The project to complete the construction of the Mattapoisett Bike Path might be a long and daunting task, but the Friends of the Bike Path aren’t letting that discourage them. On Sunday, June 24, they will host the First Annual South Coast Bikeway Challenge in order to raise money to complete the Mattapoisett portion of the trail.
“We recognize that funding for the project needs to come from state and federal levels,” said Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path Committee President Bonne DeSousa. “But we need to constantly demonstrate how much we want it by doing a really fun event that’s going to attract a lot of people.”
The project is still in its planning phase, and DeSousa said that this summer there will be a 25% review. If that passes, construction could start soon. The anticipated completion of the project is 2016, however if more funds become readily available, it could be finished sooner.
The event, which is coordinated by the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path, YMCA South Coast and South Coast Hospitals, will feature a ride along the South Coast Bikeway as well as a picnic and live music. The 17-mile course takes riders through Wareham, Mattapoisett, Marion, New Bedford, Fairhaven and Dartmouth. Riders can choose how long they wish to ride.
“We hope to draw in people from all the bike path towns,” DeSousa said. “We want people to come and enjoy the venue, take a bike ride and enjoy a picnic.”
The Friends have been coordinating the event since December when the idea came to them at a South Coast Bikeway meeting. They held a similar event on a much smaller scale back in 2009 and it was very successful, DeSousa said.
“The only criticism of that event was that it wasn’t big enough,” DeSousa said of the event in 2009, which drew in 40 riders.
The Friends hope to draw a larger crowd this year, not only to raise money, but for a variety of other reasons as well.
“It is important on a whole lot of fronts,” DeSousa said. “The health of the individuals is very important, but it’s also important to have a safe place to ride a bike. A lot of people can’t ride their bikes safely on Route 6. We need safe places to teach our children how to ride bikes.”
Start times for the bike ride will be staggered at 8:30 am, 10:00 am and 12:30 pm. Children under 15 years of age must be accompanied by an adult, and all riders must wear a helmet. A picnic will be served up by the Mattapoisett Lions Club at 11:30 am.
Pre-registration for the ride begins on Friday, June 1. While there is no entrance fee, a donation of $20 per rider and $30 per family is suggested. The rider who pledges the top amount of at least $150 will have a chance to win gift certificates to area restaurants. Pre-registration is required for those who would like a brown bag lunch from the Lions Club.
By Katy Fitzpatrick