It works out to roughly $166 per kilometre dedicated to some of Whistler’s most popular tourist draws.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has entered into a Fee for Serivce Agreement with one of the community’s largest sports clubs — the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA). The three-year deal hands $50,000 to the organization per year to maintain and upgrade more than 300 kilometres of biking and hiking trails.
It’s a necessary step, WORCA’s director of trails Nina Cairns said. Up until now the heavy lifting was done through donated volunteer hours and funding secured annually through the RMOW’s Community Enhancement Program. Last year the association received $21,500 for trail maintenance, while the price tag attached to covering WORCA’s bike camp and trail work came to $166,000.
“Maintenance is big,” Cairns said. “There’s quite a lot more demand now. The trails are booming.”
In the summer months approximately 1.2 million visitors pour into the resort, WORCA’s proposal to council stated. During that time Lost Lake and the Whistler trail network have traditionally seen around 40,000 mountain bikers on them, accounting for 30 per cent of the guests visiting Whistler. And that figure is rapidly increasing, Cairns said.
“(Cross-country biking) has grown,” she said. “It is certainly a growing sport because it is something that everyone can do. Everyone can participate no matter what your level.”
The new money will be put toward a dedicated trail building team consisting of one full-time project leader, two full-time builders, three full-time labourers and two part-time labourers. The allotment was tallied up by WORCA members after conducting a thorough walk-through with trail builders, Cairns said. WORCA will still organize fundraisers to cover any additional costs, she noted.
“We didn’t want to bite off more than we can chew,” Cairns said of the agreed dollar figure. “We will see how it goes.”
The money will focus on existing trails, rather than building new routes.
“Obviously we have got to make it manageable,” Cairns said regarding the number of trail kilometres.
A maintenance schedule will be put in place. Trails that have seen extreme traffic, such as Comfortably Numb, will get top priority, Cairns noted. Work will be assessed with municipal park staff at the end of each season and carried out as early as possible the following year. Long-term projects will be completed in sections to ensure sustainability, Cairns added.
This is not the first Fee for Service Agreement the municipality has entered into with a community group, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said. It’s signed similar documents with various organizations that provide important benefits to the community, such as the Whistler Arts Council and Whistler Animals Galore.
“WORCA, over the years, has provided significant service to the municipality in building or rejuvenating trails. And so what this agreement does is it gives WORCA some certainty with respect to funding for the next three years,” she said, noting the agreement will be re-evaluated after that time period. “And then we’ve got in return the certainty that various trails will be maintained and or rehabilitated.”
Whistler boasts a remarkable number of kilometres of trails for a town of its size, Wilhelm-Morden said.
“There are hundreds of thousands of people who use the various hiking and mountain biking trails,” she said. “In fact we are expanding our alpine hiking trail system and doing improvements to these trails because they are just so popular.”
WORCA has more than 1,800 members. Mountain biking has become a major sport throughout the Sea to Sky corridor, Cairns noted, adding Squamish has an extensive cross country system. All of the routes draw tourism to the area, she said, noting she would like to see more collaborations between mountain biking clubs on North Shore and the corridor.
“We are all working along the same lines,” she said.