The Mind Over Mountain Adventure bike race is moving to Burnaby.
According to race organizer Bryan Tasaka a lucrative offer from Tourism Burnaby and a $5 fee per racer levied by the District of Squamish combined to finalize the decision to move.
"Tourism Burnaby expressed interest in bringing the race to Burnaby," said Tasaka in a phone interview from New Westminster, where he lives.
"I was open to the idea and I said, 'yeah, I'm interested.'"
Tasaka refused to disclose how much money Tourism Burnaby will shell out for Mind over Mountain Adventure Racing (MOMAR), but said the offer was significant.
Even as Tourism Burnaby offered him incentives, he said he was "shocked and dumbfounded" to find out that Squamish would be charging $5 extra per racer, which, according to the district's policy, would go to trails maintenance.
As it is, getting all the provincial and local permits is expensive - $1,500 at a provincial level and around $1,000 for the local level - Tasaka said. When he squared the district's new levy against Burnaby's eager courtship of MOMAR, the decision was a no-brainer.
Squamish, he suggested, should take a cue from Burnaby, which is opening its trails, mountains and its wallet to attract high-profile sporting events.
"Communities all over B.C. are looking to embrace sporting events and Burnaby understands the benefit a race like this can," said Tasaka.
"And here I come to Squamish and they charge me? It's not the right policy."
Disappointed and busy with new partners, he said he never approached Tourism Squamish or anyone in the council regarding his decision.
The fee was for a good cause, Tasaka agreed, but said he couldn't support it because MOMAR brings more than 300 people to Squamish, who support the town's economy by spending on hotels, restaurants, and stores.
The race also brought new people to town and helped burnish the town's image as the Outdoor Recreational Capital of Canada, Tasaka added.
The $5 per racer was a very reasonable amount that the district was asking for trail maintenance, Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner said.
"The $5 per rider would seem like a very reasonable amount for a private business to pay for the use of, and wear and tear on, our volunteer built trail system," he said.
"The trail system is required to conduct such a business and requires maintenance. I note that the entry fee charged for these events is often in the $100-200 range."
The entry fee for MOMAR is $140 per racer.
Tasaka's decision to move the race to Burnaby was strongly denounced by Cliff Miller, the Test of Metal organiser, and the vice-president of Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA).
"I have no sympathy for an event organizer crying poor about the trail use fee as they are not paying for their product," he said.
"You are making money off the back of volunteers who have built and maintained the trails for free."
Miller said he and another Squamish resident, Ron Enns, created a template in the year 2000 for the district to charge user fees that could be used for trail maintenance. It took the district a decade to act on it, but it finally came into force in 2010, he added.
"In 2010, SORCA put in well over 400 hours and $50,000 of trail work on 13 approved trails," said Miller.
"For years, our volunteers have built and maintained the incredible trail system here. Why should an event organizer get that infrastructure for free?"
Miller said he suspects it wasn't the $5 fee that was the last straw; the offer from Burnaby might have broken the camel's back.
Sandra Brull, the co-owner of Corsa Cycles and a MOMAR sponsor, said as a business owner she understood Tasaka's position.
"If you look at the permits that are required, organizing the race can be quite expensive," said Brull.
"And here the district is asking them to pay more. There are other ways of giving back to the trails."
Brull said besides the economic benefit accrued to the community, trail users have in the past contributed to the trails. She said a bridge built by Corsa and BC Bike Race on Georgia crossing is a good example of how sporting events have given back.
Not all seem so understanding of Tasaka's decision.
Squamish Councillor Bryan Raiser, himself an organizer of a race called Beyond the Valleycliffe of the Dolls (BVOD), strongly rebuked the blasé attitude with which Tasaka let Squamish loose.
"I understand Tourism Burnaby lured him with lots of money and since it now appears the organizer is only in this for personal financial gain without caring about the community he is in - if that's the case, good riddance to bad rubbish," Raiser said.
Tasaka, meanwhile, said he hasn't closed the doors on Squamish and one day, he might want to bring MOMAR back to town. In that case, he said, his first call would be to Tourism Squamish.