PRESIDENT'S YEAR-END MESSAGE
Thank you! The passionate and engaged Edmonton mountain biking community was essential in making 2022 a landmark year for EMBA and mountain biking in the Edmonton region.
The EMBA Board worked exceptionally hard in 2022 on various projects, but our success ultimately depends on the support of the mountain biking community. Our mountain bike community volunteered their time on trail days and special projects, communicated their passion for our sport to municipal leaders and city administration, and were respectful stewards and users of our shared single-track trails.
So, what have we achieved together this year? And, although there are only a few weeks left in the year, what important objective can you still help us achieve?
Trail Days As we moved into the endemic stage of COVID, the restrictions on the number of people permitted to participate on our trails days were relaxed. Although we faced some issues with City approval (more on this below!) we were still able to host 33 trail days, with the help of 314 volunteers, maintaining 45 kilometers of trail.
Ribbon of Green The City’s River Valley Planning Modernization Project, for extension of the Ribbon of Green (RoG) plan to the entire Edmonton river valley, was, of course, the primary focus of EMBA’s advocacy efforts in 2022. And this is where the efforts of our community were essential to our success! Without the support of the Alberta Bicycle Association (thank you, volunteer President, Dr. Shantel Koenig!), bike shops, the business community, and the members of our MTB community, we would not have been successful in having cycling included as a permitted use of natural surface trails in designated “Preservation” areas. We are so thankful to everyone who took the time to actively participate in our advocacy efforts, including participating in City online consultations, completing City surveys, and contacting your members of the City Council.
The prohibition of cycling in Preservation areas was a carry over from the 1992 Ribbon of Green, which is the planning document for the area of the river valley west from the Walterdale bridge to Fort Edmonton. Despite the facts that in 1992 the sport of mountain biking was only in its infancy in our community and the comparative effects of cycling vs. foot-based trail use were not understood at that time, the proposal for the comprehensive Ribbon of Green carried this prohibition through to the entire river valley, while also designating larger portions of the river valley, including a 60 metre corridor along each side of the river and all of Mill Creek, as Preservation areas. In combination, the result would have been to prohibit cycling on more than 90% of river valley natural surface trails. In 2022, heightened awareness of the Ribbon of Green prohibition resulted in EMBA volunteers being prohibited for the first time from performing routine maintenance on well-used trails within the 1992 RoG plan area, such as Six Shooter and Ray Gun.
Happily, through our combined efforts, on June 10 by an 11-2 margin City Council instructed that maintenance be allowed on, and cycling be included as a permitted use of, all natural surface trails, pending completion of a comprehensive River Valley Trail Strategy. We’re working with three City departments to ensure that Council’s direction is followed and that our trail system is designed to properly balance all human use against legitimate ecological concerns.
National Urban Park
In 2022, consultations on establishment of a National Park in the Edmonton metropolitan area commenced. EMBA is participating in the local stakeholder consultation, which is still at a preliminary stage. Our fundamental concerns are that oversight of our river valley not be ceded by our elected City Council to special interests through the establishment of a National Urban Park and that uses (like cycling!) permitted through the Ribbon of Green process continue to be permitted.
Thanks to the leadership of retiring Board member Michael Thompson, our Board has adopted a new set of Societies Act bylaws for EMBA, which will result in our 2023 trail supporters being granted voting membership in the society. Stay tuned for details of our 2023 Annual General Meeting!
Queen Elizabeth Bike Skills Park
In 2013, after extensive public consultation, the City of Edmonton completed a master plan for redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth Park, an integral component of which was a mountain bike skills park, to be located at the bottom of the river valley on the reclaimed site of a former waste-water disposal facility. Unfortunately, the bike skills park was never funded by previous City Councils and in 2020 EMBA formed a subcommittee of our Board and volunteers, led by Josh Nowochin and Lisa Larson, to work with City administration on a community-led project for completion of the skills park.
This year, EMBA engaged Common Ground Trails, an experienced bike park design firm, to complete a concept plan for the bike skills park. In addition, EMBA attended City Council’s public hearings on the 2023-26 Capital and Operating budgets to request that Council contribute $600,000 towards completing the bike skills park. Our PowerPoint presentations are also up on the bike park website, and demonstrate the significant contribution to our quality of life and economic development that a bike skills park would make.
Unfortunately, City Council’s December amendments to the proposed Capital Budget did not include funding of our requested $600,000 contribution. However, we have another shot at funding, and this is where you come in!
The proposed Recreation Partnership and Facility Investment Program is presently unfunded in the draft 2023-26 Operating Budget. This program would set aside $4.1 million in 2023 (and another $1.0 million in each of 2024 and 2025) to be used by the Community Recreation and Culture branch to assist in funding small community led projects during the 2023-26 budget period. EMBA, the Edmonton Sport Council and other community groups spoke in favour of adding this program into the Operating Budget at the recent public hearing, as this program would be the only source of funding for projects similar to the QE bike skills park during the next 4-year budget cycle.
Councillors have not yet proposed or voted on their amendments to the Operating Budget, so it is time this week to let your City Councillor know that this is a worthwhile program for funding and that the bike skills park should be designated for a funding contribution out of the program!
Your support was essential to our success with the Ribbon of Green Preservation area permitted uses, and your voices in support of the Recreation Partnership and Facility Investment Program and Queen Elizabeth Bike Skills Park can again be influential with our City Council. You can use this webpage to find your City Councillor’s contact information.
Phew! Thanks for making it to the end of this message. As it demonstrates, our terrific volunteer Board of Directors has been very busy working to ensure that Edmonton remains one of the best cities in Canada for mountain biking, but there is still more that we can accomplish with your help! Best wishes for 2023! Remember that we are all ambassadors for our sport, so be sure to ring your bell and be courteous to other users of our great single-track this winter!
Joe Yurkovich, EMBA President
Edmonton Bike Park
On November 28, we presented our current concept plan to the Edmonton City Council, with hopes of getting partial funding through the 2023-2026 Capital Budget. Deliberations are scheduled until mid December, when we will know if we have been added to the list of funded projects.
Our ask was for $600,000 which would cover about half of the construction estimate. If you would like to view the current plan or donate specifically to the bike park build, visit our NEW bike park website (special thanks to Oxburger Studios) at edmbikepark.ca
Josh Nowochin – Bike Park Committee Chair
EMBA UPDATES ITS BYLAW
Secretary of the EMBA, Matt Edwards, proudly signs the new bylaws replacing the Society bylaws dated August 21, 2006 and filed September 19, 2006. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers, including Michael Thompson who is retiring after years of dedication, this will allow for more opportunities in the future for EMBA as well as ensuring trail maintenance continues and grows successfully.
EMBA Annual General Meeting: The AGM is being planned for early 2023 in February. More details are to come and will be published as well as communicated to all members and interested parties ASAP and adhering to our new bylaws. Sign up here to join our mailing list if you would like to be notified when this happens.
We have another combo newsletter for you. November saw the snow begin to fall right from the first. This did not stop enthusiasts from getting out there and riding the trails! Fat Bikes are out and still as awesome as ever! We learned some users of the trails are using the groomers and even one bike was seen with a retro-fitted ski on the front tire! Oh the things we can do to our bikes and keep the rubber side down! Happy Holidays from our homes to yours!
Fort Saskatchewan Trail Alliance: FSTA tries a different approach to grooming single track trails this winter. More updates to come so check out their website!
Local Ski Hill: EMBA continues to work with a local ski club planning as well as constructing a climbing trail and a flow trail. Discussions are ongoing and we will keep you updated on the progress.