The Best Reflection of CAMBA Character is at CAMBA

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 10/21/2008 - 22:08.


Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association founder Mike Farley inserted some productive thoughts about mountain biking and bikers into a REALNEO posting called "Peace In Our Parks", by MetroparksMuse, which began "The Plain Dealer today has a story on the local mountain bikers' belligerent battle with Cleveland Metroparks. The
mountain bike crowd believes that parks exist for recreation - with
their emphasis being on speed and obstacles - while actually MetroParks
founding legislation was for protection of natural areas.
" Farley offered his perspectives, which offered value, but the discussion quickly became kind of negative and unproductive, which seems out of character with what CAMBA presents on their website. Although it is clear CAMBA members are fed-up with the establishment here, and are trying "other tactics", when you look through their history, progress and vision they are certainly an asset to the community deserving support. They are not a problem, but rather a soluton. And all real solution providers need to work together.

CAMBA has a comprehensive website and forums with 10,000s of postings offering great insight and content. Of particular interest for outsiders trying to understand CAMBA history and progress, read Cleveland Metroparks & CAMBA: The Epic Struggle to Ride a Bicycle in the Woods. The conclusion is:

As demonstrated in this article, we have spent a tremendous amount
of effort trying to convince Cleveland Metroparks to accept an activity
that is legal and successful in other cities and contributes to
community health and recreation. Mountain biking clearly falls within
the scope of the Cleveland Metroparks' mission which includes
recreation.  And it is no more destructive to the resource than
hiking.  To shut out mountain biking, Cleveland Metroparks
representatives claim they "already have too many trails".  In what
would be a creative solution,  the park could allow CAMBA to adopt and
improve some of those trails at no cost.  But rather they choose to
bemoan the problem and treat mountain bikers as criminals.  How will we
ever make our city truly attractive to the those active professionals
we so badly need with this inertia and lack of imagination?

have tried many different tactics starting from simply meeting o­ne o­n
o­ne, to writing letters and enlisting the support of area politicians,
to educating park professionals about the sport and trail building
techniques. During this time we have tried to be as positive,
professional, and constructive as possible, but as a group of
volunteers, the amount of time we can dedicate is limited.  Clearly, it
is again time for another tactic.  After seven years and thousands of
hours of volunteer time, we have a trail that is less than two miles
long in a park system consisting of over 20,000 acres.  From Cleveland,
we are forced to drive at least 35 minutes to find a legal trail to
ride with significant distance.  At the same time, hikers and
equestrians enjoy hundreds of miles of trails right here in Cuyahoga

It is our opinion that tax-paying members of the
public have a right to choose what activities are allowed in their
parks.  We believe that distressed cities such as Cleveland need to use
every opportunity and public asset to attract and retain talent and
reinvigorate themselves. Park systems must acknowledge they play a role
in the community and that the social and economic role they play is an
important obligation owed to the taxpayers.  The traditional model of
operating the park like it has been since the 1950's with an emphasis
o­n golf courses and large visitor/nature centers needs to be
reconsidered. We believe that the parks have a responsibility to listen
to the public and respond with something more than negativity and token

To see the CAMBA vision, read here... conclusion:

Our region is in a unique position to develop a world-class trail
system of 100 miles or more that is easily accessible to millions of
area residents.  This world-class trail network will help retain
existing residents, attract new residents, draw visitors, and benefit
our regional economy.  The cost is minimal and the land and supporting
facilities already exist.  With a coordinated effort by our area park
systems, a world-class trail network can be built in a short period of
time with an immediate benefit to our area economy.  Compared with
other efforts in the region, this project represents a “quick-hit”. 
While this trail is not a panacea for all the issues our region faces,
it does represent a quality of life improvement that we urgently need
and that is well within our reach.

Now, what do you think of that?

I like their vision, but it is too limited to distant trails in public parks far from me... and doesn't envision building recreational and sport MTB into rebuilding our urban core, nor seem to offer value in my part of town. The Metroparks are not significant in my life. CAMBA should expand their focus... read more and interact at CAMBA and here.

Meaning this is the real character of CAMBA, too

...pretty hostile... and what was proved as a result was very unproductive. 

Disrupt IT



Thanks for posting some of the stuff from our site.  Our website gives you a great idea of what the "mainstream mountain bikers" are all about.   I encourage anyone who's interested to visit it often since we update it frequently.

I totally agree, some of the comments you're seeing are out of
character and certainly don't represent the leadership of our
organization.  As I said on the related topic on our forum, the
Internet can be really useful, but some days it can really make a
person crazy and this is one of those days.

CAMBA is a 501c3 non-profit.  Because of that, we are completely
open to the public and we aren't allowed to pick and choose our
members, who shows up to our events, or who posts on our forum.  So you
may consider what you read on our forum a "reflection of CAMBA or
mountian biking", but I just don't feel that's accurate.  To post stuff
on a forum, such as ours or RealNEO, you need the time and you need the
desire.  There are thousands of mountain bikers out there who have
neither.  The great thing about the internet is that anyone can share
their opinion...the downside (as I'm sure you've seen) is that a tiny
number of vocal individuals can end up being perceived as
representative of everyone. 

I'm sure you see this frequently, but it's always helpful to
remember what I like to call the "e-courage factor".  What people are
willing to say online is often much more pointed and aggressive than
what they are willing to say face to face.  Being on the internet and
posting under something other than their real name allows them to be
annoymous.  CAMBA sees this all the time.  We have people come to our
forum and, for example, criticize something we've done at a trail that
they don't like.  Sometimes they are very agressive or rude.  This has
nothing to do with CAMBA, this is the Internet.  I own a Honda
Ridgeline and there's this great forum out there for owners of this
vehicle.  What blows my mind is the amount of trash talking on a silly
forum for owners of a car.  Would people do this in person just talking
about stupid truck?  Of course not.  Again...I think it's the
annonymity of the internet that drives this.

Anyway, another thing I'd like to point out is that every single
user group out there has "bad apples".  Fishermen fish without a
license, skiers ski out of bounds, hikers throw trash on the
trail...and so on.  We've heard this one before many times, so we put
together an article on our site addressing this:

Thanks for listening and thanks for the productive conversation. 
I'm always interested in educating anyone and everyone about what our
sport is and is not about.

For those who are curious, here's who we really are:



Mike Farley

Founder & Advocacy Representative

Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association

What is your vision for MTBs in another 14 years?

You'll educate 1,000s of people around the world for the next 14 years and beyond, on REALNEO.

I like your vision of MTB being part of good stewardship for the parks and I believe your 100 mile vision is great, and I fully support doing those things in a well managed way, which you are clearly capable of leading.

So where is your petition - what is your list of people who we should email - where is your automatic email letter writer - you'll get lots of supporters from REALNEO, if you are clear in presenting that vision and ask for help.

But your vision does not anticipate enough change in our community and environment to really excite me. We need to change our lifestyles and environment and how we travel through that and I see MTBs as a necessity of economic development in times of Global Warming.

An acre of land
farmed right will feed over 100 people, meaning we need approximately 14,000 acres of farmland to feed the 1.4 million people of Cuyahoga County, alone. The more local and near market the better, so, ideally these 14,000 acres will be in Cuyahoga County, which will require reclaiming huge parcels of abandoned and underutilized hills and dales... how green may your valleys be? Not green enough for me.

Do the math on any other population center, including Lakewood and Hudson, for that matter.

Bicycles and human powered transportation will be a big part of all local foods planning - and most outdoor growing surface areas, including trails, will be permeable... dirt and gravel.

Hillsides will be excellent farm land and will need trails for farming.... will be terraced... will be inaccessible to most motor vehicles.

Are you seeing a big picture here that looks nothing like what we have and see here today.

While you should expand your fight to partner with the MetroParks, you should also focus on leading the planning of off-road bike access in all new greenspaces needed by this community to be sustainable in the years to come.

You will get lots of opposition about changing how things are done in the government parks, but you will be celebrated for helping create new greenspaces to feed the people, and offer sport, recreation and economic development, in the most intelligent ways possible.

As another collaboration in progress and funded, which should include MTB visions...explore what is being done by the Land Lab at Kent State University Urban Design Center and consider your interests need to be presented there, and in all their planning in the region. About them, in brief:

The Cleveland Land Lab is a collaborative effort between the CUDC, Neighborhood Progress, Inc., and the City of Cleveland that seeks to unleash the potential of vacant land. At the most fundamental level, we are developing holding strategies for vacant sites that will help stabilize neighborhoods and reduce the stigma of unmanaged land. Simple landscape strategies, such as planting low-maintenance turf grasses and trees, can be used to establish a sense of stewardship and control for vacant sites in high-visibility locations. When implemented in conjunction with an effective on-going maintenance program, these techniques will create a perception of stability and will increase the market value of vacant sites and surrounding properties.

I believe there is more land in the Cleveland landbank, right now, than in all of the MetroPark system... I recall hearing 25,000 acres. Do you know where it is and what of it is ideal for MTB development?

Do you realize square miles of Cleveland - the entire flats - is a Superfund Site and needs to be remediated.

Have you planned your trails where we need to clean and reclaim these square miles of land?

What is the vision for MTBs for real NEO after another 14 years of CAMBA's good work in the community?

Disrupt IT

I see CAMBA Farms and Orchards, with mature trees

If 14 years ago CAMBA had set sights on developing a mixed use MTB recreation and farm site and determined how with MTBs you could plant and harvest some acres of vinyards, orchard, and other food land, hidden away in back wood areas you connected with trails... perhaps farming areas along powerline right of ways or other grasslands already cleared for some unmet purpose... and what if you made arrangements to ride some trails in Maple woods to collect sap for local production... CAMBA would now control $1,000,000s worth of mature food lands, and generate $1,000,000s a year in local food (or enable others to collect that, by MTB), and members would ride and eat on and off your land, for free, and have opportunties to make money, and more people would have a reason to be part of CAMBA and MTB - share-bike-crop - and rides would be lots toughter carrying compost up the trails and apples back down... imagine when the Maple sap is running!!!

None of that happened, in the last 14 years.

So... 14 years from now... 20 years from now... how much farm land, food and green economy value may CAMBA develop, manage and be funded by, just in the urban core of Greater Cleveland? How about by the Metroparks and beyond?

How much public land could you arrange to access, if it served such a higher social and cultural value (farming is of our culture), and generated revenues for all... think along the lines of Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) and Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy (CVCC)...

The Cuyahoga Valley’s rural landscape and character have largely
disappeared because the primary activity which created and maintained
it – farming – has largely disappeared. Yet here and there old farms
have survived in the park which could be rehabilitated and revitalized.
Remnants of some 85 farms were evaluated at the beginning of the
Countryside Initiative, and 20-25 remain possibilities for being
rehabilitated and returned to active farming.

The Initiative embraces the activity of farming
as the fullest and most meaningful expression of the Valley’s rural
heritage and character: Real farmers on real farms in real working
landscape. These modern farms were and will remain small in scale,
ranging from 10 acres or less to 100 acres or more. They will feature
crops and livestock similar to their 19th and 20th century
predecessors: fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs, poultry, pigs, sheep,
goats, and cattle. But current farmers will grow them for 21 st century
tastes and markets. And they will blend the best traditional farming
practices with the best modern sustainable production methods.

Why not put in a proposal with them? And why not partner with them to identify former farm sites outside their boundaries that may still be reclaimed, and propose MTBs may help "blend the best traditional farming
practices with the best modern sustainable production methods

I suspect many of your members would enjoy being part of something like developing MTB based farms, and they would all enjoy reaching out for the best local, fresh foods growing right in the middle of their rides, on trails spread through many acres of orchards, vineyard and pocket farms you developed, among 1,000s of acres of other nature you manage and/or own...

There are planners in town who can help identify likely sites, and I'll be doing that in a limited way with Richard Fleischman, so we'll have discussions about exactly this on REALNEO in the coming weeks.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Disrupt IT

My vision ends at 100 miles


I'm not going to lie to you.  My vision for CAMBA and mountain biking ends at 100 miles of world-class trails in Northeast Ohio (click here for the vision).  I started CAMBA in 2001 and the battle that we have had to fight has been exponentially bigger and more draining than I could have ever imagined (just ask my wife).  If you had told me in 2001 that this is what it would take to do something as simple as mountain biking trails in Northeast Ohio, I probably would have just moved away.  I was only 4 years out of college and I could have probably convinced my wife (girlfriend at the time) to go to law school somewhere other than Case Western.  No tax paying citizen of this region should have to go through the insanity that we've had to go through so far and, as far as I can tell, will continue to have to endure.  If I had started the Cleveland Area Puppy Killing Association (CAPKA), I would have expected  this amount of difficulty and controversy, but not for mountain biking.  

As I said earlier, that vision is our priority right now.  It's what keeps me going and I think it's what is driving our organization right now.  Building trails in urban areas is a great idea and maybe someday it will happen, but it won't be me leading that charge. 

When we have 100 miles of world-class trails in this region, I'm retiring from all things related to CAMBA and I'm going to spend a lot of time riding my mountain bike.  I'll be enjoying the fact that I didn't have to drive an hour to get to a good trail (maybe I won't have to drive at all!).  I'll help out with trail maintenance, but that's it.  I've always dreamed of a Northeast Ohio High School Mountain Bike League and if we have the trails for it (and if I have kids), I think it would be an awesome thing to have here.  It's already being done in Northern California (unfortunately, because I would have liked to have beaten them to it).

And I really, really hope that it doesn't take 14 years to get there because I don't know that I have 14 more years of fighting left in me.


Mike Farley

Founder & Advocacy Representative

Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association