Nanaimo mountain bikers push to legitimize trail access

The Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club voted overwhelmingly Sunday to pursue formal land-use agreements with private land owners.

Competitors ride the Expo Trail in Nanaimo on Day 1 of the week-long 2010 B.C. Bike Race.

Competitors ride the Expo Trail in Nanaimo on Day 1 of the week-long 2010 B.C. Bike Race.

The Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club voted overwhelmingly Sunday to pursue formal land-use agreements with private land owners in an effort to preserve riding terrain and improve trail access for local trails.

Mark Perdue, club spokesman, said the mountain bike community rallied for a common goal that could put Nanaimo on the map as a mountain bike destination.

“There was a lot of enthusiasm that came out of the meeting from both inside the club and from outside the club,” said Perdue. “The change in focus from the club now is going from a group that just organizes rides to one that has a clear mandate for organizing this sport. People who wouldn’t normally ride with us now see a purpose in the club and have jumped on board.”

About 30 additional mountain bikers joined the club Sunday to cast a ballot, which was open to all members in good standing.

Until now, private forest companies, which own an estimated 75 per cent of the land mountain bike trails are built on in Nanaimo, have tolerated access by mountain bikers and other user groups in absence of liability insurance.

Morgan Kennah, spokeswoman for Island Timberlands, said the company is willing to meet with the club to discuss the future of trail access, building and maintenance.

“We’re encouraged by their decision to pursue liability insurance and their formal interest in wanting to work with us as the land owners,” said Kennah. “We’re always looking at our access policy and how we work with different groups. It’s not that we’re beginning to restrict access, we always have, but it’s for many reasons, most importantly things like dumping and illegal activity on the property.”

By purchasing a non-exclusive licence at an annual cost of $500, Kennah said the mountain bike club can formally access Island Timberland property.

She also said when an area around a trail is logged, Island Timberlands makes an effort to maintain access for the public.

“The sense for us is we’re providing a great opportunity,” said Kennah. “By harvesting and reforesting around a trail, we don’t consider that damaging a trail. It’s changing the experience.”

Nanaimo is home to some of the best riding in the Pacific Northwest, according to the Nanaimo club, and could become a destination like Whistler, Squamish and Cumberland, all of which have benefitted economically from the global explosion in the sport’s popularity.

In recent years, Nanaimo’s trails have been praised by B.C. Bike Race participants and organizers, one of the world’s most popular mountain bike races, and featured in international mountain bike publications.

Perdue said now that the club has a clear mandate, work will begin to get the wheels rolling to take mountain biking from an informal group to a mature organization.

“We’ll have to start in-house first, where we need to look at our executive to make sure we’ve got all of the roles addressed, and we’ll probably need to add to those to make sure we’re equipped to handle all of this,” said Perdue. “At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of people join the club who have experience in various capacities with this kind of movement. They may not necessarily ride with us, but they’ve expressed interest and offered their talents.

“We’re really excited about what’s ahead and who’s involved and it’s really going to help the cause.”

The club intends to hold discussions with the city, land owners and other stakeholders to discuss the role mountain biking might play in future economic development.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com