The Hydrocut Economic Impact Study
This project a joint collaboration between researchers affiliated with the
Trail Research Hub, Lakehead University's School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, the University of Eastern Finland's Tourism Business Research Community,
and community partners, the Hydrocut Trails Committee.
The Hydrocut Trail system, located in Kitchener-Waterloo, is consistently ranked as the top mountain bike riding destination in Ontario (Singletracks.com, 2020). This free-to-use trail system is not only popular to local mountain bikers but is also recognized across Canada for its 35km of flowing singletrack trails that offer an incredible experience for a diverse range of riding interests and rider skills.
Situated on both public and private lands the trails have expanded at a rapid rate in the past few years. The expansion of the trail system is in direct correlation to the growing popularity of mountain biking; this trail system now sees over 80,000 visitors per year. Although the trails are primarily designed for mountain biking, dog walkers, hikers, trail runners and nature observers also frequent the trails.
On the trails, users will find a range of trails from “EASY”, meant for all levels of riding, to “EXPERT”, for advanced riders who want to test their skills (see map below).
Features along the trail include: boardwalks, bridges, switchbacks, rock armouring, jumps and drops all mixed in with fast lines and technical features. The Hydrocut Trail system offers something for everyone.
The management of the trail system is undertaken by the Waterloo Cycling Club Trails Committee (The Hydrocut Trails Committee). This 10-member committee looks after all things to do with The Hydrocut including trail planning & development, maintenance and interacting with multiple land managers. As well, The Hydrocut Trails Committee organizes merchandise sales, sponsorships, the Friends of The Hydrocut and events which help promote the mountain bike culture in the region and to raise funds to support the trails.
Even though The Hydrocut Trails Committee oversees the direction of the trails, much of the success would not be possible without volunteers. A large volunteer base is mobilized multiple times throughout the year to conduct large scale trail days. During these trail days new trails are built, maintenance is completed, and the community is empowered. It is not uncommon for a trail day to have over 75 volunteers and these volunteers contribute to over 4,000+ hours a year which helps to maintain the trails top ranking.
The Hydrocut trails have not always existed in the form they are now. Starting in the 1990’s cyclists began riding the hydro corridor between the Waterloo Landfill Woodlot and the Petersburg Tract owned by the Region of Waterloo. In the late 90’s unsanctioned trails were built which prompted the Region of Waterloo to shut them down. As a result of the trail closures, the Waterloo Cycling Club formed an advocacy committee with hopes to establish a legitimate mountain biking location. In 2002 the Region of Waterloo partnered with the Waterloo Cycling Club and the Waterloo Cycling Club Trails Committee (The Hydrocut) was created. In 2009 a stewardship agreement was signed by both parties and thus formed the guidelines of how the trails are managed today and how The Hydrocut Trail System has become Ontario’s best mountain bike trail system.
The Hydrocut Trail Economic Impact Study
To support the development of mountain biking and cycle tourism in Kitchener-Waterloo, including innovation within the Waterloo Cycling Club and Hydrocut Trails Committee, a greater understanding of the existing local and non-local demand for mountain biking in the Waterloo Region is needed, as is an understanding of the current local and non-local rider profiles and associated market segments, and their economic impacts, as well as the economic impacts generated by trail building, and maintenance by the Hydrocut Trails Committee.
This Hydrocut Trail Economic Impact Study and Trail User Research Project will therefore:
Define the current local versus non-local Hydrocut Ridership profiles, riding and spending patterns, and market segments through the development and implementation of a trail user survey and by analyzing trail count data for a five-year period;
Foster an understanding the trail tourism destination development needs of its market segments based on information gathered from the trail user survey and secondary data sources; and,
Determine the current and projected future economic impacts of the Hydrocut trail system for the Waterloo Region.