SANDPOINT — Riding a bicycle from Oldtown to Clark Fork is now a reality following a ribbon cutting to kick off U.S. Bike Route 10 Friday afternoon. More than 30 people attended the ceremony in Farmin Park, which was followed by a bike ride along the route.
Cynthia Gibson, executive director for the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, said the route covers more than 66 miles in Idaho and, when complete, the cross-country system will include more than 50,000 miles. She said the route improves riding conditions and rider visibility in the state. It travels through Oldtown, Priest River, Dover, Sandpoint, Kootenai, Ponderay, East Hope, Hope, and Clark Fork.
Idaho Transportation Department designated U.S. Bike Route 10 in May in partnership with the Adventure Cycling, Idaho Walk Bike Alliance and the Pend Oreille Pedalers.
Don Davis, retired from Idaho Transportation Department, spearheaded the bicycle route for District 1 after receiving a call from Washington State Department of Transportation a couple of years ago about the trail. He had never heard of the route, but the call got his attention.
"Our region up here has just grown into bicycle stuff," Davis said. "It was worth looking into."
He said one of the challenges he faced while trying to make the route a reality was getting every jurisdiction the trail passes through to agree to have the trail. He coordinated with the Area Transportation Teams, which all nine cities were a part of, and eventually got endorsements from the cities and the county.
He said the project may have the first major steps completed, but local fundraising for signs and route maintenance will continue. He said the upkeep of the trail is under the local jurisdiction.
"We all have to keep working together," Davis said.
Katie Brodie, staff for Gov. Butch Otter, was present and read a letter from the governor. The letter stated the route is a great opportunity for increased tourism. He finished saying, "happy biking."
Diane Norton, with Idaho Department of Commerce, said there were 11.8 million domestic visitors to the state, according to a few studies done. That brought in more than $1.4 billion in revenue. She said another study showed that visitors in Montana, which she compares to Idaho, spent about $75 per day while visiting and stayed for an average of eight days.
"This region is really blessed with bicycle routes to ride," Norton said. "Visiting small towns is what they want to do."
Shelby Rognstad, city council president and mayoral candidate, told the crowd that bicycling promotes better health and quality of life. He said Sandpoint has grown over the past 20 years from having no amenities to being one of the leaders for bicycle recreation.
"Sandpoint is very appreciative of ITD's contribution to the Sand Creek Byway trail system," Rognstad said.
Currently there are 8,992 miles of U.S. bicycle routes through 18 states, including Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.