Friday, August 15, 2008

ED takes a step back

Trails group experiences sluggish fundraising

Express Staff Writer

Chris Leman is the mainstay behind Bigwood Backcountry Trails. Photo by Mountain Express

Mere months after being named executive director of the Big Wood Backcountry Trails advocacy group, Chris Leman is stepping down to resume his role as a volunteer.

"The group is going through a bit of a transition, but I think it's going to be for the better in the long run," Leman said Thursday morning. "It was getting to the point where it was sort of stalling out. I wasn't finding enough time to really concentrate on some of the trail issues."

Leman said the group is rearranging how work gets done, and he's looking for new work.

"Some of it's kind of significant," he said. "We've worked this spring and early summer to raise some money to fund our programs and to have a professional position for me to be the executive director. We raised some money but not enough to keep me going as the executive director."

Since 1996, when Big Wood Backcountry Trails was founded, Leman has been the group's unofficial point man. It's work for which he was recognized last winter as the 2006 Environmental Advocate of the Year by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau.

But the executive director position, while rewarding, also had more to do with fundraising and administration than Leman preferred.

"Those weren't necessarily my fortes," he said. "I'm better at some other things, and it wasn't the kind of work I enjoy most. So we're putting me into a volunteer role where I can help the group in better ways."

Even without an executive director position to fund, Leman said the group will continue to conduct its fundraising efforts. They will fund the group's programs and potentially help revamp the adopt-a-trail program.

Rather than raise money and shuffle papers, Leman is going to go back to work in the field.

Big Wood Backcountry Trails has a five-member board of directors and includes hundreds of volunteers. The group's purpose is to "improve dirt trail opportunities for all trail user groups in and around Idaho's Wood River Valley."

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