2017-03-16 / Top News

Experience the Everglades in a whole new way

BY CINDY PIERCE


All three routes of the Everglades Bike Ride start and finish at McLeod Park in Everglades City. 
PATTY HUFF / COURTESY PHOTOS All three routes of the Everglades Bike Ride start and finish at McLeod Park in Everglades City. PATTY HUFF / COURTESY PHOTOS The 10th annual Everglades Bike Ride sets out from the heart of Everglades City on Sunday morning, April 2, giving cyclists the option of pedaling 15- or 62-mile “smooth” routes (on pavement) or a 27-mile “bumpy” route off-pavement and into the Fakahatchee Strand.

No matter which route you ride, it’s a great way to experience what many consider the most unique part of Florida’s landscape. Past participants have declared the SAG-supported ride one of the best bicycling events in the state.

Organizers focus on safety, environmental education and stewardship for those who enjoy and promote hiking, walking and/or cycling as a means of traversing the Everglades. Proceeds from registration fees will benefit Friends of the River of Grass Greenway, Smallwood’s Store Museum and Florida’s state and national parks.

The River of Grass Greenway is a nonmotorized transportation and recreation corridor proposed to connect Naples and Miami. Paralleling the historical corridor of the Tamiami Trail/U.S. 41, the 76.47- mile pathway will link six national and state parks, preserves, forests and wildlife refuges.

Almost the entire length of the busy highway is two-lane. Traffic is high speed and includes many trucks hauling wide boat trailers, especially on weekends. To date, only a few portions have paved shoulder considered safe for bicyclists/walkers/hikers (one of the best portions is the 10 miles between Port of the Islands and SR29 in Collier County).

The idea for ROGG was born out of a notion to provide public access to one of the most unique and well-studied landscapes in the world. Building on the allure of a long-distance hiking and biking experience for a variety of users, ROGG is envisioned to bring awareness to the Greater Everglades ecosystem, including ongoing ecological restoration in the region. Fishermen, photographers and birders will also embrace the ability to better enjoy the area and promote stewardship of its unique assets.

Pick your route and pace

The Everglades Bike Ride is not a race, organizers stress. Cyclists can pedal at their own comfortable pace and are encouraged to watch for wildlife and stop at places of interest along the way. In fact, registration includes admission to Smallwood’s Store Museum on the day of the ride.

All rides start and end at McLeod Park, where continental breakfast will be served starting at 7:30 a.m. and lunch from Triad Seafood Café complete with calamondin cake will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteer guides will accompany groups of riders to point out sights along the way, and volunteers from the Naples nonprofit Bikes for Tykes will provide free bike repairs as needed. SAG support will be provided by Island Bike Shops, Big Momma’s Bicycles and Bikes for Tykes.

Setting out at 9 a.m., the 15-mile paved route winds through historic Everglades City and includes a stop at the Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitors Center before crossing the causeway to Chokoloskee Island — which arguably has the most colorful history and attitude within all of Collier County — before returning to the start point.

The 27-mile “bumpy” ride (1½- inch tires recommended) includes a stretch through the cypress forest of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, famous for its orchids and bromeliads. This ride starts at 8:30 a.m.

Starting at 8 a.m., the 62-mile “smooth” route takes riders along 17 miles of U.S. 41 in Big Cypress National Preserve and also includes a stretch along CR29 to view the wilds of Fakahatchee on the way to Chokoloskee. ¦

The 10th annual Everglades Bike Ride

>> What: 15-, 27- and 62-mile routes

>> When: Sunday morning, April 2

>> Where: Start and finish in McLeod Park, Everglades City

>> Registration: $40 for Friends of the River of Grass Greenway and members of the Naples Pathways Coalition; $45 for others

>> Sign up: Visit www.evergladesrogg.org (click on “Events”) or call 695-2397.

>> Volunteer: Helpers are welcome to assist with breakfast and lunch service and to accompany groups of riders. Call Patty Huff at the above phone number or email snookcity@gmail.com.

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