Mountain biking pedals approximately $8 million into Squamish’s economy, states a new report that its creators hope will help convince municipal leaders to provide regular trail-maintenance funding.
The Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association (SORCA) on Saturday (Jan. 12) released a report that provides an estimate of the economic impact of cycling on Squamish.
Last year, during the Labour Day long weekend, the association placed trail counters at three locations and interviewed riders. Based on those figures, the group estimates 37,500 cyclists used Squamish’s trails on weekends during the summer of 2013. The number doesn’t include weekdays or big races, such as the Test of Metal (TOM).
“We did the survey during the September long weekend, so it is sort of a quiet traffic time,” SORCA president Jeff Cooke said.
On Wednesday (Jan. 15), Pedal magazine announced that its readers had named Squamish as the best place to ride in Canada. “Receiving this award is an honour and is yet another validation of Squamish as the Mountain Bike Capital of Canada,” TOM race director Cliff Miller said in a statement.
The District of Squamish last explored the sport in a 2006 economic impact study. Since then, traffic on Squamish trails has quadrupled from approximately 591 riders to an estimated 2,600 per week, according to the report.
As a result, SORCA needs help maintaining the heavily travelled routes, Cooke said. The organization is hoping to secure a $60,000 municipal grant in aid, the same funding it received last year. The money allowed SORCA to hire a team of four to complete 16 weeks amount of work on Squamish’s biking trails.
“We just can’t be relying on volunteers,” Cooke said, noting that volunteers would have completed only 20 per cent of the work that was done in 2013.
Mountain biking is Squamish’s goose that lays the golden egg, he said. Seventy-five per cent of riders interviewed were visitors. With better investment, the sport has the potential to turn into something “phenomenal,” Cooke said. He hopes the report demonstrates mountain biking’s value to local business.
“Because it has always been there, I don’t think people realize how much of a contributor it is,” he said. “The mountain biking industry is exploding and we are in the perfect position to take advantage of that.”
Diamond Head Road, where many of the trails end, is packed during the summer, Coun. Bryan Raiser said.
“This council seems to be aware of mountain biking in the community,” he said, noting that the Sea to Sky Gondola may expand Squamish’s mountain biking terrain.
The sport not only attracts visitors, but also residents, Raiser said, noting that the builders of the Crumpit Woods housing development are using adjacent mountain biking trails as part of their marketing effort.
“People are buying those properties because of the trails,” he said.
Council will make its decision on the grants-in-aid later this month.