Tuesday, May 11, 2021

White Clay Bicycle Club ignores Cycle For Cecil

Cycle for Cecil riders at the start, at the Patsy DuPont Farm
It is no mystery to anyone that the White Clay Bicycle Club (WCBC) has been a disappointment when it comes to supporting Cycle For Cecil (CFC), a charity bicycling event whose goal it is to preserve the rural character of Cecil County Maryland. Immediately west of New Castle County (NCC), Cecil County is heavily relied upon by WCBC members for club sanctioned rides, serving as a congestion-free escape of NCC's ever growing suburban sprawl nightmare. Unlike any org in NCC, the Cecil Land Trust (CLT) is working very hard to preserve farmland and open space in this idyllic countryside for cyclists. However, it appears that WCBC does not see fit to enthusiastically support the event, beyond a brief blurb in their "out of bounds" page. There is no call for attendance and/or support of CFC on their website, and nothing is found in a search of "Cecil" on their Facebook page.

In an effort to find out what is going on, a 1stbikes.org PT journalist reached out to Mr JW Haupt, who has been President of WCBC for many years. We wanted to know why, if it were true, the Club did not fully support this charity event ride. We asked for any commentary that Mr Haupt might have for an upcoming editorial in 1st State Bikes, regarding Cycle for Cecil. We had found out on the day of the ride that WCBC had been Ambivalent, unhelpful, even refusing to share their e-mail list to help publicize the ride, when approached by the Cecil Land Trust. But why would WCBC act in this manner, given the immense importance of a rural Cecil County to club rides in particular? With many of WCBC events canceled, and considering the very basic nature of help CLT asked for, it seems unbelievable. Land and farm conservation should be a natural fit for WCBC as an outdoors non-profit org itself.

This request set off a bizarre, and unexpected response. Although we emailed him directly, Mr Haupt did not reply to us, instead, a CLT volunteer did. Although the response was very polite and positive, it appeared that the volunteer had been bullied and shamed by the President of WCBC. The volunteer profusely apologized for "misspeaking" to us, saying that he was "wrong and naive" in how WCBC treated the event. This confused us, because, as explained below, there is only the barest minimum of mention of the CFC ride, certainly not what the Club would be capable of, given their powerful reach to the cycling community. The volunteer went on the say that he and CLT would support WCBC in their efforts, even going so far as to volunteer to help WCBC in the future.

In our reply,
we affirmed that nothing in the CLT Volunteer's email appears naive or inappropriate. Contrary to what Mr Haupt said, WCBC should have gone a lot further than a brief Cycle For Cecil blurb in an "out of bounds" section (the last section) of their webpage. In doing a search we found that the Cycling Sistahs of Baltimore, with no vested interest in Cecil County in particular, did promote CFC. It was refreshing and beautiful to see diversity in the ride. They even created an Event page for their members to promote CFC. In contrast, WCBC did no active promoting -- despite the critical nature of a rural Cecil County to its members.


Unfortunately, WCBC has a reputation for being exclusive. There are virtually no active members of color. Many alumni -- even past board members -- dropped membership over political and/or leadership issues. Most were dedicated volunteers who had given countless hours of their time to the bicycling cause. Among other issues, WCBC was recently caught in a lie about their non-profit status; they are not a 501(c)3 according to the IRS. While everyone assumes that they are a non-profit given their URL, they financially support Bike Delaware -- a pro-development org in the pockets of the building industry, whose own activities and finances are shrouded in secrecy. Regardless, WCBC assists them with fundraising and generous annual donations -- none of which are publicly accounted for. This raises questions about a possible
connection between Mr Haupt, his position with WCBC, and his VP position with one of the largest development firms on the east coast -- never mind the ignorance of a nearby major ride that's trying desperately to protect farmland and open space is reason to be suspect.

Yes, WCBC is a busy club, with 4 major rides every year (one of which, the Shore Fire, was launched by yours truly) to organize. However, they have had to cancel several due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the basics of promoting an event such as CFC hardly qualifies as "work", as the Cycling Sistahs of Baltimore readily showed. The CLT draws on orgs in Baltimore for publicity and attendance, which is a sharp move and gives the ride its wonderful diverse and welcoming character. But it's a sad day when a club with the resources of a WCBC exists right nearby, and they all but ignore this charity ride, as they have done since its inception.

We commend the commitment of the CLT to land conservation. Those of us who fought, and still lost (to mass govt corruption) the Orphanage Property in Ogletown, the last remaining green space/habitat area of its kind, understand the struggles that CLT are facing. In a world where biodiversity is disappearing at an alarming rate, and the planet is headed for climate catastrophe, we are very grateful for orgs like theirs. We will continue to support their efforts, and, as we have in the past, promote the Cycle For Cecil Event on our pages.

The "White" Clay Bicycle Club, in a historic photo seen on their Facebook Page. WCBC has an identity and diversity problem, hence their decades-long membership plateau of ~200. Their failure to embrace and support other orgs and events nearby only hastens their image as an "insiders only" club.

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