Like so many sports, the local BMX association has faced a rough course in 2020 since the onset of COVID-19.
The group, Coal Hills BMX, races on the track in Cumberland, and members of the executive updated Cumberland’s council about what the year has meant for the sport in the community.
“2020 has had its challenges. We’re on pause like everyone else,” president Corby Johnson said.
The group was also asking for a renewal of the licence of occupation for the site. One concern they have is around winter closures and security, particularly when it comes to preserving the track during the wet winter months until maintenance starts again in late February.
“It’s also not a safe time to be on the track at all,” he said.
Despite the year’s setback, the group has been busy. Johnson said he was giving them a condensed version of his president’s report for 2019, providing them with numbers of motos at events and the numbers of riders taking part. In all, there were 136 members at Coal Hills with an average of 67 riders attending per race. This included 41 new riders last year, and of these, around a quarter are from Cumberland.
For this season, vice-president and club coach Jason Kerluck said they wanted to provide a safe place for local riders and spoke with Island Health, WorkSafeBC and other organizations to make sure they were following the proper procedures and guidelines.
“We were one of maybe five tracks in the province that got practices going,” he said. “We eventually started racing as well.”
They also worked with other tracks to ramp up again during the season.
“We were pretty happy with how we got BMX back going during this time,” he said.
One of the organization’s goals this past year was to improve the safety of the facility. The group raised funds, with some help from corporate donations, to cover a new safety gate at the track. The project amounted to about $30,000 for equipment and materials, in addition to another $20,000 of in-kind donations.
“We have by far the best starter gate and start hill in B.C., and we are super proud of that accomplishment,” Johnson said.
They were able to find enough money to replace the starter shed, install a timing system for the riders and make improvements to the track itself in 2019.
“Our goal is to have a challenging and fun racecourse for all skill levels and the best racing surface of any BMX facility,” he said.
The group also raised $1,000 to donate to the Aidan Webber Legacy Fund, which was established in memory of the local champion rider who died at age 17.
“He was a local Coal Hills rider and potential Olympics athlete,” Johnson said.
On top of this, Coal Hills raised $3,000 with its Race for Life to donate to the BC Children’s Hospital.
For the riders, the group has been working on development programs in recent years, such as pro clinics, coaching sessions and self-coaching information. Also in 2019, Kerluck offered a coaching program for advanced riders that focused on conditioning, skills and racing tactics. This, in turn, led to opportunities for older elite riders to mentor the younger kids. Johnson said the group has also gotten a lot of positive feedback from other groups around Vancouver Island about the work they are doing for BMX in the community, including social opportunities for families at the track.
Council also gave them credit for their work in what has been a difficult year.
“You are an example of how to make it work,” Mayor Leslie Baird told Johnson and Kerluck. “We are really pleased with how you’re treating the track and how you’re following the rules.”