By Cliff Miller
Published: March. 10, 2012
In July of 2000, Ron Enns and I created a trail-use fee proposal and submitted it to the district of Squamish.
This proposal was created through a need we saw of events coming into town using the volunteer-built trail network and leaving town without putting a dime back into the trails that they were using to make a profit.
I do not know any other business in the world where you can get your product (trails) without having to pay something for it so why should running an event on trails would be any different?
For the first 14 years of the Test of Metal we relied on volunteers to do the trail maintenance in exchange for entries into the race.
This worked well for quite a while but eventually due to the amount of both race and non-race riding, the work-load of ensuring a well-maintained groomed course became overwhelming.
As a result of that fact, coupled with the looming intention in 2009 that the district would finally implement a trial-use fee, Test of Metal, Inc. started to charge the five-dollar fee and hired our own local trail maintenance crew.
In 2010, while yes the bylaw was in place, there was no firm mechanism in place to ensure that the trail work that needed to be done prior to the race would actually be done, so again a local trail maintenance crew was hired by Test of Metal, Inc.
In 2011 Test of Metal, Inc. paid the five-dollar fee to the district in accordance with the bylaw and I was able to, after discussions with the district, ensure that there would be ample maintenance work done prior to the race to ensure a well-groomed course.
It was when I started asking about whether or not other events had paid the fee for 2011 when warning bells started going off for me. According to the existing bylaw it was pretty clear “any event” using the district property was to pay this fee.
There were several events that for whatever reason were given exemptions from paying the fee by district staff when in reality only council is supposed to be able to waive fees associated with bylaws. In other cases the events were just not billed.
As stated in the above-mentioned story, the Test of Metal Group of events, which is comprised of Orecrusher, Test of Metal, Gearjammer and Just Another Bike Race, will continue to be charging a five-dollar trail maintenance fee to its racers.
One hundred per cent of those fees raised will be going to a local trail builder who will be tasked with trail maintenance on those trails that each race uses.
Given that this fee and bylaw has been handled so poorly from day one and is now dead I really hope that council will put some money in the 2012 budget for trail maintenance.
The trail system is every bit as important part of our recreational infrastructure as Brennan Park’s pool, ice rink and fields; perhaps it is time for the district to start treating it as such. This is something for which the trail users have been asking for years.
I really hope that in its place some wording at a minimum exists that encourages event organizers to work with local trail user groups to put something back into the trail network either through manpower, equipment, materials or even cash.
At one time many years ago Squamish was the leader in trail infrastructure and the envy of many towns throughout the province. However, the years and lack of district commitment have not been kind to the trail network.
We are left with playing catch-up to get back to where we were, let alone being leaders once again which, while possible to regain, cannot in my opinion happen without a massive infusion of cash.
I realize that over the past couple of years the district has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on paving the valley trail and putting in the Kingswood overpass, however, to call that money, as the past mayor and council did, “trail maintenance” does a huge disservice to the existing failing trail infrastructure.
To their credit, however, the district did come through with huge assistance in the rebuilding of Carpenter’s Son bridge at a critical time.
I live and recreate here in Squamish and will ensure that the events that I am responsible for put back into the trail system rather than just take from that system that vollies have built.
I would hope that other event organizers would do the same. In my mind it’s just the right thing to do.