1. What kind of trip were you on when you had the idea for creating the Stewardship?
I’m pretty sure I was riding a singlespeed with Mike Ferrentino when it hit me. . The year was 2003 and I was living and working in Downieville; promoting the Downieville Classic mountain bike festival, running Yuba Expeditions bike shop and operating a taqueria next door with my wife Heather, who had just found out she was pregnant with our first child.
That same year, our local Forest Service lost vital funding to maintain the Downieville Trail System. I knew it was going to be important to take care of the trails, especially if I wanted to continue making a living doing something I loved with people I liked to be around, and since I really didn’t have much else going on, I thought “what the hell, why not start a non-profit, it will be easy”.
2. What’s your longest day on a bike in the Lost Sierra?
Growing up in the Lost Sierra there have been several long days on two wheels, but I’d say my most memorable day was the day I rode from Downieville to Packer Saddle on the pavement and discovered the Downieville Downhill. It was then I realized that people would pay for a lift up the hill and decided to devote myself to operating a tour company in Downieville.
3. Does the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship of today fit the original idea you had on your vision quest, or has it turned out to be different/bigger than expected?
SBTS has stayed true to the original vision of taking care of the Downieville Trail System, however the scope of what we have accomplished and what we have become is far more than I could have imagined. For 14- years our top priority has been taking care of the trails, and while the health of our trails is still the primary focus, we now have one additional top priority, and that's each other – the SBTS Tribe. This organization has grown from a chainsaw and simple mission statement, into a Tribe of amazing and caring volunteers, friends and families each with a passion for the Lost Sierra and its trails.
4. The model you developed for SBTS has become the model for other trail building nonprofits, leading you to do consulting work. Can we get a brief history of how you created the model?
For starters, there is no template for what we do. The SBTS model has been developed mostly out of trying to survive and raise our families in one of the most beautiful and poorest places in California. In the beginning, we focused only on the maintenance of a few miles of trail, and on making sure that when people visited Downieville they enjoyed themselves and wanted to come back. Because we did a good job from the get-go, we are now able to maintain over a hundred miles of trail, and we have the unique opportunity to design and build new multi-use trails throughout California. Most important is that we’re able to employ upwards of 25 human beings, who live locally and contribute positively to their community.
5. What are the challenges newer nonprofits like SBTS encounter that they don't typically expect or plan for?
Certainly one of the biggest challenges is going to be the politics of working with government agencies. It takes a balance of patience and persistence, along with a long-term vision. I think another challenge bike specific clubs have in working with agencies and the public is that they have already limited their scope. One of the things that makes SBTS successful is that we don’t just focus on one type of user group. We are not just a mountain bike group, rather a true multi-use organization; building and maintaining trails for hikers, mountain bikers, motorcycle riders and equestrians.
Oh, and plan to go to a lot of meetings.
6. Where are you aiming to take the Stewardship from here? Where would you like to see it go?
Beyond taking care of the trails here in the Lost Sierra, we’d like to make our model replicable for other rural communities whose economies are dependent upon surrounding Forest Service lands and associated policies. Being able to empower other communities to utilize trail development in order to strengthen their economy, retain and attract quality residents, and create local jobs.
7. How much time do you spend scripting the speeches you give at gatherings after trail days?
It takes at least a six pack.