By Curtis Pawliuk, Manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association
Planning a vision
During the summer of 2019 VARDA created a new trails master plan known as the Swift Creek Trail Network. This project was proposed for an area on the north side of Swift Creek, minutes from Valemount’s town center. The location’s proximity to the town core, dry early season conditions and ability to link directly to the existing trail system made this an obvious choice.
The new network is within the traditional territory of the Simpcw First Nation, the timber harvest area of the Valemount Community Forest, and is located within the boundaries of the Region District of Fraser Ft. George. All of whom are integral to this project’s success, have been valued partners and supporters of the idea.
Maintaining and developing recreation trails on Crown land requires authorization by Recreation Sites & Trails BC and this authorization was granted in late winter of 2020. VARDA has had a very long and successful relationship with RSTBC and their support has been crucial to this project since the beginning.
A different focus
The new trail network aims to satisfy beginner and intermediate riders in the community while providing further opportunity for expanded pedalling loops to augment the existing trail network.
The core of the project is a GREEN (beginner) level loop that utilizes new construction and existing double track. The loop will act as the center artery of the new trail system with several green, blue, and black options in and around the loop.
These are intended to be true mountain bike trails. Other than the green loop, which will have quite a smooth finish, the rest of the new network is intended to be left with somewhat of a hand-built finish resembling more of a traditional mountain bike trail.
The Swift Mountain Trail Plan was laid out by Trail Holisitics and was designed to uphold the VARDA vision by providing dynamic interconnectivity between trails that offers virtually limitless options to trail users through the use of strategic connectors, giving the option to create rides of any length.
“It was a pleasure working with the VARDA and thanks to the vision and support from Curtis, Randy and the VARDA trail committee, I believe we’ve designed a new trail network that will amplify the already impressive trail offerings that exist in Valemount. The Swift Mountain area has some spectacular scenery and dynamic terrain – perfect for an adventure on two wheels!”
Mark Wood, Trail Holistics
A vision comes to life
During the summer of 2020, Valemount gets to see the dream of this new network become a reality as an investment of over $250,000.00 will go into the construction of 21km of trails.
This project will see an enormous investment into our local economy. Valemount’s local trail guru’s at Robson Design Build were chosen for the large construction project through a detailed tender process. Robson Design Build is owned and operated by long-time Valemount local and trail visionary Andreas Thoni.
“It’s great having miles of good old-fashioned trail to build. This allows the opportunity to train more locals in the craft and at the same time, building up a team of operators and shapers with new skills that can be applied to future projects.” Andreas Thoni, Robson Design Build
One of the trail systems original builders, Lifetime Trails also gets to make a re-appearance this summer. Lifetime will be constructing two trails totalling 1.2km within the existing Valemount Bike Park.
“The Lifetime Crew is excited to be invited back again this season. Valemount is one of our favourite places to ride as well as build trail! We look forward to seeing you on the trails very soon!” said Jeff and Leah, of Lifetime Trails.
Support for trails and a diversified economy
As with the last few seasons of successful trail building, a portion of this year’s funding has come from the Columbia Basin Trust.
This is not just about building recreational trails but also the enhancement of our local economy as well. The last few years of trail development has heavily impacted our community. Positive impacts from mountain biking range from social, physical to economic and we are very thankful that the Trust shares our vision and thoughts of community development.
“The expanded network will have wide-reaching benefits, from increasing access to healthy, active outdoor lifestyles, to helping draw in tourists who will boost the local economy,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President & CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “The impressive number of partners and supporters involved in this project speaks to how important these trails are to the community.”
Other major funding partners for this year’s developments have also come from long time project supporters such as Tourism Valemount and The Northern Development Initiative Trust. These two partners have been helping fund development and maintenance of these trails since day one and they have been crucial to the current success of the Valemount trail system.
“From trail expansions and bike parks, to the Valemount Bike Fest, Northern Development is committed funding projects that attract tourists and help boost the local economy,” said Joel McKay, CEO, of Northern Development Initiative Trust.
VARDA is proud to say that the trail users themselves also played a big part in this year’s developments. Through fundraising and membership drives, the trail users contributed over $35,000.00 towards this year’s construction budget. This is an exceptionally large chunk of funding to come from a relatively small membership and a young trail system. The project also received local funding through The CN Railroaders in the Community Program. It is heartwarming to see the love and support given back to this trail system from its users.
It’s proven. If we build it, they will come
One simply needs to visit the main staging area on any given sunny summer day to see the success of the trail system, although the real proof is in the numbers and success stories. Through four digital counters on our most popular trails VARDA recorded over 30,000 passes during the 2019 season. This number is incredible and proves the high level of use of the facility.
“The international tourists that we send to the trails always come back mentioning that the trails are world class. They have ridden all over the world and trust me, they are spoiled in Europe with mountain trails, yet they still say that the Valemount trails are…unbelievable. Keep up the good work. Team work pays off.” Valemount Swiss Bakery ltd. Silvia Jungo and Bogdan Wasaznik.
One of the major benefits of this user group is they really enjoy immersing themselves into the local community. They want local food, beverages, and the local experience. We have seen this transform our downtown core from a quiet street to a busy location full of bikes and happy people spending money on local services.
“Folks who ride the Valemount Bike Park are vital to our business. With them we can survive as a small business. The whole biking community here is fantastic!
There is something about riding a bike that makes life a little better,” said Jeff & Debra Jewett, Bikes & Bites.
“A phenomenal synergy has occurred between VARDA and Three Ranges Brewing. We have seen our business grow with the continued development of the Valemount Bike Park. Trail users at the brewery bring a vibrant energy to downtown Valemount that continues to attract visitors and locals alike,” said Michael Lewis, Three Ranges Brewing Company.
“We definitely notice the influx of riders through the riding season!! We have riders telling other riders to hit up our Pizzeria… We really couldn’t say enough about the support!” said Ryan Halliday, Glacier Fire Pizzeria.
Stoke for all things bike
VARDA and its Bike Committee are extremely proud and excited to continue developing new opportunities for mountain bike recreation in the Valemount area. In five short seasons Valemount has created a sought-after trail destination and the future of trails is looking bright.
We do need the support from our friends and riders to do what we do. If you enjoy getting out onto the trails, please share some of the stoke back to the group by purchasing a MTB membership through www.ridevalemount.com or by donating to the continued development and maintenance of our epic trail system.