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Special Interest Groups

Relationships – A difficult topic

“It is not uncommon for trail users to seek out like-minded interest groups. The benefits could include comradery, trail advocacy, specialized insurance opportunities, social event participation or aspirations of maintaining trail access through a variety of means. Larger state and national organizations have complex layers with everchanging leadership (presidents, vice presidents etc.), who are usually elected. The grass root layers regularly take on the brunt of physical labor during volunteer projects but also organize fundraising events and allocate donations, while the top layers typically work toward lobbying and oversight of the charters, among other things.

In a perfect world, special interest groups and park agency relationships would flow with very little conflict - kudos to everyone who has created and maintained longstanding, working and respectful relationships! But establishing mutually beneficial relationships is not always a walk in the park. Personal bias, park staff attrition, group dynamics, group leadership changes, dissimilar goals, bureaucratic processes, acrid criticism from club members/leaders, egos and antagonistic communication styles are all things that will negatively impact relationships and progress.

I have been fortunate enough to have worked with members and leaders who are praiseworthy, but I have also been on the receiving end of hostile and contentious leadership, and members far too many times. If you have noticed a rift between your special interest group and a park agency, it might be worth delving in a bit deeper.”

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