BMX organizers in the Sea to Sky Corridor are thrilled to see Whistler BMX's track project progressing.
Board members at both the Pemberton and Squamish tracks said the construction of the new track will be a boon for the local biking community, and pledged to help get the track on top of the old landfill at Bayly Park operational.
At a meeting at the Whistler Public Library on Jan. 15, track director Brian Finestone explained in the best-case scenario, the track could be open for riding in July with the goal of being sanctioned for racing by the British Columbia Day long weekend in August. Finestone acknowledged the timeline is optimistic but possible.
"It's not unreasonable. For me, it's like throwing a stone into a pond," he said. "Once the word gets out there — what it is, who it's for — I think people will materialize."
To get there, though, the track needs to collect about $80,000 in cash or in-kind donations of time and equipment to build the facility.
Finestone said during the meeting the actual construction of the track would take mere days, and getting the commitments in place is the hinge on which everything else swings. He said bumping back the project timeline, if need be, shouldn't result in any major additional charges.
"If somebody came with one big cheque for 80 grand, we could start right away in May and we could be riding in June," he said. "The arrival of the funds dictates when we start (construction) and when we have a rideable track."
Finestone also hopes to see support from the biking community at-large, explaining learning BMX can provide a base for riders in other disciplines.
Between the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation pledging $34,000 for the start gate and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) rustling up $18,000 worth of high-quality dirt and trucking, a good amount of legwork has already been completed, especially with a site in place.
Locally based Alpine Bike Parks also designed the track as one of its pro bono projects.
For more information on making a donation or how to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
RMOW approval needed
The RMOW has supported Whistler BMX in its search for a site through its Recreation and Leisure Master Plan. In an email an RMOW spokesperson said the project still needs approval and must see track and support facility design drawings that show the construction will not disturb the membrane separating the former landfill from the surface or the monitoring wells.
Other considerations include emergency and service access, setbacks from neighbouring properties and appropriate landscaping. After receiving approval, the RMOW noted the two sides would need to enter a "multi-year License Agreement that clarifies areas of responsibility, maintenance (including dust prevention and control), liability, Club and public access, and procedures regarding any future possible construction."
The RMOW will need council approval to enter into a license agreement, and if there are implications for the resort's budget, those will need to be considered as part of the budget process.
Finestone was able to show meeting attendees a detailed drawing of the track, and was confident it would meet RMOW requirements.
Squamish, Pemberton tracks pumped
The proverbial ripples have reached the other Sea to Sky tracks in Pemberton and Squamish, and both have offered assistance.
Pemberton BMX track operator Graham Turner is no stranger to getting a facility up and running, as the track is getting set for its third summer of sanctioned competition this year after a year of just riding in 2012. He credited Squamish BMX Racing Club and president Vicki Schenk for playing an instrumental role in supporting the Pemberton organizers.
"We had no clue what we were doing in Pemberton until Squamish really helped us out," he said. "That's how it works in BMX, everyone's there to help everyone to make a great track."
Schenk said new tracks can see a steep learning curve ahead when first hosting races and agreed it's up to the established members to help out new ones. The Squamish club encourages riders and volunteers to attend events at other nearby tracks and will lend out its equipment if needed. It's a neighbourly approach, but also is important to its own wellbeing, as traffic in Squamish has increased with the addition of tracks in North Vancouver and Pemberton, and could attract more when Whistler's opens. When Squamish's track opened in 2007, the closest neighbours were in Nanaimo and Langley.
"People throughout the province are more willing to travel if they can hit four races in a weekend," she said. "It's tougher to draw if you're only hosting one race.
"We've got four tracks putting our timetables together. We can sit down and plan bigger events."
Schenk said five to 10 Whistler riders typically attend races in Squamish.
Whistler BMX announced at the meeting it will seek BMX Canada certification, which the Pemberton and Squamish tracks also hold, making it easier for riders to get more practice locally with one license.
"It makes it closer for our kids to go down and get more points at another BMX Canada track," Turner said. "It's all about points for kids that are serious and getting in the practice for going to the nationals.
"Once they get up and running, we've got three races a week, basically, which is awesome for the kids that are going places."
BC Cycling also sanctions tracks, but operates a different program and point system, Turner noted.
Turner said the track is looking at hosting a race this season and donating the proceeds to Whistler BMX.
When informed of Pemberton's potential event, Schenk expected Squamish would consider something similar, but said the executive hasn't met to plan out the upcoming season.
Pemberton track also fundraising
With about 35 people in attendance at the Jan. 15 meeting, Turner was encouraged by the support base in Whistler, which is larger than the one in Pemberton. He added the Pemberton track would look to raise about $15,000 this summer for improvements such as taller berms and better features to make the track more challenging for the area's progressing riders.