Mountain bike trails proposed

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Cycling Salt Spring is looking to bring the island up to speed with recreational amenities that many other communities enjoy in the form of trails where mountain biking is officially permitted.

Members of the Island Pathways committee attended the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Feb. 25 to make a pitch for staff time and resources to explore the idea. Sean Mulligan and John Wakefield proposed starting with one demonstration trail on Channel Ridge, but said any location that seemed feasible would be welcomed.

“There’s currently nowhere really where mountain biking exists on Salt Spring,” Mulligan said. “Which is interesting considering how big the industry is now across British Columbia and the world, really, as a popular sport, and there’s nowhere people can go to legitimately ride a mountain bike.”

Mulligan noted there are numerous sites on Vancouver Island where mountain bike trails are offered over public and private lands, including Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain in the Cowichan area. Not having local trails is a drawback for islanders and visitors, and runs the risk that people will ride where they shouldn’t be in absence of proper facilities, Mulligan added.

“These might be spots we wouldn’t encourage mountain bikers to go,” Mulligan said. “Mount Maxwell obviously has a watershed and a park above; Mount Erskine — very popular with hikers, not a great place for bikers. Channel Ridge happens to be one spot that mountain bikers agree there is potential there.”

The area that Cycling Salt Spring is eyeing for development in fact already has a number of unofficial trails that riders have made over the past decades. Wakefield said if PARC could make those trails legitimate, Cycling Salt Spring could provide a volunteer base to help maintain them. The addition would benefit islanders from around middle school age all the way up to seniors, he said.

“It’s a great pursuit because it doesn’t take significant resources to develop the infrastructure, it’s an environmentally sustainable form of recreation, and we just want to set up a partnership with PARC to figure out a way of developing these facilities,” Wakefield said.

Commissioners voiced some concern about the difficulty of working with the Channel Ridge property owners, who are located in Vancouver, and asked about trail sharing between hikers and bikers. CRD director Gary Holman reported there is also an advisory group looking at the potential for mountain biking trails in CRD parks and suggested that Cycling Salt Spring connect with them.

“We’re also interested in discussing anywhere that might be more appropriate for a small network of trails,” Mulligan said.

The commission may consider the request more fully at a future meeting.

In other business related to community sports and rec groups at the Feb. 25 meeting, PARC voted to renew its lease for the Fulford ball fields for one year and added the Salt Spring Pickleball Association as a stakeholder in Portlock Park reconfiguration planning.

The commission further approved requests from Graffiti Theatre to install temporary storage in Centennial Park during its Shakespeare performance season in July and from the local Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue unit to install a lifejacket loaner station for kids at Fernwood Dock.

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