Although I don’t live in southern California anymore, I still donate, or pay for a membership with SDMBA, because I like the people that helped start it, their ethos, and what they have accomplished or hope to accomplish. Also, I wouldn’t be where am without them. Their recent break from IMBA makes me feel like they could continue to use my tiny monetary support, although they will probably be stronger without IMBA. SDMBA is one of many trail groups all over the country that help keep trails maintained, and ironically build/destroy while simultaneously protecting and perhaps acquiring open space for recreation (and wildlife).
In traveling the country, often in search of “top” rated trails, I am frequently thankful and perhaps indebted to whatever trail group and/or contractor is working to make nice trails happen. Some places make me think…”I wish we had this at ‘home’…or how did they get permission for that…or wouldn’t this be neat back home…” Some things we can never get “back home” or recreate because they are unique to that location, but as foreign and far away as some of these places and trails feel, they also often feel like home because some things are the the same or similar, and some group or individual is taking care of that home (away from home). Some homes are nicer than others, some more welcoming, some are neglected or less manicured, and some are even squats. Anyway, the level of care often shows. It is my hope that this ethos and tradition continues to live, so when I travel I can embrace the endorphins someone helped elicit in a new point in space-time. It feels good to me when I try to return this favor by getting involved in our trails at home so when visitors or guests come visit the places I call home, they can feel at home and feel some of the love and care.
Anyway, to get back on track, a recent email from SDMBA clued me into an app/group called Trail Care. SDMBA is using Trail Care as one more way to reach potential donors, the only caveat being that the donors use the Strava app. While I like the convenience, hope, and revenue Trail Care may help generate, regretfully there is a middleman, Stripe, capitalizing on those they help. This isn’t to say you should not use the app, or that it’s not a good thing, but it’s a sad statement of an un-modern modern world. The developer actually emailed me to clarify that he manages Trail Care in his spare time, like a trail volunteer, commendable indeed considering the assistance it may help generate. You can help him out by donating over the minimum, otherwise he has to wait until the person donating donates again to bundle the donations as to ensure the donation is over the Stripe transaction fee. One way around this is to mail a check or wire money directly to Trail Care, but of course you’d have to buy an envelope and stamp, or pay a fee for the wire.
Trail Forks has a similar product called Trail Karma, but in this case the middleman is PayPal, not Stripe. Otherwise, with Trail Forks and Trail Care, “100% of your donation will go directly to the trail association.”
Transactions fees vs overhead? At what point is the overhead taken care of, and how much should “fees” be, could it be lowered to just the overhead, no “extra”? When the overhead is paid in full should the fees then be waived at that point as a means to pay it forward until fees need to be instituted again to cover overhead? Bigger questions than I care to deal with here. For now, in spite of the fees, using Trail Care or Trail Karma is more like mutualism than parasitism, but…perhaps Stripe and PayPal are the parasites, and the former mutualists. I’m more inclined to believe it’s better to support your trails or organizations directly, either with money or time, preferably both- so there is full a return on investment. This isn’t to say I don’t like what Trail Care and Trail Karma are doing and trying to achieve, but it’s sort of like being charged a convenience fee for a concert, it doesn’t sit well with me…but I still go if I want to see the show and have no other means to secure a ticket without fees. Think of trail donations the same, and support the artists/trails you love. I hope blockchain helps us all (and Trailism) sooner than later by bypassing fees and middlemen. Something tells me someone will find a way to monetize blockchain, but if there is an option to go fee-free, you can bet most people will opt for a fee-free blockchain avenue instead of parasitism or centralization. Until then, do what you can how you want. I hope to see you out there, and many thanks to all those all over taking care of trails with whatever support method they choose, fees be damned.