Bikes in the Parks

November 1, 2013, Department, by Chris Bundy

Daily park maintenance in Michigan goes green.It all started with a few bikes and a willingness to try something new.

Our staff in the City of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, Parks Department wanted a more efficient and greener way to complete daily park maintenance tasks. We had explored several options and decided to incorporate bicycles into our routine. This is how the Green Maintenance Bike Initiative was born.

Through the initiative, our staff use new and recycled bikes to maintain the city’s parks. With connected access to five of the city’s most utilized parks through the Mt. Pleasant GKB Riverwalk Trail, bikes were a natural option for tackling our daily maintenance tasks.

Gaining Momentum

Prior to 2011, our department relied solely on gas-powered, motorized utility vehicles for moving material, equipment and personnel. Nearly 10 gallons of gasoline were being used per day, creating pollution in the form of exhaust and excess noise in otherwise peaceful park areas. 

To get the program up and running, we invested in two new bicycles and two specialized bike trailers. We then turned to park staff members who had an interest in bike riding and challenged them to see what tasks they could accomplish with the new bikes and trailers.

Our mindset was to put one bike and trailer into service and motivate someone to try it out. This gave us the opportunity to see how this new way of doing maintenance could work.

Once the program gained some momentum, we began working with the City of Mt. Pleasant Police Department. Through this partnership, used Cannondale police bikes are refurbished and retrofitted with new parts such as fenders, saddle bags and first-aid kits. Bike trailer hitches also are added, allowing specialized trailers to be connected to the bike that can transport push mowers, weed whips, yard and hand tools, as well as trash receptacles.

A New Way of Thinking

Mt. Pleasant’s Green Maintenance Bike Initiative has led the park staff to change their way of thinking. They are less dependent on motorized vehicles and are consistently developing innovative ways to accomplish even more while reducing our carbon footprint.

Just getting staff thinking about it put them in a different mindset. Until we experienced it firsthand, none of us realized just how much a bicycle can haul or how efficient they can be.

Reaping the Benefits

The Green Maintenance Bike Initiative helps reduce noise and air pollution, preserves financial resources and makes our staff more approachable to visitors. Promoting healthy lifestyles within the staff and externally to the community is yet another benefit. 

The bicycles also provide an avenue for youth volunteers to get from one park to another, reducing the need to provide them with motorized transportation to various work sites. 

Sustaining the “Green” in Our Initiative

The program continues to grow; we now have 15 bikes and nine trailers. Although there are some jobs that still require the use of motorized vehicles, a growing amount of our daily maintenance tasks are accomplished using bicycles. Other than mowers, there are even certain parks in Mt. Pleasant that no longer require the use of motorized vehicles to accomplish daily maintenance tasks. 

A recent grant from the Mt. Pleasant Community Foundation is continuing to help further the program by providing specialized equipment for the bicycles and staff.

Our employees are also making the initiative self-sustaining by learning how to repair and recycle bicycles that are abandoned in their own park facilities. Our department now constructs some of their own bike trailers and continues to look for innovative ways to replace the use of motorized vehicles in daily maintenance tasks and adjust the initiative for future park growth.

To see a video on this program, click here.

Chris Bundy is the Director of Parks and Public Spaces for the City of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.