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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