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The bush rider’s bureau

Provincial trail regulations take shape in Squamish



It’s never easy to visualize a bureaucracy. Some things are just too vast to imagine, especially when they come swaddled in grey and armed to the shirt collar with staplers and paperwork. The whole concept is even harder to imagine in a rainforest. There’s something wild about all those chuckling creeks, slouching ferns and towering trees, something that seems diametrically opposed to the whole notion of regulation. That’s probably why rogue trail builders have long been able to engineer mountain bike tracks with little rub-up against the public or any other stakeholder, even if the tradition contravenes the Forest and Range Practices Act — which it does.

And yet, the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (WCMBTA) tallied $8.2 million in non-resident spending between the months of June and September, 2006 — all of it related to mountain biking in Whistler and Squamish. Include the trail systems along the North Shore, and that figure rises by another $2 million. Visitors to Whistler doled out $6.6 million of the total, while Squamish accounted for $1.7 million. These expenditures produced 194 corridor jobs worth $6.3 million in wages. Based on the same WCMBTA report, over 25,000 different riders were counted on Whistler’s valley trails, while 8,910 were pegged in Squamish. Along the North Shore, 18,660 riders were recorded.

Yes, the rogue days are coming to an end, and Barry McLane’s okay with that. At 22 years old, he’s been pumping pedals since he was 10. A downhill director with the Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA), he’s built three or four trails from scratch and maintained many more.

Along with SORCA trails director Chris McCrum, McLane spent last week working for CMCC Contracting in the Diamond Head bush, first surveying a new trail and then doing some preliminary cuts. The hope is that this will be the first trail to earn official recognition under the B.C. Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts (MOTCA)’s trails management strategy. According to the WCMBTA economic impact report, Squamish could gain considerable financial ground if it officiates its trail system.

“It’s pretty rad that they finally stepped up,” McLane said. “The district (of Squamish) pours tons of money into advertising the outdoor recreation lifestyle. But the district hasn’t put their money where their mouth is. MOTCA has.”

The strategy has been in the works since 2006. The motive is multi-pronged, with safety and management figuring high on the list of reasons. Under the policy, recreation officers will be tasked with evaluating existing trails and assessing plans for new ones. According to a policy draft, MOTCA will avail itself to grant applications to cover the costs of new trails, even as grassroots committees scour the funding landscape for other opportunities. This all factors into the province’s goal of doubling tourism by 2015.

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