Gabriola being promoted as year-round destination for mountain biking

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 10 2018

The Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce is one of seven partners involved in promoting their communities as locations to enjoy mountain biking year round in the Vancouver Island region.

This past weekend, mountain bikers were on island as part of filming promotional pieces for the Gabriola portion.

The Vancouver Island Mountain Bike Consortium includes the communities of Gabriola Island, Cumberland, Nanaimo, Campbell River, Hornby Island and Mount Washington/Comox Valley.

Gloria Hatfield, Gabriola Chamber President, said, “As part of the work our local business community is doing to help stimulate the Gabriolan economy, the Chamber has partnered with these other communities to showcase the beautiful mountain biking trails in the region.”

As outlined by the consortium, Vancouver Island is known for its mountain biking and in recent years has become increasingly recognized as a mountain biking destination through events in the area such as BC Bike Race, MOMAR, the Steve Smith Memorial Jump Park, as well as many articles, videos and athlete spotlights.

The consortium came together to focus on bringing people to the island via Nanaimo and extending their trip by providing them with options to ride year round (which many other mountain bike destinations in BC are unable to offer). 

The island consortium is also seeking to set itself apart from the other destinations by attracting families and women riders.

Hatfield said the consortium would be providing maps for visitors to use to find mountain biking trails on Gabriola, as provided by local Gabriola riders.

Hatfield said, “No commercial tour company is being promoted. This is all about promoting the lifestyle that we all love and cherish.”

Martin Littlejohn – Executive Director of the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association (MBTA) said there is work being done to get the Gabriola trails on Trailforks.com

“We’re hoping that we can get that done this summer if possible, so that when people hear about Gabriola, so they’ll look on Trailforks, so they can go there.”

Trailforks, he said, has really taken over as the go-to source for detailed information on how to navigate through the local trail networks.

“That’s been a tremendous resource, a tool that bikers have to work with to find the goods.”

What’s key is having a local administrator working with the BC-based Trailforks company, to curate the user-generated trail information.

Littlejohn said, “so chances are Trailforks has the data - but the local admin determines what trails are visible to the public.”

This also means that the local admin can turn trails off which may have been marked by users, but which aren’t actually going through an area which is open to the public.

“Those can be turned off so they aren’t visible - that’s up to the local admin.”

Littlejohn said he sees Gabriola being pushed as a family mountain bike destination, which Horby Island already has been set up as.

“When you get into Cumberland and the trails in Nanaimo, it’s taking it up a level for young riders, that might find that a bit much.”

Littlejohn said trying to have different partners in the consortium for Vancouver Island is one of the things that they are trying to highlight.

He said being a partner in a community consortium can also give local riders a push to get out of their regular riding areas.

“People become more aware of all the riding in the province and start saying they want to go see what’s in another region or community nearby. 

“This encourages travel within the province - we all love our backyard - but you always wonder about the experience what other people have.”

Elaine McCulloch, Park Planner with the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN), said that to date, no one has approached her regarding the promotion of mountain bike trails on Gabriola. 

“Any commercial tours would require a park use permit from the RDN.”

She added that no permit would be issued for commercial tours within the 707 Community Park as that is not permitted according to the 707 Management Plan.

McCulloch said that if anyone wanted to conduct development of mountain bike trails within RDN parks, they would need to make a request through the Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC). 

The next meeting of POSAC is scheduled for September 17 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre.