Mountain bike conference drawing interest from across continent 

North Shore biking group calls for more support from industry

Wherever you find mountain biking, you’ll find trail use issues.

The growing popularity of the sport, the increased use of public and private land, trail use conflicts, and concerns about liability have put the sport on the radar screens of municipal governments everywhere. The economic potential is also intriguing, with areas like Whistler and Moab capitalizing on mountain biking to bring tourism to their area.

For their part, mountain bikers are realizing that they have to take a more proactive approach over the construction and management of trails, and by fostering responsibility within their communities. Youth programs and clubs are becoming more and more common, and mountain bikers are more involved in land use planning than ever before.

The mountain bike industry, wary of the impact that trail closures could have on growing sales and the reputation of the sport, is also starting to get more involved in the politics of mountain biking and trail access issues.

All three players in the mountain bike world, riders, governments and the industry, will meet for the first time next month in the District of North Vancouver at the North Shore World Mountain Bike Festival and Conference, which runs from Tuesday, Aug. 17 to Friday, Aug. 20.

The idea to hold a conference to discuss trail issues came from the North Shore Mountain Bike Event Society, which was formed to put on a festival for the North Shore area.

"Because mountain biking is such a contentious issue due to land management issues, and because we’re concerned with sustainability issues… we thought that before we put on a festival that would potentially invite more people to ride and raise interest in the sport, we’d better make sure that we have a sustainable sport," said conference organizer and environmental planner David Diplock.

The North Shore is famous around the world for its freeride mountain biking trails, which gave birth to a whole new style of riding that incorporates hand-built stunts into the natural surroundings.

Still, it’s been one controversy after another for the area, from residents complaining about the number of cars parked outside of their homes near the trailheads to municipal concerns about the stunts that prompted officials to tear down the obstacles.

The issue of mountain biking is still contentious, but the conference organizers feel the experience of bringing together the community, local government and the riders to discuss the future of mountain biking in a constructive way could help other communities going through the same problems.

"The whole idea is that all of this information, this expertise that has grown out of the North Shore, that is valuable to other people," said Diplock.

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