The push to create additional mountain biking trails at Mount Work and other parks in the Capital Regional District took a step forward last week.
The CRD board voted in two initiatives that will redefine mountain biking in the region. The first is to create a new mountain biking advisory committee. The committee will assemble members from local mountain biking associations, such as the South Island Mountain Bike Society, a First Nations representative and other outdoor stakeholders. Its purpose is to create a policy of mountain biking guidelines for CRD parks so that locals can expand the riding areas, increase the diversity of trails and improve the support for mountain biking at the regional level, said Alon Soraya, vice-president of SIMBS.
The other initiative, which is the one that the region’s avid mountain bikers are watching keenly, is the prioritization of a management plan for Mount Work Regional Park. The plan would be all-encompassing, but it’s the Hartland mountain biking trail system that is of interest to SIMBS. Once the boundary of the mountain biking area is expanded, new trails can be built.
“That’s where the expansion of the boundaries at Hartland would be, within Mount Work Regional Park,” Soraya said. “We’ll be asking for an inventory of the existing trails and environmental assessments of those trails.”
There are some non-designated trails in Hartland that have been in existence for a long time which SIMBS believes could be authorized as part of the network, Soraya said. SIMBS is also hoping to legalize a connection to Partridge Hills from Hartland that links the two areas.
The Mount Work management plan, however, is a holistic plan and will be informed with a regional approach, something the CRD is known for, said CRD board chair C0lin Plant.
It will also have a public engagement process that SIMBS and Plant expect will have a large response from the mountain biking community.
“It is going to be obvious during the management plan for Mount Work that the CRD needs to consider mountain bike riders,” Plant said. “However, it is difficult to predict an outcome until the Mountain Bike Guidelines are established.”
This is to say, one will inform the other.
“Hopefully, we can make some short term gains, the Mount Work management plan, but also have a regional policy,” Plant said. “We don’t do one-off applications, we will state where it’s appropriate to mountain bike and where it’s not, and Mount Work will not be done in isolation.”
Locally, not only is there is an appetite for increased trails but also growth in the sport of mountain biking. Apps such as Trail Forks show user data and reveal an increased usage of the Mount Work network, and SIMBS can even harvest the data to see which are the most popular trails.
Right now, Hartland’s most popular trail is Who’s Your Daddy, which, along with the popular Nightshift trail, is temporarily closed. That’s because they’re within the blast radius where excavation is underway for the new Hartland solid waste treatment facility. Though they’ll reopen soon, both Who’s Your Daddy and Nightshift will be permanently decommissioned in a few years.
This is why SIMBS is hoping for a holistic plan to expand the boundaries, build more trails, and to also get B.C. Parks to approve mountain biking in the Partridge Hills section of Gowland Tod Park, where there is a network of existing trails, Soraya said.
Partridge Hills has many unofficial trails where it is situated, near Durrance Lake, and SIMBS wants the environmentally sound trails to be approved while decommissioning others. It’s all in a proposal they forwarded to B.C. Parks, Soraya said.
“We’re feeling really good about the progress,” Soraya said. “We hope the mountain bike guidelines will be a tool that will help enable the development of new trails throughout the region and we see the Mount Work management plan is incredibly important as a chance to offset the trails that will be lost due to the landfill expansion.”