Burns Lake and 11 other communities in northern B.C. have partnered with the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) to promote the local mountain bike trails in northern communities.
The objective of the new strategy is to use a common vision to attract more mountain bikers to the numerous trails in the various northern B.C. communities.
This new program will be similar to the programs used to promote mountain biking at resort destinations, such as, Whistler and Silver Star, where every dollar contributed by the resorts was matched by the province.
Outgoing president of the Burns Lake Mountain Bike Association, Kevin Derksen says that Burns Lake has been apart of promotional programs like this for a number of years.
Derksen says that the Burns Lake trails have been promoted at MBTA booths at events like Crankworks and Vancouver Bike expo for a few years now.
Martin Littlejohn, executive director of MBTA says that Burns Lake has been setting the standard in northern B.C. in what has been accomplished with the mountain biking community.
“I think they [Burns Lake] are really setting the standard for some of the other communities in northern B.C.,” Littlejohn said, “some of their accomplishments other communities can really learn from.”
Littlejohn says the purpose of this program is to augment and strengthen what tourism in northern B.C. already has to offer.
The project will be fairly extensive in terms of research with all involved speaking with mountain bikers who travel, asking what they look for in a mountain bike destination, both in general and in northern B.C., as well as looking at the range of experiences the are unique to each community.
Derksen says that the uniqueness of each community is one of the nice things about riding in the north.
“The nice thing about riding in the north is that Prince George has different terrain than what we have, Vanderhoof has different terrain being on a plateau, Smithers has coastal mountain terrain,” Derksen said, “each location has different trails because those trails take on the best characteristics of the terrain.”
The timing for this new strategy is perfect, according to Littlejohn.
The idea received strong support from the local communities, in terms of enthusiasm, and there has been a lot of positive momentum in terms of communities wanting to build these amenities and trail systems.
The growing system of mountain bikers, and the interest lately in northern B.C. is another reason for this strategy being put forth.
“There’s a number of positive things,” Littlejohn said, “the small business growth in northern B.C. has been fairly good in the last few years, and I guess at the same time northern B.C. has been in the news quite a bit these days with all the development that is being proposed, and that could potentially be making people want to know and discover more of what is going on up there and experience the area for themselves.”
Funding for this project is coming from the communities themselves, as each community involved will contribute to the funding, as well any money put forth by the local communities will be matched by the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.
Burns Lake role in the strategy has yet to be determined, as most of the details will be ironed out as the process takes place, but Derksen believes that there will be some correlation between what Northern B.C. Tourism is doing to promote the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, and what will be done with mountain biking in the northern B.C.
As far as the actual infrastructure goes, Derksen says that Burns Lake is ahead of the curve.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of access to grant funding to get the development on the ground quickly, so there’s a lot of high quality trails that those grants have enabled us to push ahead and get ahead of the curve,” Derksen said.
Incoming president of the Burns Lake Mountain Bike Association, Guy Epkens-Shaffer says there is really no downside to the new partnership.
“Getting a bunch of communities together and having a common market strategy is getting more bang for your buck,” Epkens-Shaffer said.