The City of Penticton isn’t doing enough to market the cycling potential of the area, according to its economic development officer.
Penticton doesn’t need to create new trails in order to take advantage of economic activity from biking, Colleen Pennington told council in a committee of the whole meeting Monday.
“We already have a lot of resources, whether it is terrain or resources or activity going on,” said Pennington. “What is missing to a large extent is the marketing.”
Pointing to studies showing cycling as a growing trend, Pennington said that was nothing new for Penticton
“We’ve always been home to a lot of biking,” she said, explaining that cycling is becoming incredibly popular and as a tourism industry, has “an extremely high demographic in terms of income.”
“They are more than willing to come, more than willing to spend money, both on weekend get-aways, and on destinations,” she said. “This represents a tremendous opportunity for us within the South Okanagan.”
Penticton has been a beach-centric destination for years, she said. That is only a few months of a tourism season, but cycling tourism could spread to eight months of the year, and even year-round for diehard cycling fans.
Whistler, one of the leaders in cycling tourism, estimates that the industry is worth $30 million to their community.
“We have lots of potential with what we already have,” said Pennington, adding that Penticton is not positioned as strongly as it could be to take advantage of existing trails. “We haven’t been aggressive about showcasing the resources that we have,” she said.
“It fits so beautifully in terms of economic potential for attracting travellers.”
Laura Harp of the Penticton and Area Cycling Association, thinks it needs to take one step back, to ensuring access to trail areas.
“I think that is why we haven’t developed to the potential we could,” she said. She points to the club’s growth as an indicator of the increasing popularity of the sport of cycling.
“It’s just growing hugely. Last year, I think we were at 39 and we are up to 85,” said Harp. PACA signed a license-to-use agreement last year for 330 city-owned acres of land at the end of Riddle Road in Naramata, securing access to the Three Blind Mice trail network area.
Harp told council they were also trying to reach an agreement with the province for the crown land containing the trail network, so they could maintain and improve it.
Council agreed to provide a letter of support for the PACA application and also directed staff to review and report back to council on the group’s request for a non-exclusive licence to access, build and maintain trails in another popular cycling area on Campbell Mountain.
Harp agreed that cycling should be given more attention by the city, but cautioned the focus shouldn’t be just on road cycling.
“Triathlon and road cycling capture a lot of attention, deservedly so, but we also have incredible mountain biking terrain that requires very little infrastructure,” she said.
“It really is a natural community asset that should be recognized as such, and protected and promoted.”