The Delaware Trail Spinners: A Fly on the Wall at Their Meeting

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This is the second post in a series about the Delaware Trail Spinners, a mountain biking club that has done so much to represent our sport in the Delaware/Maryland area.  Last time, we took a looked at how the group began and what their goals are.  Today, you’ll get an insider’s look at what goes on at their meetings.  The meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every month and they are open to the public.  If you were interested in joining the club, why not come out and see what you think?  


The meetings are held at McGlynn’s Restaurant, which is located in the Polly Drummond Shopping Center on Polly Drummond Rd, in Newark, Delaware.  They gather at 8pm in the back room of the restaurant.  You can meet the members, find out what’s going on in the mountain biking community, learn about upcoming rides and events, and chow down on McGlynn’s half priced burgers (Tuesday night special).  The meeting is perfectly scheduled right after a group ride at White Clay State Park, so you could do the ride, get involved in the local mountain biking scene, and then eat some good bar food.


George and I pulled into the parking lot of McGlynn’s about 10 minutes before 8pm.  There were cars with bikes on the roofs interspersed all through the parking lot.  


“I guess we’re in the right place,” I said to George as we walked up to the restaurant.  It always makes me happy to be around fellow riders.  


When we walked into the back room of McGlynn’s, I was happily surprised to see about 30 people.  We knew some of them, and as I was introduced to more people, I recognized the names of those who I’d seen posting on the local biking related Face Book pages.  This was not a small group, struggling to gain membership.  Instead, it was a vibrant group of people, full of energy and motivation to make biking more fun and accessible to riders.


Jim Ireland (President) and Dave Schindler (Vice President) filled the group in on some topics.  Other members who were spear-heading certain projects also updated the group on their progress.  The topics discussed were:


Perks for volunteers:  In the past, when members donated their time doing trail maintenance, all Jim could do was say, “Thank you for helping.”  Now there’s a way to really show how much he appreciates a volunteer’s hard work.  DTS has just set up an arrangement with IMBA where they will receive credit for member dues paid.  This credit provides DTS with a bunch of gifts they can give their members.  Any DTS member who donates at least 12 hours of work will receive a free bike tire.  They also have gift cards for energy drink mix.


Fair Hill Classic Plans:  The race was approaching when I attended this meeting.  Bob Gaston, the Race Director, still needed 2 section leaders.  He also asked for more people to give some time to help at the race.  Members were assured that if they had wanted to do the race themselves, there were still many opportunities to help out during the other classes’ races.  Emergency plans were discussed as well.


Delaware Trails and Pathways Bond Bill:  Delaware Governor, Jack Markell has challenged the state to provide multiuse trails in an effort to promote health and wellness for the Delaware’s residents and visitors.  At stake is $13 million that could be used to improve Delaware’s trail network and create even more trails.  Jim asked that DTS members call the Senator to ask him to vote for this bill.


Poker Run for Todd Forrest:  The final plans for the Poker Run were being finalized and the event was scheduled for the following weekend.  Proceeds would go to Todd Forrest, a past DTS President and Race Director.  Volunteers were needed for various duties such as food service, course markings, sweepers for the group rides, and parking attendants.  I didn’t know Todd Forrest, but I could tell that many of the people in the room counted Todd as a good friend.  They were very happy to put on a mountain biking festival that would not only be fun for all who attended, but would also help with Todd’s extensive medical bills.  His fight against Multiple Myeloma was intense and on-going.  He had just survived a virtually unknown procedure and was improving in spite of the normal decline that patients of this cancer experience.  One of his saving graces was being able to get back on his bike again.  It’s awesome that the mountain biking community wanted to come together to support one of their own. 


Mountain Biking 101:  The next clinic for beginner mountain bikers was being planned.  DTS and local bike shops hold these sessions monthly throughout the summer.  Volunteers were needed for teaching the basics to the riders.  There would be wooden structures for the mountain bikers to practice on.  Afterward, they would take to the trails for a mountain bike ride.  See information here.


Pennsylvania trails:  The Delaware Trail Spinners have been trying to get more involved in trail building in Pennsylvania.  The group would like some input into the trails that are created.  They want to ensure that sustainable practices are always employed.  A “Walk the Trails” event was coming up and DTS members would use this opportunity to spend some time getting involved with their counterparts in PA.


White Clay Trail Maintenance Moratorium:  At a recent trail maintenance session at White Clay State Park, the volunteers had been confronted and told to leave.  For some reason, a ban was being enforced even though the group had permission to do work in the park.  Jim Ireland gave an update and assured DTS members that the issue would soon be resolved.  Once all the management and officials at all levels got on the same page, the permission would be restored.  In the time since the meeting, this has indeed happened.  The trail maintenance resumed on 7/21/12.  


Features being removed:  Members discussed a problem where features were being removed at Brandywine and other parks.  In mountain biking circles, there are some people who want challenging obstacles like logs and rocks.  There are others who aren’t comfortable with some obstacles and wish they didn’t have to stop their ride to climb over a log pile or a rock garden.  DTS endeavors to provide “go-arounds” so that everyone can enjoy a fun, safe ride, but sometimes people dismantle the obstacles anyway.  Jim said that we shouldn’t assume that these people hate all obstacles.  They may in fact be folks who think they’re helping beginners, and even want to do trail maintenance.  He said we should channel them in the right direction.  Engage them.  Don’t chastise them.  


Get political:  The last item on the agenda was to encourage DTS members to get political.  Jim Ireland said that trail maintenance and volunteerism is not enough.  We need to go to planning meetings and represent mountain bikers’ interests.  One member chipped in and said that with DTS’s member base, it actually has more weight than a lot of the groups that oppose bikers.  Jim reminded everyone that a phone call to our local representatives was a very powerful thing.  


At end of the meeting, I had a few pages of notes, a lot to think about, and full belly.  George and I spent some time chatting with people and then as everyone filtered out, I got prepared to interview Jim Ireland.  I was a little nervous because I’d never conducted an interview before.  Check back next time to hear and read about it!