Back to Basics Motocross

Story by Misti Hurst// Photos by Misti Hurst
December 11 2019

This grassroots track has been running for many years and caters to all skill levels, including those of children

Just off of Highway 99 between Whistler and Pemberton, B.C., is a little gem of a motocross track facility called Green River MX. Tucked into the shadow of snow-capped mountains, these family-friendly configurations offer riders of all abilities the chance to rip it up in a seriously relaxed environment. 

If you’re heading north out of Whistler, a few minutes past the Welcome to Pemberton sign, look to your right and you’ll glimpse some rolling ribbons of dirt that wind their way though a dark green forest and then parallel the famed Sea to Sky Highway. Small to medium jumps, berms and whoops are visible from the roadside as the track curves back on itself and runs alongside an access road that is perfect for spectating and photo ops. 

If you’re not paying attention, the turnoff can be easy to miss. A small sign indicates that there is a track at that location; an inconspicuous storage container serves as the “office.” Riders must sign waivers that are placed outside on a picnic table, then pay either a daily fee or write down their membership number before heading to the parking area. Everyone is greeted with a friendly smile or wave from whomever is helping out that day. And when I say “helping out,” I mean volunteering their time so the track can run. 

Many Hands Make Light Work

Green River MX is a non-profit community-run facility. All monies collected at the gate from rider and membership fees are funnelled back into the track. As Sean Holmes, member and volunteer, explained, “We as a group of people collectively run this place.”

The track has been in operation at this location for almost 18 years. The land is leased though a partnership among the Ministry of Transportation, BC Hydro and the Squamish Lillooet Regional District of Pemberton. “We have to keep all those parties happy,” explained Holmes. “That means we clear all the BC Hydro brush, we keep the rivers and waterways clear, and we have fencing across the river, which we also manage. It’s a lot of work.”

Kevin Labatte is the current president and has held the role for six or seven years, but he has been with the club a lot longer. Holmes and Labatte work together with many other generous people, including Jody Dean, who helps with Coastal Mountain Excavation and the heavy equipment used to prep and groom the track, Adam Gable, Nick Antol, Shea Stuart, Derik Bergan, and more. They continuously put in several hours of work to groom, water and maintain the track. “Everyone helps out at the gate and with track maintenance,” said Holmes. “It’s a community effort, entirely
volunteer-run. Every penny we get goes into the track or into the equipment used to keep the track safe and in good shape, such as sprinkler systems, equipment, water truck, et cetera.”

The Best Type of Community

When I asked Holmes why he does it, he said simply “I love motocross. I love watching the women and the kids [ride]. I’ve played a lot of sports in my lifetime, and this community is by far the very best.”

Getting to Pemberton takes slightly less than two hours from our home in North Vancouver. We love the scenic drive and the kids are used to sitting in the truck, squished in between the dog and all the riding gear. Somehow we manage to fit four dirt bikes in the bed of the pickup – two YZ 125s, an RM 65 and a DRZ 70 – along with gas cans, camping chairs, tools, water and snacks for the day. 

As you drive into the large flat setting up for dirt bike riding in the bush. Nature, trees, a little river, West Coast wilderness and mountains can be seen from the track.

Pickup trucks and cars with trailers line the back edge of the parking lot, where there are some nice trees for shade and some cut-up stumps that act as bike stands or seats. Riders range in age from tiny little kids with training wheels on their PW 50s to seasoned riders in their 50s and 60s. Dogs are allowed on the grounds, although a recent caution was sent out to keep them on leash as a Mama Bear and some cubs had been spotted on club property.

All Skill Levels Welcome

The parking area faces the entrance/exit of the big track and the start gate (when the latter is in use for races and events), and an orange ribbon serves to tell riders whether the track is open or closed for watering. There are no flaggers unless there is a special event, as there just aren’t enough volunteers to do flag, yet all riders look out for each other and stop to help if they see someone in need. There are no specific groups that rotate out at certain times unless it’s a Tuesday evening, which is reserved for family nights, kids and new riders. This is a time for parents to ride with their kids or for adults to ride with their beginner friends or novice partners. The track is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To the left of the parking lot is a small kids-only track. A hand-painted sign states: Small Bikes Only, Big Bikes Get Lost! This fun little configuration is visible from the entire parking lot, so kids with enough experience can zip over from their pit areas and ride. I’m always amazed at the care and respect they have at such young ages, passing slower riders cautiously, helping others and often riding with impeccable skill and technique.

Laidback Track

This is the kind of chill motocross track that is friendly and relaxed, with jumps that aren’t threatening to newer riders, who can gradually progress in the height and distance of their airtime without needing to make a double or clear a gap. This is the kind of track where the kids can rip around in the parking area or on either the little or big track, or play in the forested area safely while mom and dad enjoy their own riding.

The track feels old-school – the way motocross should be: you show up and park next to your buddies and enjoy rolling out whenever you’re ready; without too many flags and rules and taking turns all the time; and without fear of riding with people who are too fast or too slow or who jump too high or who might land on you because, well, it is a track that is suitable for all levels of riders. As Holmes said, “We have very little equipment to work with, but we are a more beginner-friendly track. We’ve learned from experience and from some crashes, and have made the track considerably safer over the years.”

Camping is allowed at $20/night, but no campfires or drones are allowed – ever. Limited resources mean that Green River MX currently runs only one race per year under the sanctioning body Future West. (This year, a new record was set: more than 330 entries.)

If you’re keen to check out this facility, be sure to thank the volunteers for their time and effort in keeping and maintaining this awesome track. Like Holmes said, “We all do it just for the love of it. We do it to grow this incredible sport.”

For more information, check out: Green River MX on Facebook.


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