Supporting Your Local Trail Network is Now More Important Than Ever

words:: Ben Osborne // cover photo :: Chris Christie. 

If you’ve been one of those folks who never buys a trail pass, never pays the usage fee, or never lends a hand on a trail day, we forgive you. But now, more than ever is the right time to support your local trail system. While bike shops and big brands might stay afloat, the trails that we know and love are under threat more than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they need your help.

Because most trail networks focus on volunteer support, fundraisers, and community grants, the non-profits that support the trails we get to ride are vulnerable right now.

With gatherings likely to be banned through the summer, a huge source of income for these entities is effectively gone.  Trail building days, fundraisers, sponsorship fees, and more have been taken away from trail associations, leaving them with nothing more than membership fees to rely on to build trails and be able to pay the hard-working trail fairies who help feed our addiction to nature.

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Trails don’t just magically pop up—it’s a combination of community support, a whole lot of sweat equity, and maybe even a little blood. Photo :: Rick Meloff

WORCA (Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association), one of the most well-funded trail associations, recently announced a budget cut of more than 60%. This leaves the quality of trails, and more importantly the safety of their users in jeopardy in one of the world’s premier mountain biking destinations.

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Dear WORCA members, . We hope that you are staying safe, healthy and positive. Our daily lives are very different right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and WORCA is doing everything possible to adapt to these challenging times. We are part of a strong community that will work together to get through this. . We received news in the past week that our Fee for Service funding from the RMOW has been reduced from $120,000 to $40,000 for 2020. This is understandable, given the need to focus on the provision of essential services right now. We are adapting our work plans to make the best use of this $40,000 for trail maintenance. We know that our multi-use trail network is very important for the local community and this will be even more true in the next few months if physical distancing rules continue to be required. Many of us will want to use the trails to help with our physical and mental health. . Our trail crew will start work on April 20th and the priority will be getting trails open and ensuring that they are safe to use. We will take advantage of government measures such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to keep our trail crew employed as long as possible, but we anticipate significantly reduced hours after the end of June. As you can imagine, our ability to work on trails throughout the network will be much more limited than usual, but we will do our best to keep trails maintained and open. . As well as the reduction in our Fee for Service, we will not be receiving revenue from fundraisers (e.g. the Bike Swap), sponsorship, commercial operators and general donations. At this time, we are relying on membership fees to allow us to continue operating across all areas: trail maintenance, youth camps, events and trail advocacy. If you are able to sign up for a 2020 membership, your support right now means more than ever before! As always, a huge amount of very valuable unpaid work also continues to be performed by our twelve volunteer directors. . ……. See the full message in the news section of the WORCA website ( …….. . Trevor Ferrao Executive Director

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So, if you’ve never bought a trail pass, don’t feel guilty, feel like you have something to hide, or continue on sneaking onto the trails that workers and volunteers spend countless hours making for you. Instead, step up—because now is the time when the trails, and their workers need it most. —ML

Here are some of Canada’s biggest networks that we’d love to see you support, even if you aren’t from there:

SORCA (Squamish)

WORCA (Whistler)

PORCA (Pemberton)

NSMBA (North Vancouver)

CORCA (Collingwood)