Smithers Mountain Bike Association

Trail Development

The SMBA was born when few people started getting together in living rooms and at kitchen tables to figure out how we could build a fast and flowy downhill trail with berms and jumps - just like the ones you find at Whistler and Silver Star.  We figured that developing a trail like that would take a little more than a few hours of volunteer pulaski work, but we really had no idea how much is involved in trail development.  But now that we’ve got a couple years of trailbuilding under our belts, we figure it wouldn’t hurt to share what we’ve learned.

Successful trail development begins with a plan – ideally one that is written down.  Once you have a plan, you can proceed with the government paperwork and approval process that will give you authorization to implement your plan.  Then you need resources – so this means fundraising and grant writing.  Only after all this is in place can you fire up the excavator and start swinging the pulaskis and hammers.

Here’s how it has all panned out in Smithers over the past three years, including a snapshot of where we are going from here:
 

Planning:

As we were forming into a society, we quickly realized that no one would want to give us any money if we didn’t have a plan we could show them.  In 2008-09, the (soon-to-be) SMBA created a draft mountain bike development plan that we called “Bike Hudson Bay”.  It defined a long term goal to develop a sustainable, world-class mountain bike trail system on Hudson Bay Mountain and then it identified a number of projects we wanted to pursue in the coming years, including upgrades to existing trails, development of a new jump trail (now called Paydirt) and creation of some cross-country trails.  The plan broke down our long-term vision into a series of phases, and included maps and detailed cost estimates for various projects.  In two short years, have implemented the entire plan and then some, and now we are partway through implementation of our next Trail Development Plan.  Click here to take a look (link coming soon).

Authorization:

We also realized early-on that no one would want to give us any money if we couldn’t show them that we have permission to actually do what the plan says we want to do.  According to the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) Section 57, building trails on crown land is illegal without authorization.  Lucky for us, the provincial government has a working draft policy statement called: “Authorizing Recreational Mountain Bike Trails on Provincial Crown Land”.  This Policy defines when and how a mountain bike club such as the SMBA can apply for authorization to create and maintain trails on crown land for mountain biking.  An application form is completed and submitted the Recreation Sites and Trails  Branch of the (now) Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO).

In addition to obtaining the Section 57 Authorization, the provincial government can officially designate Recreation Sites and/or Recreation Trails (these are what we used to think of as Forest Service Rec Sites) under Section 56 of FRPA.  This designation legitimizes an area of crown land for recreational use, and (we hope) provides an additional layer of protection for that use into the future.  For that reason, we have also chosen to pursue Section 56 designation for all of our mountain bike trails and trail networks.

To have a parcel of land designated for a trail (Section 56) and to obtain authorization to construct/maintain/upgrade the trail (Section 57), paperwork must be completed and extensive stakeholder consultation must occur.  For SMBA trails on Hudson Bay Mountain, we consulted with the provincial government (Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts (now part of MFLNRO) , Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forests & BC Timber Sales), North East Slope Trail Group, Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation, Smithers Community Forest Society, and Hudson Bay Mountain Resort.  Referrals were also sent out to other stakeholders including the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board and other recreation groups.  From time to time, this consultation process has required us to adjust our plans to incorporate comments and feedback.

Click here to see some example application forms and/or approval documents for:  (links coming soon)

  • The Bluff Recreation Site – designation and trail upgrades 2009/10
  • Piper Down Recreation Site – designation and trail upgrades 2009/10
  • Bluff Cross-Country Trails – new trails and trail upgrades 2010
  • Stiff Upper Lip – new cross-country trail 2011
  • DRAFT Application for cross-country trails in the Community Forest south of The Bluff Rec Site – not submitted yet

According to the provincial government Policy, once a Recreation Site or Trail is designated, the SMBA and the government can sign a long term Trail Management Agreement.  The Agreement provides the SMBA with the right to “non-commercial development, maintenance and management of recreation trails and related improvements for mountain biking”.  Under the Agreement, the SMBA has committed to develop and regularly update a Management Plan which describes goals, objectives and strategies that guide the management of mountain biking activities on designated trails on Hudson Bay Mountain.  Here is our draft Agreement and Management Plan which we anticipate will be signed in the fall of 2011.

Fundraising:

Trail development is resource-intensive.  The SMBA has had tremendous support from the local community, with significant cash contributions from a number of our members and donations and in-kind support from many local businesses.  In the last three years we have received local grants from Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Corporation ($20,000 over two years!), Bulkley Valley Foundation, Bulkley Valley Credit Union and the BV Kinsmen, and this has helped us to leverage an additional $196,695 from each of the provincial government (Community Development Trust - Job Opportunities Program) and federal government (Western Economic Diversification Canada – Community Adjustment Fund).

Our corporate sponsorship program is outlined on our website, and we are currently trying to develop a long-term adopt-a-trail program that will provide a sustainable source of funding for trail maintenance and upgrades.

If you have fundraising ideas or are willing to help with any other aspect of trail development, please get in touch with us!