Our trails that we use aren’t proportional to what the sport expects and the capability that the sport brings, so we largely have adapted wildlife trails, hiking trails, horse trails.”

Over the past 10 years the Forest Service saw huge budget cuts towards trail maintenance said Merle Kirkley owner of North Cascades Cycle Werks as he took the stage. “Biking is my passion. It’s what I love to do. Being a member of this alliance makes us more powerful. Strength in numbers.” Kirkley and Brown share the goal to improve user experience on the Valley’s new and existing trails by joining the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance.

photoMerle Kirkley checks his notes as he addresses the first Mountain Bike Alliance meeting.

How the alliance works, according to the speakers: Evergreen has a history of success in building and sustaining trails in Washington. This led to a trusting relationship with land managers such as the Forest Service. Being a part of this alliance proves a group of mountain biker’s credibility to the land managers with examples of previous trails’ successes. The alliance provides the training for certification to build and maintain trails. Now groups of mountain bikers in Methow Valley, Spokane and Central Washington have become chapters of the Evergreen Alliance.

As Brown explained the Forest Services trail history to the group, he said, “They’re charged historically with stewardship to public lands, but that’s changed where they don’t have the funding to maintain public trails. They’re in a tough spot, truth be told.” Basically, decreases in state and federal funding has leant more responsibility to the user, but without the legal authority to build trails, Brown added. “They’re trying to do the right thing, but it limits the potential. So they’re coming to us saying ‘lets figure this out,’ which is a way different tune than five years ago.”

Optimism filled the room as the meeting came to an end with membership signup and a ballot vote for board members to be determined at the next meeting, which are the first Monday each month at 6:30 at the ice rink with snacks and beer. The meetings are open to the public. Toward the end of the conversation Brown said, “There is a cost to recreating; we got to show some responsibility.”


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