Reflections on the Scotts Valley Plastic Bag Ban Debate

Reflections on the Scotts Valley Plastic Bag Ban Debate.

Thanks Russell and Civinomics for covering the bag ban issue in Scotts Valley. You can be certain I’ll do everything I can to avoid spending money in Scotts Valley. If their council can’t be bothered to do the right thing for the environment then I can’t support their businesses that will most likely continue to dispense the single use plastic plague.

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Greening the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival

Few things in life go together better than mountain bikes, friends, and beer. These three things are at the core of the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival and a big reason that we sought to be a part of the organization that produces the event. The event also provides an opportunity to extend the reach of the conservation message and it is one of the few opportunities to get in front of nearly 10,000 people in just two days. The mountain bike community provides a perfect audience for the conservation message, fit individuals who enjoy engaging in athletic pursuits in nature, who better to coach on being better environmental stewards?

photo credit Karen Kefauver

photo credit Karen Kefauver

Minimizing the environmental impact of the event goes hand in hand with messaging about improved stewardship. The planning, implementation, and follow up surrounding these efforts is termed “greening” and takes a number of different forms. Planning to minimize the event’s impact involves a tremendous amount of communication with municipalities, vendors, waste haulers, and the event marketing team. We contacted vendors and let them know that excessive packaging was the enemy. One of the largest components of municipal waste streams is packaging and it surrounds nearly everything we purchase. We worked with the county to ensure that we were in compliance with their progressive ordinances; they have banned Styrofoam food ware and plastic shopping bags. We contacted the hauler to secure wheelie bins and dumpsters in the appropriate ratio, as well as compost bins. We also worked closely with our marketing team to ensure that we messaged our participants to carpool or ride their bikes (People Power provided bike valets). We even managed to run completely off the grid thanks to the support of three local solar companies (Allterra, Sandollar Solar, and Moved by Bikes).

greenscmbf

The one aspect that excited me the most was the challenge to eliminate the need for bottled water at the event. As every athlete knows water is the most crucial component in assuring performance. With multiple competitive events from short track and pump track races to a dirt jump competition we had to have water available to our guests. But bottled water is emblematic of a plague that continues to wreak havoc on our environment, marketing. Most people have been sold the idea that bottled water guarantees safety and convenience, but in reality it delivers neither.

  • Municipal water quality standards are higher than those of the bottled water industry
  • Tap water is available from every tap, not just at the supermarket or convenience store.
  • Tap water is cheaper than bottled, averaging $.0025/gallon vs $5.00/gallon on average in America.

Prior to the event Inspired Stewardship developed a relationship with Zuvo Water and in concert we developed a water dispensing “bar” that delivered high quality, great tasting water at no cost to our visitors. Our marketing efforts encouraged visitors to bring their own container and for those who didn’t we provided an environmentally friendly cup. Those with camelbacks appreciated the water the most as they were able to refill their water bladders with some of the best water they had ever tasted. And it was at the water station that we were able to deliver the reinforcing message that they were saving oil and money by drinking tap water, win-win!

DRwaterbar

In the end our guests were treated to an experience that left a very small footprint on the planet and instilled a renewed sense of community and responsibility for the environment. I can see those that purchased our stainless beer mugs lounging after a ripping ride for years to come looking at the logo from the Santa Cruz Mountain Biking Festival thinking, what fun. Now turn off that computer and throw your leg over your bike and make the world a healthier place!

How Gravity Trails Will Save the Environment

Wait, wait! I thought downhill mountain biking trails destroyed ecosystems, what are you selling here? Isn’t downhill mountain biking all about young kids skidding down sheer cliffs, creating huge ruts that carry all the dirt off the mountain? In a word, no.

1st

Gravity trails are another term for steeper than average trails designed for descending. They are indeed typically frequented by the younger portion of the mountain biking demographic that is more endorphin driven. I’ve heard of these riders referred to as the Red Bull generation more than once. This is the group most often targeted as bad for the image of our sport and are at the nexus of the trail access controversy. They are sometimes identified as the “rogue trailbuilders” who are cutting lines on the hillside that are most prone to erosion. They are often ostracized within the sport and targeted by authorities for ticketing on the “illegal” trails that they prefer. And they are our best hope for environmental advocates for generations to come.

Without trails or representation the gravity set will continue to be pushed to the margins of our sport except in the handful of mountainbike parks and enlightened trail systems here in America. History shows that marginalized populations push back against convention which creates conflict that often results in police action and a negative perception by the community at large. And if convention succeeds, they relent and move back into the shadows and abandon what they love. Do we really want more kids spending their lives inside playing video games rather than outside, getting fit, working in the wilderness?

local-youth1

Now instead of a circle of kids around a police officer with his ticket book out imagine them lined up with shovels and McLeods in hand on your favorite trail. Imagine your city council meeting packed with high school students taking their turn in front of the microphone imploring the need for more sustainable trails. Imagine your kids training all year on local trails to tune up for competition around the country. Isn’t that a better picture? This is a reality in Canada and New Zealand, and a rare sight here in the US.

Sustainable gravity trails exist around the world and they are spawning an enlightened environmental ethic. Not only do these trails provide opportunities to learn about building trails and protecting wilderness, but they lead to wiser personal choices that benefit the environment (think re-useable water bottles, trash cleanups, and diminishing carbon footprints). Activity in the outdoors provides time for reflection and provides a perspective on humankind that can’t be had in front of the TV, in the car, or in the boardroom. Gravity trails aren’t just for the youth either, there are plenty of aging adrenaline addicts out there. And we need to get the ball rolling.

redbullkid

The future of our planet rests in the generations to come. The next John Muir is taking the bus to school today and will ride their downhill bike afterwards. And she desperately needs a legal place to ride that bike. If we criminalize their favorite activity, their love for the trail, who will be left to take care of it? Gravity trails can save the environment. Please join me in supporting the development of more gravity trails. Learn about what is happening in your area to support trails by joining your local mountain biking club or visit IMBA to see what they are doing nearby.

Pumped Up!

Pumped up – adj. – to be very excited…

Pump track – n. – a low risk dirt circuit designed for bicycle riding by all ages and skills.

Pump tracks are one of the most exciting aspects of mountain biking to arrive on the scene in the last ten years. They require only the most basic of bicycles and skills to be enjoyed, and are a very low risk endeavor.  They don’t require mountains or heavily constructed stunts, and can be built in an area as small as 20’ x 40’. Pump tracks have sprouted around the world, from backyards to public parks to the granddaddy of all destination resorts, Whistler.  In an age when gear continues to improve and differentiate our sport pump tracks are the great unifiers. I challenge you to go visit a pump track and not see at least three of the following; a teenager, a bmx bike, a parent and their child, a full suspension bike, or a pack of local kids pedaling whatever they’ve got.

A well built pump track in Aptos CA

Santa Cruz is a town of contradictions. We are home to no less than three major players in the biking industry, yet the majority of our trails are illegal. When visitors from out of town ask for tips on the best trails they are given in hushed tones, and the local trail maps contain just a fraction of what is available. This isn’t lost on the local mountain biking club or the shops, and they have reignited their efforts to change this. I am fortunate enough to live around the corner from an outstanding shop and have been able to trace the lineage of the City of Santa Cruz’s first sanctioned pump track that is emerging as a result of their efforts.

Visualizing the new pump track

I heard that our city council was going to address the pump track at their meeting last week and jumped on the opportunity to join. After attending a contentious hearing not too long ago regarding a new multiuse trail that Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC) was hoping to build I expected a full house and a dubious council. Interestingly enough, only about four-dozen people besides the council were in attendance. Mauro Garcia of the Parks Department declared his support of the project and stated that the city had been hoping a site would appear for a park (I was surprised by that). Chris of Another Bike Shop easily fielded the council’s questions and noted that one of our local heavy hitters, Santa Cruz Bikes was moving to a new location, directly across the street from the proposed park and had pledged their support (yee ha!) And then the crowd began to speak their support at the mic. As I turned I noticed three of my riding buddies had appeared with their kids in tow, there is one of our most important user groups. The council echoed the gallery’s overwhelming support and the motion to grant the permit was passed unanimously! Chris still has a few small hurdles before the digging starts, but he and the property owner are to be applauded for their efforts to date.

Another pump track supporter and Chris celebrate council approval

It is an exciting time here, and Shawna and I are eager to jump in and continue our support of the effort. Kudos to the City of Santa Cruz for supporting more outdoor recreational opportunities, Santa Cruz bikes for financial support, and Chris and ABS for the inspiration behind the effort. There are still opportunities to participate in the fun stuff, hopefully we’ll get shovels in the ground in the next 30 days. This is an exciting time to be part of the cycling community in Santa Cruz as we approach the opening of our first legal rider built trail (ever?) by MBOSC and we see our pumptrack get off the ground. Be a part of this genesis and join us soon. Trail advocacy has never been easier, or more fun, lets all get pumped up!

– Dave