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WORCA winds up busy 15th year

Insurance, future of trails largest concerns at AGM

Heading into this season, the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association was prepared for the worst. Their insurance had doubled for the second time in two years, raising the price of a single membership to $40, with almost $24 of each membership going towards Cycling B.C.’s insurers.

Lifted up by a partnership with Whistler-Blackcomb, the strength of their weekly Loonie Race series and trail maintenance programs, WORCA succeeded in registering over a thousand members – 1,026 to be exact – for the third consecutive year.

"Looking back, even if it didn’t feel like it, we accomplished a lot," said Mike Watton, who stepped down after two years as president at the club’s annual general meeting on Sept. 30.

"We’ve come a long way since this club was founded 15 years ago, and this was another successful year. We put on 21 Loonie Races, three youth dirt camps, one skills clinic, several trail maintenance nights and days, our annual bike swap – the biggest ever.

"We participated in Pitch-In Day, helped run the Max Vert Enduro, submitted numerous grant-in-aid requests and proposals for funding, worked with so many groups like the Bicycle Task Force and the Pemberton Valley Trails Association. We also sent six of our directors to the World Mountain Bike Conference in the North Shore this year, and judging by what we heard Whistler is in good shape.

"Mountain biking has a huge potential, and Whistler is currently the envy of the mountain bike world. As part of that WORCA should not be overlooked or underestimated, in terms of what the value to the community is.

"There really hasn’t been a dull moment in the past two years."

This year Watton said one of his goals was to spend more money on trails and programs, after finishing last year with close to $9,000 in the bank. That goal was accomplished, with WORCA spending $19,196 on trail maintenance this year, including a $3,200 grant from AWARE and the Community Foundation of Whistler to do rehabilitation work on River Runs Through It.

That level of funding is down from almost $40,000 spent last year, but the 2003 trail budget was bolstered by a number of community partnerships and special grants that went towards specific projects.

This year $8,589 was put into River (including the AWARE-CFOW funding), $2,120 was put into Cheap Thrills, $6,710 was put into Babylon By Bike, and close to $2,000 was put towards general maintenance on over a dozen bike trails, including PHD, the Highline Trail, Comfortably Numb, the Ridge Trail, Shit Happens, Emerald Forest Trail, Boyd’s Trail, Big Timber, Riverside, Big Kahuna and Thrill Me Kill Me.

WORCA also held four volunteer trail maintenance nights, doing work on River Runs Through It, Cut Yer Bars, Lower Flank Trail and Cheap Thrills, and three volunteer ‘Trail Daze’ in Whistler, Pemberton and Spruce Lake.

"(In Whistler) we had five guys clearing all the blowdown, and about 25 other people clearing brush and fixing things. We could probably have blown half our trail budget for this year on what those volunteers did in a day," said Boyd McTavish, WORCA’s director of trails.

McTavish also worked with groups to resolve potential trail issues, such as the new Whistler Paintball tenure in the area of the Comfortably Numb trailhead and re-routing a section of Cheap Thrills off of public land.

Next year Boyd says he hopes to focus more energy on general maintenance and armouring existing trails so they don’t need as much regular upkeep.

"After what we did this year I’d like to take a step back and do some more basic work, erosion control, that kind of thing on our more popular trails, maybe rerouting a few awkward sections on trails to make them flow better," said McTavish.

On the Loonie Race front, WORCA hosted 21 races this year with 4,200 riders taking part – a record number of participants for the club, even with rain and cold driving numbers down for the last few weeks of the season.

"One thing I tried to do this year was to come up with ways to make it less expensive for people to host races by pairing them up, businesses with restaurants, and for the most part that worked pretty well," said Grant Lamont, the director of race.

"I also tried to keep in touch with people doing the Loonie Races to make things go as smoothly as possible, and make sure that we’re mixing it up, not hitting the Riverside trails for four weeks in a row or anything. We tried to make them fun, make them challenging, and make them social," said Lamont.

Lena Martin, who stepped in as director of freeride only two months before the AGM, said she ran a successful skills clinic with more than 25 people coming out on a rainy day. Next year she hopes to host more clinics on the basics of mountain biking, as well as clinics targetted to skills like climbing, riding stunts, riding the park. She also plans to run one or more women-only clinics to get more interest in the sport.

Sylvie Allen, the director of youth, said WORCA sold a record of $46,000 in bikes and gear at the club’s annual Bike Swap, with the proceeds going towards youth programs. Some of that went towards three youth clinics during the summer, a partnership with the STORMBC mountain bike camps.

Following presentations by directors, WORCA recognized Scott Green as their volunteer of the year for showing up to every trail maintenance event, and awarded him with a new pair of pruning shears and a folding saw that can fit in his hydration pack.

Wild Willies then presented WORCA with $865, which they collected in donations from their Come Ride With Us weekly mountain bike rides during the summer.

The meeting ended with WORCA’s elections.

Mike Watton stepped down from the role as president, assuming the role of past president on the board of directors.

Grant Lamont, the director of race, was the club’s uncontested choice as the new president.

"I just felt it was my turn," said Lamont. "One of the major reasons (I became president) is that we’ve made a lot of progress at the board level, and the club is in pretty good shape right now. But one thing we haven’t been actively pursuing is access, which is one of the main things I’d like to be involved with."

Lamont would like to see some of the trails in Garibaldi Park reopened for mountain bikers, which was one of the reasons WORCA was founded 15 years ago. With a new provincial park in the South Chilcotins, he would also like to preserve mountain bike access into that area.

"I think we’re in a position where we can point to what a great user group we are. We’ve done trail maintenance, we sit in on all the big stakeholder discussions, we don’t have to prove ourselves anymore…we’re no longer the black sheep of recreation, we’re also the good guys," explained Lamont.

As a parent, Lamont would also like to do more for youth that’s outside of the mountain bike park and race programs by pushing recreational riding. "The park is fantastic, they can go in there and really learn some skills, but there aren’t a lot of kids that are riding bikes for transportation. I’d like to see us do more to promote more non-competitive youth cycling," he said.

On the trail building side, Lamont would like to see WORCA get away from building stunts and get back into more traditional trail building and maintenance. "It’s great that we have all this stuff, all these neat little obstacles and stunts, but I’d like to get back to basics in a way and take care of the trails in a sustainable way," he said. "I’m a big fan of the work our trail builders have done. We’re already doing a good job there, taking care of the trails, and I think we could be doing even better."

Joe Lyons replaced Lamont as director of race.

Sylvie Allen stepped down as the youth director, and was replaced by Greg McDonnell.

Linda Glenday stepped down as the director of membership and planning, and the position was broke down into two positions. Todd Hellinga is the new director of membership and Ted Battiston is the new director of planning.

Lisa Landry will return for a fourth year as the club’s treasurer, Boyd McTavish is back as director of trails, Lena Martin stayed on as director of freeride and John Blok as director of public relations.