The BVMBA was born on October 6, 1997, out of a decision by Parks Canada to stop mountain bike use on the 51 km out-and-back Bryant Creek Trail, which winds from the Mt. Shark area in Kananaskis Country through Banff National Park to Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park. This is the trail that Bike magazine featured in a 1996 edition and which called the trail “the crown jewel of Canadian mountain biking.”
Needless to say, we were very upset about losing such an outstanding trail. It was a political decision that targeted mountain bikers because we were, at that time, an unorganized group with no voice or representation at the land managers' policy decision-making process. The issue was not so much mountain bikers per se but a concern that too much trail use by all user groups combined was having an impact on the security of wildlife habitat.
The decision to deal with overall human use levels by excluding only mountain bikers demonstrated the need for riders to get organized and involved. The BVMBA was formed as an advocacy group to fight the Bryant Creek closure. We weren’t successful with this specific outcome, but we learned a lot and became determined not to be caught off guard again in issues of trail closures and trail usage.
Today advocacy is still the main function of the Alliance, but we try hard to see that it is not our only function. We also work to educate riders on appropriate riding within a National Park and World Heritage Site, and have recently begun to assist Parks Canada and the Warden Service with volunteer trail maintenance projects. These projects are generally ones that Parks Canada's own trail crews would not do in the course of their own work. For several years, we organized a volunteer trail patrol and presented Parks Canada with an annual report of trail activity and trends within the park.
Advocacy requires support and critical mass. We rely on riders who are concerned with the future of our sport to back us and to let land managers know that we speak for them.