BMX Track putting Cornwall on the map

April 29, 2020
BMX Track
Cornwall BMX Track

Cornwall has long been recognized as a great destination for cyclists. That reputation has now grown to include cyclists of the BMX variety.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of grassroots volunteers, Cornwall has become a fixture on Canada’s BMX racing scene in just a few short years. The Cornwall BMX Track in Guindon Park – one of the longest sanctioned BMX tracks in Ontario – hosts upwards of 50 racing events per year, drawing visitors from across Ontario, Quebec and the United States.

Last year, the track welcomed athletes from 98 different communities across Canada and the United States. Over 40 per cent of registrants travelled more than 40 kilometres to race in Cornwall, with some travelling from as far as Boston, Long Island and Nanaimo.

“We’re blown away (by the tourism impact),” said Dan Drouin, President of the Cornwall BMX Club, the non-profit organization that operates the track. “It’s a testament to the fact that it’s working.”

If the success of the track were a race itself, you could say that Drouin and his team have burst out of the starting gate and they’re gaining speed down the stretch. With the third season of operation on the horizon, the group is looking to build on the track’s success and potential in a big way.

This year, the club is completing a $30,000 enhancement to the track to further solidify the facility’s spot on the BMX racing map. The enhancements will include improvements to the starting hill and corner berms, installation of bleachers for the spectator area, landscaping upgrades and repairs to the track’s drainage system.

“We’ll be able to get out there while it’s raining and we will be able to hold races in the rain if all goes as planned. That would be really big and it would help out our volunteers in a big way,” Drouin said.

The enhancements, Drouin added, will improve the overall appearance and comfort of the facility for athletes and spectators alike.

Support from Tourism Development Fund

The track upgrade project got a huge boost out of the gate with a $20,000 investment from the Tourism Development Fund, a special fund that exists to support festivals and events, attractions and businesses that have a positive economic impact on Cornwall. The fund is supported by revenues from the Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) and is overseen by a stand-alone entity, the Tourism Development Corporation of Cornwall (TDCC).

“The upgrades at the BMX Track are a great example of how the Tourism Development Fund can be used to support tourism businesses in the community,” said Etienne Saint-Aubin, Chair of the TDCC.  “This investment will help to strengthen this important facility and attract even more visitors to Cornwall in the future.”

Drouin said the investment from the Tourism Development Fund was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, and it will benefit the community in a number of ways.

“That funding is going to be reinvested in the community by using local contractors and providers to carry out the work,” he said.

The season ahead

In light of the current provincial orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the physical work at the track has yet to begin in earnest. However, Drouin and his team are busy completing the behind the scenes work to be ready to go once the green light is provided and normal activities resume.

“We’ve had dirt delivered to the track and we’re doing what we can on the sidelines to line up products and services so we will be shovel-ready when the time comes,” he added.

The same goes for the racing season itself. It’s a wait and see for the moment although there are growing signs of optimism in the battle against COVID-19 and various jurisdictions are beginning to explore options to safely reopen different aspects of the economy and community life.

“We’re kind of hoping we are not too far behind,” said Drouin.

The club is hoping to keep the positive momentum going with its weekly races on Monday evenings throughout the summer. There are also plans to host a provincial qualifier in July, although Drouin said that could be postponed to late-summer or fall depending on the COVID-19 situation. It’s expected the event could draw upwards of 250 competitors to Cornwall. A summer camp featuring Cycling Canada BMX head coach Ken Cools is also in the works should circumstances allow.

Clearly, Drouin and his team are showing there’s truth to the old saying, if you build it, they will come.

“These upgrades are going to help us draw even more people to our provincial events and our local races,” he added.

About the Cornwall BMX Club

Located off of the Floral Drive entrance to Guindon Park on Vincent Massey Drive, the Cornwall BMX Track is one of North America’s newest BMX tracks. It also holds the distinction of being one of the longest BMX Canada sanctioned tracks in Ontario. The track is home to the Cornwall BMX Club which holds race nights at the facility throughout the summer.

For more information on the track and the Cornwall BMX Club, please click here.

About the Tourism Development Fund

The Cornwall Tourism Development Fund was established in 2019 to support efforts to grow tourism activity in the City of Cornwall.

The application process for the fund will resume in May following a review to refine the terms, conditions and criteria of the fund.

For more information about the fund, please click here.

Article by Kevin Lajoie

Photo by Bobby Lefebvre