Chief Planes speaks at Sooke’s Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium

Chief Gordon Planes spoke on the panel “First Nations Traditional Territories & Mountain Biking: Respect & Collaboration.”

Respect for traditional First Nations lands, including those in Sooke, was a prominent theme at the Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium last week at the Best Western Premier Prestige Oceanfront Resort. Running May 26-28, the symposium attracted 135 delegates to Sooke from communities all over B.C., including the T’Souke First Nation.

Chief Gordon Planes spoke on the panel “First Nations Traditional Territories & Mountain Biking: Respect & Collaboration.” Planes expressed interest in working with the community to advance the health and fitness of the younger generation.

“I can see these youth on bicycles,” he said. “The five to 15 year olds. In 10 years we will see a huge shift.”

Planes talked about the need for hard work to preserve the natural beauty of Sooke.

“We are going to leave something for our children not born yet,” he said. “They will be riding bikes because we left something for them.”

The panel also included Paula Amos of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC, Lorien Arnold of the Sooke Bike Club, and Daniel Cammaide of the South Island Mountain Bike Society. Amos stressed the importance of building meaningful relationships between First Nations and recreational interests. She said getting the First Nations youth involved in mountain biking would be an important way to work with First Nations.

Chief Planes also spoke to the importance of mountain biking for the tourism sector in Sooke.

“The days of logging and fishing are long gone,” he said. “There is a huge opportunity in this area,” he said. “Everyone will gain. There is value in this for hotels, First Nations, the environment, stores, restaurants.”

Planes told delegates something about the significance to his people of Sacred Mountain (Broomhill).

“It is like our church. Where we gather and pray,” he said. “It has history and significance.” He said he thought mountain biking was one way to get youth to reconnect with their traditional territory and have healthy lives.

At the end of the panel, Lorien Arnold of the Sooke Bike Club asked Planes if delegates could ride Sacred Mountain later that day, and the Chief gave his nod. When conference workshops ended for the day, over 40 delegates rode the trails on Sacred Mountain. As rain began to fall again, muddy groups of riders burst out of the bushes onto the road. Cries of “That was so much fun!”, were heard over and over, as they headed to the shower and dinner in one of Sooke’s fine restaurants.

The symposium brought delegates together to discuss the critical issues that will facilitate the growth of the mountain biking tourism sector.

“Mountain biking tourism flourishes when we have the right support in the right places,” said Martin Littlejohn head of the Mountain Bike Tourism Association, the hosting body for the symposium.

Delegates enjoyed over 25 workshops, keynote addresses and social functions, with many examples of how communities are developing innovative local mountain biking initiatives. From the investment in a local mountain bike tourism industry in Burns Lake to replace the devastated logging and milling industries, to the building of bike playgrounds across the continent, mountain bike tourism is flourishing. According to Littlejohn, a vibrant mountain bike tourism sector is possible where investment is made, creating trails that are accessible and well-managed.

by Christina Schlattne