As the incoming President of UROC I think it’s probably appropriate to write a brief letter to our community to introduce myself and share a bit about UROC’s current vision for the trails in Cumberland during my term. Before I get to who I am and where I see us heading in the future, I think it’s important to reflect on the past.
It’s hard to believe how far we have come as a community and a trail system in such a short period of time. We have past UROC volunteers, staff, and boards of directors to thank for their hard work, dedication, and vision of the Cumberland Trails. They built a solid foundation that we now get to expand on.
It was 2015 when we signed the original land access agreement with the Village of Cumberland, Mosaic Forest Management, and Manulife Investment Management. This paved the way for legal trail access, long term planning, management, and construction of new trails. Signage and maps were soon installed to ensure everyone knew where they were in the trail system and what to expect from a trail. A holistic view of the trail system began to take shape with new connector trails constructed, erosion issues addressed, trail standards introduced, and sustainable construction methods promoted among many other early observable changes. The trails began seeing more active users and more diversity in the types of users. Before long nearly the entire community is enjoying the trails. I continue to be inspired by and believe that one of the strengths of our trail systems is the passion all user groups have for the Cumberland trails. This passion for trails is the reason endless volunteer hours have been invested into the trails, and the trails have received the support of our local landowners, governments, and community partners. Without this support the trail system would not have evolved into what it is today. Something we can all be proud of and call “world class”.
Who am I and why am I the president of UROC?
My family and I moved to Cumberland in 2013, and access to trails, and the community were a big part of why we chose to put our roots down in this town. Very quickly our family found community in the trails and mountain biking. My first neighbor in Cumberland was a well-known trail builder and he allowed me to tag along on early missions scouting out and constructing Climax. Soon after I joined new friends on trail days building Lost Wood and Block Head. You see the trails gave me friends and a new community, but they also gave me new places to ride my bike and explore nature. I was quickly hooked on the trails and the community. After a few years of enjoying the trails, and dabbling in the occasional trail maintenance day, I was elected to the UROC board and become the society’s Treasurer. Joining the board introduced me to a new set of amazing people who were contributing to the trails in other ways. Soon after joining the board, we hired our first Trail Manager, and we began our journey towards becoming a governance rather than working board. Through my time as treasurer and eventually as Vice President I have witnessed an evolution of UROC and the trail system at an unprecedented pace. Managing the pace of change is both exciting and scary, but I’m confident that UROC, our current staff, and board of directors are up to the challenge.
What do I envision for the trail system?
The vision I have for the trails and the one that I’d like to share is not mine alone, but instead a vision created by the collective. Through a consultative process with trail users, as well as key stakeholders which includes Mosaic Forest Management, Manulife Investment Management, Comox Valley Regional District, and the Village of Cumberland, along with community partners like, the CV Land Trust and the CCFS we have developed a trail strategic plan, and a strategic plan this past year. Both these key documents clearly lay out the path forward for the trails system now and into the future and is the reflection of what our community wants the trail system to look like. My role in all of this is small. I have the privilege of being able to communicate our community’s shared vision of the trails. The Trails Strategy is in the final stages, and we are very much looking forward to sharing this document with all of you in the coming months. This document clearly lays out how we see the trail systems itself as a recreational asset in the next 3-5 years. More to come on this in the coming months. Our UROC Strategic Plan was completed this past fall and we are very proud of the work we have done to develop it. The Strategic Plan articulates how we see UROC as a not-for-profit society operating. It includes our purpose, mission, vision, and plan for the next 5-10 years.
In the meantime, we are working hard to already implement some of the key facets of the strategic plan and trail strategy. Some of the recent accomplishments include re-launching in person grassroots racing for the 2021 season. We were excited to be able to offer the Cumberland XC race in May, which was followed in early June by the inaugural Coal Town Throwdown; the first women’s enduro for our community. Later in June the 12 hours of Cumberland will be making a comeback and this family friendly festival style event is sure to be a community favorite once again after a two-year hiatus. In September enduro racers can expect another sold out Cumberland Enduro.
We are proud to continue to support many youth and women’s events this year. Our partnership with the CCSS continues to provide opportunities for youth to learn mountain bike skills in the after-school bike club, while the ride build ride program teaches youth sustainable trail construction and maintenance techniques. The Wednesday women’s’ rides continue to be very popular, and we have been pleased to be able to provide first aid training to ride leaders to help ensure appropriate safety certifications are in place.
We continue to support the trail building community and those builders who follow the required approval processes with the landowners for new trail construction. UROC continues to support these builds by assisting with the costs of materials, maintaining a full suite of tools for borrowing, and organizing trail maintenance days with the help and generosity of our corporate sponsors. To help new builders, youth, and interested individuals gain exposure, experience and education in sustainable trail construction and maintenance we will be paying for a select number of UROC members to attend the level 1 trail workshop from Trail Holistics.
With the help of many passionate volunteers in the community, along with guidance from Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association, we have modified several trails to enable better accessibility and improving the enjoyment of the trails for all users. We will continue this work in the coming months and are actively working with Tourism Vancouver Island on a funding model for future developments in the network.
Through the collection of trail user feedback from the annual trail survey (over 500 respondents last year) we learnt that respondents would be in favor of class 1 pedal assist E-mountain bikes on the trails. We used this information to brief the landowners last year and we are working on the inclusion of E-bikes as one of the non-motorized activities allowed under the land access agreement in the next iteration of the land access agreement.
We have begun to embark on the development of a sustainability policy for the trails and for UROC as an organization as well as started a journey to learn more about diversity equity and inclusion. We are striving towards improving our current environmental, social and equity/diversity practices knowing that this will serve UROC and the community well if we can achieve excellence in these areas.
Speaking of land access, we continue to work with the local landowners on improving both the structure in which the trails are managed as well as the formal agreement itself. In 2015, the original land access agreement we signed was a landmark document for outdoor recreation on Vancouver Island. Fast forward 7 years and UROC as well as the landowners are working to develop a new agreement that will once again been seen as best in class.
As can plainly be seen there is much to celebrate in terms of milestones and successes in recent years and I have a true sense of optimism for what UROC can become and how it can contribute to the community in the future. The quality of trails speaks for themselves now, and our greatest challenges ahead are to ensure we can preserve the trails for future generations, improve the accessibility of the trails system for all users, and strive towards continually improving the management practices we use to manage the trails. Along with the strong team of employees at UROC which includes our executive director Dougal Browne, and the board of directors Mike Tunnah (VP), Adam Silverstein (Secretary), Alex Blair (Treasurer), Evan Loveless, Nygil Goggins, Leah Ballin, Joe Schwartz, and Todd Deters, we are thrilled to be working on behalf of all UROC members, and the Comox Valley Community for the next year to maintain and build upon the amazing trail system we already have.
Communications is key going forward and the board of directors hope to be able to share regular board updates with you on a semi annual basis. This will be a place where you will be able to learn about the work the board is doing, upcoming events, and volunteer opportunities. In the meantime, don’t be a stranger, drop us a line, or just say hello when you see us on the trails.
United Riders of Cumberland