Simpcw First Nation prepares for a two-day mountain bike festival
Tom Eustace may well have a lot more people for a celebration than he originally anticipated.
Eustache is the director of trails and public works for the Simpcw First Nation in British Columbia.
Simpcw is gearing up to host the Allies Mountain Bike Festival, a two-day event taking place April 29-30.
First Nation representatives decided to host the festival to showcase the 18 kilometers of mountain biking trails it offers.
A new section of trail, about a mile long, is being built and should open in time for the weekend.
“Our nation is spread across a good chunk of British Columbia,” Eustache said. “We have 15 communities. We were hoping that people from those communities would want to come out. The Simpcw First Nation currently has approximately 700 members. Most of them live in Chu Chua community.
It turns out that many others have also shown interest.
“We’ve had people calling us from as far away as Bella Coola,” Eustache said, adding that an individual from that community, about nine hours away, wants to bring a group of young mountain bikers to the event. .
Eustache said he was not surprised that many of those who have spent a lot of time over the past two years trying to stay safe and isolate themselves from others now want to participate in certain events with others. .
“It’s a First Nations group,” Eustache said of the Bella Coola contingent. “So I think they just want to do something with another First Nations group.”
However, the festival is open to everyone. Eustache believes that many non-natives will be among those who participate.
And it’s not just mountain bikers who are invited. Those who wish to hike, run or walk the trails are also welcome.
Inquiries also came from several others located several hours away. And there have even been people who have been in touch from Colorado and Arizona to inquire about the Simpcw trails that are offered.
Festival organizers initially thought they would be content to bring 100 people to their event.
But now, with the interest generated, it looks like 200 or maybe even a lot more people could show up.
“I don’t want to overwhelm our community here,” Eustache said, adding that Simpcw only recently lifted some pandemic restrictions allowing visitors to enter the First Nation.
Eustache said Simpcw representatives had been hoping to hold a mountain bike festival for some time.
“We had been planning something for a few years,” he said. “But with COVID going on, we haven’t been able to do anything.”
The First Nation’s trail system has several levels.
For starters, there are easy-to-walk green trails. There are also blue runs rated as moderate and for those who are considered intermediate runners. And there are black runs, including downhill sections, for experienced riders.
Members of the Simpcw First Nation, including youth, were among those who helped build the trails.
The festival will include a barbecue on the second day where visitors can enjoy a meal with members of the community.
There will be a celebration involving members of Simpcw performing various songs and leading discussions on the history of the First Nation.
“I think it will be a gathering of a bunch of different people,” Eustache said. “We’re just going to let people know who we are as Simpcw people.”
The festival will also include screenings of various mountain bike films.
Patrick Lucas, who founded the Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program in 2011, will be among the festival attendees.
Lucas started the program to help Indigenous youth develop and maintain healthy lifestyles, improve their mental health, connect with traditional territories, and learn job skills.
The program has helped develop and build trails in various communities across British Columbia
Over the past six years, Lucas has helped Simpcw officials secure approximately $500,000 in funding to build trails in their First Nation.
Like Eustache, Lucas is surprised at how many people are showing interest in the festival.
“It got a lot more attention than we thought,” Lucas said. “I think people are just looking to do something good and on their bikes.”
Lucas also hopes mountain bikers won’t be the only ones showing up.
“Probably the biggest user group (of Simpcw trails) is a group of women running,” he said. “About 15 of them run almost every day. I hope some will come out. And I hope we will also have walkers this weekend.
By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com