The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is declining an offer from volunteers to help expand the cross-country ski trail system at Dakota Ridge this fall, but officials are hoping the same offer will be on the table next year.
The offer came before the community services committee on Oct. 11, with a recommendation from staff to wait until 2013, as budgeted, for the trail project.
“We looked at the pros and cons and decided, based on planning and funding and time, and the fact that we’ve done enough this year, that it’s something better left to next year,” parks planning coordinator Sam Adams told the committee.
“We’re expanding the road, expanding the parking lot, and we’ll progress as we planned and do [the trail system] next year, and hopefully the volunteer resource will be there when we need it.”
The volunteers had proposed helping add nine km of cross-country ski trails to the Dakota Ridge system. The facility currently has 15 km of Nordic trails compared to Cyprus Mountain’s 19 km, Manning Park Resort’s 30 km, Lost Lakes Park’s 32 km, and Callaghan Country’s 95 km.
Adams said the trail system expansion is “a very important part of the business plan” the SCRD adopted earlier this year for Dakota Ridge. There would be more beginner and intermediate trails, and visitors could experience two days of skiing over a variety of terrain.
“We discovered from looking into the market that most skiers, including high-end skiers — so Olympic athletes, for example — will spend most of their time on easy trails,” Adams said. “Easier trails are better. Our original trails were designed to accommodate competition.”
Under the business plan, the trail expansion cost was pegged at about $50,000.
“This amount would be reduced substantially with the help of volunteers and the lessening of the footprint on the trail system — building winter trails for winter access only,” Adams wrote in his report to the committee.
However, he wrote, capital costs and staff time would cost more than $9,000 and operating costs would amount to $4,000. Those expenses could lead to a deficit depending on weather and equipment issues.
The committee agreed with the recommendation to decline the offer, thank the volunteers and ask them to participate next year. The motion will go to the board for ratification on Oct. 25.
Meanwhile, upgrades to the Dakota Ridge access road are almost complete, Adams said.
“The work looks really good. The team has been very strong. The people who have been working on it are community members and take a lot of pride in what they’re doing up there,” he said.
The committee also heard that signage was being installed in the Wilson Creek IGA parking lot directing vehicles up Field Road to use the SCRD lot as a staging area for Dakota Ridge.
Traffic generated by the increased use of the ski hill “is creating a problem,” though “it hasn’t come to a loggerhead yet,” Adams said.
“It’s great — the parking lot’s rocking — but unfortunately for the some of the stores, people can’t find parking on the weekends there,” he said.
The committee also recommended contacting the Sechelt Indian Band to ask about designating an unused property in the area for overflow parking.