Bike flow track proposed for Benchlands

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A proposed flow track in Canmore running from the Benchlands neighbourhood to the Cemetery Jump Park is creating a great deal of buzz in the Bow Valley cycling community.

The 850-metre park was first pitched as part of the Town of Canmore’s 2015 Open Spaces and Trails Plan, and concept designs were submitted to the municipality last week. Dubbed the Benchlands Flow Track, the proposed dirt track created by Gavin Connor of Hang-Time Bike Parks Inc. has several beginner, intermediate and advanced features, and builds on the popularity of the jump park. The trail is primarily designed for mountain bikes and jump park bikes.

Town of Canmore planner Megan Dunn said increased momentum in the community around building and maintaining the trail network has helped move the project forward this year.

“The opportunity came up to do it this year. We have volunteer groups popping up to help with the build, including CAMBA and the Canmore Trail Alliance,” she said.

The park concept designs will open up to public comment this week, and Dunn expects mountain bikers to support the proposal.

“We definitely saw some strong feedback in the desire for more mountain bike trails in the master plan community engagement phase. So many people in town mountain bike, especially when compared to traditional sports. It’s something a lot of people are passionate about,” Dunn said.

The Town of Canmore is applying for a Canada 150 grant to help pay for the project, and would rely on volunteer labour for many of the building days. It’s a set-up similar to the construction of the Cemetery Jump Park, which relied on Connor, volunteer work and Town of Canmore staff to build and maintain the park.

On top of becoming a tourist draw, Dunn said she thinks the proposed trail will have multiple uses, with different sections for riders of all abilities. She pointed to the new park in Chestermere as an example of dirt tracks becoming tourism draws.

“It provides added connection from Benchlands to the downtown. People riding the Horseshoe and Montane trails will use it, and it’s meant to be a fun commuter and connector trail. It will also help riders build skills,” Dunn said.

If the project is approved, Dunn said the Town of Canmore would like to begin construction on the beginner and intermediate sections of the trail later this year, with a request for proposal submitted by late summer. Public consultation will begin on June 18.

Wanda Bogdane, president of the Canmore and Area Mountain Bike Association is fully supportive of the new project, and said it will help the community catch up as a true mountain bike destination.

“CAMBA’s board and supporters nearly fell off our bike seats with excitement when we all saw the concept design for the town’s proposed flow trail,” Bogdane said. “Something like the proposed flow trail gives us hope that the community of riders, government bodies and other user groups can work together to infuse some excitement into Canmore’s trails.”

The potential project was first identified through the Town of Canmore’s Open Spaces and Trails Plan, which has a 2016 capital budget amount of $50,000 identified. If the trail goes ahead, the Town of Canmore would like to build the beginner and intermediate sections of the trail this year.

“We have to take into account several factors to minimize user conflict. It can bring mountain bikes off of the paved multi-use trail on Benchlands,” Dunn said. “There are sightline constraints with the road crossings, but many of the issues can be managed by the design of the track.”

The Town of Canmore’s Open Spaces and Trails plan is available on their website at www.canmore.ca/trails.

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