Riding towards reconciliation on Č̓umaat̓a mountain bike trails
Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ - Ucluelet First Nation, Vancouver Island BC — As you pedal up to the mountain bike trails on Č̓umaat̓a (Mount Ozzard), just outside of Ucluelet, BC, a formidable new trail sign now welcomes you. On it, each of the nine trails is listed in Nuu-chah-nulth language, accompanied by its English translation.
This is evidence of a rare partnership: a mountain bike trail network built through a collaboration between the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ (UFN) and the local Ucluelet Mountain Bike Association. Three years in the making, the revolutionary project is about both bombing trails, and appreciating the land you're on as you blaze by.
Take a moment to pause and appreciate the heritage of this land that you’re on… then, drop in.
WATCH: 15-year veteran pro mtb rider Darren Berrecloth previews the trail network
Otherwise known as Mount Ozzard, Č̓umaat̓a (pronounced choo-maa-tah) means “water coming from a high place.” It is said that a chief of the same name was swept up the mountain in a whaling canoe by a great wave that washed over the land. It was on Č̓umaat̓a that he found refuge for him and his family during the flood that followed.
Today, the network of trails on Č̓umaat̓a includes four intermediate blue rated trails, four advanced black diamond trails and one double black diamond route. Jay Millar is an Indigenous artist, trail builder and Elected Ha'wiih for the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ Government. He worked on some of the original trails in the early 2000s.
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Millar broke-in his new, forest green Kona bike on one of the black diamond runs before the Sept. 10, 2023 opening ceremony where the new signage and trail expansion was introduced.
“First and foremost, I am from the land. I look at this as being on the land, working on the land, and playing on the land. It’s full circle,” he said. “If you research (Ucluelet) on trailforks or YouTube, it’s a little bit more technical than some of the videos,” Millar said.
“For what’s out here and what’s readily available, we try to make the best we can with what we have. It would be easier if we had actual sand and gravel, but we have either moss or clay. We work with what we have.”
UMBA President Markus Ranala reflected on the unique Land Use Agreement signed in 2020 with UFN. “Three years ago this started as a vision to try and build meaningful relationships between our communities and to foster an understanding of our youth with the land and a connection to it.
I feel like we’ve taken some really big steps together and some really meaningful directions, and I would like to thank every single person that’s had a hand in this,” Ranala said.
As a gesture of gratitude from the UMBA during the opening ceremony on Sept 10, Ranala presented Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ President Charles McCarthy a framed map of all the mountain bike trails the partners created together on Č̓umaat̓a, adding, "We are all really looking forward to continuing this and building a positive future.”
“It’s always been and always will be a sacred place and we are willing to share it with other Canadians and visitors,” said McCarthy.
“We look forward to sharing these lands with our neighbours and our people and our guests, McCarthy added, “but at the same time, we want to be as protective of our land and have the respect given to us as the owners of this land.”
With new relationships, trail signage and Nuu-chah-nulth language to orient riders within Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ homelands, that framework is now established.
WHEN YOU GO
Looking to rent gear? Located at the Ucluelet/Tofino Junction, T̓iick̓in (Thunderbird) Ebike Rentals is owned and operated by a Ucluelet First Nation family.
Ukee Bikes in Ucluelet’s main village centre is a full-service bike shop, offering rentals, repairs and a collection of new bikes for sale.
To make a donation to the trail building efforts or to join a group ride, visit Ucluelet Mountain Biking Association.
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