Written by Pamela Roth
Six years ago, Kirby Villeneuve was invited to experience the excitement brewing at BC Parks’ first bike park at the Alice Lake Provincial Park campground.
Located near the playground, the bike park is geared towards beginner riders under the age of 10, and it’s often packed with enthusiastic people. Villeneuve saw the potential for something big.
“I thought it was very cool. It became really popular,” said Villeneuve, who works as the section head of recreation for BC Parks’ provincial service branch. “The more cool things there are for kids to do in campgrounds, the better.”
In 2013, Villeneuve brought a figure-eight pump track (which is like a mini BMX track for kids complete with dips, bumps and banked turns) to Vancouver Island’s Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. It was packed every day by 10 a.m., and its popularity hasn’t slowed down.
As mountain biking becomes more popular, so is the demand for construction of pump tracks and skills trails in or around BC Parks. A total of 11 pump tracks have now been built within provincial parks and Villeneuve keeps getting calls to develop more.
“It’s been really effective for us to locate these new facilities within or close to campgrounds,” he said. “They are very cost effective compared to playground equipment.”
Villeneuve’s latest project is the proposed construction of several multi-use trails in Englishman River Falls Provincial Park near Errington. The project is currently at the public engagement stage and will be used by mountain bikers, hikers and runners when completed within the next three to five years. A pump track was also recently constructed within the park’s campground.
In order to develop the multi-use trails, Villeneuve typically forms a partnership with local bike clubs to assist with construction and long-term maintenance. Then BC Parks goes through a full impact assessment process, looking for the presence of sensitive ecological or cultural values that may be nearby or recreation conflicts before any public engagement takes place.
The bike parks, pump tracks and multi-use trails are designed to avoid damaging any large trees and root structures. Mapped and plotted using a GPS, the trails are carefully laid out with pin flags before the top layer of organics are removed either by hand or machine. It’s a process that can significantly vary in terms of time and effort, depending on the terrain.
“When it comes to providing biking on trails we basically fill a niche and the niche is beginner trails that are family friendly,” said Villeneuve. “The whole idea is bring all your bikes and your little kids can play in the playground and ride the pump track and if they are adventurous they can work onto these beginner trails and continue on outside of the park on more technical trails. It’s a lot of fun for everyone.”
The 11 BC Parks that currently have kids bike parks include:
- Englishman River Falls
- Gordon Bay
- Rathtrevor Beach
- Chilliwack Lake (under construction – almost completed)
- Shuswap Lake (under construction – almost completed)
- Kettle River
- Manning (under construction – almost completed)
- Wasa Lake
- Tyhee Lake
For more information on mountain biking in and around BC Parks visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/recreation/mountain-biking/