Dream big, start small - Thunder Bay, ON

Setting goals - and seeing them through - is no easy feat. Are you a head in the clouds, long-term planner? Or maybe a short-term, master of to do lists?

It can be hard to strike a balance, and even more difficult to manage short and long term goals. Even more difficult when you're talking about the future of an organization, or a trail network.

Our most recent visit took us to Thunder Bay, ON, to work with IMBA-affiliate Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club. The group, which is celebrating it's 15th year of operation, seeks to represent both casual riders and the ever growing racing community in Thunder Bay. Since getting started, their racing series has grown from a small group of high school friends to over 170 riders.

As we got to know the executive of the club, attending meetings and events throughout the week, AJ and I were both struck by how much this organization has going on!

This summer they are planning to host a number of races, ambitious trail projects, a MOU with the city, fundraisers, movie nights, and they are also working on a master plan for the city's singletrack trail network.

We asked Gerald, chair of the trail development committee, how they do it all. Balance the season's events like race course maintenance and flagging, with big plans like an official partnership with the city of Thunder Bay, or trail masterplan. His answer? Division of labour.

Gerald is the detail guy, while club president Mark is the long term planner. This is a great technique for clubs to break up tasks, to ensure that things get done, while also reducing the risk of volunteer (especially executive) burnout. A real problem for any volunteer organization.

But one of the key things that we noticed was that Blacksheep wasn't sitting on their hands waiting on those long term plans to come to fruition. Despite major changes planned for their network in a 10 (or so) year master plan, they are moving forward with signage and mapping for the existing trails. Sure, that means the 2013 iteration will need to change (perhaps multiple times) but it is action today - and that keeps a membership driven organization moving forward.

Thanks to Blacksheep for a great visit - our first one of the season! Though we had lots of snow, the group was happy to bushwhack through the woods, getting some practice time on the clinos flagging an imaginary trail, wearing snow gear on the bottom and t-shirts on top! Happy to report that it was our first-ever trail building school to end in a snow ball fight!

Keep up the great work Blacksheep, we can't wait to see what you've accomplished next time we're in town.

Check out photos from the visit in our Picasa gallery.

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