Minnesota’s Carver County is home to many trail systems. Two cities in the eastern portion of the county, Chaska and Victoria, boast more than 100 miles of developed, city-maintained trail systems to serve almost 32,000 residents. With the help of Carver County Parks, the two trail systems were connected to form a recreation destination that offers biking, hiking and walking trails.
The trail connections were funded in part through a competitive federal transportation enhancement grant program. This grant provided 80 percent of the construction costs to build portions of the trail in Chaska and Victoria. Design, engineering and land acquisition were funded through parks and trails funds and acquisition opportunity money provided through the Metropolitan Council, as well as contributions from both the Cities of Chaska and Victoria.
After the trail connections were developed, recreation supervisors from the three agencies — Sam Pertz (Carver County Parks), Aimee Peterson (City of Chaska Parks and Recreation Department) and Holly Kaufhold (City of Victoria Parks and Recreation Department) — got together to talk about the project and how their agencies could partner to celebrate the expanded trail systems. During the meeting, ideas began to grow: How can community members become more aware of the trail systems offered? How can the agencies celebrate community gatherings and family outdoor recreation? How can the agencies work together and use a variety of resources to create a true partnership?
The outcome of the brainstorming session was the Bike Konnect Event — an eight-mile family bike ride planned for June 21 that begins in Victoria, extends to Chaska and stops at local parks along the way. The final destination will be the Chaska Community Center where the community will gather and celebrate with music, food and family outdoor recreation activities.
The goals of the Bike Konnect event dovetailed nicely with those of the three participating agencies, including showcasing, educating and marketing the trail systems and the trail connections; getting families outdoors and into their local parks; promoting healthy living; and hosting a large community gathering.
Funding for the Bike Konnect event was secured from a new initiative grant through the Minnesota Recreation and Park Foundation (MRPF). MRPF provides funding each year for programs and services that demonstrate innovation in parks and recreation. These start-up grants allow agencies to try some new programs that may not be in their budget allocations. After receiving the grant funding, event planning began and logistics were solidified. Working in partnership uncovered new resources, and the agencies quickly realized how working together could benefit in-house initiatives and programs, as well as the community at large.
Chaska and Victoria have online registration systems that provide easy access for the community to register for classes or volunteer opportunities, or for businesses interested in learning more about sponsorship availability at scheduled events. All three agencies have access and connections with volunteer groups, sponsors and equipment, which in turn provides a high number of volunteers, more sponsorships and easy access to a variety of equipment, which is extremely valuable and needed for this type of event. This collaborative effort to reach the widest possible audience is a win-win for everyone in the communities.
Aimee Peterson is a Recreation Supervisor for the City of Chaska Parks and Recreation Department. Sam Pertz, Parks and Trails Supervisor for Carver County Parks, and Holly Kaufhold, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Victoria Parks and Recreation Department, contributed to this article.