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'Definitely an economic impact': Residents want to draw more mountain bikers to North Cowichan

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A town on southern Vancouver Island is looking to attract more mountain bikers to its doorstep.

Community members in Crofton, B.C., are making a concentrated effort to bring cyclists to the area, which could bring economic gains to the community.

"I do believe that we're an opportunity just waiting to be found," said resident Dan Robin.

"I see them riding even on the seawalk here," he said. "They ride here into town, even Chemainus is only a 25 to 30 minute bicycle ride [away], so there's lots of opportunity for riding in the area."

He and Rick Martinson with the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society say the municipality of North Cowichan already has ideas for nearby Mount Richards.

The pair point to a 2017 municipal masterplan that highlights hiking and equestrian use on the mountain, but not mountain biking.

"Five years ago it may not have been a big issue, now it is," said Martison.

He says that nearby mountains have become crowded with mountain bikers, and that expanding trails onto Mount Richards would benefit both riders by easing trail traffic, and the local economy.

Martinson points to the nearby town of Cumberland as an example of what Crofton could bring in with mountain biking.

He says a recent economic impact study in Cumberland shows that cyclists are happy to spend money at small communities when they come for a bike trip.

"They said each visiting mountain biker drops more than $80 a day in town," he said. "Ones that stay overnight, it's more like $100 a day, so there's definitely an economic impact."

Josh Lichti, who works at Dodge City Cycles in Cumberland, says the community has become a national biking hotspot.

"We're the fourth most visited biking community now in the country, so tons of people are coming from all over the country just to ride the trails in Cumberland," he said.

Martin Ready owns a guide company that welcomes international visitors to ride in Cumberland and across the island.

He says the industry has peripheral benefits that are noticeable, with some people moving to the island "to be close to the trail network."

Some local businesses are also thriving because of the interest.

"There's a company that's building wheels here and a company building bikes," said Ready.

In Crofton, Robin says there are 300 volunteers who are prepared to build more trails in the area to attract visitors.

"If there were better trails here it would attract more people, and being that it’s right adjacent to Maple Mountain, it’s kind of a slam-dunk for people to be able to ride two mountains in the same day," he said.

A presentation was made to North Cowichan council on Wednesday night to get the wheels turning on bringing more tourists to the area. 

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