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Vancouver Islander champions reconciliation one trail at a time

Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program bridges communities in riding
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The Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program was conceived in 2012. Photo submitted

Comox resident Patrick Lucas is doing more than his part toward reconciliation with First Nations - one mountain bike trail park at a time.

The professional planner has been working with Indigenous groups throughout the province to design bike trails for First Nation communities for more than a decade, making a tangible difference in the lives of Indigenous Peoples in B.C. and beyond.

The Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program (iymbp.ca) was conceived in 2012, when Lucas was a community planner, living in Vancouver.

“I was working with First Nations all over B.C. and I started it in the Fraser Canyon, with a little group called the Boothroyd Indian Band,” he explained. “I loved the work, dealing with First Nations communities all over B.C. but it wasn’t going very well at first. I was this white guy, stepping out into these small communities. I was struggling to connect in a meaningful way. I was in Boothroyd for a planning session and an Elder asked me what I knew about mountain biking… he asked me because I always had a bike on the back of my car.

“The Elder explained that kids are riding all over the community… and we want to build them a bike park. Can you help us? I had no idea about bike parks or trails or anything, but I said yes immediately.”

Lucas felt a connection right away.

“We went back to the community and built the bike park and it just blew my mind. The community completely opened up to me. The kids showed up, working 10 hours a day, and I realized this was something special.”

The Indigenous Youth Mountain Bike Program was born. Lucas said it took a few years to catch on across the province. He and his best friend, Thomas Schoen, have worked with approximately 40 communities across the province, building upwards of 150 kilometres of trails specifically for Indigenous youth. They have even expanded into Ontario.

“Initially, I was just going to go around and teach kids how to ride mountain bikes, maybe build a bike park here and there,” explained Lucas, of the program’s genesis.

“What happened was while I was going around to these different communities and talking about mountain biking, having little riding clinics with the kids, the parents would often say to me ‘Thanks for getting our kids on bikes, but there is nowhere for them to ride.’ The only places for the kids to ride were busy, dirt roads that go right through the community. So they were saying ‘We need trails.’ And although I didn’t know anything about trail building that all changed when I met Thomas. He is a master trail builder from Williams Lake. So we started training the youth how to build trails. Now, in the past five or six years, we have almost become an exclusive trail-building organization.”

Lucas, an eighth-generation Caucasian Canadian, has always had an interest in connecting with the Indigenous Peoples. He credits the community disconnect of being in a military family as a factor in his desire to learn more about such tight-knit communities.

“Living as a military brat, moving around all the time, always feeling sort of disconnected - working with First Nations was a place to learn about community - a space where felt like I could learn what it means to actually be connected to a place,” he said. “Also, I have always been interested in issues of social justice. I studied First Nations in university, I know about our history, and I knew even back then, that the way for Canada to move forward, we had to build those relationships and share this place in a better way.”

Lucas, who returned to the Comox Valley in 2019, has yet to work with the K’ómoks First Nation, although sees that as a possibility.

“Mostly on the Island it has all been on the West Coast, so I have worked extensively with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation, and the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw First Nations up in the North Island,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I am so busy in other places, when I get home to the Comox Valley, I tend to treat it as my safe space… I would love to see more of the First Nations youth out, but I don’t have a lot of connection with them yet.”

The project is also the subject of a documentary titled Dirt Relations.

Dirt Relations tells the story of Lucas, Schoen, and Tom Eustache, a Secwepemc man and member of the Simpcw First Nation. Their unlikely friendship led them to create the IYMBP, and ultimately find themselves recognized as leaders in fostering meaningful reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

“Building trails and riding bikes together has provided us with powerful insights into what it means to be an ally to Indigenous Peoples and work towards reconciliation,” said Lucas.

The plan is to continue the growth of the IYMBP throughout Canada. Any First Nation interested in connecting with Lucas is encouraged to reach out via the website, at iymbp.ca

READ ALSO: Indigenous youth mountain biking film blazes trail to Vancouver festival



Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 24 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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