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Regional District of Nanaimo exploring mountain biking as an economic driver

Nanaimo Hospitality Association executive says coordinated trail network could lead to job creation
Dana Wacker, president of the Nanaimo Mountain Biking Club, and Chris Hudec check out Fine China, one of more than 60 trails in the Doumont Trails network, which was voted Nanaimo’s best place for mountain biking in last year’s Best of the City survey. (News Bulletin file photo)

Regional District of Nanaimo staff are set to examine opportunities to utilize mountain biking to bolster tourism and the economy.

Erin Hemmens, RDN director for Nanaimo, received unanimous support for a motion for a report “outlining opportunities to enhance multi-sector dialogue in support of leveraging mountain biking as both an economic and cultural driver” at the July 28 board meeting and said focused efforts have “transformed the economies” in areas such as Squamish and Cumberland.

It is an opportunity for the RDN to explore something that has worked for other communities, Hemmens said.

“The RDN has the best raw material in terms of our trail system I think in B.C. honestly, and the RDN already has some structure to do this with the Doumont shared-use agreement…” she said. “Anecdotally as a rider I can tell everyone that it’s exploded in the last five years.”

Responding to a question about whether the report would have an economic development component, Tom Osborne, RDN general manager of recreation and parks, said there would be.

“It is multi-faceted,” said Osborne. “One is to be in dialogue with the various partners in the bike/mountain bike community, but also providing additional information about and working with the tourism associations … to bring any materials that they may have that would provide additional background on those drivers.”

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Dan Brady, Nanaimo Hospitality Association executive director, was one of the stakeholders who expressed enthusiasm for mountain biking, telling directors his organization has worked on mountain bike tourism “for a number of years.” Mountain biking trails, not only benefit mountain bikers, said Brady, but also people who run, walk, walk their dogs and hike. There is also a community impact with trails in terms of people wanting to commute to work, he said.

“I know a lot of people in Nanaimo that commute across Nanaimo and they use the single-track mountain bike trails,” Brady said. “There’s job creation that goes along with the co-ordinated trail network … there’s [numerous examples] of new storefronts being created, new businesses being created, new jobs being created, millions of dollars of economic impact and jobs obviously, which is the most important thing.”

Dana Wacker, Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club president, told directors the club is looking to expand its managed network when its land-share agreement is up for renegotiation next year. She said approval could add roughly 12 kilometres of popular, more advanced terrain and potential for adapted trails.

“The needs of our trail network have expanded beyond what’s capable of a volunteer-only organization to support,” said Wacker. “We will need to look at financial support in order to maximize our capacity and maintain trails to the necessary safety and stability and sustainability standards while supporting Nanaimo’s growth as a mountain bike destination.”

Trail associations in Cumberland and Squamish receive funding for key positions, such as executive director, trail managers and labourers, according to Wacker.

According to the RDN, the report is scheduled to go before the regional parks and trails select committee later this year.

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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