Riding a high wave of accomplishment into 2017

Published 7:01 am Sunday, November 20, 2016

It’s always a little depressing as the days start to get shorter and the temperatures colder, but autumn can be a great time to reflect on what’s been accomplished during the warmer months, and to look forward to the blooming of flowers and activity next year. When it comes to the subject of outdoor recreation in Austin, the volunteers of the Vision 2020 Biking and Walking Trails committee have had a banner year, and they are anticipating even bigger things in 2017.

For starters, the Red Bike program launched earlier this spring with great excitement. With nearly thirty bikes floating around town, the bike share has filled an important gap for those without access to transportation or recreation. The bikes have been collected for storage and repair this winter, and volunteers will be working hard to prepare even more bikes to put out in the spring. We are all looking forward to seeing this program grow bigger and better as time goes on.

Second, the committee conducted another successful Bike Safety Day in May and participated in the first annual Downtown Harvest Fest in September. Hundreds of children and adults received bike helmets, trail maps, and safety education at these events, which were made possible by the generous support of many community partners. Our community is so fortunate that Rydjor Bike Shop, The Hormel Foundation, Mayo Clinic Health System, and the Southern Minnesota Bike Club have make bike safety a priority. Be sure to be on the lookout for these events again in 2017.

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Third, at long last, work is finally set to begin on the last leg of the Shooting Star Trail, which will connect Austin to one of the state’s premier trail systems. When it’s done you’ll be able to ride all the way to LeRoy and Lake Louise State Park, and visitors can ride into Austin to enjoy our own excellent trails and other amenities. Completion of the trail will be a big boost for Austin’s local economy, not to mention our population’s health and overall quality of life.

Finally, earlier this year Vision 2020 volunteers submitted an application for Austin to be officially recognized as a bike-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists, and they recently awarded us with an “honorable mention” designation!

This is a huge milestone for the community and affirmation of all the work our volunteers have done over the past few years. You can view Austin’s report card at the League’s website (www.bikeleague.org), which also provides a host of concrete steps that we can now take to reach even higher levels of recognition.

We have an excellent foundation on which to build our future efforts to promote biking, walking, and other forms of outdoor recreation in Austin. We’d love to have your help and ideas going forward. Our volunteers generally meet on the 4th Tuesday of every month at noon, and there are many activities happening outside of the regular gathering. You can contact the committee chair, Steve Kime, at stevenkime@charter.net if you’d like to learn more.