Along The Maple Highlands Trail, now stretching more than 21 miles across the entirety of Geauga County, you may very likely encounter someone riding along in a heather gray athletic shirt sporting a yellow biking logo on the back.
If you have a question, please flag them down. If you’re in need, they can probably help. Or at the very least, feel free to just wave and say hi. That person is a member of Geauga Park District’s Volunteer Bike Patrol, and they are there to help keep your trail safe and maintained.
Ranger Mike Rose, who has overseen the Volunteer Bike Patrol program since 2016, says roughly 20 people are active members, responsible for:
- possessing knowledge of the trails and parks, including the new southern section of The Maple Highlands Trail
- directing patron questions to the proper places
- calling a ranger in case of trees or wires down, damage to park property, insect nests or wild animal sightings
- administering first aid or help for patrons in need, or calling 911 in case of emergency
Riders commit on a ride-as-much-or-as-little-as-you’d-like basis. Every little bit helps toward the greater good, and the cumulative effect can be quite powerful, with approximately 440 hours totaled in 2017!
To sign up as a Volunteer Bike Patrol member, a bike is all you need; helmets are required, but can be provided to those who don’t already have them. Please visit Geauga Park District and select Volunteer to complete an application.
“Our parks are great, and the biking part of my job is one of the perks, a great way for me to talk to people I would otherwise miss,” Ranger Rose said. “But as a ranger and a full time college student, I have a lot of responsibilities on a day-to-day basis and cannot bike nearly as much as I would like, so I rely on the volunteers to fill me in on things either a ranger would never see or most park visitors would pass with no regard.”
Former Chief Ranger Gill Koeth spearheaded the Volunteer Bike Patrol in 2003; Land Steward Joel Firem ran it from 2004 to 2012 while in the Ranger Department; then Ranger Denise Weisbarth oversaw it until she acquired K-9 Sniper.
“It’s awesome to know people are willing to help make Geauga Park District a better place while also enjoying time on their bicycles,” Ranger Rose said. “I can see the patrol getting bigger and bigger going forward. Having bike patrol volunteers is important, and we should all be grateful.”
Logs in the past couple years have included several medical emergencies, as well as assists to elderly visitors who have gotten stuck and children or adults who are feeling lost. Riders sometimes participate in park programs and promotions, such as equestrian education, Elderberries and parades.
“Identifying bee or wasp nests is also a really big help,” Ranger Rose continued. “Maintenance has to rely on the public to tell them where dangerous nests are. Most park visitors will walk, run or ride right past a nest. A Volunteer Bike Patrol member is part of the solution by notifying a ranger, who can tell Geauga Park District’s Operations Department.”
Member Bob Olbrysh is considered a Volunteer Bike Patrol All Star, and with good reason: in 2016, he accumulated 140 hours on the trail, and his three-year total is nearing 250.
“Cycling is good exercise, and volunteering on the bike patrol gives you incentive to get out and ride, enjoy the parks and meet people,” said the Kirtland resident. “I’ve been riding somewhere between 10 miles daily for the past 15 years. It takes about an hour depending on the bike and the trail.
“Each year I’ve been stopped and thanked, usually by people out alone, just for being there. They say it makes them feel more comfortable using the trail. We carry maps, first aid and tire repair supplies, and some maintenance tools.
“I would encourage anyone who is considering low impact aerobic exercise and wants to get out and enjoy the summer to consider attending a bike patrol training session. It’s easy to get hooked on the fresh air and scenery, and the trail is in great condition. JFK said there is nothing like riding a bicycle. I agree, people on bikes are having fun!”
For more on Geauga Park District offerings, please call 440-286-9516 or visit Geauga Park District online at Geauga Park District, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.