The West Coast has already ridden a literal wilderness wave to becoming perhaps Vancouver Island’s most popular wilderness attraction.
Now, in addition to the sufboard, the Pacific Rim ride is poised to add two wheels.
The buzz is building as construction on a 22-kilometre multi-use cycling trail in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve that will eventual connect Tofino and Ucluelet makes headway.
Glimpses of the $51-million paved bike path can be seen along Highway 4, slowing kindly for the building crews, or halting altogether for flaggers to usher through excavators.
Located in the traditional territories of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Ucluelet First Nation, the ʔapsčiik t’ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee) trail will extend between the southern to the northern boundary of the Long Beach Unit of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
As it moves toward a 2022 completion date, key connection points are being tied up as well.
This August, the District of Tofino was awarded roughly $2.4 million to close the roughly 2.5-kilometre gap between the Cox Bay Visitor Centre and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve trail boundary.
Then, on Oct. 9, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) approved the West Coast Cycling Network Plan. It’s adoption clears the way for the ACRD to apply for funding to support the construction of the remaining 1.2-kilometre section of trail needing to be paved between Ucluelet’s multi-use path and the south Park Reserve boundary.
Heather Zenner, Lands and Resources co-ordinator for the ACRD, said the $1.3 million final piece of the Tofino to Ucluelet path puzzle would be completed in the spring 2020.
Mario Chartrand zips by the Tourism Tofino visitor centre on a high performance e-bike on May 29. The eco tour operator challenged himself to push the speed and time limits of the 35-km ride as part of Go By Bike Week. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)
The tourism industry is ready.
Pacific Rim Eco Tours Adventure Guide Mario Chartrand, above, opened the region’s first electric bike tour company in the summer of 2018 with five bikes. This summer he had 15 bikes and by 2020 he figures he’ll have 25. Chartrand, a former tour operator in Whistler and Pemberton, re-located to Ucluelet about five years ago.
“The first thing that caught my eye was the bike trail that’s already in place that runs out to the junction. I thought, ‘Wow, this town already has it together. They have a multi-use bike path’,” he said.
Currently, his e-bike tour company averages two to three trips a day, ranging from groups of two to a maximum of seven guests. He thinks the bike trail through the Park Reserve will create a new era of tourism for the West Coast.
“I think the [Ups-cheek tashee] trail will impact my business exponentially to the point where there is going to be a lot of people coming here just for that trail,” said Chartrand.
“They’re going to want guidance. It’s nice to just go on a trail and go ride something that you don’t know too much about, but if it’s controlled and you’re with somebody that has good safe guards, I think it just goes that much farther in terms of offering something to the trail.”
“The [West Coast] is a world-class bike destination and will be in years to come. I’ve seen different parts of British Columbia grow in the bike industry from bike parts to road biking in the sea to sky corridor and this area has everything and more to offer for riding enthusiasts of all diverse ages. If you can ride a bike, you can ride a trail and that’s what’s going to make this so inviting to people to come and enjoy,” he went on to say.
District of Ucluelet’s Chief Administration Officer Mark Boysen is putting his staff to task.
“Ucluelet is an ideal town for using bikes to explore as a visitor or for daily transportation,” said Boysen. “The district has initiated two key projects in the heart of town, the Village Green Revitalization Project and the Peninsula Road Design Concepts project. The Peninsula Road project in particular will be reviewing options to integrate dedicated bike lanes from the entrance of town to Marine Drive,” he said.
Partnering with regional cycling connections to encourage all sorts of two-wheeled action is also part of the West Coast Cycling Network Plan. This summer, a BMX jump park was built across from Ucluelet’s world-class skatepark.
BMX park contractor Dylan King said it took him about five solid weeks to transform a broom field and tumbleweed into sets of dirt jumps for all abilities.
“The skatepark across the street is definitely the best bowl on the Island. And then having these… these will be one of the best dirt jump spots. It’s not as good as Cumberland yet, but it’s going to be because they have more room to expand and to grow,” said King, who maintains a circuit of BMX parks, including: the Cumberland Bike Park, the Cougar Smith Park near Sproat Lake, and the Pinecrest Bike Park near Black Creek.
Boysen said the district has established funds to maintain the BMX jumps for future years.
“It’s a great complement to the skatepark and we hope it will draw the same amount of activity,” notes Boysen.
If riding a dirt jump park or cycling a multi-million dollar path through the Park Reserve doesn’t do it for you, a mountain bike trail system near Mount Ozzard is likely on the horizon too.
“There is a proposal prepared to assess the potential for MTB trails in the forest and the district is working with our forest partner, Toquaht Nation, to confirm the funding for this project,” said Boysen.