Executive director works with board members, program staff, trail builders and more than 1,200 annual volunteers to help make Washington ‘the best place to ride.’

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Yvonne Kraus

What do you do? I’m the executive director of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. This means I am fortunate to work with an amazing team of passionate and dedicated board members, program staff, trail builders and more than 1,200 annual volunteers who are helping to make Washington the best place to ride!

How did you get started in that field? This position fell in my lap through the recommendation of friends. For the past decade, I have worked in, or with, nonprofit organizations on land use and open space planning, public involvement, transportation, green building and energy efficiency projects. My career has been a broad mix of topics, but I always come back to both my passion for the outdoors and passion for green building and sustainability efforts to protect public lands and preserve recreational access. This job combines my love for the outdoors with protecting our public lands and our trails, for riding wheels on dirt, for exploring new corners of the state, and perhaps most important, for inspiring the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts who become equally passionate about preserving and protecting our beautiful Washington state lands.

What’s a typical day like? The sad reality is that I sit a lot. My job is to keep the organization running, raise funds for the outdoors and our sport, stay on budget and advocate with land managers for new and improved mountain bike access and trail projects statewide. But while there’s a lot of desk work writing grants, proposals and managing our ever-growing team, there’s a good amount of travel to project sites across the state, which is highly rewarding!

My time is spent in Olympia lobbying for access, projects and funds; visiting our seven chapters to stake out new opportunities; and traveling to various project sites to meet with elected officials and land managers to discuss progress on our trails. Right now, Evergreen is in the middle of opening 60 miles of new mountain bike trails. Most of them are opening this summer, and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than bring our sustainable and thrilling trails to our membership and the greater community.

What’s the best part of the job? The best part of the job is the incredible team I get to work with every day. In the summer, our team grows to 40-plus staff, including mountain bike coaches and seasonal trail builders. All are passionate about what they do: building state-of-the-art mountain bike trails and educating both youth and adults in various skill-building clinics and dirt camps. It’s our dedicated team that makes it all happen — Evergreen staff make my work both easy and rewarding.

Even more important is the dedication of our volunteer network. We delivered over 17,000 hours of volunteer labor maintaining and building tails last year. Some of our most dedicated volunteers work every weekend, on Tiger Mountain, at Paradise Valley, at Swan Creek, in the Methow Valley, and at Beacon Hill in Spokane, to name just a few. Without our volunteers, we couldn’t do what we do. Hats off to the hard-working crews braving the rain and snow nearly every weekend this winter!

I get to ride and experience the fruits of their labor when a new trail opens, or an old trail gets fully restored, and that brings a smile to my face each time, and energizes me to jump head first into the next project opportunity to keep this team going and share their skills and passion with others.

And then there’s the kids. Seeing young kids gain confidence and simply having fun outdoors as they learn new skills is bar-none the most positive part of the job for all of us!

What surprises people about what you do? We have grown from a small group of passionate riders in 1989 to a professional and sought-after trail-building organization with over $1M in annual trail building contracts and a $2+M annual budget. Probably the most surprising element of Evergreen’s work is how long it takes to actually bring new trails online. On average, we’re looking at seven years from the original idea, to working with land managers, completing the designs and environmental permits, to getting the trail built. A lot of my time is spent looking at projects 5-10 years into the future. Our advocacy work continues to increase in scope as our sport has steadily grown in popularity. We are continually looking to keep up with demand. This year, we lobbied in Olympia for continued funding for recreation in a very challenging budget year, and 65 Evergreen members joined us on the hill!

We build trails for all levels, types and ages of riders, from pump tracks for youth, to directional double black diamond downhill trails for advanced riders. It takes vision, hard work, dedication and willing land managers to make it all happen. We’re fortunate to have amazing staff and visionary leaders at our public lands agencies in Washington: the Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife, and many counties and cities across the State. All of us are working together to protect public lands and create access for recreation, and our advocacy work has had a surprising impact over the past two decades. I truly believe we are well on our way to make Washington the best place to ride.

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