Creating the first natural surface trail in Whitecourt, AB with the WMBA

Whitecourt, AB was my most recent stop on the 2015 Trail Care Crew schedule and what a stop it was! The WMBA is a very organized club of over 250 members, and what makes them truly unique is that they are able to garner such high membership numbers with no natural surface trail offerings in the area!

From the second I arrived and met the club executives, I realized very quickly that they were very prepared for me and truly mean business. I was presented with the proposal presented to local council on the trail project as well as LiDAR and GIS data on the parcel of land that the town has allocated to the club for trails, which showed just how much work the club has already put into this project and into further trail development. The parcel of land that the club received for trails is centrally located right off of the highway and Dahl Dr., their main road running from the north to south ends of town. It is a beautiful forested area that has great contours and elevation to work with to grow a truly amazing network of trails.

The scope of work that the club envisioned was roughly a 2km trail that would run through all of the ridges and ravines of the area from top to bottom. This is a definite possibility in the future, however, the proposal had talked about providing a multi-use offering for the community and given that it is their first natural surface trail experience I recommended that we start with a small beginner loop that will be open and accessible for all users in the area. What came from that was a beautiful 478m long beginner singletrack trail experience which slowly descends the main ridge into an open meadow and back out to a great park bench and gathering spot along Dahl Dr. Dan, the local shop owner had built his own advanced trail offering which meets up with the beginner loop already creating two great options, and I designed the beginner loop with that option in mind.

The in-class workshop was very well attended with club members present, as well as representatives from the Town of Whitecourt, Woodlands County and local media who were on hand for the in-class and build sessions! After learning the ins and outs of Sustainable Singletrack we all went out to the build site where we got to work at creating Whitecourt’s first natural surface trail experience. By the end of Saturdays build we had finished just over 250m and due to the fact there was no trail offering (yet...), the typical Sunday social ride was morphed into a build day as the club wanted to be able to finish the entire trail. Sunday was well attended and by 230PM the trail was finished and all 25 of us were putting fresh tracks on the first natural surface trail in Whitecourt!

I was extremely lucky to be able to stick around on Monday and take the Mayors of Whitecourt and Woodlands County, the Town Manager and head of Recreation for a tour on the towns’ new trail! They were extremely impressed with what the community and volunteers had accomplished in a matter of days and were very much looking forward to developing more trail offerings in the future. Given the amount of buy-in from the community, county and club members, I have no doubt that Whitecourt and Woodlands County will soon have a great network of trails for all user types. That and possibility of a Hoots Inc. bike skills park in the works will go a long way to putting Whitecourt and surrounding area on the map as a great ride destination in Northern Alberta.

I would like to extend my thanks to the WMBA for their amazing hospitality throughout my visit! I look forward to seeing what is to come for trails in Whitecourt and Woodlands County in the months and years to come!

For a link to the photos from my visit with the WMBA click here!

-Justin Truelove