More than $400,000 of government spending means big upgrades are coming to some of the most cherished mountain biking trails in the Fredericton area.
About $137,000 will go into building about four kilometres of new trail in Minto, while $303,000 will go toward building about 10 kilometres of new trail at Woolastook Park.
Considering both trail networks were built and have largely been maintained by volunteer labour, the government funds are a significant help and show that officials are starting to view mountain biking as a more legitimate sport, said Scott Dubreuil, a member of Mountain Bike Atlantic and advocate for the Woolastook Park trails.
"I think it means a lot," said Dubreuil, who's also a general member of River Valley Cycling, which maintains the Woolastook Park trails.
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"It shows that, you know, rather than being viewed as a fringe sport, if you will, that we have legitimacy with the government … and it's very encouraging in the sense that, you know, if we execute on our strategic plan with this funding, then perhaps some other funding is available on an annual basis kind of thing."
Dubreuil said River Valley Cycling helped the Kingsclear Local Service District apply for the funding under Infrastructure Canada's Investing in Canada Plan, which has earmarked $180 billion to be spent over 12 years on projects centred around public transit, energy systems and community services across the country.
Dubreuil said a portion of the funds have already been spent on hiring engineering and construction firm McElhanney Ltd. to come up with a strategic master plan for the trail network.
"It was a wise investment, because through that strategic master plan we now have the plan to develop 10 kilometres of new trails and infrastructure at Woolastook because there are existing trails, but we're going to develop those 10 kilometres of new trails for both what we refer to … as flow trails and tech trails.
"So the sort of layman's version … means it's going to apply to all levels of riders. It's not going to be something specific to hard-core riders."
Dubreuil said volunteers have started to lay the groundwork, and some wooden structures have been built already. However, contractors will be hired next spring to bring in machinery for "the heavy lifting."
The timeline is still being worked out, but Dubreuil expects the entire project to be finished by 2024.
Built out of the tailings dumps left over from coal mining, the Minto mountain biking trail network has grown over the past decade from being a passion project for a local physician, to a major economic driver for the village about 50 kilometres northeast of Fredericton.
And now, after hundreds of hours of volunteer effort, the trails are getting a $137,000 boost from the Canada Community-Building Fund, said Joel LeBlanc, general manager of Mountain Bike Minto.
"We've had to boil it down and come up with a single plan, and that is to create professionally built, modern … flow trail that is built by a mini excavator and by a professional trail builder," LeBlanc said, adding that his organization is also hiring McElhanney Ltd.
"And that's the first time we've had anything like that in Minto. Everything has been done thus far by builders from around the area who want to learn more about making trail and building trail, but they don't have any real professional experience, and it's been all done by hand.
"So this is really our first opportunity to see modern mountain bike trails getting built in this area and it's pretty exciting stuff."
Minto trails a boon for village
Alicia Tracy and her husband were mountain biking in Minto in 2020 when a business idea struck them.
They'd driven up from Fredericton with friends to camp out near the trail head and mountain bike for the weekend. They soon realized there was an opportunity for a campground.
That December, they purchased nine acres of land and hired local contractors the following spring to build 12 camp sites, a common area, and a taproom to create Tiny Trails campground, which opened last June.
"It's been great," Tracy said. "I mean, it's been word of mouth and it's definitely growing and more people are learning about Tiny Trails, but also more so the Minto trail system.
"So we're seeing more people from more places like Quebec and Nova Scotia and P.E.I., Newfoundland, across Canada. More families, more locals. It's been growing."
Minto Mayor Erica Barnett has also noticed how the mountain biking trails have been a draw for visitors to the village.
"Our trails attract visitors from around the world, and it has been exciting to watch the trails and the enthusiasm of our community grow," she said, in an email.
"From Mountain Bike Minto, we have seen a substantial increase in traffic in the community which in turn helps to grow the local economy.
"It's attracted businesses like Tiny Trails and we are very much looking forward to being part of the growth of the trail system."