How to deal with your local Council.

scratchy

Farkin Activist
OK, probably like you I got into this whole Advocacy and trail building stuff to make a better place for the bruddas (and sisters) to ride. It seemed like the council was blind, the answers were so obvious. But where to start?

I started asking questions, as my knowledge base grew I started to notice that people in other parts of Australia started off with exactly the same questions.

The quicker you can move through those basic questions, the quicker you can effectively engage your council and get the ball rolling.

Step 1 LINKS

Technical Trail Building questions:
IMBA has the bible. A book that is a worthwhile purchase on everything you need to know about trail building. Called Trail Solutions - Gettid!
Otherwise every question you need to know about trail building has probably been answered: www.imba.com

Australian MTB Association:
http://www.mtba.asn.au

Step 2 Clubs
Your local clubs: If you don't know your local club, then you are missing out on a potential valuable resource. Contact them, talk to them. They might be busy with their own agenda, but don't let that put you off (for instance I had a club tell me they were a race club, not an advocacy club. Regardless there were lots of riders in the club who felt like me and I got their help). The least they can do is put a note in their newsletter what you are doing and that if anyone wants to find out how they can help, contact blah@blah.com etc.
Don't jump in too fast though, find out the lay of the land.

http://www.bicycles.net.au/links/clubs.html


Step 3 Council Employees:
So you know your shit now. You've checked out IMBA's site and talked to people in the club. Are your expectations realistic? Or are they like

"Fahn 'ell man, we should like- have a chair lift right up through the national park like, 'n' then we go up rite and bomb down mad shit".

Write down the pro's and con's of an area you're looking at, especially the pro's and con's for NON BIKE riders (ie. Pro's for business in the area). Pro's for residents is a big one. IE. Management of rider traffic and more ownership of trails, trail workshops and a contact for residents if they have greivances of MTBers.

Now go and talk to a council worker. There will be a person who is charge of trails, probably not a trails officer, but simply phoning (better if you can rock up to the council) the council and requesting to talk to the relevant person regarding trails and parks should get you going in the right direction.

When you're put through ask if it's a good time to have a quick chat about trails. (they might be busy).

What you're trying to achieve is a casual conversation with someone who understand the inner workings of council to find out what steps need to be taken (both by council and riders) to achieve what you desire.

Don't tell him stuff, ask him stuff. If you go in treating the council worker as the enemy you won't get anywhere. Talk but more importantly listen. Make sure you leave that conversation with the next step. (it might not be one you like). Zoning could be a big issue. It doesn't matter is place A is fulli sik, if Place A is under zoning that makes it impossible to get stuff build. Baby steps. You might have to accept place B first to prove yourself and then in coming years get place A through proving yourself.

A lot of people forget to actually ask the council what they need to achieve and simply start signing petitions. It's a waste of time unless you focus your efforts on how to best achieve what you want (no one is getting paid for this remember).

Keep on talking, again and again with the council workers, it might be a youth development officer. Youth development often has a decent grant and now that all councils seem to have a flaming skate park, they might have some money sloshing around the tin that they are trying to figure out what to do with.

Find out the correct procedure, the correct meetings for motions like this to tabled. The hardest step is figuring out the procedure, so ask.

Step 4Councilors
Don't be afraid to ask the council workers off the record who would be supportive of something like this. The start talking to them. Councilors generally have day jobs so most are happy to talk at night. Act courtesy and politely and they will probably be great, some residents have been telling them that you are 3 head monsters! Talk to them about achieving solutions and how to go about it. Do this all before you ever go to a council meeting.

Step 5 Council Meeting
Only after all the previous steps have been done, should you go to a council meeting. Do this beforehand and your risk being caught offside by an angle that you haven't thought of. Ie. "So you want a MTB trail there, what about the endangered 5 toe bush mouse that inhabits there, what do you propose we do about it?"

Councils get heaps of people who just rock up without doing the background work. Sometimes it works, most of the time it makes you look like a fool. Because you've already been speaking to some of the councilors you're likely to have people who are on your side before you stand up and you will already know some of the councilors concerns. This will help take you to the next step.

Step 6 Keep going Now you can do your petitions, get local shop support, work with council, point out grants they can apply for, whatever. You have the background knowledge of the process behind you giving you a solid base on which to build. Skip any of these step and you don't.

Anyone else got something to add? PM me and I will revise.

Also here is a great article on how to write to ministers: http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/12/16/dont-waste-your-time-waste-theirs-a-guide-to-writing-to-ministers/
 
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sammydog

NSWMTB, Hunter MTB Association
I couldn't agree more with that. But a few commments here from a Council insider. As for finding a specific area for a Mtb park, I think it is best to first convince council there is the need for one. Focus on the fine detail of locating a suitable area second.

Step 1 is just obvious.

Step 2, I don't know why but people don't seem to realise the power a club, and the numbers it represents, can hold. Not to mention it being linked to an association gives you more validity.

Step 3, well, I am a Council employee (Senior Town Planner) and I can tell you that going on the attack straight up will get you no where. The majority of people approach Council in this way unfortunately. Council are not there to screw you, contrary to popular opinion, so don't go in thinkng that. Have the attitide of working with, not against and with the attitude that it won't all happen overnight and you will be fine.

Step 4, Councillors, Hmmmmm, not in my good books really, and I don't have much, if any respect for them, but if you can find any that are open to your cause you really need to work with them and feed them info. Once onside a councillor can be your greatest ally.

Step 5 - anyone can apply for public access at a Council meeting. As scratchy said, do your research first. Go in unprepared and you will be crusified by an unsupporting Councillor or Councillors. Really, before you move to this step, be prepared for any question that may be thrown your way. I've seen a lot of well intentioned people come off looking like fools in the Council meeting environment. If a Councillor is against you it can be a hostile place. BE PREPARED.

If anyone ever wants info on the inner workings of Council (particularly NSW), PM me and I will try and help in any way I can.
 

Gluey_trails

Likes Dirt
What happen's if you have already started building there? We have put quite abit of effort into our track and we don't want it knocked down but if we put forward some sort of ask for them being legal could end up good or hopeless and all your good work get's lost. I wouldn't imagine them going down to the place and looking but just looking at the map and what the place is so what do you think we should do??
 

sammydog

NSWMTB, Hunter MTB Association
I'm currently dealing with Lake Macquarie Council about a DH and Northshore trail they found recently. Let me assure you, Council do get out and do inspections.

Before pulling the trail down they kicked off discussions with us, but I am expecting at the very leaset that the trail will be substantially modified, if not completely removed.

What has happened though, is that the Council now acknowledges there is a need to provide for these facilities (like skateparks) so now we are having round table discussions to move forward. To date the trail they found still stands.

Personally, I would recommmend you talk to Council. Educate them on what you do and your needs. Get the backing of a club if you can, numbers help as does the reputation of an official organisation.

You may find, if you want to develop legal trails, that some illegal ones will be lost along the way. I guess you just need to look at the bigger picture and how great it would be to have trails tha you aren't paranoid of loosing.
 

bmgal666

Likes Dirt
Wow thanks Scratchy this really helped.

Do you think we could put a list up of all the questions that the council may ask at a meeting.

Thanks,
Brett
 

thecat

NSWMTB, Central Tableland MBC
sammydog said:
Step 4, Councillors, Hmmmmm, not in my good books really, and I don't have much, if any respect for them, but if you can find any that are open to your cause you really need to work with them and feed them info. Once onside a councillor can be your greatest ally.
But they are the elected representatives and therefore should be the voice of the general public as apposed to someone who is there for 8hrs to justifiy their job get paid and go home.
No offence Sammy, I've meet many people within council who are there to better their local area, but they don't seem to be in the majority.
 

sammydog

NSWMTB, Hunter MTB Association
Maybe I didn't type that correctly, or you read it wrong, either way, I think Councillors generally are in the game for there own self importance. I wouldn't trust one as far as I could throw them, but if you can get one on sire, they can be a powerfull ally.

Councillors should be the voice of the public, but unfortunately the majority treat their role as a stepping stone into politics and as such are more politically minded than community minded.

As for staff, I'd disagree, I think you would find the majority of Council Staff (not the elected Councillors) truely do try to better the community (certainly this is my experience in local Govt), but the issue comes with the directives and priorities coming down from the elected representatives. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is, that despite what staff want to do, they are bound by the decisions of the Councillors.
 

Atomikryder

Likes Dirt
And if you do get the approval to build there will still be NPWS ( National Parks and Wildlife Service for those who dont know) to get past if you are building on or even near National Park.
 

arpit

Banned
Atomikryder said:
And if you do get the approval to build there will still be NPWS ( National Parks and Wildlife Service for those who dont know) to get past if you are building on or even near National Park.
Well, provided you aren't building massive north shore structures, you shouldn't need to go to the council for matters in relation to national parks. Councils control council owned land.
 

scratchy

Farkin Activist
Atomikryder said:
And if you do get the approval to build there will still be NPWS ( National Parks and Wildlife Service for those who dont know) to get past if you are building on or even near National Park.
National Parks involvement finishes at their gate. They can express their concern over something next door, but they have no jurisdiction over it. In Adelaide a track should hopefully be put in very soon that runs right along a NP boundary. NP sees this as a good thing as it keeps riders out of the park.

bmgal666 talk to your council workers, even youth officiers. (a youth angle can be very helpful). Does the council have a Skatepark? Has it been a success? If so the council will hopefully see that by providing a facility for a group who were at one time vilified produces positive results. They will tell you the issues, hopefully the councilors should then ask questions relevant to those issues.

Most issues fall under two categories.


Issues inside the reserve/park etc. Ie. Trail degradation, erosion, environmental impact. These should be successfully argued using other places where it has been successfully implemented and ownership (www.imba.com is your friend), but talking to a council worker may highlight an area of lesser environmental valve that you could get the first tracks in, to prove to the environmental groups that this isn’t rape and pillage stuff.

Access issues I’m guessing from the fights I’ve heard that this is often the main issue. Pissed off residents at the entry/exit points. Stewardship of riding community will help to some extent, finding alternate access points (or multiple to ease the pressure). Riders yahooing down the roads etc.

Ultimately every place is different, but if you don’t talk to your council worker(s)-(not just the council worker on the side of the road, but the project officers) then you honestly don’t know all the issues, so going infront of councilors would be pre-mature.

Ask the council worker- off the record, which councilors would be sympathetic to your cause. Then go talk to them (phone them up and just have a chat). As Sammydog pointed out, a councilor on your side is a powerful ally.
 

TheBofh

Likes Dirt
Brilliant post, everyone who even thinks about trailbuilding without Council approval should memorize it.

Another point is have a really well thought out & written Management and Risk Management plan. The Council want a facility that is sustainable, doesn't cost a lot and where no one dies or gets seriously injured on a regular basis. Make a point that the facility is a cooperative effort between the council's park dept & a group of key riders.
 

Dumbellina

Likes Dirt
Good idea Scratchy - PM'ed you my NSW list.

As well as local councils - similar ideas also work for national parks (see the forthcoming Mountain Bike Australia), state forests.
 

ckman

Cannon Fodder
thought

as a group we must be carefull in the way we attack council or building in general. Clubs are great but first must be the vision and leadership to create the trail. As riders we are not alone you go out and try to take a part of the mountain away from the jogger or the walker or the dog you will find oppisition. the way i choose to approach it was to do what worked for everyone. lets face it we dont have verticial in australia but we have gravity and contour and the best trails that i have ever ridden no matter follow the countours. this is a massive advantage for us buy creating and always thinking multi purpose well then we be allowed our small space that is ours. always remember it is someone eleses groud as well respect that go and build with everyones heart in your mind and we well not have a gripe in the world. keep building and look foward to riding your project.
ck
 

scratchy

Farkin Activist
I understand what you're saying. (I think?!) Although I wouldn't call it "attacking" council, rather enligthning them to the benifits. ;)
We are all riders, but sometime we're also walkers, joggers or even dog walkers. These people are often there for similar reasons that we are, so we should treat them as hombres, for in the sedatary society we live in people actually out and about is good thing. Yes there are management issues but as you've pointed out these can only be dealt with if they are actually managed.
 

Massam69

Likes Dirt
hey. im just about to do what some of you guys are saying not to do and start builind a trail without permission. i think if we dont clear to many trees and dont build anything tooo obviouse then we should get away with it. the area chosen is not visable from any walking tracks and the entrence to the trail it quite secretive. buuutt it is national park :(. This may sound slightly a dumb thing to do, but there have been requests to council about trails and all have been turned down. what do rekon...?
 

scratchy

Farkin Activist
Hmmm. Illegal building illegal trails in a National Park. Let me count the ways of wrongness! Do you know the edandgered and protected species? Do you know what are weeds? I'm not just talking about trees, but rather all plants? You should be very carefull in your actions as all of us are heaped into the same bucket and judged with you. (they use the term MTBers).

Having said that my local NP had lots of illegal trails and it perhaps accelerated the process of legal tracks. The tracks that were built by someone who knew what they were doing were wrong, but the tracks that were built by people who didn't know how to build were absolute shockers and set back MTBing years in the area.
 

Gluey_trails

Likes Dirt
Hey Scratchy, I have a few questions.

My mate recently told me how his parents are good mates with the Local Mayor. We were discussing whether we should consider appealing getting the jumps legalised. The problem here is that we don’t want to risk are jumps going down the sink.

I think our options are:

• Tell him that you found the jumps and say that they should be legalised.
• Say “Some mates and I have built some jumps and we are curious whether you can come down and consider legalising these jumps. We maintain, renovate and keep the area tidy. What do you think?”
• Show him the jumps and say you won’t mind them pulling them down as long as they could specify some land to build.
• Don’t bother risking the chance of them being pulled down and just continue to keep the place a secret.

Any Help Greatly Appreciated.
 

bulllet

Banned
Gluey_trails said:
Hey Scratchy, I have a few questions.

My mate recently told me how his parents are good mates with the Local Mayor. We were discussing whether we should consider appealing getting the jumps legalised. The problem here is that we don’t want to risk are jumps going down the sink.

I think our options are:

• Tell him that you found the jumps and say that they should be legalised.
• Say “Some mates and I have built some jumps and we are curious whether you can come down and consider legalising these jumps. We maintain, renovate and keep the area tidy. What do you think?”
• Show him the jumps and say you won’t mind them pulling them down as long as they could specify some land to build.
• Don’t bother risking the chance of them being pulled down and just continue to keep the place a secret.

Any Help Greatly Appreciated.
My personal option would be to put a hypothetical to him and ask something along the lines of "If we were to have a set of jumps, what would our chances be of legalisation."

If it comes to it, try and get a form of contract between you and the council rep for privacy of the jumps....

If They get considered present the member with your terms of conditions, make sure you don't shoot yourself in the foot and take 100% responsibility for others behaviour, as much as you would like to control others it will never happen.


hope this can be of help.
 

scratchy

Farkin Activist
How about this.

Talk to him on a broader scale. Talk to him about the issue facing Dirt Jumping. ie: : "Dirt Jumping is an incredibly popular activity with young people, it gets them off the couch and socialising and staying fit with their friends. The challenge Dirt Jumping faces is it's a modification of BMX riding, essentially taking the bit that everyone enjoys the most, the Jumping and concentrating on that. The problem is that what has tended to happen elsewhere in Australia is that riders wanting more of a challenge modify a council BMX track to make the jumps more challenging which then has liability issues for the council. Or they go off an build illegally where they can make the jumps they want to ride but often without due consideration to other factors (vegetation, erosion etc).

So the best solution is Council sanction Dirt Jumps where the riding community takes ownership and creates what they actually want to ride. Adelaide City council have successfully implemented it in a very large park with family facilities for several years (council love examples from other councils). That way liability issues can be controlled, illegal trail building can be controlled and the youth get a sense of ownership contributing to the project..."

You don't need to point to the illegal trails. They probably already know about them and notifying him of illegal trails puts the mayor in an awkward position. What you need to discuss is the challenges that would need to be addressed in being able to get legal DJs. If you can break the issue down into a series of challenges you can tackle them one by one!

Anyway, that's my opinion, others might have some tips.
 

|Matt|

Banned
Yes, it is best to get council permission.
Other wise you get these:



(they are shrunk images, fullsize available at bottom of page)
There were 3 of those set up, there are none now cos we took it upon ourselves to remove them.

If we see any BMX riders, we shall inform them not to ride the track. Shame since I have not once seen a BMXer riding that trail.

It wasn't really a trail anyway, it was conveniently placed bumps (they were already there too!), we put in ONE berm which they destroyed. It WAS quite a nice trail until they wrecked it the first time. We rebuilt, now some prick has had them destroyed again. Asshole :mad:

There was an local who keeps calling us in about the track, so we're gonna fix him good....
 

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