12 June 2012


I must have been 4 years old. Or maybe 5; yeah, likely 5. It was probably the summer of 1978, when my dad was trekking back and forth to Chicago and my mom was stuck at home with two kids. To give her a break, and give them some time alone, every few weekends my brother and I would be dropped off at my grandparents' house, to spend the day eating lunchmeat sandwiches heavy with butter and the most amazing German chocolate cake in the world.

My grandfather was a water guy, who was either just retired or about to retire from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and somewhere in the back of my mind I think he helped hand-build the Colorado River Aqueduct. Which isn't entirely true, but it's what I remember.

He was also an outdoorsman, and a staunch supporter of the Federal government, and he and my grandmother spent much of their lives taking their kids -- my dad, my aunt and my uncle -- on long-distance trips to enjoy the National Forests and Parks far from the growing urban sprawl of Los Angeles. They didn't have much in the way of disposable income, and the lands managed by the Forest Service and the Park Service provided a way to enjoy the natural resources that abound in the western part of this country.

Father and son in the San Bernardino. Courtesy USFS.
Those travels instilled in their kids a love of the outdoors, and my dad still talks about his days spent hiking San Jacinto and that trip to Baja that resulted in a moto crash and broken collarbone that wasn't discovered until 20 years later. That love was also passed to their grandchildren, and on those weekends my brother and I spent with them, we often headed up into the San Bernardino National Forest to escape the blistering heat and cloying air of the Inland Empire. One of my earliest memories is standing in a cold mountain stream behind the rock dam we just built, cake pan in hand, while Grandpa taught me to gently shake the sediment out of the water while looking intently for small flecks of shiny gold hidden in the sand. Or the time we hiked up to an overlook, and the immense sadness I felt trying to look out at the ocean and seeing only a never-ending deck of smog that enveloped the land below me.

Maybe it's no wonder, then, that last night I announced my candidacy for president of Pisgah Area SORBA. Though I swore back in the day that I'd "never" ride a mountain bike, with each passing season I find myself becoming more involved with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), and since moving to North Carolina, with its regional body, the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA). One of IMBA's key missions is to provide a platform for mountain bikers to work with land managers like the Forest Service to preserve our open spaces, and I am drawn to that work more and more each year. A couple of months ago, it became apparent that our area chapter was going through some major transition, and several long-serving members of the board of directors announced that they were stepping down when their terms expire in August. About the same time, I spent a day at the SORBA leadership conference in Knoxville, and though I can't be sure that it was entirely the fault of Dave Wiens, I left there inspired, with a page full of notes and a vision for what Pisgah Area SORBA can become.

Since then, I've become much more active in PAS. Though I'm not in an official leadership role, it's not in my nature to stand by and just let things happen (or not happen), and I hope that with the hard work of many folks, we are beginning to emerge from a very challenging time. There is still an incredible amount to do, and some open questions and ambiguity that make this very difficult, but there are also some very clear milestones and goals that we need to achieve to lay a stronger foundation for the future, and I believe I can help get us there. Just in the last few weeks, we've already seen some positive things start to happen, and I want to build on what we've accomplished.

So that's what's going on. Nominations were last evening, with elections in August and the term beginning Sept. 1. In the meantime, I'm going to be working my butt off to get some things going, even if I don't have a title to my name. I am doing this with full blessing from my wonderful wife, who continues to amaze me with all that she supports -- I trust that she, too, believes in what PAS can become. Because in my mind's eye, I have this vision of my Dad, pants rolled up to his knees, standing in a Wash Creek or Mills River with Kate and Daniel, cake pans in hand, swishing away the sediment and looking for shiny flecks of gold. And it's the work we do now, starting in 2012, that will make that a reality.

In announcing my candidacy, I prepared a short document that utilizes the current chapter by-laws as a way to illustrate my vision, as well as including some goals and activities and a brief bio. It's far from final -- we have a lot of outreach to do with our membership -- but it provides a starting point and an introduction. These are some of the ideas I have for Pisgah Area SORBA:


theintospective said...

PAS has come a long way since the beginning and I hope to see it become the chapter everyone admires. Thanks Chris for being someone I feel quite worthy of passing the torch to!

voiceoftheblueridge said...

Chris, I love your post about your positive vision for PAS Sorba. It is incredible how you will be honoring your grandparents values and continuing a legacy of conservation and a love of the outdoors. You have my support completely. Hope to meet you one day at one our local races or Sorba events. Take care.