Spring has finally arrived, and more people are taking to the outdoors to be active. With an abundance of parks and trails in Carver County, children and adults of all ages have opportunities to bike, walk and hike.
May is National Biking Month and some special days are receiving attention. Bike to School Day was May 8 and Bike to Work Week is May 13-19, culminating with nationwide events on Friday, May 17.
Bob Lincoln of Chaska is an avid bike enthusiast and has been serving on a team of Carver County and city of Chaska employees encouraging people to bike to work, even if only for a portion of their usual commute. “Try biking to work. You may like it,” he said.
A celebration for everyone who rides into Chaska to work that day will be held at the Chaska Community Center, with refreshments and a group photo at 8 a.m. The community center has generously offered everyone the opportunity to shower and change at their facility before heading off to work.
Aside from biking to work, National Biking Month is intended to support people of all ages to try biking for recreation, transportation, or both. Residents who want to learn more about safe, enjoyable biking can obtain a copy of the Minnesota Bicycling Handbook at local libraries, community centers, city halls and bike shops.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released updated physical activity guidelines for people ages 3 and up. It includes tailored recommendations for older adults, pregnant women, and those with a chronic health condition or disability. The report states that even a brief period of physical activity can make people feel better, both mentally and physically. Being active helps us to function better, sleep better, and reduce their risk of many chronic diseases.
Carver County Public Health works to support walk-friendly and bike-friendly communities through the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership. In 2018, this program funded trail benches in Watertown and Waconia, ensuring those needing a rest stop would have one. The funds supported the installation of bike fix-it stations at Carver County regional trailheads in Mayer and Carver.
Last year, Eastern Carver County schools received a fleet of bicycles for use with middle school students, allowing all students to learn how to safely enjoy a life-long form of physical activity.
In addition, the county’s public health and parks departments began to explore how eliminating park entrance fees might allow more people to visit the parks and be physically active.
“Last summer we experienced about a 50 percent greater utilization of the parks on Sunday afternoons than we anticipated when we waived the entrance fee,” said Sam Pertz, Carver County Parks and Trails supervisor. “We want to repeat this in 2019 and learn more about how elimination of entrance fees could positively impact park use and county health goals.”
This year the program plans to support the city of Watertown as it creates a master trail and sidewalk plan to support a walkable and bikeable community. Ann Mahnke, Public Works director for the city of Victoria, is excited to be a part of a partnership between her city, the city of Chaska and Carver County Parks to better understand what type of trail signs are most useful to trail users. “Whether they are using them for recreation or transportation, we want walkers and bikers to enjoy their use of our trails,” she said.
The city of Chaska is also pursuing its desire to join 25 other nationally-recognized, bike-friendly communities in Minnesota, and become the first in Carver County.
Biking in Carver County in May. With so many reasons to ride, what’s yours?