After years of accumulating cash for trail projects, the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) opened the vault this year to put more than $70,000 into Whistler’s trail network, as well as an unprecedented 590 volunteer hours over a series of trail days and maintenance nights worth more than $10,000.
That work is visible on dozens of trails, according to trail director Jerome David who is returning for his third year in the position, and was a major focus for Whistler this year. David and WORCA’s other directors made presentations at the association’s annual general meeting last week, with growth in almost all areas.
“We were ambitious with our goals this year but we got a lot of things accomplished,” said WORCA president Todd Hellinga, who is returning for his second year as the WORCA board’s top executive. “I think the board did an outstanding job, and went above and beyond the call of duty. Also, our volunteers were once again the lifeblood of the club, and the reason why WORCA is as successful as it is.”
According to Hellinga, the $70,000 in trail spending included some funding that was earmarked for specific projects, including highway construction and the Rainbow development. However, with those projects on hiatus until they are completed, the board decided to start spending other cash reserves on trail projects around the valley.
“We thought it was time to act out here and put funds to bringing our trails up to standard. I think our trail contractors, Chris Markle and Dave Fortier, really pushed the standard of trail-making this year, as did Eric Barry on the projects he has been working on.”
As well as focusing more funding on trails, WORCA also hired an executive director this year to help volunteer directors handle their growing workloads. Next year Hellinga said the board will find new ways to utilize the executive director to help out directors, and specifically the Director of Race position in charge of organizing 22 Loonie Races and other events.
A sub-committee was also created this year to help WORCA celebrate its 20 th anniversary next year, and all the ways that the club has grown.
After his opening remarks, Hellinga opened the floor to the other directors:
Director of Planning
Guy Patterson has been working with other stakeholders to ensure that trails are represented and to get compensation for lost trails from developers, as well as sitting on groups like the Whistler Cycling Committee and Whistler 2020 task force on transportation. WORCA’s policy is for no net loss of trails.
This year he negotiated a $15,000 grant from Telus, which built a service road through a section of the Green Lake Loop for a new cell tower, and met with First Nations planners who are developing the Alpine North lands.
He also promoted a new program called Ride 2 Ride, which encourages Loonie race participants to bike to the start of races instead of driving. He plans to expand the program next year, and reward riders for the extra mileage.
On the strategy front, Patterson convened a group of riders with years of experience to discuss the trail network, and guide the way that WORCA spends its trail budget in the future. That includes improving the connectivity and sustainability of trails.
As well, Patterson has drafted operational guidelines for Whistler’s growing number of commercial operators, encouraging them to build trails, work on existing trails, participate in volunteer trail projects, and/or give WORCA money to maintain they trails they’re using.
“Money is the last thing we want,” said Patterson. “All of those other things are more important for us when it comes to managing our trails as a resource.”
Patterson is returning for another year as Director of Planning.
Director of Youth
Sean Bickerton gave credit to previous youth director Greg McDonnell for stepping up the youth program, as youth membership grew to almost 150 kids this year.
WORCA’s annual bike swap raised $14,000 for youth programs, including the dirt camps, youth Loonie nights, high school team, scholarships, and Lumpy’s Award bursaries.
The dirt camps were particularly strong for WORCA this year, growing from three weeks in 2006 to six weeks in 2007, and to eight weeks in 2008. They also increased the number of coaches by 50 per cent, increasing camp participation from 124 kids to 232. The price was increased to $150 per week, which almost covered the cost of the camps.
Bickerton says the pieces are in place to run the program next year, with the executive director handling registration and an improved online registration.
“We’ve grown the camps a lot in a short time, and accommodated as many parents as possible,” said Bickerton. “We will focus more on the younger kids aged six to nine, and look at the schedule so kids that want to participate in more than one camp can do so, and have some continuity from week to week. All the pieces are there, and I expect this to get better every year until it runs itself.”
Bickerton stepped down as director after two years, and the position will be filled by Julie Cummings.
Director of Membership
Mark Knight reported that WORCA had 1,138 members at the end of the season, about 22 riders short of last year. Broken down, almost 30 per cent of members are women, and almost 15 per cent are youth. As well, more than 200 riders signed up at the Phat Wednesday Downhill Series, hosted by Whistler-Blackcomb and sanctioned by WORCA.
As for insurance, Knight says he will continue to look at other options in the future but believes that rates will stay the same or decline slightly. Currently WORCA pays $28 to Cycling B.C. per member, while subsidizing youth and family memberships. He expects rates to remain the same next season at $40 for an adult membership.
Knight will return as the director.
Director of Trails
In addition to increasing the trail budget for contractors, Jerome David made an effort to increase the number of volunteer opportunities this season. He also kept track of volunteer hours, and found that volunteers contributed 590 hours to the trails this year — a total he would like to increase for next year.
“More people are being educated how to do the trail work, so the work getting done is of higher quality,” he said. “Next year we’ll work to get the hours up and get more work done that way.”
Trail projects include a rework of Cat Scratch Fever, work on Shit Happens, a new connector to White Knuckles called Creamsicle Rainbow, and new bridging on Anal Intruder.
The trail contractors worked on Kill Me Thrill Me, Comfortably Numb, Danimal, Tunnel Vision, Bob’s Rebob, and other trails, and have been busy working on an alternate climb up Lower Sproatt. One of those sections, Piece of Cake, was showcased at the West Side Wheel Up.
David will be returning for his third term as Director of Trails.
Director of Race
Benoit Reneault helped to organize 22 Loonie races this season, which were hosted with 45 sponsors providing food, refreshment and prizes. As well, WORCA sanctioned three weekend races, the Ken Quon Ride On, the West Side Wheel Up and the Soo Valley Rumble.
Total turnout was over 4,500 riders this year, or an average of over 204 riders per race.
This year WORCA also provided course descriptions in advance through the website, as well as a second start for the slower riders.
Reneault said the position was challenging with more administrative work required to host races, including getting race courses approved in advance by the municipality. The municipality also wanted to know all of the courses in advance before the start of the season for their own calendar, and Reneault said WORCA could work with sponsors to get the information in earlier.
There is one more event on the Loonie Race calendar, the Thursday, Oct. 30 Halloween Loonie Race. This is a night ride that takes place in Lost Lake Park, with registration at the Mons bridge in Nicklaus North after 5:30 p.m. The race gets underway at 6:30 p.m., and the route will be marked with glowing pumpkins and reflective tape. The après is at Edgewater, opposite Alpine Meadows.
Bring a costume and a good headlamp — most of the race will take place in the dark.
Reneault stepped down at the end of the meeting, but will stay on the board in a newly created position, Director of Skills Development. The board is still looking for a Director of Race for next season. If you’re interested in the position, contact Todd Hellinga at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Secretary Kim Myers at email@example.com.
For the first time in several years WORCA spent more than it took in, drawing on cash reserves that have been building while various trail projects were on hiatus.
In total, WORCA spent roughly $148,800, including more than $40,000 from previous surpluses. That’s about $30,000 less than WORCA expected to spend this year, and leaves the organization with $32,000 in the bank at the end of the season.
Revenues this year included a $25,000 Community Enrichment Grant from the municipality, almost $7,000 from Loonie races, $14,000 for youth programs from the annual bike swap, and more than $40,000 from membership dues (minus almost $31,000 for insurance).
Most of that money is already committed to trail projects, including a section of trail at the end of Shit Happens to rejoin that trail to Alpine, new sections of Train Wreck after two sections were lost in the highway improvement project, and new sections of trail to offset trail lost to the First Nations cultural centre and the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Treasurer James Brooks stayed on as Treasurer for a third season.
Director of Web, Director of PR
Tracy Howlett stepped down as Director of Web when the board discovered that they did not have a formal position in their constitution. She became WORCA’s Director at Large, and helped in several capacities — replacing Director of Freeride Catherine Mulvihill while she was on maternity leave, helping plan for the 20 th anniversary celebration, helping see through WORCA’s clinics, and more. She stepped down from the position, but remains on board as the Director of Public Relations.
Rebecca Ritz stepped down as the Director of Public Relations. Her contribution was the integrated calendar where all directors can post information about upcoming WORCA events.
The Director of Freeride position was changed to the newly created Director of Skills Development.
Doug Rogers is the next Director at Large for the club, and will help out the other board positions.