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Devon, becoming Bike Town, Alberta

Devon's bona fides as a cycling destination are already impressive, but the town recognizes that for its branding as Bike Town, Alberta to be successful, more work and additions to that reputation are required according to a recent article by Mark Wierzbicki in the Devon Dispatch in February.

As part of the brand selection process, the brand leadership team developed a "Brand Promise," in which they envision the status of Bike Town nearly ten years from now, in 2020. In it, Devon is envisioned as being home to over 200km of paved and natural bike trails, and over a dozen specialized bike shops offering customization, factory direct ordering, and indoor test facilities. The town is also seen as hosting the nation's largest cycling competition, as well 20 other major cycling events.

How will we get from here to there? The brand team has outlined a general strategy, including such tactics as cultivating brand "champions" in the community, collusion with existing town projects such as the River Valley Master Plan, construction of new trails and facilities, and positive word of mouth."Today we find ourselves on the cycling community's radar," reads the brand team's presentation. "Within a few short years we have hosted the provincial and national championships. We are on the map."

Already more cycling events are on the horizon, including a possible winter race that would debut next year, though nothing is concrete yet. In order to help attract more tourists and events, the team plans on developing partners and "champions" in the community who will help in promoting the brand and the sport. Michelle Levasseur, economic development and tourism coordinator hopes to attract partners through the prospect of mutual benefits."We want businesses who embrace this to be able to thrive off of it," said Levasseur. "We want them to ask, 'how can I leverage Bike Town?' because if it benefits them then it benefits the town."

Improving and expanding on the town's cycling infrastructure may also fit easily within some of the towns existing initiatives, including the Downtown Vitalization Plan, and the River Valley Master Plan. "If you look at the plans and requirements for these projects, they are totally in sync," said Levasseur. "Bike Town ties everything together: Vitalization, the Master Plan, expansion across Highway 60. It works with everything." In fact, development on the other side of the highway is essential for accommodating some of the brand's vision, which includes "hundreds" of kilometers of concrete trails within the town itself.

The river valley will also be an area of great focus for development of cycling facilities and trails. Recently, the federal government devoted $30 million in grant money to the River Valley Park, an ongoing project committed to developing 88 km of parkland along the (Edmonton) Capital Region's share of the North Saskatchewan River. The plan's stated goals mesh with Devon's River Valley Master Plan, as well as the stated goals of the Bike Town brand. The town is hoping that new facilities will also help attract tourist and competitions. Though no specific plans are yet in the works, Levasseur hopes to see an indoor BMX park, indoor and outdoor mountain bike parks, and a year-round training centre. A new velodrome under construction in Edmonton will likely be a major draw for cyclists from all over the world, and since outdoor training often complements indoor training, world-class athletes could be drawn to the scenic trails in Devon for practice runs.

Finally, Levasseur and the team hope that word of mouth regarding Devon's substantial, and growing, cycling attractions will help the brand establish a long-ranging reputation. "We're building our product, "said Levasseur. "We'll need a lot of help from the community, but we think this is doable by 2020."
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