By Korie Marshall

Phase one of the bike park on 5 Mile has been approved. Now Andreas Thoni will finally get to see his vision come to life. He and the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) will be looking for funding to build the main artery of trails starting this spring.

Thoni, who has spearheaded the project for YORA, got a signed approval last week for the first of four phases of the master plan from the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ Recreation Sites and Trails group.

Phase one of the plan is a rebuild of the Swift Creek Trail, including an engineered 90-foot suspension bridge to replace the damaged and currently impassable one, as well as two other trails: an intermediate downhill trail and a cross country trail. Phase one also includes construction and maintenance of the base “staging” area at the bottom. The trail system will be good for all kinds of non-motorized recreation including hiking, running, biking, and skiing.

“The Swift Creek trail is a great asset; it is so close to the village for people to use,” Thoni said in an interview Monday.

YORA will be applying for funding through various groups like Columbia Basin Trust and Northern Development Initiative Trust, and youth work grants to complete the approximately $170,000 construction, starting this spring. Thoni says initial clearing will be done by local contractors, but a specialist in trails construction may be employed to coach them in the guidelines for International Mountain Bike Association Standards of trail building.

Help from the Valemount Community Forest with the access road up 5 Mile hill has been hugely beneficial to the Bike Park plan. Thoni says the plan could never have been approved without it.

Daniel Scott, trail specialist from the International Mountain Bike Association, spent 10 days in June 2012 surveying the area to help create the Master Plan. He called the terrain a “diamond in the rough.”

Other phases of the Master Plan include just under 40 km of trails and a skills park which could include dirt jumps, ladder bridges, pump track and teeter-totters. A downhill trail known as “Andreas’ Trail”, built by Thoni when he was younger, will be incorporated into the final design.

The idea of the completed park is to mix challenging and intermediate terrain, as well as stunt and cross country options, and to link the trail system to existing trails like the Big Foot Trail, and possibly the marsh trail. Currently there is no obvious trailhead for the 2 Mile viewpoint, 5 Mile Road or the Swift Creek Trail, meaning few tourists and new locals venture down these routes.

“It’s basically creating a cycling friendly community so I can get from a hotel to a pathway and then to a trail system and not get lost,” Scott told the Goat in 2012. “Not that Valemount is that big, but it would make it easier.”

Scott said the completed bike park would create a 2-3 day riding experience for mountain biking enthusiasts, many of whom go across BC and North America from one mountain bike park to the next.