Houston is gearing up to build a set of mountain biking trails down the south slope of Mount Harry Davis.
Kelly Favron, a director with the Houston Hikers Society, says a $12,000 provincial grant allowed the society to hire Daniel Scott, a trails designer from the International Mountain Biking Association, to draw up a master plan.
Favron said it’s already clear that Mount Davis has lots to offer—it’s close to town, has an access road and its sunny, south-facing slope is quick to shed snow and water.
“My hope is that everyone will start their season coming to our trails,” Favron said, noting that clubs in Burns Lake and Smithers have both built professionally designed trail networks in the last six years, growing the sport locally and bringing in tourists as well.
Kevin Derksen agrees.
As president of the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association—a six year-old riding club and trails society that just broke the 100-member mark— Derksen said the Davis trails will crown a hat trick for Bulkley Valley mountain biking.
“I think this whole region of Highway 16 is going to become the next Whistler-Squamish-Pemberton,” he said.
“There’s some fantastic trail getting recognized in the north.”
After about $1 million in grants and Community Forest donations, the club has built a network of 23 mountain biking trails, some built by the same Gravity Logic team that constructed the mountain bike park in Whistler.
Aside from solid trail design and fundraising, Derksen said the strength of the Burns Lake club is its membership.
While many B.C. mountain biking clubs are strongly kid-focused, Burns Lake also has a large group of riders ages 30 and up.
“That’s really nice—those are your organizers in events,” he said.
Having a strong contingent of older riders also means more local coaches, he said.
In 2009, a Whistler coach flew in to certify eight Burns Lake coaches in a weekend clinic—a move that has since seen the club’s six-week youth camp grow to 45 riders split into five skill levels.
Derksen said Burns Lake’s high school mountain biking team has also been a big help, especially since they regularly organize rides that double as trail-grooming sessions.
So far, Derksen said the team has gone unopposed in the northwest high school zones final, qualifying every year for the B.C. championships in Valemont, Salmon Arm and Whistler.
The team will actually host the championships in Burns Lake next year, Derksen said, adding that down the road they would certainly welcome some competition from a team in Houston.
That contest may be years away, but Kevin Eskelin, the Nadina district recreation officer for Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. says he’s sure the Houston trails will benefit from recent lessons in Burns Lake and Smithers.
“We learned that you need a lot of money, but once you’re done the trails become about 10 times more useful,” Eskelin said.
“And we also learned that it’s an easy way to bring tourists into our communities.”
The idea for a Houston trail network first got its legs in 2009, when Esklein worked with the Morice Outdoor Recreation Society to designate the southern slope of Mount Davis as a B.C. recreation site.
That, and a relatively new set of B.C. trails standards, went a long way to solving what was for many years the big hurdle to building authorized mountain biking trails in B.C.—liability insurance.
“Basically, the idea is to build a safe trail that is very low maintenance,” he said, adding that the province will donate coverage worth $2 million, which the Hikers will match.
Favron said anyone interested in Houston mountain biking can sign up for updates by emailing houstonhikers[at]gmail.com.
“We’re looking for people who are interested in going out with the designer when he’s doing his work, and anyone who wants to be part of a trail workshop” he said, adding that more information can be found by clicking the Mount Harry Davis photo on the society web page at houstonhikers.ca.