The Whistler BMX Club took another big step forward last week by obtaining a huge load of dirt, enough to form the start ramp, jumps, rollers, berms and other features that will one day make up the club’s regulation-sized track. The next step is to confirm where all that dirt will actually go, although the club has made some significant progess there as well.
Brian Finestone, one of the club’s founders, said they hope that the final approvals will be in place by the time spring rolls around in 2014 and track construction can begin as soon as the snow clears. Finding dirt, however, was a major step.
“It’s basically the same dirt we use in the (Whistler Mountain) Bike Park, it’s good for shaping berms and rollers and all the other features,” said Finestone, who is also the manager of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. “There was a developer who wanted the last bit of dirt to go away, and he made us an offer on trucking that was too good to refuse.”
The dirt is now sitting on a lot opposite Bayly Park in Cheakamus Crossing, with the Resort Municipality of Whistler providing a temporary space.
If all goes well, the dirt won’t have to go far: Whistler BMX is in discussion to build a track in Bayly Park, between the community garden and the path to the playground. The dimensions of the lot and layout of the track still have to be decided, but Finestone said there’s more than enough space. All they need now is confirmation.
“The Recreation (and Leisure) Master Plan process at the municipality has been going through the summer, and as part of those discussions we looked at all the different options. The place that seemed most attractive to us in Bayly Park,” he said.
Finestone said there is more than enough space to build a regulation track — 300 to 400 metres in total length, six-to-eight metres wide — plus some features for children to ride. The track itself wouldn’t have any mandatory air on it, like drops or gaps, and would be built in such a way that it could provide a good challenge for pro riders, but would still be safe for kids on runner bikes and total beginners. As well, it will be built to accommodate all sizes of bike tires, something Finestone said was important to accommodate all the mountain bikers in town.
And while the club would build, sanction and maintain the course, the track would be open to the public except during club events.
With all the Canadian Sport Institute-Pacific facilities, including athlete housing, across the road, Finestone said the goal is to build a course that also meets high performance training centre standards with the hope of one day hosting top athletes and events.
“There are no plans to do anything like that right now, but it’s in the big picture,” he said.
The Recreation and Leisure Master Plan has not been completed, but is expected to be finalized before the end of the year. Once the plan is in place the municipality can put that piece of land out to tender, allowing Whistler BMX to submit its bid. Finestone says there may be other groups interested in that land as well that would have to go through the same process.
Because it’s on municipal land they don’t have to go through any provincial agencies to get approval. The previous plan, which would have located the track under nearby power lines, would have required approval from BC Hydro.
If the track is approved, Finestone said it will likely take one or two weeks to build it, relying heavily on volunteers. Installing the start gate and other infrastructure could take another two weeks after that, but it will be open for riding while that takes place.
A used start gate has been donated by Squamish BMX. A new gate can cost $70,000.
There is a chance that the BMX facility won’t be approved because of concerns over the weight of the facility on the landfill cap, in which case Whistler BMX could build on another lot in the area.
Cheakamus Crossing is considered perfect because of the lack of flat land available in other neighbourhoods, the number of families in the area and the fact it’s accessible by transit.
The club and track will ultimately be sanctioned by Canada BMX, the same body that sanctions both Squamish BMX and Pemberton BMX. The goal is to create a corridor series to build the sport, grow numbers and host more events in the Sea to Sky.
Whistler BMX can be contacted through their Facebook Page, Whistler BMX Club & Track.