November 6, 2020 Update:
The Laurentian Escarpment Conservation Area, (LECA) overlooking the City of North Bay, offers significant natural and heritage features attracting a variety of trail users hikers, dog walkers, photographers, naturalists, and families who enjoy a variety of four-season activities. It has a growing appeal to mountain bike users and has the potential to be developed as a destination opportunity for eco-tourism regionally.
NBMCA engaged Alpine Bike Parks a trails specialist firm from British Columbia to inventory the existing trails, identify management and maintenance issues, and recommend a path forward.
It is important to mention that The LECA Trail Network Master Plan developed by Alpine Bike Parks did not fully address an environment analysis of the trail density and its impact on the ecology of the escarpment.
FRI Ecological Services was retained to conduct an environmental screening of the Alpine Bike Parks report with respect to the trails’ impacts on existing natural heritage features from existing trail use, proposed trial improvements and proposed trail maintenance. This report was brought to the NBMCA board June 2016.
From information contained in these two reports, NBMCA developed the LECA Trails Proposal finalized in May 2018. This Proposal takes into consideration the existing trail usage, the desirable density, trail maintenance requirements, and environmental sensitivities.
This proposal recommends a trail network of approximately 18 km, density of 11.5 km/km2, and the removal of trails from the ecologically sensitive areas. It incorporates a plan for multi-use cross country trails, downhill bike trails and a community bike park.
This proposal will help create increased opportunity for outdoor recreation, enhancing physical and mental health as well as an appreciation of the escarpment’s natural environment. It can increase attraction to the LECA as an eco-tourism site, a destination for recreation and competitive mountain biking events, bringing economic stimulus to the region while maintaining the multi-use features of the trails.
LECA trails traverse land owned by NBMCA, the City of North Bay, the Department of National Defense, and two private property owners. NBMCA staff have been working with DND and the private property owners to secure formal agreements which confirm the terms and conditions for use of these lands for trails. A letter of intent has been signed with one property owner, and others are in draft pending final approvals.
In the past year, the North Bay Mountain Bike Association (NBMBA) has formed and established a solid membership base. This volunteer group has proceeded to develop trails and a pump park on crown land with the permission of and appropriate permits from the crown. Staff have met with the NBMBA and have commenced discussions with NBMBA to assist in the development and maintenance of the LECA trails.
Given the scope and resourcing required to proceed with the LECA Trail development, a dedicated Project Coordinator would be an asset to move this project forward.
Next Steps: Over the course of the next year, NBMCA plans to proceed with securing funding for the Project Coordinator and moving forward with the finalization of the property owner agreements, the trail design, development of operational plans, engaging NBMBA and other partners, securing funding, and developing procedures for maintenance and ongoing operations.