‘Becky Leinweber, General Manager of Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Fishing on the South Slope.’ Photo courtesy of Becky Leinweber.
Forming a coalition from different sectors of the same industry as outdoor recreation is easier said than done. Everyone, from climbers to fishermen to hunters, has their own needs. Add in the different business approaches of tour guides, retailers and non-profit organizations and it can create an interesting conundrum to see eye to eye. But one aspect applies to all areas of outdoor recreation. Everyone has a passion for protecting outdoor resources, especially in the Pike’s Peak region. Becky Leinweber, who co-owns Angler’s Covey in Colorado Springs with her husband David, is executive director of the Pike’s Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance [PPORA] and tries to bring all these voices together.
“When we started at the grassroots level, we saw a need. My husband and I own an outdoor business, and it made us realize that we really are small fish in a big pond and our voice doesn’t carry very far. We felt that maybe we should find others who are in the same space and need the same resources as us,” Leinweber said.
She thought that would create a bigger voice and impact. They started bringing together not only outdoor businesses, “but also non-profit organizations, the stewardship people, the conservation people, the trail building people and the land managers.” PPORA was formed as a non-profit coalition of smaller local outdoor businesses with the same values of the Conservation and Conservation conceives and continues the push while further advancing the importance of tourism and enjoyment of the region.
Leinweber says that with a coalition like this, that kind of protection and advocacy stems from the area’s reliance on public lands. “We need the conservation partners, the stewardship partners and the land managers [with us] because they are the decision makers. They’re the ones who really play a big part in our outdoor business and what users are allowed to do.” All of these facets of the industry, she reiterates, are interconnected.
‘The State of the Outdoors Conference to be held by PPORA in March 2020.’ Photo courtesy of 3 Peaks Photography.
Leinweber explains that a lot is happening in the outdoor industry in the region. “Even before the pandemic, we were seeing strong growth as people in our region were recovering. And we, as an organization, sort of figured it out and tried to work on a plan [to help scale that].”
Colorado as a state, Leinweber explains, has created a new program called the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnership Initiative. PPORA was selected as one of seven regional partners in the state of Colorado in 2021 to be included. Five of those selected worked on conservation and recreation planning, and two of those were coalition building (PPORA was the latter). It gave PPORA a bit more credibility, momentum, funding and focus to address the challenges they were already seeing.
These challenges included a much larger number of users in the area within the natural spaces, the parks and the trails. “But we’re also seeing more user conflict. And we saw less great experiences. Riding bumper to bumper on a trail or hiking a 14er, it’s not quite the same experience [when there are a bunch of people].”
Another challenge was outdoor ethics and how to care for and protect the environment, which has changed over the past few generations.
Leinweber also sees an industry in the outdoor recreation area that has only really blossomed in the last five or six years. “We’re beginning to be recognized as an industry with substance and meaning, and I give the Outdoor Industry Association much credit for that [who also puts on the Outdoor Retailer Show] for the first try to calculate numbers and find out what our economic impact is.
The OIA began calculating the numbers: “And if you can show them, your elected officials will say, ‘Oh, OK, we have to take notice.’ And I think that really helps us with the advocacy that we do for our public lands and public waterways. These natural spaces [are this industry’s] infrastructure.”
‘Trail work and improvement completed with PPORA Stewardship Fund.’ Photo courtesy of Becky Leinweber.
Plan and collaborate with urgency
Leinweber knows people don’t necessarily feel that way about it, but “as an outdoor company, you have to have places to send people to. If you are a tour guide and outfitter, you also need to have places where you can offer these trips. If you are an outdoor product manufacturer or manufacturer, you must have places for people to enjoy. So the advocacy element is really key.”
She says the outdoor recreation industry has historically been isolated, particularly in the Pike’s Peak region. “We all worked in our own little alleys. I mean, you can see that in user groups: the climbing community, they hang out together. The anglers and hunters are sort of put in the group of athletes. Then there is the motorized community that enjoys ATVs, motorcycles, etc.”
Through her leadership of PPORA, Leinweber noted, “It doesn’t work very well just looking through our own lens when we all have to share these spaces. And user behavior affects us all. It just made sense for us to work together in this big melting pot. It’s not always easy. We all still have our own perspectives, but when we can find those commonalities it really helps advance our efforts.”
Since PPORA was founded in 2016, says Leinweber, there has been an organic formation of the organization. She says there have been moments when she has had to sit down with individuals and representatives in one-to-one or one-to-two meetings where there was a markedly different stance on something between two parties.
There was a situation with the mountain bike community and the motorized community and it was all about using a trail. She says they sat down and listened to each other. “I think that’s the main thing: instead of just coming up with our own ‘Here’s what we want,’ just try to really listen and find common ground.” In this case, it was about the Pikes Peak APEX mountain bike, a Four-stage race held every September.
‘PPORA supports the Pikes Peak APEX Race in September.’ Photo courtesy of Becky Leinweber.
Bringing voices and resources together
By bringing all of these voices together through the PPORA, the different camps could talk, listen to issues and work on these off-race points. Now, this fall, APEX is heading into its third race, in which the motorized community is heavily involved. “They perform sweeps. They run ahead. They help keep things safe and communicate what’s going on.”
A balance has been found, but it is these encounters of minds that will help preserve what the area has to offer. Leinweber admits that’s not always the case. She laughs that “sometimes it’s just sticky and sometimes we just have to agree to disagree, but I really think it starts with our values.”
But in terms of intensifying planning and improving access as the business grows and users increase, Leinweber says there’s just more urgency now. The timeline to handle increased consumer growth is something she is constantly talking to land managers about. She says they all agree that there needs to be different management models, maybe new organizational resources and also finding better ways to get users where they need to go, be it through new roads or new paths etc.
Leinweber says the pandemic “has only reinforced the fact that it doesn’t matter when new people will arrive or when users will increase. It was more like, ‘Oh, it just happened.’ It was like things exploded in growth overnight. Now there is an urgency and we have to keep up with that – and I think when you have a crisis situation or an urgency like this it shows what is really important.”
The Maverick Observer is a free-thinking online publication interested in what’s happening in our region. We started in February 2020 to hold our politicians and companies to account. We hope to educate, inform, entertain and give you a sense of community.