Watton returns for second year as president
It was a good year for the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, but a challenging one as well.
"This past season was another great year for WORCA," said WORCA president Mike Watton, addressing the members who turned out to the groups annual general meeting on Thursday, Sept. 25.
"The weather was amazing once again, but as it turned out it was almost too much of a good thing, as we had to deal with a backcountry closure because of fire conditions for the first time in recent history."
Watton was referring to a fire ban that denied public access to all Crown lands and provincial parks for almost two weeks in late August and early September, closing most of Whistlers popular mountain bike trails outside of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. WORCA helped to enforce the closures keeping members informed, and by having a trail worker sweep one of the open trails at the end of every day.
One of the other directors who spoke at the meeting said Watton had to deal with challenges that no other WORCA president had encountered, and rose to the occasion every time.
The first challenge became apparent even before the season got underway as the group found itself without insurance. In todays business climate, no insurance company would provide insurance to a mountain bike club that hosts weekly races, provides trail maintenance, and runs clinics and camps.
WORCA solved the issue by turning to Cycling B.C. for insurance.
The insurance cost $15 per member, raising the total cost of membership to $30, or $10 more than the previous year.
There were benefits, however. The first was that all riders who already purchased race certification could buy passes for $15. The second was that the insurance enabled WORCA to sanction more events, including the Wednesday night downhill racing series.
Another challenge that emerged at the beginning of the season was the trail sabotage in the Emerald Estates area, which included sawed-off nails along roots and man-made obstacles.
WORCA worked with the residents from the area to reach an understanding about trail-building in the area, whereby residents are asked to go to WORCA if they have a problem with a trail rather than taking matters into their own hands.
In addition to fire closures, insurance woes, and trail sabotage, WORCA directors and volunteer members helped to organize the successful Whistler Summer Gravity Festival, complete the epic Comfortably Numb trail, repair and upgrade the popular River Runs Through It trail, and more.
"We had a strong board of directors this year, and that definitely helped to make it a great year," said Watton.
In 2003, WORCA broke the thousand-member mark for the second time in as many years, and only the third time in the history of the association. Watton credited a partnership with Whistler-Blackcomb that, among other things, gives WORCA members discounts riding the park.
Through the mountain bike park Whistler-Blackcomb helped to host events like the eight-race downhill series for WORCA members, as well as providing free park passes to youth camps, increasing membership in the process.
The Loonie Race season was also popular this season, with 3,552 riders turning out for 21 races. Thats just three fewer than the record set a year earlier, with 3,555 riders turning out to 20 races.
Financially, the club is also in a strong position. WORCA is coming to the end of its season with $8,760 in the bank even after spending close to $40,000 on trail projects this season with a number of partners.
Comfortably Numb, the new 24-kilometre trail linking the North Secret Trail and Foreplay, received $15,112 this year, including a $10,000 donation from Stonebridge, the developers of the BCR lands on Alta Lake Road. The RMOW contributed money for the bridge over Wedge Creek, and AWARE contributed the proceeds from the Max Vert Enduro bike race, as well as other funding. A youth work crew from Mt. Currie Indian Band hired by the municipality also worked on the project for more than a week.
This is the second year that Chris Markle, the brains and muscle behind Comfortably Numb, was paid to work on his trail.
WORCA also put $15,386 into River Runs Through It, with money donated by AWARE, the Community Foundation of Whistler, and the Whistler-Blackcomb Environmental Fund. Nadeau and Associates contributed thousands of dollars in materials as well.
According to Ted Battiston, the director of trails, the municipality is planning to make the Emerald Forest part of the overall Protected Area Network strategy, and would be maintained mainly for the benefit of wildlife with limited access to the public.
"The thing is that we had this great trail in there, so we decided to be proactive and put together a strategy based on the highest trail standards and environmental standards," said Battiston. "We had an opportunity to grandfather an existing trail, providing we could mitigate the environmental effects of that trail."
That meant raising more sections of trail using bridges, using materials to protect roots, and hemming in the sections of trail that were becoming too wide. Other areas with pronounced wear and tear were also repaired, and built up for the future.
Boyd McTavish, WORCAs trail contractor for 2003, had also put in about half of his $8,000 contract by the time of the AGM was held, working on more than a dozen local trails before the fire restrictions kicked in. He will fulfil the rest of the contract this fall, weather permitting.
The fire restrictions and backcountry ban also put a damper on WORCAs trail maintenance nights in the late summer, although a number of volunteers did turn out on weekends to help finish Comfortably Numb.
WORCAs youth program also got a boost this year with record sales of more than $23,000 at the annual WORCA bike swap. That in turn raised $3,752 for youth programs, of which more than $1,525 went into host four youth dirt camps. Each camp attracted between 15 and 20 youth, with an average age of 12.
Other youth programs also got a head start this season, including a WORCA under 15 race series, and the WORCA Bucks program. WORCA bucks can be collected by youth that volunteer in the community or that take part in WORCA events, and can be redeemed for STORMBC programs.
"There are about $2,500 in coaching certificates out there that have probably been through the washing machine or buried in knapsacks, and only $27 were used, but its a good start this year, and we expect it to be even bigger next year," said youth director Sylvie Allen.
After each director was given a chance to sum up their portfolios for the season, the election was held for next years board of directors.
Watton will return as president for a second year by acclamation.
Sylvie Allen will also return as Director of Youth.
Guillermo Bright stepped down as Director of Race, and will be replaced this season by Grant Lamont, who has held this position six times before.
Ted Battiston stepped down as Director of Trails to attend school next year, and was replaced by Boyd McTavish.
Bob Lorriman stepped down as Director of Membership, and was replaced by Linda Glenday.
Bob Lessard stepped down as Director of Planning, and the position will be rolled into the Director of Membership post.
Lloyd Thomas stepped down as director of Public Relations and Web, and was replaced by John Blok and Andrew Mitchell.
Nicole Hesterman stepped down as Director of Recreational Riding. Her portfolio will be taken over by Simon Blake, who is also returning as Director of Freeride.
Lisa Landry is returning as the Treasurer, and Cheryl Bullock will once again serve as Secretary.
Tony Horn will return to serve as Past President.
The new board will host its first event on Monday, Oct. 13, as WORCA hosts the third annual Harvest Huckfest Max Vert Enduro.