By Annie Ellison
Published: March 15, 2014
It’s a common mistake, and an easy one to make: assuming the trail you’re walking, riding or hiking on, for free, just magically appeared in the woods.
The extensive mountain biking trail networks in and around Squamish have been built and maintained almost exclusively by volunteers.
Squamish Off-road Cycling Association (SORCA) is offering riders — specifically those from out of town — the opportunity to donate $15 and receive a trail pass to pay for materials and wages for some local professional trail-builders.
“We figure 75 per cent of our riders are visiting Squamish, it’s an area we really want to focus on to get more purchases out of them,” said SORCA president Jeff Cooke.
“A lot of visitors assume it’s just free or paid for by the government, they don’t realize it takes money and volunteers.”
Cooke said last year, the trail passes (which are in their fourth year) pulled in roughly $14,000. This year, SORCA is hoping to double the number of passes sold to out-of-towners with the aim of netting $20,000 this year.
Ultimately, for the price of a movie, riders get a full season worth of world-class mountain biking, said Cooke.
“There’s no administrative costs on that, everything goes straight back to the trails,” he said.
It’s no problem getting locals to buy passes or to volunteer their time, he said. All SORCA members are automatic pass-holders. But, the weekend warriors aren’t generally able to hit the trails with a shovel and can-do attitude and volunteer, nor do they necessarily know about the concept of the user-pay program.
Local trails, particularly popular rides like Half Nelson and Full Nelson, attract people to the area and are making Squamish a renown international destination.
But if the trails don’t get enough maintenance to keep up with added wear and tear — upwards of 3,000 – 4,000 riders per weekend, three quarters of whom are from outside Squamish — things will start to deteriorate quickly, said Cooke.
“To keep it up requires more dedicated time than volunteers can offer,” he said.
“You might have 15 or 50 volunteers on any given Saturday, but no one during the week because everyone’s at work.”
Trail passes are available at several locations including Corsa, Tantalus and Republic bike shops, Nesters, Extra Foods, and the Adventure Centre. They can also be purchased online at sorca.ca.
“Please support the trails with this donation,” said Cooke.