September 24 was the first ever Bike Your Park Day. Organized by the Adventure Cycling Association, the day was designed to commemorate several things: the 40th anniversary of the association, the centenary of the National Park Service, and the fact that this date was also National Public Lands Day. The objective of the day was to encourage folks to ride their bike to a park, any park, be it national, state or neighborhood.
After talking with some of the folks from Active Pueblo-PACE and the Cruisin’ Pueblo rides that we’ve been doing on Thursday nights starting at Bingo Burger in town, we helped to organize a ride to Lake Pueblo State Park, the wonderful park that is right in our own backyard.
In addition to its better known great amenities (fishing, boating, mountain biking), the park has a newly paved bike route that goes from one side of the park to the other and is accessible from the Arkansas River Multiuse Path. We decided to start the ride outside the park so that people who didn’t have park passes wouldn’t have to pay to park, since it’s a diverse group here in town and we wanted to make sure there were no barriers to entry for people who wanted to ride with us. At the same time, we didn’t want to start the ride too far outside the park, so that people didn’t feel like they had to ride too far.
We identified a spot where people could park that was close to the path and met everyone there on the Saturday morning.
A few of the people we know from the Thursday night rides came, along with a couple of friends we’ve met from the trails group, but it was delightful to see some new faces and a few people we’d only met once or twice before. While people were getting their bikes ready, we went around and got the waiver signed and introduced ourselves to people. What was great about this turnout (about 35 people), was that although some people came from our circles, there were also people who heard about it via the PACE Facebook page or the lovely article in the Pueblo West View for which I’d been interviewed earlier in the week. I had also promoted the ride through the Chamber of Commerce and the Pueblo Chieftain (which seemed to be connected).
Before the ride started we talked about our objective, and did a bit of a safety talk, warning people that there are a couple of places in the park where the path gets kind of steep and that there’s no shame to walking in those areas or turning around. We were shooting to ride to the Marina on the North side of the park, since there’s a café there, but I didn’t expect everyone to make it all the way, since that would make it a 20-mile roundtrip. I pointed out that there would likely be places where I would walk myself and that there was nothing wrong with that. The point was just to enjoy each other and the new path and make the most of a perfect day.
We set off a little after the scheduled start time, and as expected, the group spread out a bit because of the differing ability levels. I tried to talk to as many people as I could and just be positive with them, not riding too hard or too slow, and once in a while waiting for folks. We stopped at the Anticline Ponds, though some people had already gone on, and took some pictures, then carried on into the main part of the park and toward the north side of the path. There was one section where there’s a pretty steep climb, and I admit I got off and walked part of it. I can make it up on my road bike, but on my touring bike, I’m just not strong enough. A few others did too and I waited for some of them. Then there was a section that has a pretty steep descent and ascent where I actually showed the group of riders I was with how I avoided it by riding on the road for that part. It’s sad that the path in that section is so hard to ride, since it sort of defeats the object of having the path if you feel the road is better. I guess that no cyclists were employed in the engineering process, though I’ve been told that section is significantly better than it was.
About 15 of us met up at the café at the North Marina to take a break and have some refreshments. Angie and I had bought some granola bars and clementines to share, but we also wanted to encourage folks to spend some money at the marina shop/café in order to support the park. And they have ice cream, so that’s good.
It was actually the first time Angie and I had actually ridden/walked onto the marina. We usually just turned around at the edge of the parking lot to avoid all the traffic of trucks pulling boats. It was fun to sit at the marina and take in the lovely day, while also getting to know some of the delightful people riding with us. There were people out boating and fueling up their boats, and people coming and going on the Marina.
After we’d sat there for a while, we felt it was probably time to head back. A few of the people who were there decided to rest up a bit longer but a group of us turned around.
With a ride like this, there’s really no way to avoid it fracturing, though if I were to do something like this again, I might shorten the ride. It’s a little faster coming back because there’s more downhill than uphill. Our group got back to the parking lot and sadly the ride was over. It does seem that most of the people on the ride really enjoyed it. I got some lovely comments from people at the end of the ride and even some emails thanking us for organizing, and asking when we’d do something like this again.
A few days after the ride, Angie also got a great email from the Adventure Cycling Association with some fantastic stats: Over 11,000 people participated in 1,439 rides in all 50 states, 6 Canadian provinces and a total of 10 countries! It seems that the day was a success in Pueblo and everywhere else.