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City, mountain bikers partner to establish protected trail

The Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club and City of Nanaimo have created a partnership that will see a dedicated mountain bike trail built around Westwood Lake.

The project will give the club a much-needed protected trail on city property – many of the current trails mountain bikers use locally are on private land and are prone to logging or other land-use conflicts – and will also reduce the conflict between hikers, runners and mountain bikers at Westwood Lake.

"We think we can work together on a trail in that area because there is a lot of land owned by the city there, so, yes, we're interested," said Jeff Ritchie, senior manager of parks for the city.

Early stages of discussions suggest the trail will begin at the main parking lot at Westwood Lake, head northwest around the lake and eventually link up with the West Ridge and Binx trails, a distance of about six kilometres.

A trail crew form the International Mountain Bike Association Canada, an international organization dedicated to building world-class trails while helping shape land-use policy, will be in Nanaimo Dec. 6-8 to educate both city and club members on sustainable trail design and maintenance.

Mason McGarrigle, trails director for the Nanaimo mountain bike club, said having a trail protected by the city would be a first for riders in the Harbour City. Recently, popular trails like the Abyss, Roller Coaster and Humility have been logged, and the popular Doumont trails are subject to biowaste spraying by Vancouver Island University.

"Having an established park within the city parks means the trail will be protected which is good for mountain bikers in Nanaimo," said McGarrigle. "There isn't anything like that yet. We're hoping that in the future we'll be able to establish more trails, and once they see how well this is received they'll be willing to work on a larger network of trails."

The mountain bike club envisions an area like Whistler's Lost Lake bike park, where all levels of riders from beginner to advanced can enjoy a network of signed trails built to a high standard, and that the park can be used to complement other recreational opportunities at Westwood Lake.

"There is a tourism aspect to it for sure," said Ritichie. "Mountain biking is an industry that is growing by leaps and bounds."

During the IMBA workshop, the city and club will work together to build the first 200 metres of trail and will then meet again to determine the best approach to complete it.

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