WHO WILL ANSWER FUTURE’S CALL?
Activists and advocates in off-road/jeeping recreation seem to be an aging group – no offense intended. Many of us are “gray hairs” and many are working so hard that “burnout” may cause some premature aging. I worry that not enough young folks are taking up the torch and carrying the flame. When the future calls, will we have folks there to answer?
10 years ago I was enjoying the business of an annual convention recently of the Calif. 4WD Association (Cal4wheel) when I noticed long-time activist Jim Bramham (featured in accompanying photo) sitting nearby with his grandson, Oscar (2 and 1/2 years old back then). I swung the camera towards Oscar and said, “Hello.” Upon hearing those familiar words, Oscar picked up his play calculator like it was a telephone and answered me back. Cute.
It struck me that Oscar (son of Ernie and Luana Hernandez) is our future – and the phone is ringing. His proud grandpa, Jim is showing Oscar the off-road world, for sure – but Jim and I are part of the, well, let’s just say, more experienced generation. We need young ones like Oscar to grow up with phone in hand, torch lit, and flame burning bright in our fights for access.
How do we ensure that happens? How do we get younger folks ready to answer that future call? I have some ideas to share.
Tips to engage the younger folks…
→First, we must get kids off the electronics so much and into the wild. I think it means we need to lead them to water.
→Second, all “old timers” need to be part of or involved in a kid’s program of some sort – even if that means merely contributing advice, time or money to such a program. No matter how you do it, find a way to include kids in what you love to do.
→Third, let go of the reins. Folks who have “been there and done that” need to step aside at strategic points and let others (younger) drive. Of course, we can offer advice, talk about the old days, show the mistakes we’ve made and even fess up to doing it wrong at some point in the past. But all this is done with the purpose in mind of making the future brighter and inspiring more young folks.
→Fourth, set the example and keep to the high ground. I firmly believe those who oppose motorized recreation are after the hearts and minds of our kids.
We “older folks” need to show the younger crowd the common sense, respectable, and high ground way of recreating so as to keep our image clean. We can continue to do so many simple things like pack it out, stay the trail, and follow the rules.
See something; say something…
The last thing we can do is to speak up when folks are not behaving or following the rules (no matter their age or experience). Please do not let your lack of action contribute to someone else bringing down our recreational opportunities. Show kids how we can set the example.
As we enjoy various events, club meetings and rides, ask yourself if there isn’t something you can do to ensure someone will be there when the phone rings in the future. We know the future will call; let’s be ready to answer!
Oh, and by the way: October 2018, Jim Bramham was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame for his land use advocacy. Congrats, Jim.