Recreation as Refuge: Seeking Sustainability in Pandemic Times and Beyond

Saturday May 1, 2020 – In a normal times, International Women’s Mountain Biking Day is a day for riders who identify as women to gather, experience, and share their stoke for mountain biking. With pandemic restrictions beginning to ease, it’s once again possible to get out and enjoy the day with a small gathering of friends, and we hope you do! However, life in the past 14 months was anything but normal. The pandemic restrictions impacted nearly every aspect of daily life, creating a constant weight of stress felt by all. Felt but not shared, due to inability to gather socially and share experiences with friends and loved ones — perhaps the most difficult part of sustaining mental health through the pandemic. For many people stuck at home for months on end — perhaps with children — the outdoors provided a much-needed refuge for recreation, mitigating stress and easing the pandemic pressure.

Blogging for International Women’s MTB Day, MAMBA Board Member Bonnie Ammons reflects on how leaning-in to outdoor recreation helped sustain her family through pandemic times, and wanting to return the favor.

“With both my husband and I working from home and managing our two boys’ virtual learning over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time lately working with my kids on writing essays. So when I first thought about writing something for #WomensMTBday, what popped into my head was ESSAY TOPIC: What Does Mountain Biking Mean to You? Frankly, in past year of COVID, there have been so many things that we all have NOT been allowed to do. I’m so thankful to have my bike and my bike pod friends. I could spend time, safely outdoors, burning up all of my stress on the trails.  My family was on a constant rotation of hiking, biking and paddle boarding. West Virginia is a wonderful place to live for all of the outdoor opportunities right outside our door steps. Sometimes I don’t appreciate it enough, but COVID set me on a course of further love for our parks, forests, trails and campgrounds. Being forced to spend extra time outside wasn’t a burden, but a fun challenge to think of more awesome ways to explore the world around us.

“I know there are a lot of newcomers too. And I hope that they have felt that same love for the recreation options that we have. I’m proud to part of MAMBA in that one of our goals is to enhance the value of the trails and the experience of the users.  I want to continue to protect these resources that I have taken for granted for so long. But I know it takes time, effort and money to support our trail systems and I want to be part of the solution that keeps our parks and trails healthy for the long term.

“There is some pretty impressive bike-cred among the board members of MAMBA. I have a slightly different skill-set. I like to say that I’m “90% enthusiasm, 10% skill.” I don’t think I truly want to change that ratio-I never want to lose my enthusiasm for riding! But I do want to increase my skills and have that 10% make more of an impact. I think the same way of my participation in the future of recreation sustainability. I never want to lose my enthusiasm, but I hope my impact becomes more meaningful. And that’s why I am here, writing this essay, because Mountain Biking truly does mean a lot in my life and if you are reading this, it probably means a lot to you, too. The question is: what impact do you want to have?”

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