The following article and photos were provided by Colin Field.
If you go down to the woods today, well, if today is a Monday, and those woods are in Oro-Medonte, you’re in for a big surprise. You’ll find dudes, and dudettes, sporting chainsaws, hoes, shovels, axes and rakes; all decked out in the same bright orange shirts of the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club. They’re building trails. And they’re doing a bang up job.
In the world of mountain biking, trail access is a constant source of conflict. The bike magazines cover it year after year, with clever story titles like “Lines in the Sand.” But to passionate user groups it’s serious stuff. Between hikers, horseback riders, off-road motorcycle riders, foresters and environmentalists there is an opinion every which way on what should be done with these valuable tracts of land. Liability is a big concern; landowners aren’t ready to assume responsibility for illegally built trails. There is also a need to ensure any environmental impacts of trails are minimized.
In 2012, mountain bikers in Simcoe County saw they needed to get organized, so that’s exactly what they did.
“There was a Facebook page that was created with the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club as an idea,” recalls Wayne Kibbler, a board member of the SCMBC. “The callout was asking if there would be any interest; if we were to form a club with a $40 per year membership fee.”
That idea took and the SCMBC was formed. Today, the club has an impressive 960 members. They are maintaining nearly 100 kilometres of trail and adding about ten kilometres to that every year. Their build nights run from about March until the snow flies and is always well-attended.
“We’re 100 per cent self-sufficient,” says Kibbler. “Through that continuous revenue, we’re able to afford tools and pay the insurance.”
Working with the Simcoe County forestry staff, the SCMBC has created many kilometres of singletrack and they will continue to do so. While there are times when logging operations conflict with trail systems, the symbiotic relationship between bikers and forest managers is a solid one. There is an understanding that forest management is necessary, and that the sustainability of the forest is paramount.
“We have one tract where there are forestry operations on it right now,” says Kibbler of the selective harvesting in Simcoe County forests. “We do get tread on. It depends on the logger, the time of year and the terrain, but we just put a crew together to go back in there and clean it up. We look at it in the way that they make money from selling those trees, and they’re able to buy additional properties, and that gives us the opportunity to ask for additional property going down the road.”
Averaging about 15 people per build night, the SCMBC is an example of how to work with local authorities to build sustainable, functional trail systems that will last for decades.
“We’re all mountain bikers, but we very much cherish the land that we have permission to ride,” says Kibbler. “It’s just a love of the land. We like being in the forest for a reason, it’s not just for the sake of riding, we just enjoy being in there.”
And if you like fast, flowing, dry singletrack, you’ll love being in there too.
To become a member, or get trail maps of SCMBC trails, head on over to scmbc.ca.