Starting a Volunteer Group

Is this you?

Chances are, if you've come this far, its the same things we want: better trails and to preserve access for responsible mountain biking. Is this you?

• You're a passionate rider, you ride all the time. You spend time on the bike; time on the net lookin at bikes. Its what you think, eat and dream about.

• You ride and ride NJ's fine trails but you find yourself wanting to take the next step: to give back, to craft, to create, to make an impact.

• Perhaps, you've joined in on some trail maintenance days at your local park. It feels good, doesn't it?

• You've ridden that muddy section repeatedly and you want to fix it. You've ridden that eroded stretch of fall line trail and you think something's not quite right. You see that tree down, you'd rather remove it than to create yet another go around.

• You think about flow. You love that carve, you love to grunt up that climb. You nailed it! That's the section that you never nailed before. Suddenly you realize I love this trail; its almost like... family.

• Maybe you know by feel when a trail works and when it does not, when a trail is "right" and when its not. You look at a line through the woods, or across a rock spine, and think "now that would be a great place to put a trail". But you know better. You know that renegade trail building (trails without landowner permission) is short term pleasure that will cause long term pain for our sport: Less Access.

• But you have energy and ideas. You want to build, and build it right... you want to learn about sustainable trail design and apply it now. You want to GIVE BACK.


How to begin?

Mental Preparation

Starting a trail work program at a park is a high commitment of time; you need to know that going in. A chapter leader may spend 3-10 hours prepping for every trail work day that they organize (and then you're there for 3-4 hours with the volunteers). You need to assess your time allowances, clear it with your family before committing to something like this. However, the level of personal satisfaction on a job well done is not easily matched: building great trails is a real pleasure and is totally addictive.

Sorry, we needed to say this. Its a legal thing... :) Disclaimer done... let's get to the fun stuff.


Learning about Trail Work

You're ready to commit but you need to be educated on hands on trail work, running a work crew and a few other details that build long term skills that will make your project successful.

We recommend that you:

•Contact JORBA! Its our mission to support your efforts. We want to provide mentoring, emotional support, tools. Its what we do! not only will we help you along as you go, we'll help you promote your efforts.

•Do Trail Work at a JORBA Chapter: Locate a chapter near you here and attend a series of trail work sessions. We recommend that you engage in at least 3 sessions and if you're still interested in pursuing this project, please approach the chapter leader and make your intentions plainly known. He or she will be able to guide and mentor you on what steps you need to take and what you need to learn.

•Trail Building Science: Learn it Love it. Get some free trail building DVDs from the FHWA Website. We recommend that your get:

◦1 copy of Building Mountain Bike Trails: Sustainable Singletrack (DVD)

◦1 copy of Trail Training DVD Series: DVD 1 Includes: "Handtools for Trail Work" and "An Ax to Grind." DVD 2 Includes: "Constructing Trail Switchbacks," "Basic Trail Maintenance," "Trails in Wet Areas: Turnpike and Puncheon Construction," and "Surface Water Control Techniques for Trail Maintenance."

◦1 copy of Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook (2007)
Once you have attained these materials and have both some hands on and book knowledge under your belt, you will have the basics down. In addition, if you get to this point, you can contact JORBA and we'll talk about getting you some more advanced materials, such as IMBA's Trail Solutions, and IMBA's Managing Mountain Biking, into your hands.


Land Owner Permission

If you have this basic knowledge down, you will want to locate the Land Manager of the park and formerly approach them about the concept of a regular, volunteer-based trail maintenance program at their park. Sometimes, you may need to start with an Adopt-A-Trail program and build up trust, or through the Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program if its a NJ DEP state park or forest. Either way, you need to be diplomatic, polite and patient. Do not expect the land manager to jump back-flips just because you've offered to do free trail work! They have concerns with volunteers doing inappropriate things in state parks, or volunteers leaving projects half done, or done incorrectly. they have concerns about people getting hurt. But that said, you are offering a land manager is wonderful service; you just need to be patient and not let a few unanswered calls deter you. You need to be persistent but polite and you must never lose your cool. We've all gone through this so if you have any questions or you run into a road block, contact your nearest chapter leader or a JORBA officer for advice and help.


Organized Trail Work

You've gotten permission to do some trail maintenance or trail work, this is great news! Now, you need to form a club and attract volunteers and retain them. This is where your charm and charisma will need to be tested. Don't have any? ;) Find someone in your crew that does and deputize them as the volunteer coordinator.


How to recruit volunteers?

•Internet Forums: post your work days on Forums JORBA, mtbNJ , http://www.dirtrag.com Dirt Rag, http://www.mtbr.com MTBR New Jersey Forum, RideMonkey Northeast Forum etc. Forums are probably the easiest way to get the word out fast.

•Local bike shops: talk to your LBS about your plans! You will probably be allowed to post a flyer in the window but if the owner and the shop wrenches know what is happening at the local park, they're likely to mention it when customers stop by.

•Kiosk: post a trail work schedule in the kiosk (you may have to get the land manager to do this for you.)
In addition, the IMBA website has some very good advice on starting a club and organizing successful trail work days. Some of these links are very pertinent to your situation but some of the points might apply more to a regional club such as JORBA, but the information is all relevant and worthwhile.

Please review these:

How To Start A Mountain Bicycling Club

Seven Keys To An Effective Bicycle Advocacy Club

Advocacy & Organizing


End Game

At the end of this process our goal is to make you a productive long-term, successful volunteer group or chapter within JORBA that adds value and maintains access to a riding spot in NJ. We are here to help you attain and retain access to riding opportunities in NJ and to build great trails. If you have any questions, contact your local chapter or the Executive Director Norm Albrecht