In September 2016, the East Greenwich Nature Trail, which was years in the making, finally opened to the public. The trail begins at the end of the access road that lines playing fields at East Greenwich High School and is used by the school for cross country training and meets as well as the public for general recreation.
Work on the trail, funded by school bonds and town Recreation Department secured state DEM matching grants, began in February 2016 and the result was a beautiful 3.1 mile crushed stone and dirt path that opened last year. The trail was an immediate success with its beautiful views of beech trees and streams for all town residents to access and enjoy. And now it has an added amenity – an artfully designed bike rack, meant to encourage bicycle commuting to school and athletic events and also meant to stimulate more interest in bicycling for general recreation.
The bike rack was a gift to the town from The Steel Yard’s Public Projects department. In January, The Steel Yard in Providence won a $10,000 grant from the PeopleForBikes Coalition for its Weld to Work Program. PeopleForBikes is a national bike advocacy organization and foundation that last year distributed more than $500,000 to nonprofits, community bicycle programs, and other advocacy organizations around the nation. The Steel Yard’s Weld to Work Program is a job readiness program designed to expand the employable skill set of participants, improving their odds of securing jobs in local industries. The PeopleForBikes Coalition grant enabled program participants to create bike hitches with multiple points of contact and gaps for locks to secure bikes. The racks are an amenity that encourages biking for both transportation and recreation and they also serve as a great learning project for beginning fabricators and welders.
At the end of the year-long grant program, 32 custom bike hitches had been designed, built and installed free of charge in communities all around Rhode Island. East Greenwich’s Planning Director Lisa Bourbonnais jumped at the chance to acquire one, seizing upon the all-too-rare opportunity to provide something both functional and beautiful for the public. As noted by The Steel Yard’s Jenny Sparks, “This project will both encourage bicycling as a viable mode of transportation and expose more people to public art.”
East Greenwich’s bright green bike hitch was installed last week near the nature trail head and the town hopes it will see a lot of use.