New bike trails create connections

Mountain bike trail-building work will start this fall in the backwoods around Nanaimo.

A bike path through the woods will soon link local parks.

The joint project is between the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club and Regional District of Nanaimo and will be open to all non-motorized users and access existing trail systems in Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake Park, Mount Benson Regional Park, Witchcraft Lake Regional Trail and Benson Creek Falls Regional Park.

Construction on the first section will start this fall, thanks to a recent approval from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure allowing an existing road right-of-way to be included in the six-kilometre route from Westwood Lake to Benson Creek Falls Regional Park.

“It’s going to be an intermediate trail,” said Jenn McGarrigle, Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club spokeswoman. “It’s going to be super fun.”

McGarrigle said the trail will appeal to riders of all skill levels, but the club’s biggest challenge will be designing bridges and boardwalks to prevent erosion and protect the landscape in some of the route’s steep rocky sections. Mountain bike club volunteers building the trail will also need to lug tool materials and tools into difficult-to-access areas.

The trail will meet International Mountain Bicycling Association sustainability and safety standards and will be constructed in stages over the next two years.

The project falls in line the Regional District’s long-term Regional Parks and Trails Plan and will become part of the regional trail network.

Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club’s ultimate vision is for a continuous trail running from the Cinnabar Valley to Lantzville.

“Having a legal trail route connecting these four important parks has been on the radar of mountain bikers for a decade or more and is part of our larger plan to create a trail connecting south Nanaimo to Lantzville,” said Mark Perdue, Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club’s landowner liaison director, in a press release. “The trail is a challenge because of the steep rocky terrain. It’s a big project for us, but we’re looking forward to this fun trail going into some really dramatic terrain.”

This is the third mountain bike trail project the club has created with consent of landowners, local and provincial governments and other stakeholders.

“Basically having a trail that links all these other networks elevates the user experience by giving people more options – different places to go and different things to see,” McGarrigle said. “You could combine these trails in so many ways to have a different experience every time.”

Wheels turning on wash station

The city is also eyeballing an idea for a bike/dog washing station at Westwood Lake Park.

Kirsty MacDonald, city parks and open space planner, said the idea is in its early stages, but if approved, could be built in 2015 and would be a convenience that goes hand in hand with new bike trails and other uses evolving in the park.