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WORCA’s winning season

Mountain bike club celebrates at annual general meeting

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There was new business and old business, all the formalities of Robert's Rules of Order and the B.C. Society's Act that dictate how non-profit organizations should run. But the Whistler Off Road Cycling Associations' first order of business has always been having fun on bikes and in that sense business this year was exceptionally good.

For one thing the organization increased its membership to 1,500, beating the previous record by around 280 members. And that's despite a slightly lower turnout to the weekly Toonie Rides (formerly Loonie Races) this year.

Speaking of which, there were fears at the start of the season that the economic downturn would negatively impact the interest in sponsoring Toonie Rides, but while some sponsors did pull out because of the cost there were others waiting in the wings to take their place and WORCA managed to host 22 races this year - one more than previous years.

And while the trail maintenance budget looked tight heading into this season - the result of spending over $70,000 of reserve funds the previous year to wrap up some outstanding projects around town - an unexpected grant from the National Trails Coalition of $25,000 and $5,000 from the Whistler Blackcomb Environment Fund helped to build the trails budget back up to an estimated $40,000.

President Todd Hellinga stepped down after two years in the position, content that the goal of raising WORCA's profile in the community was accomplished.

"This is the first year I think that people really saw WORCA as a whole," he said. "For years people associated us with the Loonie Races, and we really tried to push through that. Now our youth dirt camps are super-successful, the Phat Wednesday series had to cap riders at 200. The number of juniors and women were up, the Wild Willies rides were really popular and very important for all the beginner riders for learning skills and meeting people. We put on our own skills clinics, and numbers were huge once again and a lot bigger than we expected."

Hellinga also touched on WORCA's original mandate from 1989, which was to secure access for bikes on more trails in Garibaldi Park. Progress is slow, he said, but it is being made.

"Nothing moves fast at that level and nobody should expect it to be," said Hellinga.

Hellinga also gave high marks to Worcapalooza, WORCA's 20 th anniversary party, for raising WORCA's profile in the community.

Hellinga was replaced as president by John Blok, who had served the board in past years. Although Blok will be spending more time on his road bike this year training for Ironman, he said it was important to be involved.

"After being on the board for two years, I know that this is one of the most important things I can be involved in and it's something I'm very passionate about," he said.

When asked why he chose the presidency over other director positions, he joked: "I'm not qualified for anything else." He added, "I love coordinating people and you always get to work with some really great, dedicated people on this board. I'm excited to get started."

 

WORCA financials strong

WORCA's bottom line is a little lower after last year's investment in trails, but over the course of 2009 WORCA took in roughly $171,000 and spent an equal amount. WORCA also finished the season with over $15,000 in the bank, most of which is earmarked for specific trail projects. As well, WORCA expects to receive the second half of the $25,000 granted by the National Trails Coalition. Most of that funding has gone into Runaway Train and Train Wreck upgrades and a new section of trail that bypasses the rail line and highway construction.

Revenue from memberships was also up as a result of a decision to switch insurance from Cycling B.C. to Sport Insurance, with almost $10 additional per member going to trails and other programs.

James Brooks had several thanks to give, including the National Trails Coalition, the Whistler Blackcomb Environmental Fund, the Resort Municipality of Whistler for their Community Enrichment Grant, and especially the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for their $150,000 in assistance towards the Austria Passive House which will provide office and common space to both WORCA and the Whistler Nordics after the Games.

Brooks remained on the board for a sixth year.

 

So many members...

The final tally of members for the 2009 seasons stands at 1,514, up from 1,176 the previous season. Males accounted for 1,037 members but 479 female members was also a record. As well, 325 members were youth, aged 18 or under.

Membership director Mark Knight stepped down from the board after two years, and was replaced by Steven Boorne.

 

Planning for the future

The planning work continued for WORCA, which is a stakeholder in several groups and is regularly consulted over developments that impact on trails.

There was a lot of progress on different fronts, but particularly newsworthy is the closure of the new section of Shit Happens as development of the Alpine North lands got underway. While some sections of trail built mainly by volunteers were impacted, WORCA also secured a permanent route through the properties working with a developer that could be finalized as soon as the site preparation is complete.

Planning director Guy Patterson also worked on WORCA's mandate to reintroduce bikes into areas of Garibaldi Park, and said the work will be slow.

"One thing I learned when I called (B.C. Parks) about reopening the park plan is that B.C. Parks is strapped for resources right now," he said. "In the past they have had eighth rangers patrolling Garibaldi full time, and now they have three."

Patterson stepped down after three years with the board, and was replaced by Dan Griffin.

 

Four Jacks draws web interest

The Director of Public Relations was busy this year creating a new website based on the WordPress blog template, which was upgraded to allow for credit card transactions - important for selling memberships early in the season, booking youth dirt camps, and processing credit cards at the annual WORCA bike swap.

The site was well used over the season with 44,000 hits, with the most traffic the day after the four-stage Four Jacks event organized by WORCA race director Tony Horn. The Four Jacks page was also the most visited post, followed by posts regarding Toonie Rides and Phat Wednesday races.

PR director Tracy Howlett also took a lead in organizing WORCA's 20 th anniversary events this year, which included the production of a 20-minute video on the history of WORCA.

Howlett stepped down after five years with the board, and was replaced by Vanessa Murphy.

 

All about races

Tony Horn stepped into the Director of Race position after it was left vacant following the 2008 AGM. WORCA backed a huge number of events this year, including a record 22 Toonie Rides, three weekend events (Four Jacks, Ken Quon Memorial and West Side Wheel Up) and nine Phat Wednesday and PhaSt Wednesday events.

Hosting the Toonie's has become a little more complicated in recent years with a new approval process at the municipality, but Horn said it was becoming easier as more sponsors are aware of the paperwork involved. As well, WORCA hired an executive director who is handling more of the responsibility.

The focus for the future, said Horn, is to make Toonie Rides safer and addressing issues like marshals, signage and courses.

"It's important to recognize that these are organic races, and that we don't have closed courses," he said. "That means dealing with the public... and so I would like a better safety plan implemented."

Turnout at Toonie Rides is down slightly this year, but Horn said that was a good thing for sponsors, who reigned back their spending on food and refreshments this year.

Horn, a past-president of WORCA, is returning for another season as Race Director.

 

Building skills

This year WORCA hosted eight clinics; four for youth and four for adults, as well as bike maintenance clinics in conjunction with local bike shops. Director of Skills Development Benoit Renault said he hopes to focus future clinics on specific skills like technical climbing and descending, as well as to host more clinics on bike maintenance.

Renault is returning this year.

 

Trails and trials

WORCA trail director Jerome David continued his plan of encouraging volunteer days on specific local projects, while the additional funding allowed the association to take on additional trail projects.

Some of the new work includes repairs to 99er and Billy's Epic, a new entrance to Mandatory Suicide, new work on Section 102, and other general maintenance around the valley. New trail work includes the completion of A La Mode on the Lower Sproatt climb and new sections of the Train Wreck-Runaway Train circuit.

Volunteer work has been concentrated mainly on getting Shit Happens open, but volunteers have also opened Get Over It, a new trail connecting Bob's Rebob and Mel's Dilemma, new sections of Anal Intruder, and sections of Train Wreck and Runaway Train.

"We've also been looking at the municipality's Trail Master Plan which came out three years ago. We're all still working on that and picking away at it," said David.

David has also created a trail matrix to record where volunteer and paid work takes place in a given season so WORCA can spread its attention around. Generally speaking the Resort Municipality of Whistler takes care of trails in municipal parks with some shared responsibility for trails like River Runs Through It, while WORCA handles all trails outside municipal parks.

 

Youth camps bigger than ever

This year WORCA hosted eight weeks of youth dirt camps during the summer months, with 211 campers taking part. The cost was kept low at $150 per week, with the remaining funding coming from the annual WORCA bike swap that raised $12,000 this year.

WORCA also hosted two youth toonie nights with parents of younger riders, and presented Mahon Lamont with the annual Lumpy Leidal Award as the club's outstanding junior rider.

Julie Cummings stepped down from the position, with Craig MacKenzie stepping up with a pledge to work more with the high school program in the future. Whistler is hosting the B.C. High School Mountain Bike Championships next spring, and MacKenzie wants to see a strong turnout of local riders.

 

Paul "Rolo" Rawlinson, one of WORCA's founding members, was elected Director at Large at the meeting. Other board positions include Kim Myers as secretary and Anne Price as WORCA Coordinator.