Tips for exploring B.C.’s backyard safely

Photo credit: Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association

Since March 18, 2020, B.C. has been under a provincial state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic. For many Northern B.C. residents, they are taking the time to rediscover their backyards and enjoy the high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities that have been built and maintained by keen user groups.

While it continues to be critically important to follow the orders from the Provincial Health Officer, the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) offers some additional tips for those looking to get outside and explore the trails in the Valemount Bike Park and other recreational areas.

Curtis Pawliuk, general manager at VARDA, offers the following suggestions to help people enjoy their time outside in a safe manner if they decide to go out on the trails:
• Recreate only with immediate family and housemates in small groups
• If you are shuttling in a vehicle, do so only with your immediate family or housemates
• Practice very low risk riding- we do not need to be a further burden on our health services and first responders
• Maintain physical separation of at least two metres between yourself and all other trail users. Some statistics out there are showing that this distance should be much greater for ultimate personal protection

In Valemount, and many other communities throughout Northern Development’s service region, the introduction and development of mountain biking trails have made the trail networks desirable destinations for mountain biking enthusiasts from around the province and beyond.

“We have brought travelers into our community, not just through it, which has been a long-time issue in our community,” said Pawliuk. “We are supported heavily by our community, local First Nations and local government. I believe we are tackling a community challenge by taking our future into our own hands and developing opportunities other than forestry. We are not just building recreational trails here but developing our local economy as well. In a time of a major downturn in forestry, the boost of mountain bike tourism has made an extremely positive impact by creating jobs, new startup businesses and bringing in much-needed dollars. We have seen three new businesses created in Valemount due to the popularity of the trail system.”

Northern Development is one of the organizations that supports VARDA. Since 2014, the Trust has committed to investing more than $160,000 into VARDA’s work of developing outdoor recreational opportunities in the area around Valemount. Much of this funding has come from the Trust’s Community Halls and Recreation Facilities grant program.