After the success of our Kids Biking Club in July 2016, coordinator Cindy Okerlund proposed an initiative to promote trails and bicycling among area youth. Specifically, Okerlund’s proposed initiative would provide the opportunity for Emmet County fourth graders to participate in an educational field trip on bikes, riding a seven-mile round trip on the North Western State Trail. The Trails Council submitted a grant proposal to the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee, requesting funds to lease a fleet of bicycles and purchase helmets for 28 students.
With the success of this grant request, planning for the program began in earnest, with visits to classrooms for safety instruction, as well as bicycle skills testing for each child. During this phase, staff from Latitude 45 Bicycles and Fitness offered assistance to Okerlund.
In May 2017, ten fourth-grade classes (from Pellston, Alanson and Petoskey schools) were scheduled to participate. Of these ten classes, nine successfully completed the round trip from Spring Lake Park to Michigan DNR’s Oden Fish Hatchery, where they had a tour of the facility and ate lunch. Groups had instruction before they left the park related to bicycle mechanics and safety. They also learned about invasive species from a staff member from Little Traverse Conservancy and enjoyed a history lesson along the way from a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
The program, assisted by up to ten volunteers each session, was a huge success. Two more classes enjoyed outings in September 2017, and plans are to offer 15 outings in May 2018.
A slideshow of the May 2017 outings can be viewed here.