We’ve all seen the reports: the Prescott area is frequently rated one of the best places in the country to live. One of the foremost reasons is that our region is an ideal destination for outdoor recreation and leisure activities due to the near-perfect climate and clean air. The hiking and biking trails are nationally acclaimed.
But how do we get our local youth connected to what our environment has to offer? That’s the question raised by the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance (PMBA), a chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Since 2010, the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance has been dedicated to planning and building trails, as well as developing recreational riding opportunities for the citizens of Prescott. This year, the alliance is kicking off a prescott summer youth program to engage Prescott area youth in the fun and rewarding sport of mountain biking. The program will also offer our youth community service engagement opportunities.
When asked why this engagement is critical, Brent Roberts, President of PMBA, offers a two-fold response, “There’s a superficial answer in that we want to give kids something to do that’s healthy, fun and offers group cohesiveness and a social outlet. But the deeper goal is that experiential programs that get kids doing things outdoors are critical for long-term mental health and well-being. We want kids to challenge themselves; to realize that they have more capability than they originally thought.”
Throughout the summer, PMBA will offer weekly mountain bike rides, skills clinics and bike repair workshops, all organized around age and ability and led by trained and experienced coaches and instructors. The program is free of charge to all area youth.
“When we wrote the grant for the program, we wondered if we were going to be able to raise the needed matching funds,” says Roberts. However, members of PMBA were pleasantly surprised. “It was amazing to see how much enthusiasm there was for this project. People responded so quickly and organizations were eager to support us. It was gratifying to see that our community was ready for a summer youth program like this.”
Yavapai Regional Medical Center is among the PMBA Summer Youth Program supporters.
“The Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance Summer Youth Program dovetails perfectly with Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s Mission,” says Ken Boush, Director of Marketing and Communications at YRMC. “As the community’s not-for-profit healthcare provider, healing is only one aspect of what we do. YRMC also promotes health education, preventive medicine and ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle for all ages. We’re proud to be involved in a program that offers kids, sometimes for the first time, a love for getting outdoors and exercising.”
The weekly rides, skills clinics and bike workshops will take place Wednesday and Thursday mornings, beginning June 6th. In addition, kids and their families have an opportunity to participate in trail stewardship, where they work with a team to maintain local trails. “This gives our youth a first-hand glimpse at what it takes for a public asset like a trail system to stay in shape,” says Roberts. “They’ll see that the privilege of using public lands goes hand-in-hand with a responsibility to be stewards of those assets and to commit time and energy to maintain them.”
Roberts insists that the adults involved will get as much, or more, from working with the youth. “It’s such a positive experience for the leaders, instructors and even the parents,” he says. “Some of these kids begin programs like this feeling like they don’t have anything going for them. To watch them let go of that negative self-talk and connect with a new identity and a skill they never knew they were capable of… it’s incredibly rewarding.”