What does it take to run a world-class motocross track and ORV area in the Kootenays?
“This is a prime backcountry adventure area.” — David Ketel
When it comes to motocross tracks and off-road vehicle (ORV) riding trails, nothing compares to the West Kootenay Recreational Dirt Bike and ATV Society (WKRDAS). The organization has two main riding areas: Rover Creek ORV area, and the Kootenay Motocross (KMX) Track, which also has a 23-kilometre Hare Scramble trail called the Tree Hugger, where they host a provincial Pacific North West Motorcycle Association (PNWMA) Hare Scramble race every September.
“For motocross riding, the KMX track is by far the most established motocross track in the Kootenay area,” said David Ketel, president of the WKRDAS. “We get riders coming from 200 to 300 kilometres away to ride on practice days.”
Kootenay Motocross Track
The KMX track is located midway between the towns of Castlegar and Salmo, B.C., on Highway 3, two kilometres up the Beaver Vale Forest Service Road. The WKRDAS maintains two tracks at the facility. The main track is a full-sized race track (which takes about one-minute 45-second lap times for a fast rider). There is a 30-person start gate, complete water system with sprinklers and fire hose connections to reach 95 per cent of the course, and grand stands for viewing. The jumps are designed specifically to be safe for everyone as they progress from beginner rider to advanced. Being in the mountains, the natural soil is very sandy and rocky. Over the years, a huge amount of material has been hauled up from the local pulp mill in Castlegar.
“This has made a huge difference and we now have a track completely built with new soil,” said Ketel. “The track surface is fantastic in that it holds moisture well, is fairly loamy, but doesn’t get gooey mud or rutted out.”
Motocross races are grassroots, volunteer-run events and intended for those that just want to get out and have some fun. They are not part of a provincial series, so each event is easy to participate in simply by registering on the WKRDAS website. Public practice is held on Saturdays and races are on Sundays. Race participants and their families are welcome to camp overnight after practice day.
And then there’s Rover Creek, an officially-designated ORV area. Rover Creek features a wide-ranging network of approximately 80 kilometres of single track trails that are sure to entertain riders of all abilities. The trails range from moderately easy to all-out-advanced hard enduro.
“There are so many great trails in the Kootenays, but the official, designated ORV area at Rover Creek has some of the best-maintained trails I have ever ridden anywhere,” said Ketel. “The trails at Rover Creek are always being improved and expanded to better suit the wants of riders.”
Rover Creek’s trails are on the side of a mountain right next to the Columbia River. You can choose trails that take you right to the top of the mountain, with expansive views of the river valley and surrounding mountains. In the winter months, this same area is used for ski touring, snowmobiling, and heli-skiing.
“This is a prime backcountry adventure area,” Ketel said. “A short drive away is Nelson, B.C., where you can enjoy a post-ride dinner and beverage in an epic Kootenay town.”
Maintaining the Wonderland
Sustaining such excellent motocross tracks and ORV trails is no simple task. The trail system is fully maintained and developed by volunteers.
“There is a really good core group of about a dozen people that put a huge amount of hours into the trails every year,” Ketel said. “They are passionate about the local trails and thankfully they continue to keep the trails in great shape. We now have an online day pass purchase system, so we can effectively gather riding fees to help put money back into the trails and support those volunteers that put in the work, either through having a BBQ, helping with the cost of fuel, and providing chainsaws.”
The KMX track has come a long way in the past year. Many volunteers spent considerable time fixing and repairing the water system and improving the draining and ditching to reduce pooled water on the track surface.
“The KMX track was a real issue to maintain until we were donated a well-used John Deere loader from Mercer, the pulp mill in Castlegar,” Ketel said. “We now have the ability to maintain the track with our own equipment, which has been a game changer.”
Even with the loader, the WKRDAS is still in need of a dozer (ideally a JD550 or similar), and have been saving money and applying for grants for the past two years. They are getting close to their funding goal, but still need another $20,000 or so. Some of those funds will be streamlined a bit easier thanks to a new online payment system for memberships and drop-in fees.
“This has always been an issue in the past to effectively and seamlessly keep track of revenue,” Ketel said. “We are working on getting trail signage for the Rover Creek single track, and applying for a grant to expand the staging area for the Tree Hugger trail system at the KMX facility so it is more user-friendly for the trail riders not familiar with the area.
“We were very lucky to receive a Federal Youth Summer Job Grant this year, and have been able to hire a great local guy to maintain the KMX facility and manage the place on the weekends for practice days,” Ketel said. “This has been a huge benefit for our club.”
Shifting into a higher gear
The popularity of the WKRDAS isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. Even with COVID rules stymying race events in 2020, membership has ballooned over the last year-and-a-half.
“We have had a huge amount of growth in participants,” said Ketel. “Our membership has grown considerably, and there are more and more young people getting into the sport. It seems that when organized stick-and-ball sports were halted, parents got their kids more into outdoor activities that they can all do together as a family. There are more and more families that come up to ride dirt bikes together.”