By Andrew Mitchell
Whistler cyclists can have their say on the future of cycling in Whistler, from the development of Valley Trails and commuter options to an overall master plan for the future development and maintenance of mountain bike trails.
The Whistler Cycling Committee, which was created by the municipality and includes stakeholders from the community, will present three plans at an open house meeting on Thursday, Oct. 5, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Spruce Grove Field House.
The Transportation Cycling Plan looks at ways residents and visitors get around Whistler, and to destinations such as work, schools, parks, and commercial areas, and the kinds of facilities that riders might need at those locations. As well, the plan takes an in-depth look at different routes for getting from place to place, such as the Valley Trail and the shoulders of Highway 99.
The Recreational Cycling Plan looks at the role of mountain bike trails, cycling tourism and economic development, the services currently provided to cyclists and the needs of the community. Part of the recreational plan is the Cycling Trails Master Plan, which recognizes existing trails within the municipality as well as opportunities for future development.
That plan will be of particular interest to mountain bikers. According to the draft executive summary, there are over 300 km of cycling trails in the community, including 160 km of singletrack trails that range from easy to expert, and 120 km of doubletrack. There are more than 70 named trails within riding distance of the village, some of which see thousands of riders in any given month.
According to Frank Savage, the chair of the Whistler Cycling Committee, recreational cycling plays an important role within the community while also providing a vehicle for new tourism. The plan acknowledges the importance of maintaining existing trails, as well as the need for additional trails for riders of different abilities.
“We’re just trying to find experiences for all cyclists, from the Valley Trail and Tin Pants users right through to expert trails,” he said. “For one, we’re looking at ways we can link pieces of the existing trail systems together to create longer distance rides, and rides that actually get to destinations. Within that, we’re looking at developing a variety of experiences for different groups of cyclists, and for locals and visitors.”
Savage says the municipality has always had a trails budget and in recent years has used that money to upgrade and link trails in Lost Lake Park, as well as to build a new section of the Sea to Sky Trail south of the Interpretive Forest this past summer.
“It’s really been a matter of directing funds into the areas where they can benefit the most cyclists, and we’re hoping that maybe some new funds can be directed there as well. We feel (mountain biking) is growing tourism, and we want to take that as far as we can.”
The Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts has funded an economic impact study for the Sea to Sky corridor from the North Shore to Whistler, and preliminary numbers should be available this fall. As well, a survey and study at the July Crankworx festival suggests that mountain biking is driving tourism to the resort.
In addition to looking at how recreational cycling can be managed in Whistler, the committee is also discussing possibilities with the Ministry of Tourism, Sport and the Arts to develop recreation cycling outside of Whistler’s boundaries, including the Olympic Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley.
Whistler Off Road Cycling Association president Grant Lamont says he is encouraged by the way recreational cycling is being represented on the Whistler Cycling Committee.
“I’m pretty excited by how seriously this committee and recreational cycling is taken in this community, which just goes to show that when you do get involved and you are in constant communication with the people making decisions in this town — as WORCA has been — you do get what you ask for,” said Lamont.
Lamont has been mountain biking for almost two decades now, and is impressed by how much it has grown. “Back in 1987, 1988 it was still a fringe thing, and the legitimacy of it was constantly being questioned,” he said. “But if it wasn’t for mountain biking now, the summers up here would be pretty dead.”