By Andrew Mitchell
Already widely recognized as one of the most bike friendly towns in the world, plans are underway to add more trails, more signage, and more cycling facilities for visitors and residents.
Wrapping up a public consultation process in November, the Whistler Cycling Committee will present its final draft of a Recreational Cycling Plan to council on Monday, Dec. 18. The plan includes the Trails Master Plan that suggests where new recreational trails can or should be developed.
All told, the Recreational Cycling Plan has a list of 90 action items, if council adopts both plans in their entirety.
Frank Savage, the chair of the cycling committee on behalf of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, says the final plan is a collaborative effort that was heavily reliant on public input. More than 120 residents made comments on the plan at a September open house or filled out an online survey.
“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “I’m excited how many people were involved, and we had 20 people directly involved on the cycling committee, with a few outside experts coming in, and the response was overwhelming from the community. It’s so creative and so collaborative.
“They were also extremely thoughtful and articulate. I really felt a responsibility to incorporate as much of that as we could into the plan. It’s really the community’s plan, it’s your plan and my plan.”
The Recreational Cycling Plan and Trails Master Plan will be available online later this week as part of the council package. Much of it will be similar to the plan presented at the open house and that was online through the month of October, but there were a number of changes based on comments.
While the future of mountain biking trails generated the most interest — the plan called for dozens of new trails for all levels of ability to connect existing trails and offer different experiences — Savage said there was also a lot of interest in the service side of cycling.
“People were very interested in maps, website descriptions of trails, trail signs, bike racks in the village, and things of that nature,” said Savage. “We received quite a number of comments on the tourism side of things as well, and ways we could make it easier and more attractive to visitors.”
If approved, it will take several years to implement the action items within the plan. Although the Resort Municipality of Whistler will be responsible for many of the action items — such as the ongoing development of the Sea to Sky Trail and work on the Lost Lake singletrack network — other community organizations like Tourism Whistler, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Whistler-Blackcomb and the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association will be responsible for many of the items.
For example, WORCA generally handles trail maintenance and building on Crown land, and through the municipality’s Community Enrichment Grant helped to redevelop the Cut Yer Bars trail network this past summer to include more intermediate trails. WORCA was also involved in rebuilding sections of the Lower Sproatt Trail that were impacted by erosion.
Some of the new trails being proposed include a trail through the Khyber Pass area; a new trail from the Interpretive Forest to Jane Lakes; a beginner singletrack trail connecting Emerald Estates, Rainbow and Alpine Meadows; a new section of A River Runs Through It towards Rainbow Park; and new connector trails to Comfortably Numb.
There is some funding available in the RMOW’s five year plan for the Sea to Sky Trail, and an annual recreational trails budget that has been focused on the Lost Lake network for the past few years.
New sections of Valley Trail are also being considered, but most are connected to the Transportation Cycling Plan, which is not yet ready to be presented.
Although the transportation plan got underway a few years before the recreational plan, it will have to go to the provincial government for grants and review. As a result it has to be structured in a certain way. As well, the Transportation Cycling Plan will be integrated into the Whistler Resort Transportation Strategy, and the Whistler 2020 sustainability plan.