By the end of 2012 the Williams Lake Cycling Club hopes to be the proud builders of a brand new trail network, completely unique to the province.
That, however, depends on funding from the Ministry of Natural Resources, said local professional trail builder and member of both the Williams Lake Cycling Club and the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium, Thomas Schoen.
The area, referred to by locals as the Westsyde Trail Network, encompasses a portion of the Williams Lake River Valley stretching west toward the Fraser River.
“What we want to develop on the west side is something completely unique to the province,” said Schoen, who has been working closely with the WLCC, the CMBC (consisting of the WLCC, Quesnel, Wells and 100 Mile House groups), the City of Williams Lake and the ministry on a proposal.
“The plan for 2012 now is to build a new signature trail, top to bottom, which is completely unique to the area and with features for every type of rider.”
The trail rebuild in question, Snakes and Ladders, is famous among members of the Williams Lake mountain biking community, and even to members outside the lakecity.
“When we have organized tours coming to town for mountain biking that was always one of the trails they rode because it was one of the few trails in the Interior that had wooden structures.”
Over the years, Schoen said, the wooden stunts along Snakes and Ladders began falling apart, and the general trail quality began to deteriorate. The goal now is to revamp the entire trail with a network that will attract not only locals but also provide a tourism destination for mountain bikers from around the world.
“We are proposing to rebuild that original trail,” he said. “We [the WLCC] did a survey last year and what the community wanted was to rebuild that original trail because it’s a classic.”
Work has already begun on sprucing up existing trails — even providing a ski-hill type feel with marked trail networks and signage on the trails at Fox Mountain and on the west side.
Schoen added portions of the new trail will be climbable to accommodate all mountain riders, and will feature something for everyone.
“The idea is something totally unique with a lot of wooden features that aren’t really found in the Interior too much and to just really promote the heck out of that trail,” he said. “If it’s really well built, if it’s a flowy trail, it will end up in a lot of bike movies, it will end up in advertisements and in bike magazines, so that’s the idea.”
Schoen said if the funding application comes through the next step is to identify interested trail builders, and appoint project leaders. The idea is for each section of the rebuilt Snakes and Ladders to have a slightly different feel, and provide some different styles of riding for any level of rider.
“We’ll have a whole group of local builders who can take on sections of the trail,” he said. “It’s a super exciting project.”
Schoen pointed to Kamloops as a municipality that has capitalized on the popularity of the sport, and said the City of Williams Lake and the ministry have been great to work with.
Last year the CMBC recorded, through an economic impact study, a close to 25 per cent increase in trail use around town, and through the two groups’ various mountain biking events around the Cariboo. Working with the ministry and the city Schoen hopes that number will continue to rise.
“I can’t stress enough how important that relationship is with the City of Williams Lake,” he said. “Those guys are so supportive. They realize what we need in terms of tourism development.
“It’s one thing to have a lot of locals but our goal is to attract outsiders who will come to town, stay the night and use the local restaurants — that type of thing.”