Nova Scotia

Cape Breton county aims for economic boost with new mountain bike strategy

Cape Breton's Victoria County hopes an ambitious new strategy for mountain biking will lead to an economic boost for the area through new parks and trails.

'In Victoria County, on the Cabot Trail and around, there's just a lot of business opportunities'

Patrick Austin is the economic development officer for Victoria County. (CBC)

There's a new effort focused on bringing two-wheeled thrill seekers to the Cabot Trail area. 

Many believe communities along the Cabot Trail have great potential for bike trails, and Victoria County is hoping an ambitious new mountain biking strategy will lead to an economic boost for the area.

"Adventure tourism is the fastest growing tourism industry in the world right now, and right here in Cape Breton, we have … one of the best places to do it," said Patrick Austin, economic development officer for the county.

"In Victoria County, on the Cabot Trail and around, there's just a lot of business opportunities."

Cape Breton hopes to lure mountain bike enthusiasts to the area

2 years ago
Duration 1:57
Cape Breton's Victoria County has an ambitous plan to lure more tourists to the area. It wants to become a destination for mountain bike enthusiasts. CBC's Matthew Moore reports.

Austin said there's great potential in bringing the fast-growing sport to the area, and there is already infrastructure to help make it happen.

A recreational trail of old logging roads through the county can give the effort a solid head start, according to Dan Coffin, the county's tourism and development officer.

"That trail system was left by the legacy of forestry companies," Coffin said. "The challenge with that is they haven't connected those trails to communities like this in St. Anns or in Baddeck."

That's where the county comes in. 

Coffin said the plan is to position mountain bike parks in populated communities, and then the trail system can interconnect those parks that would bring people through the trail system.

Victoria County's new mountain biking strategy includes using existing logging trails and roads, like the Lewis Mountain trail system. (CBC)

One example could be a 94-kilometre trek from Baddeck to Ingonish.

This industry has already proven to be a major economic boost for rural communities in other parts of the country.

Martin Littlejohn, executive director at the Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association, said it has brought more money to the countryside in British Columbia.

"(It's) the small communities that definitely see the greatest benefits, I think, or the greatest impact from mountain biking," Littlejohn said.

"A lot of them are kind of single-resource towns originally, but are now diversifying their economies and mountain biking, certainly helping to support that transition."

Now that the strategy is complete, the county's next steps will involve getting community partners interested in the project and finding locations to develop the bike parks.

With files from Matthew Moore