Jason Barr is a man with a plan. What is that plan? Well it’s simple, he wants to rebuild and maintain the KDL mountain biking park in Fort St. James and it’s a plan he already presented the municipal council.
Barr lives in Vanderhoof but is a former resident of Fort St. James. Barr was the president of the Fort St. James Bike Club when it was first conceived and played an intrical part in having the KDL bike park built.
“I was the president of the bike club when we first formed and when we first built the park,” Barr says
Built in 2008, the park was a combined effort from the District of Fort St. James, KDL and the bike club. It cost the district and KDL a combined $80,000 to build the park, but in the years since it was built the park has fallen into disrepair.
It’s something that nags on the conscience of Barr who spent much of his time lobbying to have the park built in the first place.
“Since I helped to build that park and we put a lot of work into it, I really feel guilty when I go there. I don’t want to go to near the bike park when I’m in Fort St. James because I know how bad it is. It looks bad for the district, KDL, the Bike club and myself,” Barr says.
Initially the town and the bike club maintained the facility, with the town mowing and managing plant growth while the bike club would do repairs to the parks infrastructure but Barr says that the work load simply got to be too much.
“When we formed and we built this we had no idea just how much work it was to maintain it,” he said. “It’s a lot of work for volunteers to do, so you get volunteer burnout.
Barr pitched the idea of repairing and maintaining the park to Fort St. James council during their second council meeting in October, only this time Barr wants to spearhead the project.
Barr is no stranger to the trials and tribulations associated with the repair and maintenance of a facility like the KDL bike park. After moving to Vanderhoof a few years ago, he joined the Vanderhoof bike club and rebuilt and remodelled the entire Vanderhoof bike park.
“I bought my own machine and put a proposal to our own bike club here in Vanderhoof,” said Barr. “I said ‘hey, hire me. I can do it at this rate – lower than the contractors – because I don’t have to pay all of the same fees, so the mother goes farther. So I rebuilt the park up here this year.”
It’s not just Barr’s experience that he believes makes him suited for the job, but also his history with the KDL bike park.
“I do the maintenance at the bike park here [in Vanderhoof] and I can do the same thing in Fort St. James. I went [to council] and offered it to them. I said ‘hey, I have the machine and I was there for every step of the build – I know things that work and don’t work – I can do it and at a little bit of a fairer rate than somebody else can.”
Bike parks require repair around every third year to keep them functioning properly but Barr says that maintenance is relatively cheap when compared with a complete overhaul like the one he spent 120 hours completing in Vanderhoof.
“The rebuilds cost a bit of money,” said Barr who spent around $16,000 on his rebuild of the Vanderhoof bike park. “But maintenance after its been rebuilt is a small chunk. It’s easier for council to allocate; they pretty much spend that amount just having their workers in there brushing in the summer. It’s not a big item to put in to keep the project going.”
Maintenance typically needs to take place once every three years in order to keep a park in useable shape.
Municipal council has reserved judgement on whether or not to invest money into the rebuilding and maintenance of the bike park, citing a need to look over the amount of users and numbers associated with the park before making any final decision.
In response to this, Barr created a survey that he’s been spreading around and is now on the district’s Facebook page that will help to measure the interest and number of cyclists who want and use the park.
“If they said no that’s fine by me but I did want to offer it because it is important to me that that park is rebuilt,” Barr said.
Barr works full time with School District 91 and while he plans on turning his trail building and park remodelling work into a full-fledged business, he does it now out of a passion for mountain biking.
“I’ve been mountain biking for years and trail building for years as well. When I lived in Fort St. James, I trail built every year that I was there and in Vanderhoof as well,” he said. “I always felt that there were certain trails I wanted to ride and there was no reason we can’t have them, all you have to do is build them.”
While the Fort St. James bike club is essentially defunct, there are a few members still in town who are supportive of Barr’s plan and Barr said that he hopes that through the rebuild the club and the town would attract more cyclists.
Barr is in the process of applying for grants which would help match and support funding for these types of facilities. Vanderhoof, Burns Lake and Prince George all have used grants in conjunction with municipal funding to repair and maintain existing mountain biking facilities.