It was a busy summer on the Shore. The local trails have been inundated with users of all kinds, even with parking lots closed walkers, hikers and bikers from all over the region made their way to our trails. It means a lot of work for hundreds of volunteers that build and maintain terrain.
The North Shore Mountain Bike Association’s Joe Woywitka knows firsthand how busy the trails are. He spends five days a week working on taking care of the region’s trails as its trail crew lead. The covid restrictions initially changed the make of users on the trails, but as the months went on, the numbers continued to rise, he said.
“I am out working on the trails and the influx of new riders, trail runners and hikers has been huge,” said Woywitka. “We are seeing a lot more beginners out there – which is a good thing. I think they are seeing what goes into the trails. It’s great. It means more people for the sport, more people to support the association and get involved in advocacy for the trails.”
The NSMBA is thrilled to see more riders out – it aligns with their mandate of “Trails for all. Trails forever.” Their goal is to grow the sport to more people and with more diversity. A cause the covid pandemic has helped in its own way.
With many riders and families spending their season out on the trails for the first time, they are seeing for the first time what it takes to keep the trails on Seymour, Cypress and Fromme safe, said Woywitka.
“Growing up here there wasn’t the same amount of trail maintenance going on – which means fewer beginner trails or trails that made it easy to get into the sport,” he said. “What the NSMBA has been doing over the last 10 years or so is to make the trails more inclusive and help people get into the sport and also maintaining the more challenging terrain the North Shore is known for.”
It takes a whole community to keep the trails environmentally sustainable, safe and fun. More than 1,600 volunteers shared their time with the NSMBA last year for more than 13,000 volunteer hours.
The NSMBA uses a dedicated group of 500 volunteers – the Shore Corps – that have all undergone training to lead its community trail days and corporate trail days. Giving a few hours to the trails is something Woywitka would like all riders to consider. With no experience necessary, the Shore Corp takes the lead on guiding volunteers.
“They are the core group of builders we can lean on to help maintain the trails. Some have ‘their own’ trails that they are the lead builder on and are dedicated to maintain,” he said.
Today the Corps is needed more than ever as covid protocols require smaller groups further apart. With the trail work days resumed, it is a chance to give back to the sport you love.
“Volunteers are what drives our organization and lets us get the majority of work done. You will see how not only do we maintain the trails but how we make our trails fun,” he said. “The primary focus when we are out doing any sort of trail work is sustainability. When you participate in any form of outdoor recreation there are going to be environmental impacts and our goal is to offset what comes from mountain biking and the trail maintenance. ”
There are a few plans in the works to add more terrain to the North Shore. For the first time, the NSMBA is working with the City of North Vancouver to establish some trails in Greenwood Park, just south of the Upper Levels.
“We have found a suitable place to build,” said Woywitka. “The terrain is a little bit easier and it isn’t super steep like many parts of the North Shore mountains. It would be a great place for beginner and intermediate trails.”
With the expansion and redesign of trails focusing on newer riders completed over the last few years, the NSMBA is also looking to better service the experienced riders that have been using the trails for decades.
“Over the last several years we have really rounded out the beginner and intermediate trails and we are hoping to push for a new advanced level trail,” Woywitka said. “Somewhere higher up on Fromme would be the best place for it. It is something the community has been calling for and we want to make sure we are advocating for the higher level riders.”