Sunday, November 15, 2020

More Emphasis on Trails, Less on Events in 2021


As I have recounted here on previous occasions, the Backcountry Trail Patrol Association was formed in 1999 as a program of the old North-Central Mountain Bike Patrol (NCMBP) and was incorporated as a separate organization in 2003. The reason that the patrol program was established was due to NCMBP’s increasing emphasis on special event medical coverage, and search and rescue, with a decreased emphasis on its or original purpose of patrolling trails. When Backcountry became a separate organization, it's stated purpose was to develop, maintain, and patrol mountain bike trails on the three National Forests in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Over the ensuing decade and a half our primary emphasis has tried to remain trail patrol on the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association trails in Northwest Wisconsin, and the surrounding Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

In recent years, the other National Mountain Bike Patrols in the region have gone inactive, while the Backcountry Trail Patrol (and the Wisconsin Mountain Bike Patrol in the Milwaukee area) has stayed active, and the emphasis once again shifted to providing medical support at events. In and of itself, event support is a good thing and that’s why we advocated for the establishment of what is now the Twin Cities Mountain Bike Patrol, but it is not the reason that the Backcountry Patrol was formed. Our name says it all, "Backcountry Trail Patrol." Where events intersect with the trails we serve, such as the Chequamegon Mountain Bike Festival, the Borah Epic, the Fat Bike Birkie and the Tour de Chequamegon, we’re here and of course, we will help. (Of course, after the COVID-19 pandemic has eased and we are allowed to have events again.)

However, in September of 2020, something happened on the CAMBA trails that should cause us to refocus our emphasis on trail patrol. There was a crash on Flow Mama Trail, and the rider sustained fatal injuries. I’m not saying that the presence of a patrol would have changed those circumstances, but it does draw attention to the need for what we were organized to do.

Trail patrol is simple. Once you are trained, wear your red jersey, carry your patrol pack, and get out and ride. Record and report your hours. You can ride anywhere on the CAMBA system and Isanti County Parks. Educate, Assist, Inform, Observe, and Report. In 2003 we made a commitment as an organization to, “protect trail users and forest resources through service and backcountry education.” It’s what we do, what we are needed to do, and what we are supposed to do.

As the region heals from the pandemic, a record number of people have been seeking outdoor recreation as an escape from the frustrations of lockdowns and quarantines. Mountain biking is a great way to experience the outdoors, but as in any endeavor, some of the participants are not prepared or properly equipped. That’s where the education component of what we do comes in.

We’re going to make a concerted effort to increase our patrol presence on the CAMBA trails in 2021. We hope to recruit and train new members, expand educational programs, including possibly sponsoring a MTB first aid class by Backcountry Lifeline, and provide information to help riders enjoy the trails in a safe manner and assist CAMBA in developing an effective Emergency Medical Services contact and evacuation system, similar to that found on the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area Mountain bike trails in Minnesota. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

If you are not a member and are interested in the Backcountry Trail Patrol, please email “backcountry@trailpatrol.org”

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