1. Assemble Your Team

There are Two Approaches to Assembling Your Team

Our experience has shown that a collaboration of trail visitors from all significant user groups is best suited to develop and implement a successful program.

However, it is not always possible to have the various groups collaborate, so we recognize that an Agency driven program can also have an impact. We’ll provide input for both approaches:

Split pathway with 2 signs: Agency Driven & Trail Visitor Collaboration

Agency Driven

  • Land Manager
  • Employee creation
  • Interpretive Kiosks
  • Signs, brochures
  • Little user input

Typically a Land Manager designates a person or group to develop a trail safety program. This approach can work well if the team follows the guidelines suggested below and follows the Best Practices listed where applicable. The best results come when the various user groups provide input and actively participate in the program development and implementation.

Trail Visitor Collaboration

  • Collaboration of significant user types
  • Commitment
  • Teamwork
  • Shared Goals
  • Follow-up

This is often difficult to achieve, however it provides the best possible outcome for trail safety and resource protection. By actively working together, the various user groups develop a much better understanding of the issues from a perspective other than their own. “Put Yourself In My Shoes!” Is a valuable theme.

How to you get opposing groups to collaborate?

  • Hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians?
  • Snow machine riders and Nordic skiers?
  • OHV and bird watchers?

If hostility has already developed among the various trail user groups, it can be a difficult task. The initial reactions are sometimes “Why would I work with them? They’re the enemy! OR “They’re not serious about safety, they just want more access.“ The good news is that it can be done. All user groups have some interests in common, and that’s the key to a collaboration:

Limit your collaboration to a few common interests, clearly define what those are, and agree to disagree on other areas.

Is that all it takes? NO!! Here’s what it takes:

  • Commitment
  • Long Term Perspective
  • Group Identity
  • Open-minded approach
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Commitment –

A decade ago, representatives from the mountain bike, equestrian and hiking/environmental communities in a San Francisco Area county agreed to work together to address the growing problems of trail safety and resource degradation. The group began having weekly meetings. Despite our commitment to making a difference, it took about a year before each of us trusted the motives of the other groups. Without a strong commitment, we never would have gotten that far.

Long Term Perspective –

It’s hard work for a group of people with different perspectives to focus on their shared interests to reach a common goal. Think months and years, not days and weeks.

Group Identity –

To enlist support from others it’s critical that whatever the collaboration produces be viewed as the group’s efforts, not as coming from the individual user groups. In our case, we chose “Trail Partners” to identify our group. This helps to label our program as limited to safety and resource protection and NOT a campaign by mountain bikes or equestrians.

Open Minded Approach –

Our group consisted of six individuals each of whom had decades of trail experience. To our surprise, we were shocked by how little each of us understood the safety needs of the other user groups. We also learned more about protecting the environment than we knew before. It’s critical to approach a collaboration with an open mind as you hear different perspectives and learn about different experiences.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) –

To define what our group would do we developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that explicitly defined the common interests on which we would work together, but also clearly stated we would continue to act independently in other areas. It also stated, and this is important, that none of us would use our participation in the trail safety program to the benefit of other issues. You should expect resistance among some members of the various user groups to the concept of collaborating with other user groups. The MOU is a useful tool to reassure them that the motives of the participants are worthy and that the effort will be beneficial to all trail users.

We have a sample Memorandum of Understanding for program managers to download:

Trail Partners Marin, Sample MOU

This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a copy of the agreement signed by the three organizations that formed Trail Partners in Marin County, California. It is provided here as an example of how these groups agreed to work together on areas of mutual interest (reducing trail conflict & resource protection), and how they agreed to continue to have differing views on other subjects. It is assumed that other groups developing their own MOU will modify the terms of agreement and insert their own organization’s names.