A crowd of more than 115-people packed a section of the Cass County Community Center in Atlantic Monday evening, during the Bike and Trails Expo. Those in attendance learned about bike trail development in the area, along with the potential for economic development and wellness benefits.
Mark Wyatt with the IA Bicycle Coalition speaks in Atlantic
The evening began with guest speaker Mark Wyatt, from Iowa City, Executive Director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Wyatt said bicycling has a huge economic impact on the state, as determined by a study conducted with the assistance of the University of Northern Iowa.
The study found bicycling has a $364.6-million dollar impact on spending in Iowa, which Wyatt said is three-times the impact of the wine industry, four-times the impact of snowmobiling. The numbers he said are “conservative,” and didn’t account for out of state travelers, and it even rivaled golf, as a leisure time activity. The study also collected health information from bicyclists, and by comparing the health of those bicyclists to insurance data, it showed a $73-million dollar health care cost savings. Wyatt said there’s still more work to do though, in the area of bicycle safety.
Ed Kail with the Nishna Valley Trails group, said to encourage bicycle safety, especially among young people, the Atlantic Police Department under the direction of Chief Steve Green, is offering rewards young people who wear a helmet. Kail said during the month of June, Officers with the A-PD who catch a young person wearing a bike helmet will stop them, and offer reward ticket for ice cream. The reward is partially funded by the Trevor Frederickson Foundation. In addition, the Police Department is conducting a “Safe Riding” reward program, because the Chief has been disappointed at the number of kids who are not wearing a helmet. When an officer catches a young person riding safely, that persons name will be taken down and handed in to Chief Green, who will draw two names at the end of the summer. Those two persons will win a new bike, purchased with funds from the Police Youth Fund.
In other developments, NVT President Dave Chase announced progress is being made on the efforts to link-up the Schildberg Quarry Recreation Area in Atlantic with the Atlantic Baseball Complex just east of the KJAN Studios on North Olive Street. Chase said despite some “bumps” last year in getting permission from a local land owner to connect the trail, they have since agreed to allow that to proceed. The trails group Chase said, has re-instituted a study to establish a pedestrian bridge across Troublesome Creek. Sndyer and Associates Engineer Dave Sturm reminded the audience that the City of Atlantic and Nishna Valley Trails combined forces, and were the recipients of a enhancement grant from the Iowa Dept. of Transportation, for the preliminary and final design phases of the pedestrian bridge across Troublesome Creek. He says those plans are now back on track. Sturm says they should receive authorization later on this Summer to proceed with the design, which includes the hydrology of the creek, and the expected level of traffic on the bridge. That study should be completed in the Fall, and from there Sturm says, “It’s hurry up and wait for more grants” until it can be built.