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WORCA celebrates turnaround year for organization

Record membership, larger turnouts among 2002 highlights What a difference a year can make. At WORCA’s annual general meeting on Sept. 26, the atmosphere was appropriately festive.

Record membership, larger turnouts among 2002 highlights

What a difference a year can make.

At WORCA’s annual general meeting on Sept. 26, the atmosphere was appropriately festive. In the past year the mountain bike advocacy group almost succeeded in doubling membership from 583 members in 2001 to a record 1,035 in 2002, thanks largely to a new partnership with Whistler-Blackcomb.

Attendance at Loonie Race events was up by more than 60 per cent compared to the previous year, and corporate sponsorship for the group was off the charts at $5,050 – 400 per cent higher than they had projected based on past numbers.

Various events and clinics were also well attended, especially the annual bike swap. The spring bike swap, which raises money for WORCA’s youth programs, netted $3,152, compared to the $1,500 that was projected.

WORCA, working with the municipality, was also successful in getting Section 102 status – official provincial recognition – for the North Secret Trail / Foreplay trail, which is still under construction.

WORCA’s trail maintenance activities have also increased, with approximately 470 volunteer hours and 500 paid hours from WORCA’s own work crew.

Perhaps one of the most telling statistics to show what kind of a year WORCA had is the bottom line. At last year’s annual general meeting, WORCA had exactly $2 left in the bank after springing for refreshments that evening; this year the group finished the season with an unprecedented $11,681.

"I feel bad about that, we’re supposed to be a non-profit group," joked Tony Horn, who stepped down as president at the meeting. "That’s what happens when you put a small businessman and entrepreneur in charge."

Leading up to this year, WORCA was concerned about the declining interest in the group and its activities within the community.

Some of the issues they felt were responsible for lower numbers include the growing popularity of freeriding in the valley and a widely held perception that the key focus of the organization is the weekly Loonie Races.

To combat this, the group looked for new ways to connect with the freeride community and get the message across that WORCA’s primary concerns are still mountain bike advocacy and trail maintenance.

This spring they got an unexpected boost from the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, which began actively promoting the organization’s activities by offering substantial discounts to WORCA members and allowing the group to use the bike park facilities for camps, races and programs.

"I think we finally got it across that we’re not just a bunch of people who drink beer and do Loonie Races, although we do do that too," said Horn.

Horn said he had four main objectives as president this year, and thanks to the other volunteer directors, significant progress has been made in each one.

His first goal was to increase membership to past levels. In 1999, the group had almost a thousand members, but just 589 in 2000 and 583 in 2001.

"It dropped and there were a lot of reasons for that. We looked at those reasons, came up with ideas – special thanks have to go to Whistler-Blackcomb – and we boosted members to 1,035," said Horn.

His second goal was to get a Section 102 for Chris Markle’s trail in progress, two sections of which, tentatively called North Secret Trail and Foreplay, are already completed.

WORCA past president Keith Bennett, who is also the manager of parks operations for the municipality, was instrumental in getting a valid Section 102 for the trail, which could be completed next summer or as late as summer of 2004.

"You can’t rush Leondardo da Vinci," said Horn, referring to Markle’s trail building skills.

The new trail is also being made possible by Duane Jackson and Bill Kunzweiler, the developers of the B.C. Rail Lands off of Alta Lake Road. They gave Markle $10,000 to build the trail, to compensate for the loss of trails on Whistler’s west side.

To connect the two trails, the municipality is also donating the funds to build a bridge over Wedge Creek.

"I’d like to see more things happen in the future where we work with developers and the municipality to make thing like this happen," said Horn.

The third goal was to build a mountain bike skills park in the Rainbow Park area. The approval recently came through from B.C. Hydro, which has the right of way in the area that was chosen, and the space will be cleared this fall, and the stunts and obstacles will be built in the spring.

The last thing on Horn’s list was to increase numbers at WORCA’s youth programs. He credited the work of WORCA youth director Mark Beaton for getting the word out, and for higher youth attendance at dirt camps and Loonie races.

While he acknowledged that there was still a long way to go towards recruiting youth, Horn felt WORCA is on the right path in that regard.

As for the almost $12,000 remaining, WORCA plans to put more of that money towards various program with an emphasis on trail work.

"There’s no reason we couldn’t double the amount of money for trail maintenance if we keep seeing the same kind of membership and sponsorship in the future," said Horn.

The trails will definitely need it. According to Kim Needham, the director of planning, trail ridership was up on local trails this season. According to WORCA’s only permanent trail counter, more than 14,000 people rode A River Runs Through It this season.

Cut Yer Bars saw 600 riders in 12 days and Kill Me Thrill Me had 400 in 25 days. Between 10 and 14 riders could be found on other trails on any given day, although there is a lot more traffic on weekends.

Following the directors’ reports, WORCA elected a new board of directors for 2003.

Horn, after two years as director of trails and a year as president, stepped down from the position. Mike Watton, the former race director, was the unanimous choice for the position.

Guillermo Bright will fill Watton’s shoes as the new race director.

After two years at the post, Mark Beaton stepped down as youth director. Sylvie Allen, one of the top Canadian downhillers and a frequent coach for youth dirt clinics, took the position.

Bob Lessard, the 2002 director of trails became the planning director after Kim Needham stepped down. Ted Battison is the new director of trails.

Kris Ongman stepped down as freeride director, and was replaced by Simon Blake.

Larry Falcon stepped down as recreational riding director and the position was taken by Nicole Heisterman.

Vanessa Carrington stepped down as the public relations director, and that job went to WORCA Web master Lloyd Thomas.

Not willing to let Keith Bennett go this year, the past president was nominated and accepted the position of director at large.

Bob Lorriman returns as membership director, Lisa Landry is back again as treasurer, and Cherl Bullock will once again function as board secretary.