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Monday, March 12, 2007

Paranoia Of Bicyclists Grips Town

Photo: the family friendly 400 State TrailWith many of the 40,000 or so bicyclists that bike the 400 State Trail starting or ending their ride in the little town of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, you'd think the folks of Reedsburg would be happy to provide a couple of tent sites for cyclists. Surprisingly, a story that appeared today in the Wisconsin State Journal tells how unfounded paranoia recently defeated such a proposal.

Oh no - cyclists!In a public meeting 2 weeks ago, locals expressed fears of criminal cyclists coming into their town and molesting local children. One resident went so far as to propose that criminal background checks be run on everyone looking to use the proposed tent campsites.

It's not as if there has ever been a problem with touring cyclists in this small burg.

According to Matt Scott, Reedsburg's director of city parks, in the 12 years he has served as the parks director, he had not heard a single complaint regarding cyclists including the several times when the state's biggest bike tour came through with over 1000 cyclists camping in tents. Additionally, riders must purchase a pass from the local chamber of commerce to ride the trail; yet, only one check out of thousands purchased by cyclists had ever bounced.

Hopefully, reason will soon prevail and the people of Reedsburg will approve a site for 3 or so tents that has been proposed in another local park.

400 State Trail MapViewed by many as one of Wisconsin's best long distance cycling routes, the 400 State Trail (click on map to enlarge) is part of a 100+ mile system of interconnected trails in Wisconsin. As the trail runs northwest from Reedsburg to the town of Trempealeau, it's name changes from the 400 State Trail to the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the LaCrosse River State Trail and finally the Great River State Trail.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Silver Comet & Chief Ladiga Trails Connecting Soon

During a meeting this week with Jeff Ciabotti, Vice President of Trail Development for the Rails To Trails Conservancy (RTC), I learned that construction is now underway to complete the final connecting sections of the Chief Ladiga and Silver Comet rail trails at the Alabama - Georgia state line. Upon completion of this project, a cyclist will be able to ride all 101 miles from Smyrna (a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia) to Anniston, Alabama on a smooth, non-motorized rail trail. Since Atlanta and Anniston are both served by Amtrak's Crescent, cyclists will be able to ride one way and take the train back.

Although there are many bike trails throughout the USA, the number of interstate trails is small; thus, the opening of this connector is quite an event. In fact, both the governors of Alabama & Georgia are expected to attend the ceremony as are key figures from Washington, D.C. (like Jeff) and representatives of corporate sponsors of the project (like Coca Cola) and stake holders (such as Atlanta's PATH Foundation).

During a meeting yesterday with Jeff, I proposed that we promote the ribbon cutting event to members of the RTC from around the nation as well as to cyclist organizations across the Deep South. Jeff suggested I begin by getting an update on the construction progress from project manager Shannon Robbins.

According to Shannon, the wet weather they've been experiencing this Winter has turned the work area into a muddy mess. As a result, the work on the rail trail may not be complete until mid July '07 amd no date has been announced for the ribbon cutting event at the Coca Cola kiosk being built at the state line.

I'm planning to ride the Chief Ladiga & Silver Comet and will be timing my visit to coincide with the ribbon cutting. If you'd also like to attend, either email me or check my site periodically as I will be publishing more details about the event as they become available. As I plan to take Amtrak to the event, I'll also begin to publish info about places to go bicycling along the route of the Crescent from New Orleans to Atlanta (and perhaps even beyond).


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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Tourism Value of Rail Trails

In my tours on rail trails, I've met other bike tourists from far and wide. Some bicycle tourists were were staying in hotels and B&B's while others were camping; however, each traveler was there because of a rail trail. Naturally, other types of bike trails attract tourists but abandoned rail lines are excellent candidates for spurring economic growth.

By turning a dormant rail line into a bike trail, the corridor remains intact, properties near the corridor increase in value, new businesses are started, jobs are created, and the quality of life improves. I heartily encourage leaders around the world to look upon decommissioned rail lines as the economic engines they can become.

For more on the tourism value of rail trails (rail lines converted into walk/bike trails), read Rail Trail Economics. Also, the Rails To Trails Conservancy offers a wealth of info about rail trails.

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

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