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United Riders of Cumberland pushing for long-term financial funding plan as trail use increases

With more mountain bikers drawn to trails in the Comox Valley, the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) is looking to develop a long-term financial funding plan.

In a presentation to the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), executive director Dougal Browne asked that the district increase its funding to UROC from $25,000 to $50,000 annually.

“How we would spend that is maintaining the access agreement and meeting the access agreement conditions,” said Browne.

“It would directly support the trail crew and improve the rider and user experience, it would allow us to track climate change in the trails and start building sustainable trails that are a little more robust, and it would assist in our insurance expenses.”

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The funding request comes as more and more people visit the area to ride its trails. Browne said the Cumberland network is one of the top five busiest in North America with over 200 trails spanning around 200 kilometres and over 220,000 visits last year.

Browne says they are working to enhance the network and its user experience to prevent conflict over the area.

The goal for 2023 and beyond is to develop a multi-year financial funding plan around two to five years, plan how they will manage and organize events over the next two to three years and increase community engagement among others.

Browne adds they feel the organization is an economic driver for the area, with tourism benefitting from the activity along with the hospitality industry and the cycling industry.

UROC also compared asks around the community for funding, such as the Comox Valley Aquatic Centre which sees more visitors but needs high-cost amounts for upgrades. Other municipalities in B.C. provide more funding, such as Regional District of Kootenay at around $85,000 annually.

“Rossland is very much similar to Cumberland where the trail network is immediately on the doorstep of that community,” said Browne. “Rossland gets $26,000 from their local municipality, and their network is not one of the busiest trail networks in B.C.”

UROC president Adam Speigel adds that they are grateful for the funding they have received from the district over the years.

“The $25,000 for the last five years has helped to provide a solid platform for us to build off of in every year,” said Speigel.

Director Edwin Grieve said there may be opportunity within its recreation grant service, which Grieve says the entire CVRD area pays into. However, he asked if there was any funding from the provincial or federal governments that could be used.

“Currently we’ve been receiving the gaming grant, and that has helped with operating costs,” said Speigel.

“But primarily, the funding opportunities through the federal and provincial governments have gone to supporting capital projects, which should be important in continuing to manage the trail system but not operations.”

Councillor Wendy Morin added that with the amount of growth the trails and people coming to the area, a balance may need to be found between the number of people using the trails and impacts seen to the community.

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