Trail riding to escape from COVID

Increased riders makes 2020 a success for the Houston Mountain Bike Association

The year and the pandemic brought more people out on the trails for a socially distanced yet fun activity. (Submitted/Houston Today)

The year and the pandemic brought more people out on the trails for a socially distanced yet fun activity. (Submitted/Houston Today)

While events were getting cancelled and people were cooped up at their homes in most parts of the world, the year looked different for riders in Houston with more riders on trails.

According to the Houston Mountain Bike Association’s (HMBA) annual review, the year and the pandemic brought more people out on the trails for a socially distanced yet fun activity. There was no shuttle service but riders rode in their independent pods and self-shuttled to get to the trails.

Riders were even seen borrowing bikes from the lending library initially and then moved on to buying their own bikes to continue riding for the rest of the season. In fact, with kids home from schools, families used the trails as part of their physical education.

The wet season brought riders from neighbouring communities and because Mt Harry Davis trails are southern exposure on rocky terrain, that resulted in relatively dry trails even in the wettest of weather.

To ensure that the trails are in shape at all times, 21 volunteers were out on the trails cleaning up blow down, raking rocks, smoothing corners. Miake Elliot was the trail volunteer of the year, with well over 20 hours of trail maintenance time.

Interestingly, HMBA saw a substantial growth in their membership, from 25 members in 2018 and 35 in 2019, to almost 71 members this year and they are hopeful to see more growth in the coming years.

Miake Elliot, president of HMBA said, “2020 was the year of the family, Houston has developed one of the best areas for families new to riding. COVID-19 offered a jump start to outdoor spring activities and our easy green trail were packed with new families and new riders from across the valley.”

Despite the rise in membership, HMBA’s report suggested one of the biggest challenges they face when it comes to getting people to sign up is the lack of perks for joining. “HMBA is working on creating incentives to entice membership over the coming years,” said the review.

The club has also been able to raise money from lending out mountain bikes, a six-bike shuttle rack and merchandise sales. The sponsorship money received is intended to go towards several projects every year. This year, over $30,000 was raised to build the new trail, Escalator.

“This easy trail is a connector link from the bottom of Chutes ‘n Roots to the family centre and the top of Padawan. The trail was 90 per cent completed with handwork & surface smoothing to be completed in the spring. When finished, riders will be able to enjoy almost five kilometres of easy contoured trail top to bottom. This is one of the longest trails in the Northwest,” said the review.

HMBA will be focusing on finishing the Escalator trail, expert trails will start the Skills Park at the Family centre in 2021.

“Fundraising is already well underway with over $3500 received,” noted the review.

Winter snow shoe, back country skiers and snowboarders are already out using the trails for winter recreation this season, at this site that claims to offer the “best views of Bulkley Valley”.

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HMBA trail work. (Submitted/Houston Today)

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