While playgrounds, recreation centres and gyms have closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trails around Terrace have seen their usage explode as people hop on mountain bikes to get exercise and a dose of fresh air.
On June 2, the Terrace Off Road Cycling Association (TORCA) and the City of Terrace opened three mountain bike trails behind the Terrace Sportsplex parking lot as part of phase one of TORCA’s HuB Project – a staging area to Terrace Mountain with three kilometres of trails and a 2500 square metre bike skills development area.
Right now, there is plenty of demand for trails.
“Trails have been absolutely packed,” said Tyler Wilkes, president of TORCA. “It’s busier than we’ve ever seen.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, TORCA was worried because as a non-profit volunteer group, its budget comes from grants, donations, events and memberships. It could not hold marquee events like the Poker Ride this year, which are crucial for selling memberships.
TORCA worked hard to engage with people online through social media. Part of that effort resulted in the 30 Day Challenge, where an app awards TORCA members with badges for each day they ride in June. Badges will be converted to entries to win prizes at the end of the month.
The strategy worked.
“Surprisingly we’ve sold more memberships now than we did any previous year, and we are only in June,” said Wilkes.
“I think part of that is because people are sitting around lots of the time on their phones and computers looking at social media probably, and they are also looking for things to do, and thankfully the trails have been able to remain open through all this.”
But with more trail use comes more trail maintenance. The majority of trails around Terrace are maintained partly by the municipal or provincial government, and largely by volunteers.
“I mean that’s a struggle during any time, whether it’s COVID or not,” said Wilkes. “Absolutely it’s a challenge for organizations to keep up with what’s needed to maintain.”
Typically, TORCA hosts a weekly trail maintenance night but that has not been able to happen due to the pandemic. Wilkes said that it is possible to get grant money for capital projects like the HuB Project, but grant opportunities for operational funding are scarce because it lacks the glamour of a brand new project.
Now that the trail portion of the HuB Project is complete, TORCA is proceeding on the design and construction of an asphalt pump track, which Wilkes described as the “mountain bike version of a skate park.”
If you are interested in volunteering, donating or learning more about off road cycling in Terrace, you can visit torcanorth.com.