Words by Rhonna Gurevich.                                                                        Photos by Jenny Lee Silver 

(Click here for the full collection of photos) 

The 1st NSMBA trail day for 2009 was held on Empress Bypass on Sunday April 5. If the weather is any indication of things to come, the 2009 riding season is shaping up to be far better than the 2008/09 ski season was! 

Empress Bypass is a unique trail deserving of a short history lesson. So bear with us!


In 1997 BC Parks mandated the closure of all mountain bike trails; only sustainable, multi-use trails were to be maintained. In response, the Empress Trail, which at the time ran through BC Parks land, was re-routed through the District of North Vancouver (DNV) as part of the Northlands Golf Course Perimeter trail. 

In 2003, construction of a small housing subdivision meant it was necessary to re-route a section of the Perimeter Trail. To accommodate users that access the lower Seymour trails, a new multi-use trail running through DNV and BC Parks land was proposed. The trail would exit onto the Old Buck Trail near the parking lot at the corner of Anne McDonald Way and Mt. Seymour Road.

Construction of this new trail began in 2003 as a co-operative effort between BC Parks, the DNV, and the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA). Since the trail crossed Taylor Creek, a fish bearing stream, a bridge had to be built. BC Parks also had to adhere to their trail building policy of building trails for all users. Under the guidance of BC Parks, the dedicated volunteers from the NSMBA rose to the occasion and provided the labour and expertise to preserve the heart of the Empress Trail. They built the bridge and the multi-use trail known today as Empress Bypass. 

Currently, Empress Bypass is the only multi-use trail in the province that BC Parks has constructed for the primary benefit of mountain bikers.

Being the main exit trail for mountain biking, as well as a popular walking trail used by residents, dog walkers and hikers, Empress Bypass sees a lot of traffic and is constant need of maintenance. As this trail is built through BC Parks it requires a higher standard of upkeep and care. Once again, the NSMBA stepped up to the challenge holding two dedicacted trail days on Empress Bypass since 2003.

On Sunday April 5, 2009 the NSMBA hosted the third Empress Bypass trail day. Again, the NSMBA volunteers responded to this call, coming out in droves to show their love for this much used trail.

Volunteers met at the Old Buck parking lot to sign in. Implemented late last season, all vounteers must sign a waiver before working on trail days. You only need to sign one waiver that is good for all trail days. After signing in, volunteers immediately had their basic needs attended to by the trail day sponsors, John Henry Bikes and ESC Adventures. A table was set up with fruit, donuts, and Bean Around the World coffee.

This unfortunately put some vollies in the difficult position of having to decide what to take up the trail with them; coffee and bike, but no tools? Coffee and tools, but no bike? Tools and bike, but no coffee? Whoa, whoa, now that’s just crazy talk!!

 A new initiative of the NSMBA for this season is to teach interested new trail builers the necessary skills to build and maintain trails. Ian Collins was out teaching new apprentices the art of splitting wood. The pile of freshly split cedar logs must have invoked visions of an Empress Bypass littered with ladder briges, jumps, and stunts in the minds of many riders. It’s highly doubtful that would meet the current BC Parks trail standards guidelines! Not to fear, all that wood will be used on other Seymour trails in need of repair. 

The trail crew did a pre-hike of Empress Bypass on Wednesday March 25 to determine the scope of work needed for trail day. They were prepared and well organized on the actual trail day, flagging the areas in need of work.

The main projects for the day were drainage, drainage, and more drainage.

The large amount of digging that took place resulted in the discovery of some unique and interesting objects buried in the trail.

Team Silver managed to unearth an ancient pink, anime object. They coined her “Buttress” as she was obviously used in ancient times for strength or support.

More impressive was the ginormous rock (somewhere between gigantic and enormous) Cavan dug out of the trail. It was protruding from the trail and he confided he was consistently having trouble clearing it with his 8-inch suspension bike.

Did someone mention rock? What trail day would be complete without the “who can dig out and move the biggest rock” competition?


Even local celebrities made an appearance. Trail day participants had the unexpected opportunity to witness local, unicycle legend Kris Holm live and up close.

Not soon enough, it was time for lunch. Hungry volunteers were treated to a BBQ lunch by folks from John Henry Bikes. Speaking of local celebrities, Naz from Marzocchi was also on hand to help with lunch showing off his mad BBQ skillz! As usual, NSMBA president Mathew Bond was giving away prizes generously donated by our sponsors. Many volunteers, especially those out for their very first trail day, walked away with goodies such as tools, jerseys, and water bottles.

After lunch it was time to head back up to put the finishing touches on all of hard work from the morning.

It seemed an entire new generation of trail builders came out for this trail day. A special thank-you to all the parents that brought out such well-behaved, hard-working young helpers. A notable mention to the woman riding with three young boys that stopped to participate in the trail day for a while. You made a great contribution to your karma bank!

And no-one knows more about trail karma than Dale Nagata. Dale attended every single trail day in 2008 and rewarded for his efforts by winning the Knolly Delirium T given away at the NSMBA AGM. It is great to see Dale back out this year.


 The single-day efforts of 62 volunteers noticeably transformed the trail. We hope the improved drainage will reduce trail erosion and make the trail sustainable for several maintenance-free years.

We thank the volunteers and sponsors that came out to the first trail day of 2009. We hope to see you again on Sunday, April 26 as On Top Bikes and Green Coast Rubbish sponsor a trail day on Fromme Mountain.