By Thomas Rohner
If two heads are better than one, the 5-Mile Bike Park’s fortunes just doubled.
Andreas Thoni has been spearheading Valemount’s bike park proposal under the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) for the past four years. He has now teamed up with Curtis Pawliuk, GM of the Valemount & Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA).
“Having Andreas and Curtis working together is a huge bonus,” Patricia Thoni, YORA member and Andreas’ mother, told the Goat. “Certainly having two heads is better than one, and them working together is really great.”
She says YORA stands to benefit greatly from VARDA’s track record in project management and having a full-time employee.
Members of YORA voted last month to pass the responsibility for the bike park proposal to VARDA. YORA currently has the agreement with the province for the work done so far and will pass that work officially to VARDA. Professional trail mapping and other preliminary work is complete and will come under the legal perview of VARDA.
YORA members will continue to have input on the bike park through a newly formed Bike Park Committee, under VARDA. Patricia says the two outdoor recreation non-profits have been finding other informal ways to work together.
“Last year we started looking at doing a few things together. Like VARDA helped with the plowing of one of our cross-country touring areas,” Patricia says.
As back-country development organizations, there’s substantial overlap between YORA and VARDA’s objectives, Patricia says. “The partnership just sort of evolved, it’s hard to put your finger on one thing.”
Pawliuk says YORA has done an amazing amount of work on the Bike Park using volunteer time, but it’s onerous for a group of volunteers to do it all on their own. Pawliuk says, initially, VARDA got a request from YORA to help with the administration-end of things.
“But we’ll be working on applying for grants for the Bike Park, looking into issues of land use… overall project management, really.”
This is arguably VARDA’s first foray into non-motorized recreational development, having just completed the latest phase of the sled-assisted ski area on Crystal Ridge, a major project spearheaded by VARDA. VARDA has typically focused on promoting winter snowmobile recreation and some ATV-related marketing.
Patricia says the first thing they’re going to tackle is the bridge that collapsed on Swift Creek trail, an element that’s needed for the bike park trail network, but also for general hiking and biking. She’s optimistic that, with VARDA’s help, funding will be approved soon.
“We’re really hoping to get that done this season.”
Andreas Thoni, currently working in northern Alberta, could not be reached for comment by press time.