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qathet region mountain cycling facility under construction

Heavy equipment turning Mt. Mahony into world-class downhill facility

Construction is now underway to turn Mt. Mahony, near Inland Lake, into a world-class downhill cycling facility.

qathet Regional Cycling Association (qRCA), which is spearheading the project, has hired Howler Contracting from Whistler to carry out construction on the first phase of the development.

“We hired an industry expert, Ted Morton from All Mountain Productions, to help us draft a request for proposals,” said qRCA treasurer Patricia Winchell. “We received five comprehensive bids for the work, including one local contractor and four from other regions of BC. Our selection criteria included experience and qualifications, proposed team and resources, understanding of the proposed work plan and cost. Howler Contracting was the unanimous choice.”

Winchell said Howler Contracting has been retained to build the first six blue and green-level trails, which are planned to be accessible for riders with little to no experience biking on a mountain.

Jordan Marciniak, qRCA trails director, said that currently, the mountain has some black-level trails, which are very difficult.

“They are way up the mountain, which is a long way for new riders to go,” said Marciniak. “These new trails being built offer younger riders or new riders the chance to start on a green trail and then kind of work up the mountain to a blue trail, and potentially, down the road, to the black trails. So, it’s great for progression.”

In order to carry out this first phase of building, qRCA received $360,000 from Powell River Community Forest. Winchell said the entire project that has been conceptualized is going to require about $1.1 million to complete. Additional grants have been applied for to assist qRCA in financing the large project.

“As we get more funding, we’ll be able to build more trails and work our way up the mountain, elevation wise and difficulty wise,” added Winchell.

Marciniak said currently, riders use the Mt. Mahony logging road to access the existing trails. He said it is an active logging road and there are trucks hauling logs on the roadway. Part of the new project will be to build climb trails away from the logging road, which are built at a certain grade that allows riders to climb up the mountain efficiently.

“The climb trails will be off the road so riders are in the forest, in a safe place,” said Marciniak. “Riders will be riding at a grade that’s attainable to get them up the hill.”

Another safety feature is construction of a parking area. Winchell said that those accessing Mt. Mahony have been parking on pullouts on the shoulders of the service road to Inland Lake. She said there will be outhouses installed in the new parking area and there are plans to build a social area, also, because that’s a big part of the cycling experience. In total, there will be 35 parking spaces.

Winchell said two connector trails will be built from the parking lot. One will be to connect with the established trail network. Additionally, a trail will be built to Inland Lake Provincial Park so cyclists can easily access Mt. Mahony without having to ride in traffic.

Marciniak said the machine-built trails and climb trails that are part of the first phase will help Mt. Mahony become a world-class facility. He said the forest density and type of terrain characterizes the mountain as a great biking site, and all that is missing is the access and new trails.

“The project will open up a whole new world and allow us to be comparable to Squamish or Cumberland or Whistler,” added Marciniak.

He said building the infrastructure to a world-class level will bring in more tourists and money to the community, as well as being an incredible place for local cyclists.

Winchell said the facility can be used year-round, but cycling is often desirable in the tourism shoulder seasons of spring and fall, which is when mountain bikers often like to ride.

“It will spread tourism around throughout the calendar year,” added Winchell.

Marciniak said even though it is February, every trail on the mountain that is currently constructed is rideable.

“Here on the Sunshine Coast, we’re kind of unique in that we get low snowfall, we have a warmer climate, and yeah, it’s the best place to be if you’re a mountain biker,” he added.

Winchell said people have moved to this community because of lifestyle and features such as the great mountain biking. Marciniak said there is an incredible local biking trail network in addition to the gravity style of riding associated with Mt. Mahony. In years past, the qathet region was a favourite stopover for the BC Bike Race, drawing hundreds of cyclists to the area.

“We have these incredible trails here that we can ride and it’s getting better,” said Marciniak. “Where else would you want to go?

“Riding downhill is a thrill and checks all of my boxes. It raises my heart rate. There’s the adrenaline rush. There’s no better feeling than going down a hill and entering a bit of a flow state.”

While there are specialized, enduro-style bikes that are built for places such as Mt. Mahoney, anyone with a mountain bike should be able to find enjoyment on the slopes. Marciniak said it’s best to have front and rear suspension, but there’s no reason why people can’t get out to Mt. Mahony with just front suspension.

As for the duration of a ride on Mt. Mahony, it depends on how aggressively a rider wants to attack the trails. 

“If you’re there for a social ride, you can stop a few times on the way down, but many riders like to head down the trails at full speed, which would make the descent a lot quicker,” said Winchell.

While Mt. Mahony was originally developed by volunteers without all the authority required to construct the trails, Winchell said qRCA has received the appropriate approvals from the province, as well as having formalized the association’s relationship with Tla’amin Nation and Thichum Forest Products, which is the forestry company operating on behalf of Tla’amin members.

The hoped for completion date for phase one is July 1.

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