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Trail blazers

Sections have yet to be built and it still needs a name, but Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club and the city are working together to cut a mountain bike trail around Westwood Lake that riders, runners and hikers can share  and get a serious workout.

The club started construction in December 2012 on what is the first mountain bike-specific trail authorized on city property.

So far more than 20 work parties, made up of Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club members and other volunteers, have put in hundreds of hours cutting the trail and building boardwalks and bridges for which the city contributed $5,000 to cover materials costs.

Several kilometres have been built with more sections to come, but trail building can only be done properly in the winter months, so work is on hiatus through the summer.

Trail builders have to follow city direction where to route the trail, which sometimes run through watercourses and boggy areas that can be damaged by foot and bike traffic.

"The most time consuming part of building this trail has been water management and making sure the water is running naturally rather than creating a river on the trail," said Jenn McGarrigle, club secretary. "To build a sustainable trail you have deal with the water properly. If you don't then you'll be spending hours after the fact fixing things up because water, as you know, does a lot of damage all by itself. A trickle of rain moves mountains over time."

Club members, who have been trained in trail construction by the International Mountain Bicycling Association of Canada – the city made free classroom space available for trail building and standard classes – also adhere to association design standards to ensure trails, bridges and boardwalks are safe and also meet city parks standards.

What has resulted is a trail suitable for intermediate level riders or beginners looking to improve their game, runners and hikers that is safe, resilient to traffic and whether that challenges users with tight turns, dips, stiff climbs and downhills, all within easy access from the Westwood Lake Park parking lots.

The full trail will likely be complete sometime in the spring of 2015 when Nanaimo Parks Recreation and Environment workers will install signs and distance markers.

"We think it's great and those guys have been pleasure to work with because  they're doing all the hard work," said Rich Coulthart, city trails division supervisor. "I think it's great for the city, too. They've done a great job and I think they've been happy with what we've been doing, too."

One of the most important aspects of the trail, which is intended as a multi-use trail, is that it will help separate mountain bikes from other users on existing trails in the park.

"It'll get the riders who should be off the chip trail, off the chip trail," said Bill McMillan, Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club president. "Our ultimate goal is to have a north/south connector that's going to completely surround Nanaimo."

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