Gregor Muir is ingrained in the community, and with a range of interests that make him one of those well-connected people that are so full of energy they somehow manage to do more than they should be able to in the time available. In winter he helps keep the local kids ski club going, through the rest of the year he organises the weekly kids ski club.
On top of that he helps run canoe sessions, and is working away behind the scenes on an exciting new bike project in Fort William. We asked Gregor to tell us more about the latest project - Lochaber Wheeled Sports Society and the planned Fort William Bike Park.
LWSS community led project to develop a community bike park in Fort William that is accessible to as many people in the community as possible. This has grown from the success of the Kids club which was started a number of years ago by a small group of parents keen to have a club for the young riders to develop their skills and enjoyment of mountain biking in Lochaber.
As a side to this the young riders were keen to look at other types of riding and we were persuaded to take them up to the Inverness Skate Park with their BMXs.
This facility in Inverness is wonderful and we decided that we should attempt to build something similar in Fort William. This would allow local riders to have a world class facility on their doorstep.
From an idea, the project has grown into a half a million pound proposed bike park. We have a great enthusiastic committee who are fully committed to get his built.
The aim is to develop a bike park in Fort William that is accessible to as many people from the local communities as possible. There are no final designs yet, but it will include a world class pumptrack, a DDA Compliant All user bike track, skate and BMX park, and a trials area, plus storage space for BMXs and disabled adaptive bikes.
As well as these superb facilities there will be a clubhouse which will be used as a teaching and coaching area as well as a large covered area for skills development and maintenance sessions.
We have a large number of proposed user groups. We have interest from University of Highlands and Islands, High Life Highland, Active Schools, West Highland Wheelers, Lochaber High School, Kinlochleven High School, Disability Sport Scotland, Lochaber Environmental Group.
The Lochaber Environmental Group have an employed bike instructor who is planning on relocating to the bike park on completion.
As volunteer community group we can put time and effort into getting the facility planned and built, but we cant be on site delivering coaching sessions and helping the project achieve its wider social objectives. So we got in touch with as many local groups and organisations as we could to help us understand what they need out of the project, and what they can contribute.
Now we have a strong local network of people and organisations that together can train leaders, run coaching, run a bike maintenance workshops, people who can work with schools to support the pupils who can benefit from the project most, and community groups that can help reduce barriers to participation so we can make the facilities as accessible as possible, to as many people in our community as we can.
Our main challenge has been to raise the £500K to fund the facility. It has taken many years to get to this stage. We have now raised around £440K so far but are still not quite there yet.
It has been difficult through covid keeping enthusiasm and motivation to keep the project moving forward.
The turning point was when we were awarded £290K from Sport Scotland. This really got the momentum going again.
We are looking at having all the funding in place by the middle of May. At this point we will be able to identify the preferred contractor and finalise the plans. We will hope to be up and running by the spring of next year.
It's so exciting to see genuine community-led projects like trail associations and pumptracks, but without committed and dedicated people putting significant amounts of time and effort into working away behind the scenes things like this would never happen.
Fort William Bike Park is currently around £8k short of its target. If you would like to know more about the project and help it become a reality, check Fort William Pumptrack and Skatepark or email our Ruari (details below) to get in touch with group.
Thank you, to all those people in local communities, like Gregor, who keep making Scottish Mountain Biking better and better!