Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New trail process has begun

As many of you already know, Ripon College finished in the top 10 in a nationwide voting contest in August. Ripon’s proposal to build a mountain bike trail on campus was among the top-10 vote recipients in the $25,000 category of Pepsi’s Refresh Project. Our proposal finished in 10th place for the month of August to earn the grant.

The Pepsi Refresh Project began in 2010 as a means to help “refresh” communities, according to Melisa Tezanos, communications director for Pepsi. Anyone can submit ideas on the Pepsi Refresh Web site in tiers of $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $250,000 grants.

“We accept up to 1,000 ideas every month across all of the tiers,” says Tezanos. “The top vote-getters in each of the categories receive the grants.”

Each month, Pepsi awards $1.3 million. Tezanos says Pepsi is using the money the company saved by not advertising during the 2010 Super Bowl.

The Ripon College mountain bike team has flourished in the three years since its inception in 2008. The team has won the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference Division 2 team championship and qualified multiple students for national competition in each of the past two years. Still, the nearest mountain biking trail is more than 20 miles from Ripon. Using the money from the grant, we now expect to have a mountain bike trail on campus before the start of school in 2011.

Our team has experienced moderate success to date, but in order for Ripon to recruit top-level mountain bikers and provide those riders with an adequate training ground on campus, we felt this trail was a necessity.

The trail will be located in the wooded sections of the College’s Ceresco Prairie Conservancy at the west end of campus. The Conservancy comprises 130 acres of native prairie, oak savanna and wetland habitat. The area is part of the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Glacial Habitat Restoration Program, a partnership between the DNR and the College. Damm says the new trail comes with the approval of both Professor of Biology and Director of the Conservancy Skip Wittler and the DNR.

The consensus is that a mountain bike trail fits well within the existing recreational uses of the property without posing any adverse risk to the prairie ecosystem or other guests.

To minimize the potential for erosion and other impacts of the new trail, the grant money is being used to hire the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Solutions team to design and build the trail. That was the entire reason for seeking the grant. Once it was agreed that a mountain bike trail was an acceptable use of the land, we wanted to be certain that the trail was built to the best standards to ensure the integrity and longevity of the trail as well as the prairie and woodland habitat.

Jill Van Winkle, a trail specialist with Trail Solutions, met with Professor Wittler, President David Joyce, some of the Red Hawks cyclists and I yesterday. Today, she is well on her way piecing together the initial design for the trail. The Trail Solutions team will return in spring to begin construction.

After speaking with Jill and walking around the woods, I’m excited by the possibilities. This trail will not only provide an excellent resource for our team, but it will be another great jewel in the crown of the Ripon community. The trail will be built will some challenges in mind for more advanced riders, but will not be so intimidating as to scare off would-be newcomers.

We want this trail to be a gateway for others who are curious about the sport of mountain biking. Ripon students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Ripon community at large all supported this project and gave us the votes we needed to secure the grant. This trail will be built for all of them, and everyone is welcome to use it. We hope you'll join us next fall. In the meantime, check back often for updates.

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