This story has been updated to add quotes and information on costs.
A new trail is coming to the edge of West Vancouver’s Hollyburn Mountain and some old, unsanctioned ones will be formally maintained and sanctioned.
The District of West Vancouver has signed an agreement with British Pacific Properties and the North Shore Mountain Bike Association to build a new multi-use trail in the Rodgers Creek area, and put the association in charge of maintenance on Meat Sweats, Jersey Shore and Morgies downhill mountain bike trails.
“West Vancouver is well known for its world-class hiking trails, and I am proud of the collaboration between the district, the North Shore Mountain Biking Association, and British Pacific Properties to improve these trails in the Upper Lands for a variety of users, including mountain bikers and hikers," said Mayor Mary-Ann Booth in a statement. "This work is in line with the official community plan’s aim to maintain authorized trails in the Upper Lands in a way that balances recreational use with environmental and cultural values.”
Under the agreement, the district will hold a right of way through land owned by British Pacific Properties, connecting the Cypress Mountain Viewpoint (also known as High View Lookout) to the trails around the Hollyburn cabins.
Mountain bikers have been bombing hills on Hollyburn for decades but always on unsanctioned trails, said Cooper Quinn, president of the North Shore Mountain Bike Association.
“We should be excited about this because it represents the culmination of decades of work by a bunch of dedicated individuals …to get mountain biking formally recognized by the District of West Vancouver,” he said. “Hopefully, we can see a trail experience on Cypress that continues to maintain this legacy and history of being a very, very challenging riding area, and at the same time modernize that.’
The new trail will largely replace the historic Old Forks Trail, which was once used for hikers to reach the Hollyburn cabins. The new trail will be available to users of all kinds – however, mountain bikers will only be allowed to ride up the slope.
Although it will have some elevation gain, the new trail should be accessible for novice to intermediate hikers. Construction on the new trail won’t start until this winter’s snows have melted away, Quinn said.
The North Shore Mountain Bike Association has a similar agreement with the District of North Vancouver for stewardship of trails on Mount Fromme and Mount Seymour but the trails on Hollyburn are considerably more challenging, with Black Diamond ratings.
Meat Sweats, Jersey Shore and Morgies already have keen builders who help take care of them but the NSMBA will lend their expertise, as well as some volunteer horsepower to keep them safe, Quinn said. They will remain tough downhill runs, though.
“Cypress has a bit of a reputation and justifiably so as bigger and scarier and gnarlier for mountain biking,” Quinn said, noting the area has produced World Cup level competitors. “What this does, hopefully, is bring in an extra layer of protection, just for the riders themselves and better reporting processes, better management processes, and hopefully just a little bit more safer user experience with less unexpected hazards… Crucially, for us, we don't really want the trail experience to change.”
NSMBA submitted a proposal to the District for $225,000 to cover the trail work over two years, which involves volunteer contributions. In addition, a pedestrian bridge over Marr Creek will be replaced at an estimated cost of $150,000. BPP is contributing $50,000.
“This has been a rewarding, collaborative effort with both the District of West Vancouver and the North Shore Mountain Bike Association that we have been engaged in for years,” said Geoff Croll, president, British Pacific Properties. “This agreement sets a high standard of care for these trails that allows for improved environmental, construction, maintenance and way-finding practices. We are also pleased to be contributing financially to help kick-start the trail work and we hope to see many outdoor enthusiasts enjoying these trails in the very near future.”
Legal liability for the trails will rest with the landowners, but Quinn said B.C.’s liability laws largely protect the managers of free, recreational trails, unless there is evidence of gross negligence.
Quinn said the agreement should be seen as a pilot project that could be expanded in West Vancouver, especially as British Pacific Properties and the district pursue Cypress Village, a new mixed-use, mountainside community proposed to the west, which will wipe out some “high value” trails.