It’s time to draw mountain bikers to the tree-lined slopes and rolling hills of Vanderhoof, the heart of it of all, says Vanderhoof’s bike club president.
In addition to its 2016 plan, Vanderhoof’s Rip’n the North Bike Club presented to the district council on Jan. 25 its long-term vision to promote mountain biking tourism in Vanderhoof.
With upgrades to five kilometres of the area’s mountain biking trails to be completed by late June, the club is looking to add advanced jumps to its bike park and signage to its trail system this year, said Jason Barr, the club’s president.
“Before was ‘rake and ride’ deer trails, not fun for young riders,” Barr explained. “Now it’s smooth and flowy.”
Vanderhoof’s current mountain biking offerings include seven kilometres of trails and 11 jumps for beginner to advanced bikers.
Adding “double black diamond” jumps will be part of the club’s next step to provide an expert-level pro-line jump park, allowing Vanderhoof to offer what other biking communities in the north currently do not, he said.
Tourism B.C.’s official website for mountain biking in northern B.C. currently features Prince George, Smithers, and Burns Lake — who boasts 65 kilometres of bike trails in its region, as well as skills and jump parks.
Another opportunity to develop the district as a mountain biking destination is to build a two-kilometre race trail, allowing Vanderhoof to host events to draw bikers from surrounding communities, Barr said.
Along with Fort St. James’ 20-kilometre trail network and potential opportunities in Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof as a region can be a convenient addition to bikers touring northern B.C., he added.
“An hour drive from Prince George and another hour to Burns Lake,” Barr said. “It’s not too far for riders to travel [between Fraser Lake and Fort St. James] to ride those trails.
None of the towns here have the capacity to do it on their own, but if we do it together, we can work from our strengths.”
Along with trail and jump park expansion, setting up adequate signage and map kiosks to indicate trails (they don’t have names yet) and difficulty levels of jumps will help to draw bikers as well, he explained.
“So we can advertise it not as a crazy, unestablished network,” Barr said. “It’s a funded, professional trail network.”
This year’s funding from the district of Vanderhoof will cover maintenance costs and liability insurance for jumps. To work on additional projects with volunteer support, the club is currently applying for grants and will continue to fundraise during the summer, he said.
Vanderhoof’s developing club will learn from more established biking networks in communities such as Burns Lake, whose current trail network and park are the results of a 10-year plan, Barr added.
Their sustainability also comes from a larger biking community, as well as maintenance workshops where bikers, together, rake trails and ride once a week, he said.
For Stuart Sinclair, an avid mountain biker in Vanderhoof, the district’s trails are for all levels.
“I think they are a great resource for the community, and it’s a great way to introduce beginners to mountain biking,” Sinclair said. “It’s so close to town, you can just jump on your bike and ride to the trails.”
With the amount of government-owned land in the area, there are many opportunities for coordinated trail building in Vanderhoof, though new trails would require sustainable maintenance work from the biking community, he added.
“Get out and ride your bikes!” Sinclair said. “It’s as much fun when you’re a kid, it’s as much fun when you’re an adult.”
2016: bigger bike camps, clinics for men
Building on last year’s success, Vanderhoof’s bike club this summer looks to expand increase its bike camp registration to 30 kids — separating into four groups according to levels, Barr said.
Allowing easier management of skills for instructors, the level-specific groups will also encourage students to build confidence and self-esteem, he explained.
There will also be adult clinics for both men and women, with an end-of-year celebration barbecue for families and the community.