British Columbia

New mountain bike trails connect indigenous youth in rural B.C.

Patrick Lukas, founder of the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program, teaches Indigenous youth trail building and basic riding skills to encourage riding in Indigenous communities.

Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program teaches Indigenous youth trail building and basic riding skills

Kids from Boothroyd, B.C. get ready to test out their new mountain bike park. (Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program/Facebook)

Dozens of B.C. First Nations communities are developing new mountain bike trails with the goal of bringing kids together — and getting them outdoors.

The Aboriginal Youth Bike Program teaches kids in rural Indigenous communities how to build mountain bike trails, and offers them a crash course on how to ride.

Founder Patrick Lucas says the goal is to build bridges within First Nations communities, and to encourage some outdoor fun.

"It's something that the kids really get into. In a lot of these places, there's not a lot for the kids to do." he told host Rick Cluff on CBC's The Early Edition.

"We teach kids how to ride, how to do it safely, and how to care and maintain their bikes. And if the community is interested ... we'll help them design, plan and build trails so that their kids and other members of the community have a space to recreate."

Biking in Boothroyd

The longtime mountain biker and community planner says the program originated when he visited Boothroyd, a small town in the Fraser Canyon. Several community leaders asked him if he could help build a small bike park.

He went ahead with the project with the help of some of the town's interested youth. 

The program runs mountain bike skills training alongside trail planning and building sessions. (Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program/Facebook)

"It was such an amazing experience. It was really transformative for me. It completely changed my relationship with the community," he said.

"We were on to something special."

Working with communities

Now, Lukas says the program has drawn over 100 youth who helped carve out trails in more than two dozen First Nations communities.

"I've been doing it for quite a while, and I spend a lot of time listening to elders and community leaders their concerns for their youth, [who are] facing a lot of challenges, like drugs and alcohol addiction, depression, and suicide."

He says his team is open to working with any First Nations community that wants to join in. The program is funded partially by grants, donations, and sponsorships, but there are some costs for the community, specifically for providing youth bikes, parts, and equipment.

Lukas says the program provides a space where Indigenous youth can connect with each other. (Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program/Facebook)

"In most of the communities we work with, a large majority of the kids actually do have bikes. The biggest problems is that they're often not in great shape," he said.

The team runs clinics that teach kids how to fix and maintain their bikes.

"Immediately after that we'll see a lot more people out riding and using their bikes just because we had a chance to fix them up."

He says the new trails can also help encourage tourism and invite people to visit new communities.

But, bringing kids together, and getting them to experience the land in a whole new way remains the program's primary goal.

"When we're building trails together, and we're doing those workshops, we're creating a space in which they get to know each other — in ways they didn't get to otherwise."

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: New mountain bike trails connect indigenous youth in rural B.C.