Biking for Sustainability
By Shannon Bond
I strap on my helmet, slip into my gloves, and sling my hydration pack across my shoulders. It’s time to find adventure. I swing my leg over the saddle and click my right shoe into the peddle. A lot of the time I find my adventure on the back of a mountain bike, flying down all of the single track dirt trails I can find. Rocky climbs, fast descents, quick and flowing terrain, it’s all meditative.
I’ve ridden for years, but since coming to the EPA a few thoughts have lodged themselves into my consciousness. One of those thoughts creeps into my mind on every ride; as my muscles are screaming and I’m focusing on, well, my focus, I think about sustainability.
Merriam-Webster defines sustainable as, “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable)
Trails and parks are a perfect example of sustainability. They not only provide a refuge for wildlife, they also provide a refuge for people. These areas work well as an escape from the daily barrage of work and technology, a personal connection with nature, or a great way to exercise. Sustainability isn’t just about our physical environment, though; it’s about us, too. On the EPA website, it describes sustainability in the following way:
“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.” (http://www.epa.gov/sustainability/)
I would say that these trail systems definitely promote that productive harmony, as well as fulfill some of our social needs. I’ve come to understand that these trails don’t happen by themselves though. Parks don’t just sprout up for people to hike and explore, and bike-friendly urban environments don’t just happen, they are built. A lot of planning goes into public use areas, and a lot of maintenance is required to keep them going.
You don’t generally think about Kansas City and biking, especially mountain biking, but the scene has grown. It’s an exciting time for the bike community in Kansas City. According to the Earth Riders Trail Association (http://www.earthriders.org/) we have at least thirteen maintained trail systems in the K.C. metro area. I know from talking to some of these dedicated individuals that there are even more planned.
Now that I realize what it takes to maintain these trails, I appreciate them even more, and the folks who get out and work on them. Initially, there has to be an agreement with the land owners. Those owners can be county, federal, or state. Then it takes coordination with the land managers to plan the trail system in an environmentally-sustainable way. After that, a host of volunteers spend countless hours on trail work days. Even after the trails are built, those work days keep coming. All of this behind-the-scenes work is hidden from the everyday user. To lend a hand, though, you can check the group’s websites and pick any number of maintenance days to show up at:
Shannon Bond is a multimedia production specialist with EPA Region 7’s Office of Public Affairs. He has served in a host of roles including military policeman, corrections officer, network operations specialist, photojournalist, broadcast specialist and public affairs superintendant.
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