“First thing I learned is that we really are on the map.”
That’s how Pat Dubé, a member of the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association (BLMBA), described his experience at a recent mountain biking tourism symposium in Revelstoke. His attendance was sponsored by the Village of Burns Lake.
“Whenever I attend a seminar anywhere, the first thing I have to do is explain where Burns Lake is – people simply don’t know,” he said. “Not so at this symposium. Everyone knew us and knew very specifically about mountain biking.”
Dubé explained that Burns Lake’s mountain biking pursuit began after the village received a $10,000 grant for economic development in 2004. After a local resident suggested the idea of investing in mountain biking, Dubé and other local representatives attended a mountain biking symposium in Whistler. He described the 2004 symposium as a “revelation.”
“[What we heard during the 2004 symposium was that] In Seattle, it took them seven years to build a small bike park under an overpass. We were checking things off [a list] and saying, ‘Well, all the challenges and problems that Seattle had, we not only didn’t have, but we had the solutions already in our backyard.'”
“Access to machinery – every second person in Burns Lake runs a backhoe,” he continued. “Access to land – they are sending us here to look at mountain biking as a potential. So we started thinking this could really work here.”
“From that, you look at where we are now… we have really met our mandate of creating a world-class mountain biking destination and building a mountain biking culture in Burns Lake.”
This year, approximately 70 bikers from all over the world made a stop in Burns Lake as part of the B.C. Bike Ride North.
“We were the jewel in the crown of the B.C. Bike Ride,” said Dubé. “They loved their experience here.”
Dubé said BLMBA’s membership is now the “envy of the province,” with 236 members.
“We have a bike camp that we have to turn away people,” he added. “It sells out in less than two days.”
In addition, Dubé says interest in mountain biking has significantly increased across B.C. over the past 10 years, creating an opportunity for Burns Lake.
“We have this amazing place… where else do you mountain bike to the trails and come down to a lake with a dock? Nowhere is the answer to that.”
Heartbeat of the organization
Every Wednesday, a group or approximately 25 BLMBA volunteers participate in a work bee at the Boer Mountain Recreation Site.
“They come because we ride afterwards too, and that’s everybody – whether you’re a beginner or advanced rider,” said Dubé.
“Other communities have only one work bee a season; we have one a week, and that’s fantastic,” he continued. “People feel like they own these trails.”
“We’re gonna keep developing the culture,” he added. “It’s the heartbeat of our organization.”
How could the Village of Burns Lake help?
Dubé said the Village of Burns Lake could support BLMBA’s vision by helping out with maintenance.
“We work really hard to make different proposals, but maintenance is really hard – nobody funds maintenance,” he said.
“It’s been on the back of us, volunteers. As much as I love volunteering, maintenance is a constant issue. At some point it’s going to be unsustainable when we get too old or just burned out, and maintenance is a priority.”
Dubé said the village could also support BLMBA by providing logistical or financial support for larger projects such as a trail connecting Kager Lake to Burns Lake, as well as branding Burns Lake as a mountain biking destination.