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Cumberland trail network sees large growth, memberships needed to continue upkeep

It appears even more people are ripping it up in the dirt above Cumberland, and that means more maintenance and responsibility according to the local trail association.

The trails above the Village of Cumberland have seen a large increase in users over the last few years and according to United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) executive director Dougal Browne, the influx began at the start of the pandemic and has not slowed down.

“The Comox Valley really did start using the Cumberland trails as a place to go out and get into the outdoors and without being close to anyone,” said Browne. “The rise in the numbers of users was quite significant during those times and we saw an extra 30,000 to 40,000 people visiting the trails year over year.”

Browne says that even though we are past that point in time, the community has stayed behind the network and it has continued to grow with new trails and users.

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“It’s put a few pressures on the network, it’s made things a little bit bigger to deal with,” said Browne.

All in all, UROC data says around 200,000 people took to the trails last year and keeping people happy as much as possible has been at the front of the radar.

Browne says that includes trying to keep conflict away from the trails through numerous strategies as users become more diverse. They include mountain bikers, walkers, runners and hikers in an area of around 6,500 acres with over 200 trails.

“What we’ve been doing a lot of work in is designating trails in such a way that different user groups don’t have conflict. For example, runners love running up the trails and mountain bikers like flying down the trails,” said Browne.

“We’ve been opening sightlines and we’ve been clearing visibility paths and making sure there’s good signage describing the style and the trail you’re going to be on.”

Browne says this has helped drop the amount of conflict that has happened in the past. The number of trail users has also increased the strain on the trail network as they work to make trails more sustainable.

UROC is a non-profit and most of their funding comes from memberships from local riders and trail donations from visitors. Sitting currently at just over 1,500 members, Browne says they are vital to keeping the trails safe to ride and enjoyable for users.

“If they’re a trail user, we’d love it if people would contribute by becoming a member and that’s about $30 a year,” said Browne. “We do spend a lot of that money on trail management, maintenance, we’re looking at sustainability and ecological effect.”

Last year saw 1,834 members and over 2,700 volunteer hours dedicated to the trail network.

He adds UROC’s trail crew is out working almost year-round maintaining the network. Most of their jobs include a simple rake and brush up of the trails, but also relocating trails away from rivers – such as a trail called Bear Buns – to prevent erosion and damage to water sheds.

“You could consider it as a network of small roads and highways, it’s that busy,” said Browne. “That needs to be managed it’s not just a small couple of trails here and there. We’re seeing bikes travelling over 1.5 million kilometres in a year.”

As tourist season approaches, Browne adds visitors can donate to UROC through their website or through the Trailforks app using its “Trail Karma” option.

“It would be great if people would do that, it’s a small contribution for a big experience,” said Browne.

He adds UROC is also continuing to designate trail areas so all riders have an area to go in the network.

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