West side trail closures 'temporary' 

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WORCA partners with land developers to keep trails open

When it was founded in 1990, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association’s main goal was keeping trails open to the growing mountain bike community. The province was planning to close the dirt trail to Cheakamus Lake to mountain bikers, but changed its mind after WORCA showed them that there was strong local support for keeping the trail open.

Since then WORCA’s focus has expanded from basic trail advocacy to include trail maintenance, youth development, recreational racing, and event sponsorship.

Now, with real estate developments impacting on some of Whistler’s more prominent mountain bike trails, WORCA is working with land developers and the municipality to keep the trail system as intact as possible.

There are currently trail closure signs on Danimal, Beaver Pass and 99er to allow the construction of a new road through the privately owned area historically known as the B.C. Rail Lands. The lands are comprised of about 207 hectares (511 acres) on the west side of Alta Lake.

A subdivision with at least 29 estate homes and a park around Beaver Lake will follow over the next few years, resulting in the permanent closure of some sections of these trails.

Rather than abandoning the trails, however, WORCA has been working with the land owners and a local trail builder to re-route the trails to keep them as intact as possible.

"We were looking at the development of the B.C. Rail Lands as a potentially big issue for us, but it’s really not that bad," says Tony Horn, WORCA director of trails. "In this case, the developers have been more than accommodating to WORCA, and were more than willing to put their time and money towards a solution.

"WORCA knows there’s going to be development within Whistler, and that trail issues are going to pop up as a result, but I’m sure we can find compromises and solutions that work for everybody in a lot of these cases. We’re lucky to live in a town where the municipality and the people are so pro biking."

Duane Jackson and Bill Kunzweiler, the owners and developers of the land, are working with WORCA and the municipality to identify possible alternatives for each of the three trails.

"Basically, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to maintain the trails that can be maintained, realign the trails that need to be moved, and get (the municipality and WORCA’s) input throughout the process," says Carson Hamm, an engineer and planner with Jackson and Kunzweiler.

"We all have a vested interest in the trails, as part of the community – everyone associated with this project is a member of the community and uses the trails," Hamm continues. "Part of it has to do with being a good neighbour, and part of it is that the residents of the new development are going to want access to the trails. Closing them to the public forever is not what’s best for anyone."

Jackson and Kunzweiler have already hired Chris Markle, WORCA’s trail contractor, to scout out the land and determine how to best realign the trails. Markle is well known for his work on Kill Me Thrill Me and Foreplay (formerly known as Secret Trail), as well as his work in restoring and enhancing Whistler’s existing trail network.

Once a map of the alternative routes has been completed and the municipality approves the overall development plan, it will posted on the WORCA Web site, at www.worca.com. The development plans went through a third reading in June, and Hamm believes that the developers and municipality are close to reaching an agreement.

Once that agreement has been reached, Markle will begin building the alternative mountain bike routes almost immediately, for completion in spring of 2002.

The northern section of Danimal will remain the same until a point just before Scotia Creek. The trail will then begin to climb up and around Beaver Lake, joining up with the Beaver Pass trail.

One small section of Beaver Pass will be removed to make way for a three way intersection in the subdivision, and it will continue up before merging with Danimal.

Around the other side of Beaver Lake, the new section of trail will connect with an uphill section that will bring riders back to the south section of Danimal. The middle section of Danimal will be permanently closed.

The bottom section of 99er, a popular downhill route, will also be permanently closed below Beaver Lake, but will rejoin with Beaver Pass/Danimal if riders continue uphill to the south section. The top part of 99er will also be improved by trail builders.

The Flank Trail and entrance to Lower Sproat won’t be affected by the development.

"It’s our intention, even after this development is finished, to continue to work with WORCA on other initiatives through the valley, to support other trail development, and to help subsidize some of these projects," says Hamm.

WORCA president Keith Bennett says he is impressed with the plan.

"I think one of our main goals has always been trail advocacy and maintaining the trails we have to keep them open," Bennett says. "Duane and his development team have been fantastic throughout the process. They’re taking trail issues seriously."

The BCR Lands aside, several other Whistler trails are in the path of development. On Whistler’s south side, the Spring Creek subdivision will affect Tunnel Vision. In the Emerald Estates trail network, a new house has blocked the entrance to Big Kahuna, and both Trial and Error and Section 102 have sections on private land that will likely be developed.

"We will continue to work around development as it takes place," says Horn. "The agreements we’ve reached with (Jackson and Kunzweiler) is definitely encouraging. While we won’t be able to save every section of every trail, we’ll try to keep our main trails as intact as possible."

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