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Heli biking tour operation proposed for Tatla Lake area

The tenure is for an extensive use licence for a 30-year term
The view from Mount Waddington, and the surrounding Coastal Mountains, is proposed to be the site of a unique heli biking destination proposed by Squamish, B.C.-based Joyride Bike Parks Inc. (Paddy Kaye photo)

A proposed, guided heli biking tour operation could touch down southwest of the community of Tatla Lake, pending approval from the province.

A tenure management plan submitted in late 2020 by Squamish, B.C.-based Joyride Bike Parks Inc. and its owner and president, Patrick (Paddy) Kaye, is currently awaiting a decision from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The tenure is for an extensive use licence for a 30-year term to conduct guided, heli biking tours on Crown land south of the community of Tatla Lake — between Bella Coola and Williams Lake — located on the eastern slopes of the Coast Mountain Range, north of the Homathko River and Tatlayoko Protected Area.

Phase one of the area in question encompasses approximately 39,500 hectares, which includes roughly 137 kilometres of trails, with a phase two future development area estimated at another 19,000 hectares.

Kaye and Joyride Bike Parks Inc. have worked with resorts, municipalities, community organizations, tourism operators and private land owners on a global scale since being founded in 1997 building mountain biking parks and trails. Kaye noted the company specializes in not only trail building, but track building, risk assessment for traill builders and international consulting.

Kaye is one of three original creators of the world-renowned Whistler Mountain Bike Park. He told Black Press Media he moved to B.C. from Quebec almost 30 years ago.

“I moved here for the mountains and the skiing and I had dabbled a little bit on a bike when they were first kind of around and absolutely fell in love with the sport living here in Whistler,” he said. “Then I got involved in trail building and decided instead of being rogue we wanted to be legitimate trail builders and that was when we got permission to build trails on Whistler Mountain, which was the start of the bike park there.”

Users of the tenure area for mountain biking would access the area by helicopter, with clients being picked up from the staging area at the south end of Bluff Lake, Kaye said, then transported to various drop-off points, before riding back to the staging area by bike.

Clients would stay at the White Saddle Country Inn, he noted, also located at the south end of Bluff Lake. The heli bike tours would operate from June 1 to Oct. 15 pending snow melt in the spring, and arrival of snow in the fall.

Luke King, a long-time resident of the West Chilcotins and avid mountain biker whose family runs the White Saddle Ranch and Country Inn, would manage the flights with Tatla Lake-based White Saddle Air Services.

Kaye said prior to submitting the proposal to the ministry the company was involved in extensive discussions with the Tsideldel First Nation (Redstone) to ensure their support for the project.

The tenure area is situated within the traditional territories of Tsideldel First Nation (TFN).

“The goal was and is to have community support,” Kaye said. “And, you know, even employment opportunities for locals from Williams Lake and Bella Coola. There are lots of opportunities for people who have a passion for mountain biking.”

Kaye said the TFN has provided written support for the proposal, which has been submitted with its application.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t go in with any kind of conflict and I think we’ve found a really positive fit and positive relationship. After also talking with some of the land owners the next step was to look at the terrain,” he said.

“Once we went in and started walking we found old mining trials that haven’t seen footprints for 50 years — they’d have to be retooled for bikes as far as erosion and sustainability — but the lines are there and the history is there. It’s like unlocking a puzzle.”

And while the heli bike tours will be marketed to global, high-end clients, Kaye said nothing will be off limits for residents of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast.

“It’s all Crown land,” he said. “The trails are anyone’s to ride, and people will be welcome. The ranches at the bottom are private property but the mountains are all public land, so we’re just hoping to open some historical trails and put them on a map and I think it would be great for locals to check out, whether by helicopter or not.”

Kaye said one of his main focuses will be to make the local community feel welcome if the proposal becomes a reality.

“Those communities will be the first place I’ll go when we get the news,” he said. “I’m not going in and saying: ‘This is what’s going to happen.’”

Even with local support, Kaye said he still doesn’t know whether the project will get the green light by government.

“I’d say it’s a 50/50 chance in the hands of the government, the environmental process and all that. It could be six months, it could be six years, or it could never happen.”

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Greg Sabatino

About the Author: Greg Sabatino

Greg Sabatino graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in 2008.
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