Mountain biking brings economic benefits

Houston is invited to join a collaborative effort to promote mountain biking in Northern B.C., with hopes to generate significant revenue.

One mountain bike trail on Mount Harry Davis is complete. Volunteers are needed to help build the second trail this summer

One mountain bike trail on Mount Harry Davis is complete. Volunteers are needed to help build the second trail this summer

Houston is invited to join a collaborative effort to promote mountain biking in Northern B.C.

“Mountain bike recreation and tourism is growing rapidly throughout B.C…. it generates significant economic benefits,” said Patrick Lucas, Founder and Director or the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program.

Lucas and Martin Littlejohn, Executive Director of Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, presented to Houston Council last Tuesday about the findings of a Northern B.C. study.

The two toured 12 communities from Valmont to Houston to Terrace to develop a strategy for growing the sport and promoting Northern B.C. as a tourism destination for mountain bikers.

Lucas said he found it fairly easy to grow mountain bikers’ interest in travelling to Northern B.C.

“When mountain bikers actually got a sense of what Northern B.C. has to offer, they started to get excited,” he said.

Lucas says the key to growing the sport starts in the community itself.

“It can’t just be about tourism. There is no successful destination that does not have a solid mountain bike recreation culture,” he said.

Growing the sport in the community will include getting more participation in the sport and building trails, and making sure the trails are well-maintained.

Lucas said Houston’s mountain biking trails are in the early stages of being built and are slightly behind other communities in this region.

One key step here is to start a Houston Mountain Bike Association.

Thomas Euverman, owner of Countrywide Sports says they are willing to get a group together, but need more people to get involved.

After the sport grows locally, the next step is to promote mountain bike tourism, which is best as a regional partnership, Lucas said.

He gave several examples of partnerships in the Caribou-Chilcotin area, Scotland and U.S.

“Each of those areas have experienced substantial growth in riders on trails, more visitors, more economic activity and more employment…Collaboration works,”  he said.

“Mountain bikers are travellers. They always want to seek out new trails and new riding opportunities.”

The most important part of a regional partnership is developing a strong brand to draw bikers to the area, he said.

He also advised that communities develop a regional group to collaborate on events, plan a race series or recommend circle runs and trip itineraries through the area.

Lucas and Littlejohn are travelling to share these ideas from the strategy they developed for northern B.C.

Lucus says this summer they want to start a regional working group among the 12 communities in this area and get communities talking to each other and figuring out how to move forward.

Later this summer and fall they want to work with communities to develop a brand for the area.

For Houston, the keys are to continue developing the local trails and get more people involved in the sport, he said.

Houston Hikers is managing the development of the mountain biking trails on Mount Harry Davis until a local mountain bike association forms.

Director Jonathan Van Barneveld says they have one trail built and are working to build a second this summer.

Anyone interested in volunteering or getting involved in a mountain bike association can talk to Thomas at countrywidesports@telus.net or Jonathan at houstonhikers@gmail.com.