Hard-core mountain bikers know what the Pidherny recreation area has to offer.
It's a 600-hectare paradise nestled against the Nechako River in the northwest corner of the city's bowl area, accessible through a network of close to 30 kilometres of trails also used by walkers, runners, skiers and snowshoers.
Development of the area has been a longterm project for the Prince George Cycling Club and the Nechako Ridge Trail Society over the past two decades and on Sunday, Sept. 29, the club's latest efforts to make Pidherny even more appealing to the masses will be showcased on Bring Your Family Biking Day.
The day will start with the inaugural Prince George Tricycle Race (see related story), a combination of road cycling, cross-country mountain biking and downhill mountain biking. There will be also be guided cycling tours along the trails, a barbecue, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the two new trails the club has developed over the summer.
The $75,000 trail-building project, still under construction, has been paid for through a combination of federal, provincial and local funding. Funding sources include the Western Economic Diversification Fund ($38,000), Northern Development Initiatives Trust ($26,000), Regional District of Fraser-Fort George ($4,000), Ministry of Forests ($4,000) and the Prince George Cycling Club ($5,000).
The club hired First Journey Construction of Williams Lake to build the new trails. The first is an 800-metre beginner/intermediate cross-country trail dubbed Green Eggs and Ham, which leads uphill from the skills park at the bottom of the park parallel to Pidherny Road. It will be used especially for the club's Sprockids learn-to-ride program.
There's also a new 3.5-kilometre intermediate downhill trail called Papa Woods, named after Pidherny trail builder Brett Woods. It begins near the top of the Pidherny site near Foothills Boulevard and extends westward to the mid-section of the trail system, crossing numerous trails to give riders better access to the top portion of the recreation site. Built with timber ramps, bridges, and stunt structures built to code, the trail has been open to riders since late July.
The new trail will tie into a parking lot off Foothills Boulevard across from Vellencher Road being built with the support of the Ministry of Transportation, which is supplying the labour and equipment. For safety reasons, the ministry wants to discourage riders from using an existing parking lot near the landfill site that forces riders to cross an active gravel pit before they reach the trails.
Liam Baker, the club's Pidherny director, said Pidherny has great potential as a tourist attraction and its value to the community will only increase with each new development.
"Part of the goal of all this is to make it more of professional rec site with really good signage and mapping and higher-quality trails," said Baker. "Prince George really lacks the longer trails for all types of riders. There are unofficial illegal trails all over town that are shorter but we wanted to build longer trails that will prompt more users to get out to a huge area that's really close to town."
Pidherny became a sanctioned recreation area in 2010. Part of that process involved club members dismantling wooden jumps and tabletops built by riders for unsafe stunts.
Because most of the existing trails have considerable elevation changes, Pidherny is known as a more challenging area to ride. About 80 per cent of the trails are for advanced riders. Baker said the single-track trails at Otway Nordic Centre are better-suited to beginner- or intermediate-level riders, but he said the club will continue its efforts to make Pidherny more appealing to all users.
Downhill riders have been using steep trails carved into Cranbrook Hill that run through private land. However, those trails are subject to closure if the land sells and the landowner wants to restrict public access.
"We wanted to build up the site in Pidherny in anticipation of that," said club president Jillian Merrick. "Pidherny is more of an all-mountain site so it has more cross-country and beginner stuff so people learning the sport can come out and feel safe."
Merrick said the club would like to see a co-ordinated effort to market Pidherny as a tourist destination with the city working together with other cycling clubs in Smithers, Burns Lake, Mackenzie, Quesnel and Williams Lake to get the word out about what the region has to offer recreational riders. She said the next local project will be to expand the mountain bike skills area at Pidherny.
The new trail construction has brought out volunteers to help with the project but more are needed to help with the Sept. 29 event . For more information go to pgcyclingclub.ca.