For most people the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is a summer thing, organizing and sanctioning rides, races and camps, or hosting trail maintenance events. But for the volunteer board that makes it all possible, it's a year-round labour of love.
And it wasn't an easy year, with the board losing president James Brooks to a job in the city early in the New Year and important changes to the association's bylaws that were made a lot more difficult by the fact that WORCA never officially filed its bylaws with the province — something the board had to fix.
But while there were a few unexpected snags, the board found a new president — former trails director Jerome David — and updated its bylaws and constitution, expanding the association's mandate in the process to include trail development as well as trail maintenance. By the time the Toonie Ride season got underway in May, everything was in place for another great season.
Membership was on par with last year with roughly 1,815 memberships sold, including adults, children, youth, corporate memberships and event memberships. A large number of members also chose to pay for the additional trail pass and sticker, raising another $5,735 for trail maintenance.
WORCA also set records for Toonie Ride participation, and posted a record turnout at one event over the summer. Attendance was also up for the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series hosted by Whistler Blackcomb and sanctioned by WORCA.
Summer youth Dirt Camps also set a record for participation, with WORCA adding nine spots and eight coaches for each week of camps that completely sold out. There were wait lists of 20 kids for some of those camps, many of which were placed in other weeks. Also on the youth front, WORCA conducted training camps at Spring Creek School and sponsored the Whistler Secondary high school team, which placed third in the North Shore Mountain Bike League this year. As well, through donations and a grant, WORCA provided $1,000 to Felix Burke, a junior rider who was named to Team Canada this year and finished 25th at the World Championships in South Africa.
But, said youth director Craig Mackenzie, there are some changes on the way.
"Talking to parents we realized that there's a gap," he said. "Kids will sign up to Dirt Camps which go up to the age of 15, but there's no program for kids beyond that and they have no desire to do week-long camps."
Mackenzie said that WORCA is looking at ways to fill the gap next year to keep high school athletes riding and progressing through the summer, including a possible weekly drop-in program with high performance guest coaches. As well, with the Cycling BC no longer hosting BC Cup cross-country races, Mackenzie has been talking with clubs in the region to create a junior race series during the summer months.
Raising the price of Dirt Camps to $229 also let WORCA cover its costs this year.
On the trail maintenance front, some 450 volunteer hours went into trails, plus more than 500 paid hours using several different contractors. The total trail budget was just over $12,500, half of what was budgeted, but some work is still ongoing through the fall, and WORCA's goal was to have some money in the bank at the end of the season for a potentially large project next season.
On the planning side, WORCA had a very busy year between lobbying for the reintroduction of mountain bike trails into the Singing Pass area of Whistler Blackcomb, and working with partners — including the municipality and Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. — to develop a high alpine route in the Sproatt/Rainbow area.
According to Emily Mann, the planning director, both efforts are moving ahead. The updated Garibaldi Park Management Plan for the area should be out in late October, and may include a test provision for biking — or at least an acknowledgement that biking could be considered an option in the future if the Sproatt/Rainbow trail is a success. As well, Recreation Sites and Trails BC has asked WORCA for an inventory of trails that they maintain, and may make some funding available for maintenance. They've already contributed some 75 signposts to improve the way trails in Whistler are marked.
Following the director's presentations, there was a board election. Just one director stepped down, with Steven Boorne leaving as membership director. The rest of the board will be returning with Jerome David as president, Craig Mckenzie as vice president (while keeping the youth portfolio), Katie Painchaud returning as treasurer and Eric Walton shifting from director at large to the position of secretary. Other directors will keep their roles, but under provincial changes all directors will now officially be knows as directors-at-large, giving them the flexibility to switch positions and change responsibilities without changing the bylaws.
WORCA is hosting another open meeting on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Lost Lake Passive House at 7 p.m., inviting members to come and share their ideas and discuss future plans for the association.