Open up and say… access
The trailhead leading to some of the best singletrack mountain bike riding in the Whistler Valley now has a big No Trespassing sign at its entrance.
The sign beside the gravel pit along the Valley Trail advises riders they are entering private property when they spin into the Emerald Forest. It may be a harbinger of the future.
The warning, posted by the Decigon Corporation which owns the land, could be a sign of the times for Whistler riders as over half of the singletrack in the valley is on private property. As landowners develop their property trails — some of which have been part of the Whistler landscape for decades — will disappear.
Local riders are worried.
Charlie Doyle, co-author of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Guide, says it will be too late to try and save trails once they are closed, so riders, private landowners and municipal planners must start working together to plan ways to keep them open.
Doyle estimates 75 per cent of the trails listed in the Whistler Off Road Cycling guide are either on private property, cross private property or are accessed through private property.
"If a heavily used trail where people have been riding for years all of a sudden ends in the back of a condo development, then they have to slide down sombody's lawn to get out… it's no good for anyone," says Doyle.
The Emerald Forest is joined on the private list by other venerable trails such as Cut Yer Bars, Bart's Dark Trail, Shit Happens, Blueberry Trail, Northwest Passage and parts of Brandywine. Add to the list a number of West Side trails like danimal and A River Runs Through It and all of a sudden 50 per cent of the trails in the valley could be affected by development.
Bill Barratt, RMOW director of Parks and recreation says if a private landowner wants to post No Trespassing signs or even fence off their land to prohibit access, they are within their rights.
Some landowners may not want riders on their property because of potential liability in the case of an injury.
Doyle says a good way to start planning now would be to have development rights tied into a commitment to protect existing trails and accesses. This would help to maintain the image of Whistler being sold worldwide — a four season resort with plenty of hiking and mountain biking in the summer.
Whistler's new image as a burgeoning mountain bike mecca is growing as Canada Cup racers start their seasons here, the Cactus Cup and national championships are scheduled to make appearances in the next couple years and Pro-Com, a Vancouver Island events company, is looking at World Cup dates for Whistler-Blackcomb.
If the resort is going to continue marketing itself as a mountain biking destination, people are going to have to start lobbying to ensure trails remain open, as well as promoting trail maintenance, say some local business people.
"Nobody comes to Whistler to find out they have to drive another hour or two to get to the nice trails," says Eric Wight of Whistler Backroads. "We have got to take a good look at where we are going to be in three or four years regarding trail access. And failing that we're going to have to go to both mountains or get out of town."
The more than 200 members of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association might be talking about trail access Sunday. WORCA, which has grown substantially this summer, is holding a social at Rainbow Park from 2 to 6 p.m. Members and guests are welcome for the corn roast and pot luck barbecue.