02 April 2012

Ad-vocation

You know your weekend is going to be pretty incredible when you see this waiting for your group ride:

Thing is, we weren't spending time with Dave "I'm the guy who beat Lance" Wiens. Or even Dave "Mountain Bike Hall of Famer" Wiens. Because, as you know if you've ever met him, those guys don't exist.

Instead, we were hanging out with Dave "Gunnison Trails" Wiens. And you'd be forgiven if you weren't aware that this Dave Wiens existed: A visit to the Gunnison Trails organization web site reveals absolutely no information (unless you know he's married to Olympic Bronze medalist Susan DeMattei) that a world-famous, world-class, pioneer mountain bike racer is the man behind the mission.

We spent time with Dave "Gunnison Sage-grouse" Wiens, the guy who has spent countless hours in butt-numbing meetings learning everything he can about a rare, endangered species he never knew existed. Don't let the web site fool you: When it says "Gunnison Trails" and "we" have worked to protect the Sage-grouse, a lot of that is really him. Because this Dave Wiens realizes that the best way to be a steward of the land and an advocate for more and better trails is to understand the full scope of what his local land owners and managers deal with; in this case, a large area that is home to a habitat in what could be a prime location for some sweet singletrack. So this Dave Wiens made sure he got a seat on the commission charged with protecting the Sage-grouse.

And finally, we got to spend time with Dave "Trail Maintainer" Wiens. Because this Dave Wiens started a trail advocacy group 6 years ago thinking he would dive in and start digging, and to date has built exactly zero miles of new trail. None. Nada. This Dave Wiens learned very quickly that local land managers aren't averse to new trail, but they have other priorities -- and if he helps them with those priorities, they'll be much more willing to work with him when he makes proposals about exploring locations for new singletrack. This Dave Wiens understands that maintenance of existing trails often comes first, and that you've got to be in it for the long haul; trail advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint.

This Dave Wiens -- Dave Wiens the trail advocate -- flew on pretty much his own dime to the spring meeting of IMBA-SORBA, the Southeast regional branch of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. This Dave Wiens joined us in Knoxville, Tennessee, to attend a full day of advocacy and leadership training and networking, hosted by the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, in a beautiful new recreation-oriented interpretive facility in the midst of a city experiencing an active outdoor renaissance. We were the first-ever group to host an event in the building, which will serve as a gateway point to a 1,000-acre "urban wilderness" -- complete with singletrack and connected by greenways -- that has been developed just across the river. In fact, we were greeted by the Mayor, who -- surely busy on the same weekend as a citywide marathon -- took time to open our session and talk to us about the importance to her city of trails that link open green spaces with neighborhoods and vice-versa, and the role AMBC has had in that effort.

I got to talk with Dave during lunch, and our conversation revolved around some of the challenges we face in our respective areas. I was kind of shocked to learn he's never ridden Pisgah (and I was quick to extend an invitation!), and it was enlightening to find out that some of the same issues we face at home in Western North Carolina manifest themselves in Colorado -- it's always helpful to hear from club presidents and others who have "been there and done that" with regards to a particular issue. In fact, he affirmed that thanks to our history, in some ways we're better off than they are in Gunnison: While many of our logging roads, narrow-gauge railroad rights-of-way and skid trails are already changed over to recreational use, Dave described entire hillsides that are scarred from now-disused and completely un-maintained mining roads just begging for a good road-to-trail conversion.

Dave did give an after-lunch speech and touched on his history of exploration, including his long association -- starting well before Lance! -- with the Leadville 100. With his trademark blonde hair and boyish, almost impish, looks, he also told stories from his past that could have been yesterday (I mean really, would you believe this guy is going to be 48 years old in a couple of months?), and shared some funny tales of the old NORBA circuit and racing internationally. And, maybe, it might have been a little of that Dave Wiens who saddled up on his Topeak-Ergon Team-issue Canyon bike to lead a group into the Quarry trails.

But ultimately, the Dave Wiens who understands how important this is, implored us to keep up the good work, telling us that our successes in the Southeast inspired him to go back to Gunnison and keep the fire burning when the promise of trails sometimes seems so far away. Topeak-Ergon has made Dave their "Advocacy Ambassador," and it's heartening to see that he's part of a vanguard of current-generation racers who are turning their energies toward building a better future for bicycling. We're all stoked to have him fighting the good fight, and I think we all look forward to making our way West someday to check out his home trails. Just a guess, but I'd say with an approach to advocacy as legendary as some of his on-the-bike workouts, Dave is poised to help make Gunnison an even more off-the-charts, amazing trail experience.

And I think every part of Dave Wiens wants that to happen.

2 comments:

Just Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Just Cheryl said...

Excellent recap of the leadership weekend. Thanks for sharing. It was truly a pleasure to spend time with Dave. He is so down to earth.