Bike Rides: A Common Vision

Published 7:33 pm Friday, July 6, 2012

By Dan Urlick

Recently I rode my bike down to Rose Creek for a celebration that’s been overdue longer than Snooki’s period (on a different scale of course). I’m talking about the ribbon cutting and inauguration of the Shooting Star Bike Trail.

After years of struggling for funds, battling resistant land owners in the courts and other unfortunate delays, D-Day finally arrived this past June 25 and Rose Creek got their trail.

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I joined the inaugural ride of what seemed like about a hundred folks of all ages and found a gap in the middle big enough to fit a firework in off the back rack right before the finish line. Everyone seemed to enjoy the small pyrotechnic show.

The ribbon cutting was touching with Prairie Visions Chairman Gerald Meier giving a speech using a small portable amp and microphone.

Afterwards Mr. Meier opened the mic up to anyone who wanted to speak.

Without thinking too much about it I took my turn and spouted my mouth off about how I’d like to see the remaining stretch of trail from Austin to Rose Creek completed before I’m shooting fireworks off my wheelchair.

While my intentions were mostly to have this message heard by the press and anyone in a position to actually influence the process, upon reflection, I fear my words could have been misinterpreted as a criticism of this group’s progress to date.

Nothing could be further from the truth though, as I know what an agonizing effort this trail extension has been and I’ve never seen such patient determination in all my life as was demonstrated by this group throughout the process. Ken and Becky Hartwig who own the Rose Pedaler Cafe have been particularly gracious while waiting years to realize the potential of their investment in this community.

But my Charlie Sheen like rant in Rose Creek and subsequent record straightening Bike Rides PR damage control column aren’t enough to really express my passion for this cause. That’s why when Steve Kime recently invited me to join the Austin Vision 2020 group established to enhance

Austin’s own bike trail system I jumped at the chance.

And that’s why my first message to them was to get connected to the Shooting Star Trail ASAP. I believe that this should be the top priority, not just because we’ll be able to ride all the way from Austin to Leroy without rolling down a single stretch of highway, but it’s the link that is so vital here.

Not only does Shooting Star have ambitions to one day connect south all the way into Iowa, but S.S. also has its sights set east on the Root River Trail, which famously put Lanesboro and the surrounding area on the map as one of the best destinations for cycling in the entire region. Can you imagine being able to ride all the way to Lanesboro from Austin utilizing virtually no highways the entire way?

If Prairie and 2020 can develop a common vision for the future I believe all of southern Minnesota and Austin could be transformed into a destination community for cycling. And we’re this close to Minneapolis Minnesota, recently named the number one bicycling city in the entire country by

Bicycling Magazine. We should capitalize on this marketing coup d’état while the sweet smell of success is still fresh in the air.

Looking westerly the Blazing Star Trail has been courting Austin for years now, growing ever closer from Albert Lea inch by painstakingly paved inch. I believe Austin’s second priority should be a connection there. Then we’d have an asphalt artery pumping two wheeled tourists from both sides three seasons long. Austin wouldn’t just be another city in Minnesota, but function more like one of the vital organs. Just like I-90 Interstates cars in and out of Austin, the new trail would funnel throngs of bicycle riders through as well.

It was also proposed by other trail committee members that we complete a logical loop route within the city of Austin. I completely agree with this strategy. Sioux Falls has done this and both Mankato and Rochester are closing loops as well. This I think should be the third objective for Austin and there already is a lot of groundwork laid for it.

I’m not just saying this because it suits my hobby. I really think we’re positioned well to play a major role in marketing Minnesota’s newest growing resource, the bike trail system. Now let’s get there FIRST Austin.

How about we say by 2020?

Thanks for riding along.

Traffic Tip: Okay, now that we’ve given them their own park to run in can we keep them off the bike trails?

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Dan Urlick is a resident of Austin and his column appears in the Herald once a month.