Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club carves out new course in trail building

Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club builds first trail sanctioned by government and land manager. Trail design is also first of its kind in region.

Bill McLane

Bill McLane

Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club is taking the path less travelled, so far, when it comes to trail-building.

The club is about to start building its first trail that has the blessings of government and the land manager.

The yet-to-be-named trail will be constructed on Crown land on a wood lot in the Doumont area near the Wastelands motocross track.

“This is the very first trail in Nanaimo that is being built with permission of the landowner,” said Bill McMillan, club spokesman.

Over the roughly 30 years of Nanaimo’s mountain biking history, cross country trails have been etched out on Crown and private woodlands with a sort of wink and nod agreement between mountain bikers, government and land managers and owners.

The vast majority of the trails that crisscross the Doumont area were originally built my mountain bikers who carved out cross country runs, which usually also make great hiking trails and are today shared with hundreds of hikers and bikers in what has evolved one of Nanaimo’s most popular outdoor recreation sites.

But times are changing. Forest companies, fearing liability issues arising from allowing public access to their private lands in recent years, have started limiting access to their lands, usually allowing in only those groups that carry their own liability insurance.

“This is extremely significant because, moving forward, this is what we’re hoping to do with private landowners,” said McMillan. “In the past there’s been a lot of concern about liability and allowing access to their property, but there’s legislation that’s in place and being modified to further protect landowners.”

The club is insured through the International Mountain Biking Association Canada with a policy designed to help protect it and landowners from potential law suits by riders who might become injured on club-built trails.

Liability insurance also requires all sanctioned trails be built to minimum safety standards and have signs posted warning about the difficulty level.

The new trail will be the first in Nanaimo to incorporate curves banked on berms, rollers, table tops and other features found on mountain bike tracks in Whistler.

“The big thing about this trail is that it spans the gap between downhillers and cross country riders,” said McMillan. “For the layman, it would probably be described as a sloped BMX track.”

The track will be open to all riders, free of charge, and will be designed so novice riders can get on and enjoy a run, while experienced riders will be challenged by the track’s more advanced features.

Signs will mark out difficulty levels for each section of the trail and warn the less experienced to ride around the most technically challenging parts.

“Any rider will be able to do it,” said McMillan. “A beginner rider will be able to coast down there, gradually building up speed, going over little bumps and zooming through corners, but even the most experienced downhill riders will be able to ride this thing and have even more fun on it.”

Knappett Industries has donated an excavator, operator and fuel to shape the course, leaving volunteers to do the finishing work with hand tools.

The initial section of the trail, scheduled to be completed by the end of March, is 1.2 kilometres long, with plans to ultimately double its length over the coming months.

“We anticipate in the next few months putting an application in to lengthen that, but it’s a big process just building this,” said McMillan.

The club is planning an open house at the trail March 25, and is hoping to get out as many volunteers as possible for a work party from 1-5 p.m. to finish the course. Volunteers are asked to also bring shovels, hoes and rakes.

The club is also looking for sponsors to supply or create signs to mark out the course.

“We see it as something that’s going to bring all the mountain biking people together,” McMillan said.

For more information about Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club and the trail, please visit the club website at www.nanaimomountainbikeclub.com.