An economic impact study conducted by Squamish's off-road cycling association suggests the community benefits to the tune of $8 million in direct spending thanks to mountain bike riders.
Volunteers with the mountain bike club generated this figure by interviewing 451 bike riders over the Labour Day long weekend at three popular trails in the Squamish area. As well, automated counters were installed on the trails. The counters tallied 1,339 bike riders on the three trails over the course of the long weekend.
The Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA) reported that 75 per cent of the people interviewed were non-residents. One of the trails involved in the study was the downhill track called Half Nelson, a well-used trail built with funding from government and private sources. Eighty five per cent of the riders interviewed at Half Nelson were from outside of Squamish. The SORCA report suggests this highlights the value of trails investment.
From the research done by SORCA the club concluded conservatively that 24,965 mountain bike riders visit Squamish in the best 26 riding weekends. The volunteers discovered 40 per cent of visitors spent average stays of 2.5 nights in Squamish with an average spending budget of $250 per person through the course of the visit. Day visitors reported spending $37 per person per trip. Overnight visiting riders spent most of their money on accommodation at 37 per cent while restaurant spending was estimated at 21 per cent. Spending for groceries was 14 per cent and another 14 per cent was dropped at bike shops in Squamish.
SORCA president Jeff Cooke said the data from the study is being used to strengthen an application for a $60,000 District of Squamish grant-in-aid.
"Sixty thousand (dollars) invested in our trails to continue to attract somewhere between five and eight million (dollars) in economic benefit to the community and direct spending to the community makes a lot of sense," said Cooke.
If the district grants the $60,000, it will be used to hire a trail crew in the spring. Previous seasonal trail crew initiatives supported by the district, the Squamish Trails Society and the Squamish Dirt Bike Association led to needed maintenance work to multi-use trails around Squamish.
A trail-use study similar to the one completed this year was done by SORCA in 2006. Cooke said the difference between the two studies represents a significant shift with the earlier study suggesting the bike shops in Squamish benefited the most from mountain bike tourism. The updated study indicates the hotel sector is now the biggest benefactor of mountain biking.
"The benefits the trails bring to the community as a whole is pretty substantial," said Cooke.
The grant-in-aid request for $60,000 to fund trail maintenance is one of many funding requests the members of Squamish Council are considering as part of the district's budget process.