I was in St. Paul yesterday morning for the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s Day on the Hill which their web site described as:
… a great opportunity to network with other park and trail supporters from around the state, learn about the issues, and hear from park leaders and legislators. Whether you come as a member of a Friends group, a concerned citizen or a student looking to learn about the process, you’ll leave informed and your involvement strengthens our efforts to preserve and enhance Minnesota’s special places! The morning will equip you with the necessary tools to meet with your legislators.
I first blogged about the Parks and Trails Council back in Nov. of 2011 when Tim Wegner’s contributions to mountain biking were profiled in their Minnesota Trails magazine.
That piece focused on Tim’s work on the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails, which, as readers of this blog know, is the mountain bike park that changed my life.
So it was cool yesterday to see and hear from two of the people mentioned in that article, Executive Director Brett Feldman and DNR State Parks Director Courtland Nelson, because of the role they played in Cuyuna’s creation.
Better yet, my Cuyuna pals Jenny Smith and John Schaubach from the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails were there and introduced me to two of their colleagues, Jim Mayne (Deerwood Technologies, Cuyuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce) and Judy Erickson, former Government Relations Director for the Parks and Trails Council, now a lobbyist on her own with a new client: Cuyuna! A little history on Judy is in order.
After I blogged about the article on Tim Wegner, I attached a comment to it about Judy’s departure from the Council, linking to the Nov. 2010 article titled High-Energy Judy Erickson Leaving Parks & Trails Council. Pertinent Cuyuna quote from the article:
Wegner recalled that once he and others were glumly discussing the fact that they didn’t have the necessary state money to match the potential federal money when Parks & Trails Government Relations Director Judy Erickson approached them and asked what was wrong. They explained and she took them to the sixth floor of the State Office Building, told the people there that she wanted a bill written and what she wanted it to say and then took it to DFL Rep. John Ward and Republican Sen. Paul Koering and told them to sponsor it. Eventually, the $150,000 was appropriated. “The state is getting a million dollar trail for $150,000,” Wegner said.
Tim chimed in with this comment:
Griff, I remember that conversation with Judy very well. It was amazing to me how much Judy was respected by everyone that she spoke with. Everyone from the people that wrote the bill to Rep Ward and Sen. Koering treated her with respect and obvious appreciation for all the work she did to lobby for state parks.
The energy that Judy exudes is infectious, she has such a positive attitude and full of attitude of we can get this done. She was also critical in holding my hand as I testified in front of the house committee in support of the bill. What a scary experience but, I knew that Judy was there and could always help me with a difficult question.
I asked Judy to send me a blurb about her role. She wrote:
A veteran lobbyist, sharing her strategic legislative and communications skills, and passion, to help communities secure state investments for economic development, tourism and infrastructure. For Cuyuna, helping them develop a community wide approach to state investments in the Cuyuna Lakes Trail and CSRA and turning the area into the place for active recreation year-round; and creating business opportunities along the way. "One ride on a mountain bike was all it took. The adrenaline and the scenic beauty of Cuyuna combine for an amazing memory." Unique signature, besides working really hard, is sharing apples and apple pies or two from our Pleasant Valley Orchard.
You can also contact Judy via her profile on LinkedIn and her firm, Conservation Strategies, Inc.
My photos of others who spoke during the morning session:
Brett Feldman, Parks and Trails Council Executive Director; Luke Skinner, Deputy Director of MnDNR Parks and Trails Division; Erika Rivers, Assistant Commissioner of MnDNR
Greg Mack, Director of Ramsey County Parks and Recreation; Tom Ryan, Superintendent of Olmsted County Parks; Rep. Alice Hausman, Chair of House Capital Investment Committee;
Rep. Leon Lillie, Assistant Majority Leader, Vice-Chair Legacy Committee; Rep. Jean Wagenius, Chair of House Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Sen. David Tomassoni, Chair of Senate Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division.
Sen. Dan Sparks, member, Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division; Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Chair of House Legacy Committee; Rep. Denny McNamara, member, Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Finance Committee; Joe Bagnoli, Government Relations Consultant for Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota.
I’ve blogged a bit about the Eagan pump & jump park where I learned to pump last year. If you follow that tag link, you’ll see the name of Chance Glasford, the guy behind the park’s creation.
He’s at it again, this time leading the development of a proposal for a bike park in his home town of Cottage Grove. Yesterday, the proposal went before the Cottage Grove Parks, Recreation & Natural Resources Commission and I went to lend some support. Reed Smidt, President of MORC, spoke, as did other members of the Cottage Grove bike park task force.
Yes, I wanted to return the favor to Chance for all he’s done that has benefited me. But I have my selfish reasons, too. Cottage Grove is only 35 minutes or so from Northfield and I expect to be a regular at the park if it’s built, as it’ll be considerably bigger with more features than the one in Eagan.
The parks commission unanimously approved the proposal and it now goes to the City Council for consideration in a couple of weeks.
Left: The video of Chance’s Feb. 11 presentation to the commission
Right: The video of Chance’s Mar. 11 presentation to the commission
I came up to Cuyuna yesterday to get in a little riding before this weekend’s Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout. I met Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMTBC) president Aaron Hautala at 2 PM and we rode every trail in the Yawkey Unit, some twice. He and his fellow CLMTBC members had snowshoed the entire network of trails in Yawkey last weekend when the snow was sticky and their timing could not have been more perfect. With yesterday’s colder temps, the trails are hard and fast. In some areas, if you wander too far off the center (the ‘bacon strip’), your tires find the softer snow and you’ll slow down quickly. But generally, it’s primo.
FYI, Aaron was the guy who teamed up with WCCO TV reporter Mike Binkley for the Finding Minnesota: Cuyuna Lakes Yeti segment that aired earlier this week.
This morning I’m meeting CLMTBC member John Schaubach to do it all over again. Saaaaweeeet. And tonight we’ll do it all again for the night group ride, when Aaron, John and I will be escorting the beginners around Yawkey.
I’ve blogged about QBP’s Director of Advocacy Gary Sjoquist a few times because of his involvement in various mountain bike-related activities and projects.
This week, he and his QBP colleagues hosted a group of civic leaders from Utah to share what’s been done in Minneapolis to earn it Bicycling Magazine’s #1 ranking as the best bicycling city in America for 2011 and Walk Score’s #1 ranking of the 10 most bikeable large U.S. cities. The plan:
This two-day trip will examine their recipe mix of new infrastructure, education, and advocacy that won this accolade. Special attention will be given to how cycling is being integrated into the transit community, and look at the economic impacts of cycling within the MSP area.
Ogden, Utah’s bicycling infrastructure is particularly important to QBP because they opened their western distribution center, Q-West, there in 2011 (press release) and their Bike Commuting Program for employees is a big deal.
I joined the delegation on Thursday as they toured Minneapolis on Nice Ride MN bikes, starting out at the Holiday Inn Metrodome.
We biked down to Mpls City Hall and ate lunch while hearing from Shaun Murphy, Minneapolis Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator; Ethan Frawley, Bicycle Coalition of Minneapolis; and Dorian Grilley, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.
We then worked our way over to Freewheel’s Midtown Bike Center on the Midtown Greeway where we heard from Bill Dossett, Executive Director of Nice Ride MN, and Soren Jensen, Executive Director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition. From there, it was back to downtown Minneapolis during rush hour, and then across the Stone Arch Bridge to St. Anthony Main where we had dinner at Pracna on Main.
See the large slideshow of 72 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:
Utah delegation members
City of Ogden: Mayor Mike Caldwell
City of Ogden: Josh Jones
UTA: Matt Sibul
UTA: Darci Taylor
Bike Utah: Scott Lyttle, Executive Director
Bike Utah: Brad Woods, Board President
WFRC: Andrew Gruber, Executive Director
WFRC: Jory Johner
Salt Lake County Planning: Max Johnson
Davis County: Commissioner Louenda Downs
Utah County: Commissioner Larry Ellertson
Eagle Mtn: Mayor Heather Jackson
MAG: Shawn Seager
UDOT: Evelyn Tuddenham
SLC Transportation: Dan Bergenthal
I had a consulting gig in Brainerd last Thursday and my client put me up at the Country Inn in Deerwood, about 4 miles from the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails. Of course I brought my bike, even though my shoulder was still giving me a little trouble. I was hoping for a miraculous Cuyuna Cure. I was a bit stunned when I walked into the lobby of the inn to see a virtual shrine to mountain biking. Evidently the owner, Dan Brown, is a biker and has experienced an economic bump from all the mountain bikers flocking to the area. I didn’t get to meet him but I suspect it’ll be Real Soon Now.
On Thursday night, I stopped by the Heartwood in Crosby where Minnesota High School Cycling League director Gary Sjoquist was doing his high school MTB racing presentation, as there will be a Cuyuna area team next season. I ran into two of my Cuyuna geezer pals, John Schaubach and Steve Weber, and Cycle Path and Paddle proprietor Jenny Smith snapped the photo of us (above right) doing the smartphone dance. I arranged to go for an early morning ride on Friday with John.
The day dawned cool, clear, and still. With the fall colors, it could not have been a more perfect morning. We took Easy Street to Mucker Mountain and then Little Sidewinder over to Hopper Hill where we ran into Dirt Boss Nick Statz doing trail work. The cool thing about riding with John is that he’s a walking history book of the Cuyuna Lakes area, having grown up there. And as a member of the the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail Crew, he’s intimately involved in all aspects of the park’s development. So every time we stopped for a break, I got an education.
John stayed on to help Nick and a short time later, I ran into Twin Cities area mountain bikers Greg Henningsen and Scott Christensen who were up for the day. My shoulder was feeling stronger than I expected (thank you, ibuprofen) so I followed them around for hours. By 5 pm, I’d ridden every trail in both the Mahnomen and Yawkey Units (insets B and D on the revised Cuyuna DNR map, now with directional arrows on the trails).
It was one of those it-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-this days that I’m still savoring. Thank you, Cuyuna.
I had dinner Wed. night with Gary Sjoquist, QBP’s Advocacy Director. When the subject turned to bike advocacy and related issues at the federal level, he told me that his friend and colleague Leslie Bohm died of cancer on Monday. Gary and Leslie were both founding members of the Bikes Belong Coalition, a cycling advocacy group.
Gary said he was writing up a remembrance for various industry publications, so I asked him to send it to me for posting here. Mountain bikers should know how our sport has benefited from Leslie’s legacy.
I met Leslie for the first time in Washington, DC in 1998. Several of us industry people were invited to take part in a celebration reception for the passage of TEA-21, the federal transportation bill that had just been signed into law. It was worth celebrating, because it extended the bicycle funding and programs begun with ISTEA in 1991.
In DC, it was John Burke (CEO of Trek), Mike Greehan (Publisher of Bicycling Magazine), Chris Kegel (owner of Wheel and Sprocket, a Milwaukee-based multi-store retailer), Leslie, (who was building Catalyst Communications into a marketing machine for the bike industry), and myself (a longtime bike advocate, mostly in mountain biking,but new to the industry).
It was the first time I had met Leslie, and I liked him right away. He was a really smart guy, and so personable. You couldn’t help like the guy with his goofy charm and great smile. And as someone who had put thousands of miles on BMWs across the U.S. in the 80s and 90s, once I learned that he had run Eclipse (really high quality tank bag manufacturer), he had my instant respect.
Anyway, the following morning us industry folks got together for breakfast and talked about launching Bikes Belong 2.0. Not many will remember, but the original Bikes Belong came from an earlier industry/advocacy community effort in1996/97/98.
In 1996, in Dubois, Wyoming at the Gerry Speiss Trial Lawyers College, a group of bike advocates from across the U.S. met for the first time to discuss national advocacy stratgies. LAB, RTC, and IMBA were represented, along with BR&IN (the industry journal) and various advocates from around the country. We met and discussed the national state of bicycle advocacy and what our individual organizations (both national and statewide) needed to succeed.
After three days of meetings, we basically came to the conclusion that rather than spend a lot of time trying to improve our individual organizations, nothing was more valuable than trying to ensure that federal funding would continue for bike projects in the upcoming federal transportation bill (later called TEA-21).
We asked representatives from LAB, RTC, and IMBA to form an organization that could help influence TEA-21. In 1997 and 1998, this meant asking the bike industry to provide $400,000 in funding to form a loose lobbying effort, which was called Bikes Belong. Leadership was provided mostly by RTC, and an industry perspective was provided by Leslie Bohm.
Leslie was involved with this first Bikes Belong, and so was the “bridge” guy to help establish the “new” Bikes Belong Coalition run by the industry and founded the following year in 1999.
Another important Leslie accomplishment was the Bikes Belong grants program. When we launched Bikes Belong, the question was “what can the industry do to ensure that bike facilities actually get built?” Leslie had the answer – an industry-funded grants program that leveraged federal funding to get more places built for our industry’s products to be used. He led the development of the grants program, and since he was all about accountability, he developed the matrix used to rate grant applications. By 2003, the Bikes Belong grants program was leveraging one industry dollar into $550+ of federal funding to build bike trails, bike lanes, mountain bike trails, etc.
But perhaps Leslie’s biggest contribution to Bikes Belong came from his unique ability to “defuse” volatile situations at Bikes Belong board meetings. With high powered CEOs on the board, personalities and biases were occasionally displayed. Often during these tense times, it was Leslie who would say just the right thing to defuse the situation with a poignant or downright funny remark.
Since many of the CEOs on the board depended on his marketing expertise, Leslie was the one person in the room who had gained their respect, and who they didn’t need to match egos with. He was virtually without ego, but incredibly productive, and a great asset both to Bikes Belong and the bike industry.
Godspeed, Leslie. You were among the very best and brightest we ever had.
Gary Sjoquist is featured in quite a few of my blog posts since I started mountain biking last summer, so I was pleased when I heard he’d been nominated for inclusion in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (that’s a page on the Minnesota High School Cycling League web site, another one of Gary’s projects).
It’s not simple or quick to cast a vote for Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (MBHOF) nominees.
You first must become a member. Voting membership is $20 and can be done via print/mail or online (PayPay/credit card).
Once you become a member, they send out ballots via mail. Ballots are being sent out now and need to be mailed back by July 15th. I got mine last week (right photo).
I blogged about Gary’s contribution to bicycling back in July 2011 but that didn’t begin to do it justice. See his complete nomination page in the category of Advocacy and then get hustling.
July 27 update: Gary Sjoquist was one of five people inducted into the 2012 Mountain Bike Hall of Fame today.
August 23 update: Last night I finally got a chance to toast Gary for his induction. (Apologies for the crappy smartphone photo.)
A couple weeks ago, Duluth resident and COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) member Rudy O’Brien announced in the MORC forum that he was organizing an enduro-style group ride for June 23rd. "We will be riding a handful of gravity trails in Duluth." I had to be in Duluth last week for a work-related conference so the timing was perfect. I’d never ridden an enduro or on any gravity trails so I was psyched for it.
When the record flooding hit the Duluth area on Tuesday/Wednesday, it wasn’t clear whether we’d be able to ride. So Rudy, Dave Cizmas and I did a pre-ride on Friday afternoon to check things out. Yes, there were lots of washouts but there plenty of ways to get around them. We came upon a couple of other riders who were out exploring and we had a blast rolling down the big rocks which were dry and grippy. Game on for Saturday.
We rode areas near Duluth’s Cody Inn which was featured in many flood-related news stories. We got to see a group of guys cut the back section of the inn loose and watch it tumble into the chasm.
Saturday morning’s soaking rains stopped by 10:30 so off we went. Left photo: Chance Glasford, Dave Cizmas, Cory Vierck, Rudy O’Brien, Spencer Johnson, Andy Kienitz, AJ Peterson.
Right photo: a gigantic washout of a road near Spirit Mountain: same gang, plus John Morrison who joined us mid-ride.
With the morning rain, the big rocks were slippery. Ones like these that were relatively a piece ‘o cake on Friday were treacherous. Still way fun, but braking was a more delicate affair.
The knees of AJ Peterson and John Morrison got kissed by the rocks, as did the tires of Andy Kienitz and Cory Vierck. Otherwise, equipment checks and adjustments were the order of the day, along with:
Mud-splattered faces. After this break, we headed west of Spirit Mountain where we hiked our bikes (15-20 minutes for each) up a couple of very steep and gnarly rock trails and then blasted down them. Well, I didn’t exactly blast down. With a hardtail 29′er, I learned why these guys ride full-suspension bikes on these super-technical downhills. Still, it was amazing fun for me.
We had about ten-mile ride back to Rudy’s house, going downhill to Hwy 23, past the devastated Lake Superior Zoo, then a long climb through the streets of West Duluth up to to Skyline Parkway and to our starting point (above right photo).
While we gorged ourselves on brats and beer, Rudy treated us to bike trials demo in his backyard. I’m going to learn how to do these stunts when I get a little older.
Chance Glasford has a much more detailed blog post on the event and the terrain we rode. Example:
The first trail was short but it had a couple sweet technical moves. There was a three tiered drop/step down and if you didn’t pick the right line you were almost guaranteed to go over the bars.
Spencer learned this first hand as his fork bottomed out, his weight shifted forward as he dismounted superman style over the bars into a very graceful roll!
I can’t wait for the next edition of Rudy O’Brien’s North Shore Enduro Tour.
CLMTB Crew president Aaron Hautala and Cuyuna legend John Schaubach drove down to the Twin Cities from Crosby yesterday to attend last night’s MORC board meeting.
John and Aaron had never ridden anywhere besides the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails so they decided to check out Lebanon Hills before the meeting. I joined them, along with MORC VP Reed Smidt and fellow Northfielder Todd Orjala.
We spent 3.5 hours riding every trail at Leb. I was glad worried when they crashed a few times but I still think they enjoyed themselves and maybe even learned a thing or two.
I also walked them through the soon-to-be-opened skills park at Leb and then took them over to see the Lexington Pump and Jump park in Eagan, as they’re scheming to add similar features to Cuyuna.
The Ya Betcha Bar & Grill in Crosby, MN has become one of the local eating and drinking establishments to attract significant numbers of mountain bikers who come to ride the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails.
On Friday night before this weekend’s Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival, the IMBA Summit attendees headed there for drinks and dinner after the group ride (photo of the building is from March).
I met the family who owns and runs Ya Betcha, Deb Bieganski, and her two daughters, Jamie Lynn Drewlow and Meranda Mosher. Like Maureen and Jim Christopher at the Heartland Kitchen Café, they’re quite pleased with the increase in business since the park opened last summer. It’s pretty clear to me that their outgoing personalities have something to do with that. I will be back.