This award is given in recognition of successful efforts to influence public policy relating to trail planning, trail protection, trail development, or maintenance.
John Brewer is the executive director of the Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Billings, Montana has a growing reputation as a “trail-friendly” city. In less than 20 years it has added more than 35 miles of trails, and usage increases 10% each year. The League of American Bicyclists recently designated Billings as a “Bicycle Friendly Community.” This transformation is the product of a unique partnership involving many non-profits, businesses, individuals, and government officials.
The Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau is the oil that makes this partnership hum. A respected voice for businesses in our region, the Billings Chamber/CVB is a uniquely-effective, and somewhat unexpected, advocate for trails in our community.
The Chamber is a clearinghouse for more than a dozen trail-friendly organizations and leads a “Billings Trails Committee” whose members -- aided by the Chamber’s resources, staff, and prestige -- locate, build, maintain, and support local trails. By leveraging individual strengths for common goals this community-wide consortium of businesses, trails groups, city and county officials, healthcare organizations, and many others – has achieved goals that could not have been achieved separately without the Chamber’s leadership.
The Billings Chamber has been a highly effective advocate for trails in the business community. Several years ago its board of directors established a “Trails Committee” to help implement this policy statement:
“The Chamber supports investment in a more diverse transportation system that provides viable choices to walk and bike . . . . [T]here is a need to develop a comprehensive trail system for the economic and healthy-community benefits that result from active transportation . . ., and communicate the quality of place and economic benefits to the business community and general public. We need to bring trail support groups and stakeholders together to find solutions to connect our trails and keep them clean, safe and well maintained. We will seek federal support through transportation and appropriations bills.”
The Chamber truly believes that a city with a strong sense of place can better recruit and retain skilled workers and improve the quality of life that all residents desire. Once viewed as a luxury by many Billings business people, trails and non-motorized transportation options are now appreciated as essential infrastructure that aids business recruitment and retention.