Each year, the Government Services and Finances Committee listens to organizations and individuals from across British Columbia on the issues that matter to them and how the government can address it through the budget. For the second year, Executive Director AJ Strawson was happy to represent IMBA Canada and BC riders through the process.


Funding for trails is a challenging topic. The amount of work that goes into building and maintaining trails can be easy to overlook by those who aren’t trail users or haven’t participated in a volunteer build session. This is often why traditional recreation facilities like swimming pools and baseball diamonds receive funding from municipalities but trails won’t. However, investment in trails can provide a range of recreational services to communities that are possibly currently being under-served by traditional structured recreation.

At IMBA Canada, we believe in:

  • Equitable access to recreation regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, colour, religion, or ethnic origin
  • Equitable access to both structured and non-structured types of recreation based on their preferences
  • Equitable access to the economic benefits of recreation and recreation investment

To achieve this, we’ve asked for:

  • $16m to trail associations to maintain sanctioned non-motorized singletrack trails in the province. This equates to roughly $2500 per km of trail.
  • An additional $4m for RSTBC for operations. With the trail authorization process greatly delayed due to capacity constraints, this additional boost will help ensure that trail management decisions are fair and happen in a timely fashion.
  • $60m for BC Parks. As one of Canada’s most underfunded parks systems, BC Parks simply lacks the resources to make and enforce critical decisions in how people use our protected spaces. Additional funding will help provide the organization with the confidence to manage a growing and increasingly complex user base.

Read the full ask here:

A. Strawson: Thanks, everyone. Good morning. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to us today. As you mentioned, my name is AJ Strawson. I’m the executive director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association of Canada. Through our mission, we serve non-profit trail associations across B.C. so that they can continue to provide recreation through the stewardship of our natural spaces.

Today I want to talk to you about equity and equity as it relates to trails and recreation. Equity is defined as the quality of being fair and impartial. What would that mean for recreation? It means two very important things. It means fair access to recreation for each person, no matter their individual circumstances and, secondly, fair access to the economic benefits provided by recreation in our province.

Traditional recreation is expensive. Facilities-based arenas are expensive for people to participate in, and many can’t afford the ongoing costs for equipment and other fees associated with traditional recreation. The Canadian Public Health Association notes that access is also limited by the availability of built and natural recreation spaces in both urban and rural environments. They note that it’s greatly related to economic status, colour, gender, religion or ethnic origin.

Many of these same people who are challenged, perhaps, to access facilities-based recreation already likely own a pair of shoes or a bike, and along with a little bit of imagination, that’s all it takes to be exploring our natural spaces. This provides an opportunity to ensure that each British Columbian has fair and equitable access to recreation.

In addition, not all people are suited to structured recreation, which the Canadian Public Health Association further notes. Non-structured recreation is the opportunity to participate in an imaginative and outdoor experience, guided by whatever your desire of the day is. Trails offer that opportunity for non-structured experience.

But differences in resources among trail associations in various regions across the province mean that we have a significant diversity and lack of consistency in how people can access different opportunities to recreate. Investment across the province in trails and trail infrastructure will help greatly remedy this. Investment in B.C. Parks and Rec Sites and Trails B.C. will further mean that authorization to build trails in communities all across the province can happen in a timely fashion.

We also know that accessible, fun trails are expensive. We have a huge number of trails all across the province, and many of them were built by people who are very experienced in the back country and the outdoors. As such, many of those trails are of a high difficulty level, and we lack, significantly, access to green, fun trails that many people without much experience or a high investment in equipment can go and enjoy.

Equity also means fair access to economic opportunity granted from productive forests in a growing economy. This government has recognized the importance of a strong and diversified forest economy. Investments and skills in forests have been an ongoing commitment. However, tourism is also a forest product. As we know from the Sea to Sky Economic Impact Study, trails are a huge reason why people choose to visit this and other places in our province.

Yet while these assets are promoted to the rest of the world through Destination B.C., they’re largely neglected when it comes to — in comparison — the millions that are dedicated to enhancing forests for more traditional forestry economics.

To remedy all of these equitable issues that we have in terms of trails and trail access, we ask for $16 million to be allotted for the maintenance of existing non-motorized single tracks within the province. This funding will allow for trail associations to continue maintaining the world-class trails we have come to depend on, both economically and for our physical and mental health.

We also call for an additional $4 million in funding for Recreational Sites and Trails B.C. A process to get a new trail approved can vary widely from six months to multiple years, depending on the complexity of the land base. It’s not from a lack of effort on the part of Recreational Sites and Trails B.C. We simply need more resources to make more of these decisions.

Third, we ask for an additional $60 million in funding for B.C. Parks. With a significant shortfall in labour and boots on the ground in helping manage the incredible increase that we’ve seen in recreation in our provincial parks, the additional $60 million will help ensure that we have fair and equitable access for all persons in British Columbia.