Splash: Pedaling toward an improved Loop the Lake bike route

County Road K poses as risky route for cyclists due to the lack of shoulder. With the inclusion of the Camp Grow property to the Loop the Lake route, this may change. Aaron Becker photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

Biking came fairly easy to me as a kid.

I was like any other rascal learning how to master my wheels. I started out on a tricycle and then graduated to a hand-me-down from sister that had training wheels.

Then they came off.

I was zooming down the sidewalks as fast as I could go, learning all the tricks, such as riding with one hand on the handle bar or standing on the pedals.

Of course, I had a few minor crashes because I didn’t think brakes were that important; speed mattered.

Since I was an unlucky child, I had a run-in or two with bees. It’s not every child that somehow manages to have a wasp fly up the pants and sting their legs six times as they’re cruising down the sidewalk minding their own business.

The good news is that the wasp didn’t live to tell the tale.

Despite that painful episode, I loved biking as a child. But as I got older I didn’t have time for it anymore until I started volunteering at Camp Grow.

It was there that I renewed my love for cycling as I led campers down a bike path to the beach at Dodge Memorial Park.

Little did I know that the path I took was connected to the Loop the Lake bike route — a popular 27-mile trail that cyclists used to maneuver around Big Green Lake — which ran through Camp Grow.

However, in 2015, that was no longer the case.

Locals and visitors alike were disheartened when they learned that Camp Grow decided, for insurance reasons, not to let cyclists — i.e. perfect strangers — roll through its grounds.

According to then Camp Director Nick Radcliffe, it was a proactive move to ensure campers’ safety.

Since then, biking enthusiasts have had to forego the beautiful scenery of Camp Grow for a more dangerous route along County Road K.

County Road K has no shoulder for cyclists to ride on, meaning cars zoom past bikers at a closer distance.

With the Green Lake Conservancy Partnership’s purchase of the Camp Grow property, cyclists may no longer have to risk riding along County Road K to loop the lake.

Green Lake Sanitary District Administrator Charlie Marks noted the property is currently open to the public, meaning cyclists may traverse the property’s trails.

Though Camp Grow is open again to bicyclists, they may have to wait a few months before they ride through the property as they try to circumvent the lake.

According to Sanitary District Treasurer Ken Bates, cyclists cannot go through the property yet due to a small swatch of private property between the camp property and the road, Oakwood Avenue.

“I think that’s a potential down the road [to incorporate that property into the Loop the Lake route]” Bates said. “Right now we’re in the process of working out a [private property] easement.

It’s about a 6 foot wide by maybe 10 foot long strip that has to be negotiated with the property owners that own … that strip. Once that [easement] gets in, then we’re good to go.”

He noted it may take a few months for the easement to be completed if the plan has no hiccups.

After the sanitary district finalizes the easement, then its officials will meet with Green Lake Greenways, which set up the Loop the Lake route, to figure out the future of the route and how the new property may be included again.

Once all the steps are completed and the Camp Grow property joins the path once more, Bates believes cyclists will pedal through that area.

“I will definitely use it [and] what it will do is it will take people off of County [Road] K,” Bates said. “It’s going to be safer.

He noted as a biking enthusiast himself he would prefer to use the path through Camp Grow rather than risk biking along County Road K.

“To me as a road biker, I would rather have to walk my bike for a little while or ride a little bit of gravel, then have to worry about a dump truck or a car going 55 miles an hour, coming up behind me with no shoulder, which is what K is,” he said.

Bates added the benefit to riding the Camp Grow path, besides safety, is the beauty, and would recommend this route to others.

“If somebody would ask me, as a biker who has biked up here for 20 years, I’d say ‘Do this,’” he said. “It’s going to be much more relaxing [and] … it’s beautiful.”

Currently, the sanitary district has worked on the land and plans to beautify it and make it more accessible to the public.

“One of the things that we’ve done is gone through the property and marked off where the paths are” Bates said. “We just laid down some more chips this week [and] we’ll do some more next week for some of the paths so that people can see where to walk.”

Though workers and volunteers are in the process of cleaning up the paths and the rest of land, it may become a welcome retreat for nature and cycling lovers alike.

“Once a couple more details get done, it’s going to be a real gift to the community,” Bates said.