It will be the end of an era at Glentress next spring.
Mountain bikers and pioneers Emma Guy and Tracy Brunger were told by email at the weekend that their bid to be part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s (FCS) new £9million centre at the mountain biking mecca had failed.
Online, worldwide supporters of the Hub café and bike shop are up for a fight and said the quango is not recognising the unique atmosphere that the little company, which was set up from nothing, has created in the Peeblesshire forest.
On the Hub-Glentress’s Facebook page there is talk of a petition and supporters are urged to email protests to FCS. There are threats to boycott the new facility, but much comment centres on the “soul” of the Hub.
One supporter said: “I have been to various other trail centres that have taken a similar approach to the new Glentress facilities and they are totally devoid of the passion and soul that makes the Hub great.”
Another says: “Glentress is all about the Hub, the café, the atmosphere, the bike hire and the shop.”
Another adds: “I remember Glentress before the Hub and your team took over. You have made it what it is and why people come back time and time again.”
And the FCS decision is variously described as “shameful”, “ridiculous” and “bonkers”.
Emma said: “It looks like there is no future for us at Glentress and we’re trying to digest that.”
It was 10 years ago that Emma, who is the 2010 Scottish downhill champion, and former British champion several times over Tracy sold everything they owned to set up the Hub which now has 10 full-time staff and 20 part-timers.
“It does feel like a kick in the teeth and it is certainly not the way we would have seen things going,” said Emma.
She – and several mountain bikers online – feel the £9million would have been better spent developing trails in the whole Tweed Valley and creating a chairlift at Innerleithen along with a more modest, still environmentally friendly, new centre.
“The reason people come to Glentress is to ride their bikes. A good café and a good bike shop are the icing on the cake, but the main investment should be in the trails,” said Emma.
She knows so far only that their bid failed on financial grounds.
“We had to put a blind bid in of a rent that would give FCS a business return on a £9million building. We answered that based on the knowledge we have over the last 10 years. But we don’t want to be selling bacon rolls for £5 because the Forestry Commission want a business – that’s not what Glentress is about.”
An FCS spokesman said: “We understand the Hub’s disappointment, however we have carried out the whole process to the letter.
“The new café, bike shop and hire are great new business opportunities that are on a far bigger and different scale than before, so it is standard public practice to tender openly and fairly. We cannot allow any favouritism or preferential treatment.
“With well over 300,000 visitors each year, you need to have the right facilities in place to keep the destination the number one attraction in the Borders.”
Emma said: ‘”The Hub wasn’t named after a bike part, the idea was to bring people together to have a hub of activity, running kids’ clubs, encouraging women on bikes, coaching local riders.
“It’s a small business that has an important role in the local community. We have a real connection with a lot of people who come to Glentress.
“If we get a big chain here, I don’t know if it’s going to retain that feeling.”
Tender results are expected in January. The Hub’s lease runs out in March 2012.