This past Friday, June 14th, Executive Director AJ Strawson testified before the Select Standing Committee on Finances and Government Services for the province of BC. The Committee creates a report with budget recommendations for the following year, so getting our input before this process is crucial. In support of our proposal, we will be working closely with member clubs and other constituents across the province to ensure that our message is loud and clear: sustainable funding for BC trails needs to be a priority for the many benefits mountain bike trails bring to the province.

Live in BC? Share your support for trails with the provincial government here!

Are you a mountain bike club in BC? Reach out to us at and we will provide you with a template letter to submit to the legislature.

Draft transcript below:

A. Strawson: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for having me here. I’m the executive director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Canada. We’re a non-profit dedicated to mountain bikers across Canada. We do a lot of work in B.C.

I want to first acknowledge that we are meeting here today on the traditional unceded territories of the Squamish, the Musqueam and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. I also further want to acknowledge the importance of reconciliation as a key ethos for trail recreation in British Columbia, as British Columbians recreate on lands and trails that have been cared for by First Nations from time immemorial.

IMBA Canada’s a membership-based grassroots non-profit, and our mission is to ensure Canada is home to a strong and vibrant mountain-biking community, riding a world-class network of mountain bike trails. We represent riders of all types, from beginners to experts, the casual and the committed riders.

In B.C., there are almost 6,400 kilometres of non-motorized single-track trails across the province. These trails are largely built and maintained by volunteer non-profit associations who are funded by individual membership fees, grants, and revenues from events that they host. They serve as important community assets with immense economic, health and recreational benefits, both to residents and visitors alike.

One of the common challenges facing trail associations is access to secure and steady funding. With limited time to dedicate to grant writing and reporting, project-based resources are out of reach for some trail associations. On top of this, trail recreation is becoming ever-more popular, placing demands on already limited resources. Our survey from last year — we surveyed our member trail associations — found the two most common challenges that they faced were funding and capacity, which is a subset of funding.

In addition to the funding challenge, trail usage is climbing dramatically as a result of successful marketing by Destination B.C. to international visitors and the arrival of the newly sanctioned mountain bike user subtype, e–mountain bikes. Neither the success of Destination B.C. nor the arrival of a new user type is going to help solve the funding challenges that we have in front of us for trail associations.

I would like to thank the staff of recreation sites and trails B.C. for the incredible amount of work that they do, given an entirely too large remit and insufficient resources. They are tasked with managing multiple complex uses and a changing landscape. Recreation sites and trails are an essential component in ensuring safe and sustainable access to recreation facilities.

Due to insufficient resources, many trail associations have been waiting years to gain the legal authorization to build or maintain trails, often in communities that are already aligned around the benefits for trails, including the economic health and wellness benefits.

Trails, in general, and mountain biking, in particular, have been recognized by communities across the province as an opportunity to diversity their economy away from traditional resource extraction industries. The Sea to Sky Mountain Biking Economic Impact Study Shows us that overnight ridership in Squamish has increased five-fold from 2006 to 2016. During that same period, the average length of stay has almost doubled, up to six days.

Many small and large towns across the province are seeing similar increases in visitation and economic growth. When you drive into Penticton now, one of the first things you’re greeted with is a large sign and a mountain biker on the billboard.

This activity, which many businesses rely on, is placed at risk without core funding that supports the sole reason people are coming to visit our communities, which is world-class trails. We have them currently.

We recommend that the province allocate $16 million of dedicated funding for non-profit non-motorized trail associations, specifically for maintaining single-track trails and trail

the sole reason people are coming to visit our communities, which is world-class trails. We have them currently.

We recommend that the province allocate $16 million of dedicated funding for non-profit, non-motorized trail associations, specifically for maintaining single-track trails and trail-related infrastructure. Core funding will allow for associations to make long-term plans for their trail networks, allowing them to hire and invest in staff and trail maintenance and equipment.

These funds could be distributed through the B.C. gaming grant process and should be based on the amount of trail that each association has to maintain. This funding will help ensure the long-term sustainability of associations that build and protect the trails that many communities have come to rely on for their important health, economic and recreational benefits.

Second, we ask the province to deal with the significant understaffing at recreation sites and trails in B.C. An additional six to ten full-time staff dedicated to alleviating the workload of recreation officers and recreation technicians will not only help ensure that trail projects are reviewed in a timely manner but will also assist the government in its mandate for consultation with a rapidly growing and complex user base.

Third, we join the growing chorus of voices that ask for an increase to the annual budget of B.C. Parks by $50 million. As one of the most chronically underfunded land management agencies in North America, B.C. Parks is seeing the same rapid growth that non-profit trail associations are dealing with. An increase in funding for the protection of our wild spaces is a key concern among trail unions that we represent provincewide.

On behalf of all mountain bikers, I would like to thank the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for your time and consideration.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Thanks, A.J. I appreciate that.

I have a quick clarification. You’d asked for $16 million from gaming. Is there already many being accessed through gaining, or you just happened to think maybe gaining would be a good pot of money to go after?

A. Strawson: Our trail associations are already familiar with the gaming grant process for events. There is also a capital grant available underneath the project. What we are seeking is a specific stream that’s dedicated towards trail maintenance.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Might be difficult.

Go ahead, Nick.

N. Simons: Hailing from the Sunshine Coast…. You’ve probably visited. We are well known for our single tracks, especially Powell River — the B.C. Bike Race.

Where is funding for trail maintenance coming from now? Is it just volunteers and such?

A. Strawson: It’s a lot of volunteers. There are some businesses that are contributing significant amounts. We are seeing events start to give back. The Squamish 50 trail run race gives, I think, maybe $20,000 to SORCA. So we are seeing reinvestment from people who are already in the community.

N. Simons: I know you mentioned Penticton. The MLA for Penticton is right there. He was happy to have it mentioned.

Do you anticipate that funding would also help in the advocacy when discussing trail use and the conflicts — I don’t want to just refer to it as conflict — and the multi-use pressures on the trail?

A. Strawson: I think, significantly, a core funding stream would allow the trail associations to move funds to other aspects of programming around rider education, around a signage program, and find other matching funds through other grant processes. We’ll be able to expand in other ways as well.

D. Clovechok: Just more of an editorial than anything. I represent Revelstoke. You know it’s a mecca for biking. No question about that.

From heli-biking now…. I really enjoyed hearing from you. It’s not only an economic driver because it’s growing, especially with e-bikes, but it’s a health issue as well. You’re getting more and more older people, senior people, out on the e-bikes, on the mountain trails as well. And the volunteers — I think we need to recognize the volunteers. I know the hundreds of volunteers in Revelstoke who are cutting trails and working on trails.

Good for you for what you doing. It’s a growing industry. It’s a viable industry. It’s going to be a driver in our economy. Well done.

B. D’Eith (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate it.