In response to requests from the mountain bike community, the Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club would like to explain the reasoning behind making the difficult decision to move from voluntary permits and explore the concept of Permit Required.
Our club is blessed to work with a progressive landowner who is a leader in Ontario in allowing recreational activities on their land. Our primary landowner, the County of Simcoe, owns 135 tracts of land totaling over 32 000 acres throughout a County area of approximately 10 000 km2. This is an enormous area upon which we have the opportunity to build MTB single-track. The County of Simcoe has established land use agreements with other user groups and currently has 17 agreements in place. In many of those user agreements there must be mandatory membership in place in order to use the forest properties and/or designated trails. SCMBC feels mountain bikers should not be exempt from this requirement.
Prior to making and protecting designated trails, the first and main stipulation from the County of Simcoe was that we provide them with Third Party Liability Insurance covering our signed land use agreement areas and designated trails. If the County did not have this stipulation, there would be no need for the existence of our club and land use agreements in general.
SCMBC believes in the user pay concept, as do the local tourism and recreational managers. Paying a $40 SCMBC permit is not viewed as an unfair request of users when most riders are on bikes worth thousands of dollars.
Insurance, as well as trail building and maintenance tools are expensive. These costs should be borne by the people who use these trails. The Club believes it is unfair to ask non-trail users (for example, the tax payer in the case of public money like grants) to pay for our passion.
With the permits and land use agreements come the benefit of trail protection as the system is designated for mountain bike use. Other users groups such as hikers, snowshoers, cross country skiers and birdwatchers may use the trails with the condition that they do not cause damage.
All cyclists may continue to use the forest fire roads in all of the County tracts as currently permitted in the County’s recreational policy. However, if they choose to use the signed, maintained and designated mountain bike trails our intent is that they must have a permit. It is the only way for us to ensure the protection of the landowner.
In return for your permit, “our give” is a well-maintained trail network and new single-track construction. Is there a mountain biker that does not want more of that?
It should be noted that the first LEGAL mountain bike trail build in the County of Simcoe occurred this year with a 5 km loop on the Mountain. This immediately followed the establishment of a land use agreement with the County. We are currently cutting another 5 km of legal single-track in a forest tract that has no other users and we are flagging a further 10 km loop in another new tract. In addition to working with the County of Simcoe, we are negotiating land use agreements with private property landowners to gain access to their land. These agreements will provide the much needed linkages between County Forest tracts. Indeed, we recently signed an agreement with a local gravel quarry for a strip of land along the edge of their pit to reconnect the single-track in 8th line trails. Prior to the establishment of the club and the ability to provide third party liability insurance certificates to landowners this agreement would have been impossible to obtain.
SCMBC Day Pass
We have had many positive responses from the mountain bike community and from our membership in relation to the concept of permit required. We have been asked a few times to provide a day pass option. In short, we do not have a means to do this. All of the day pass options we have investigated involve a significant administrative burden which we will never have the volunteers, or the ability to cover the cost to administer properly. We have looked at several options and the end result in every case is that they cost more to administer than they collect thus taking money away from the most important thing, single-track trails. It should also be noted that no other user group within the County of Simcoe has mastered a cost effective method of providing a day pass option.
SCMBC single-tracks will be spread over one of the largest County’s in southern Ontario. There will be over 25 and counting trailheads/parking lots so the maintenance of money drop boxes, day pass purchase locations and administration of the whole program is very difficult. We have had communication with other clubs that offer electronic day pass options and been told that they have not worked as expected.
The simplest, most cost effective way for you to support the trails is to purchase a $40 club membership online with your credit card.
We have had many complaints that we are being exclusive for not offering a cheaper way for visitors or one-day use people to ride our work. If we could, we would. It really is as simple as that.
We have also received a lot of criticism from people who just want to see the trail system before deciding if there is value in membership for them. So, for the once only crowd we say, “Take a Mulligan”.
Definition: A mulligan, most simply put, is a “do-over.” Hit a bad shot? Take a mulligan and replay that stroke. Or in this case enjoy a ride on SCMBC. So as you’ve probably guessed, a mulligan is never “legal” under the Rules of Golf. Mulligans are most often employed during friendly rounds by golf buddies; or during charity or play day tournaments where mulligans are sometimes sold.
This mulligan option will not and can not apply to the private property land use agreements as there is no cost effective way to provide third party liability insurance to the landowners to protect them from litigation by unregistered riders. As a result that land must be marked “No Trespassing unless you are a member of the SCMBC”. This is the only way we can protect the people who have opened up their land for our use. Trespassers cannot be tolerated on these lands as they will jeopardize the agreements.
Please enjoy our work and if you like it enough to want to enjoy it more then please purchase a SCMBC membership. It is good for 365 days and cheaper than one day of golf, one ski pass, one race, one case of your favourite micro-brew…….
Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope it has provided the information needed to clarify the current situation we face in Simcoe County to the Mountain Bike Community.
Simcoe County Mountain Bike Club (SCMBC)