Bike Walk Montana has a short history but a long vision–making Montana a safer and more accessible state for bicycling and walking.
The seed for Bike Walk Montana was planted at the May 2011 National Bike Summit held in Washington D.C. Four Montanans– Melinda Barnes, Jim Sayer, Virginia Sullivan, and Darlene Tussing–were in attendance. During the three-day conference, these four began discussing why Montana was one of the few states with no statewide advocacy organization for bicyclists and walkers; what it would take to get one off the ground; and how to make it successful.
That seed started to grow in August 2011 when an opportunity arose to pursue a Winning Campaigns grant through the Alliance for Biking and Walking, a national advocacy group. Melinda Barnes and Virginia Sullivan prepared and submitted the grant application.
While the Alliance loved the idea, they counter-offered with a proposal to to help create the organization. Ginny and Melinda agreed they needed outside experience to get an organization up and running, so they took the leap of faith and signed the contract, not knowing where the money would come from but believing it would come from somewhere.
During the following months, they put together a dynamite, hard-working Leadership Team and started having regular teleconferences and doing what needed to be done to make this seed grow into the statewide advocacy group Montana badly needed. The Leadership Team members deserve a lot of credit for getting Bike Walk Montana off the ground. They were Melinda Barnes (Helena), Andy Baur (Helena), Kelli Butenko (Helena), Cathy Costakis (Bozeman), Laura Erikson (Helena), Joe Gilpin (Bozeman), Taylor Lonsdale (Bozeman), Karyn Ottolino (Billings), Jim Sayer (Missoula), Bill Schneider (Helena), Virginia Sullivan (Missoula), Darlene Tussing (Billings) and Bob Walker (Helena) with all of their progress expertly coordinated by Jeremy Grandstaff of the Alliance.
This group knew that seed was really growing into something when they held the first statewide meeting, called the Founding Summit, in April 2012 in Helena. At that Summit, Jeremy guided the process of writing Bike Walk Montana’s mission statement, vision statement, and guiding principles. They also developed long-term goals.
Thankfully, the group was able to raise enough money at the Summit to pay off the contract, cover other expenses and have a little bit left over. They could not have done this without the generosity of Alta Planning & Design, Bike Walk Alliance for Missoula, Big Sky Cycling and Fitness, Bike Net, Helena Bicycle Club, Missoula in Motion, Montana State Parks, Prickly Pear Land Trust, RiverStone Health, WGM and many private donations.
The next step was developing a statewide Board of Directors, which was finalized in September 2012. At the same time, officers were elected, paperwork was filed to become a tax-exempt organization, and Melinda Barnes became the Executive Director.
From here, it’s going to be all upward and onward for Bike Walk Montana as we advocate for a safer and friendlier Montana for bicyclists and walkers.