Monday, April 11, 2011

Should Sullivan County Black Top Our Small Community Bike Paths?

Someone passed along an interesting article that was found on the Smithsonian Web Site which started wheels churning and it is that process of thinking that sees the question posed, "Should Sullivan County find the money to black top, and thus monetize the wonderful gift that is our bike trails, our very own Rails to Trails Corridor." Is this another avenue or piece of the puzzle in the task of moving us forward in our economic renewal and revitalization that is taking hold here?

Imagine if you will a quiet little hamlet that once upon a time had been a bustling, even thriving community. See this community with its rich history falling upon hard times, the population dwindling down to almost nothing compared to what it once had been (wondering how large of a population Mountaindale had that summer in 1970 when we ALMOST played host to a second Woodstock style event?). Buildings boarded up, many of them in a sad state of affairs. It would be easy to walk away, call it quits and let that small little hamlet waste away into history, the memory of its very existence gone as its former residents and their stories disappeared to news dreams and new destinations. This tale of a dying town, a dying hamlet could be told about any number of communities in Sullivan county, but in this case, the story is about the small community of Lanesboro, Minnesota that was struggling to survive...then something happened.

That something, the proverbial seed of renewal and rebirth was the black topping of their own bike path, and the tourist trade (in the form of biking enthusiasts young and old) that has brought an economic renewal and revitalization to this quite bucolic hamlet. This town now plays host to numerous successful Bed and Breakfast places of slumber, restaurants, Art Gallery, Art Center and various shops. In short, it has returned itself to vibrancy and prosparity.

On a summer weekend (thanks in part [partially] to nearby campgrounds) it is not unusual to see this small community's population grow to over 5000. Granted, their total trail is some 60 miles in length, but our own trail here in Sullivan County is growing by leaps and bounds, and much of the needed component parts to our own renewal already seem to be in place. We have numerous campgrounds in the area including Yogi Bear and Skyway that play host to literally hundreds of camping families each year. Summer sees literally thousands of part timers sweeping off front porches, moving into their summer homes and cabins. Many of our buildings here in Mountaindale have already been restored, and our base line population is similar to that of Lanesboro...last Census has us at 520 citizens. We have three beautiful seasons, each offering a completely unique set of opportunities to biking enthusiasts and tourists alike.

So, the question is it time we put more energy into what could be Sullivan County's crown jewel, should we seriously look to find the volunteers, means, money to expand and blacktop this under developed and under utilized piece of public infrastructure?