On a summer Thursday night in 2022, the crowds gathered after a ride through the property of Highlands Nordic. Sponsor tents were up, pizza was available and beer was selling for $5 a can. Adults and kids stood around in bike helmets, chatting, laughing, high-fiving and shaking hands. It was a friendly scene. And when the raffle for prizes got off the ground, it seemed like everyone won something. The bi-weekly CORC (Collingwood Offroad Cycling Club) ride is a relatively new tradition for Collingwood mountain bikers, but it’s one that has taken a serious hold on the community. We caught up with CORC president Peter Glassford for the scoop on what it’s all about.
Mountain Life: What is CORC?
Peter Glassford: CORC has two arms. We have our trail marking, development and maintenance arm. The marking is a big thing we try to emphasize in Collingwood. The two properties we’re working on now are marked trails. Marking trails is important, as well as making trails that are accessible, in terms of green-level trails. In the future we’re also hoping to address wet-weather access and trails that are easier for kids in the Collingwood area. Then we have the events arm which largely runs Thursday night socials on alternating weeks through the summer.
ML: Why did CORC start?
PG: Those two arms are kind of a big piece. We started around that Thursday night ride. I was at the table and some of our current directors and volunteers just wanted to get something together to get people riding at all different levels. We wanted to share mountain biking, share trails and then try to start something where newer riders could ride in a social way. Our vision is really connecting our communities through trails. We say communities with an “s.” Each social is sponsored by one of the bike shops—they’re super supportive.
ML: On which properties do you have trails?
PG: We have marked trail systems at Highlands Nordic that also include Duntroon Highlands Golf—we think of that as the Highlands cluster. We also have trails at the
Craigleith Ski Club, starting at the Comet Express. Right now there isn’t a huge amount of trail, but the goal this year is to get a climb trail to the top. Then the plan is to have three trails of different difficulties. We’re hoping to have it complete mid-July. We had a climb trail, and three trails down sort of midway last year, so we’re hoping to build out the marking, the awareness of it and to get people biking it and then finish the trail to the top. That’s really setting the stage in future years to expand hopefully. I can’t say we’ve gotten any commitment from other ski resorts; hopefully they’ll get on board and we could get access to Loree, you know, things like that. So we could offer a climb trail from town.
ML: Can anyone ride those trails?
PG: The idea is that with a $50 CORC membership, that gives you access to our marked loops, our socials, our year-end events. So with your CORC membership, you can access those two parcels of land. They are private, so you would technically be trespassing without a CORC membership.
ML: How many members are in CORC?
PG: In 2022 we had 750 members, the year prior was 838. As with most things in the cycling industry, I think we hit a boom phase there in 2021 when everyone was home. I consider 800, plus or minus, as sort of where we’re at. Honestly, this year I’m forecasting similar to last year, maybe lower again as people start traveling.
ML: That’s huge.
PG: Yeah, we’re entering year six, and three of those years were pandemic; it escalated quickly. Mountain biking is popular and we’re family-focused and there’s no competition. We don’t time stuff, not that we wouldn’t do a funduro or something, but we don’t. I come from a racing background and you forget that people just go out on a Saturday for an hour and that’s their mountain biking. I think that’s why the Thursday night social is so successful; you can ride for 20 minutes or some people will come and ride for two hours. Everyone gets to hang out after it all. You can bring your family.
ML: Is everyone a volunteer?
PG: Yeah, we have two paid admin staff but everyone else is a volunteer. We also have a grant from the Ontario government for high school and university students and that’s how our trail work is getting done. I think we hire six high school and two university students, so we’ll have eight. The great thing is that it’s pretty much completely from the grant. It’s putting kids to work, giving them skills, getting them in the forest, and this year it’s a great boost to our trail quality. We’re not building a ton more trail; we’re really focused on the quality and marking.
“It’s putting kids to work, giving them skills, getting them in the forest, and this year it’s a great boost to our trail quality. “
ML: That’s cool. Are those full-time jobs?
PG: Yes. Our trails director Erik Lehmann is a local high school teacher and he wears so many hats. He runs the high school team and he’s also our trails director. He’s been the driving force behind getting that grant and getting kids to work. My understanding is that it’s a 40-hour-a-week commitment.
ML: How can people get involved?
PG: We’ll be looking for trail volunteers and for everything we’ve talked about, whether it’s mapping, designing our signage, helping with admin work. We have a volunteer form on the website, and people can certainly get in touch there. Things like administrative and legal, any professional skills will certainly be valued when we get into conversations with other user groups when we’re in need of contracts or just legal advice.
ML: Is trail advocacy a priority?
PG: The advocacy arm has come to light over the last year to six months, and is going to increase and be another big element of what CORC does. As part of this arm, we have a landowner relation director. I could also see adding an advocacy director next year. All these things require meetings and letters and conversations.
ML: What’s the future for CORC?
PG: Because of that growth being so quick, and we’re in this post-pandemic stabilizing period, this year we’re really focused on quality. Really nailing our marking of the trails, making sure Craigleith and Highlands are places that you might go on a Saturday instead of Three Stage. We’ll have a couple downhill-traffic-only trails this year, but we’re really focused on quality with trails, quality with events. Two, three, five years out we’ll work on quantity.
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