By Susan Johnson
Visit Beloit, a.k.a. the Beloit Convention & Visitors Bureau, has just published a new book aimed at bicycling enthusiasts. Greater Beloit Rides is a coil-bound book of 33 bicycle routes covering southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The routes were chosen by a local riding group, the Stateline Spinners, who volunteered their time on the project. The cost of cartography services and printing was provided by Visit Beloit and the Stateline Community Foundation. The book is available for $10 at Visit Beloit and various outlets, with the proceeds going back to Visit Beloit.
The Rock River Times spoke with Rick Barder of Stateline Spinners recently. We asked him, how did you get involved with the biking book project?
“We have a cycling group — not a club,” said Barder. “For the past 10 years, we’ve been riding in the greater Beloit area, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. About seven or eight of us felt that we needed better maps than the ones that were available. We started back in January meeting periodically. It took us about six months to develop the maps, cue sheets, narratives and pictures. … Then, we realized that we needed some money to do this, so we got a grant writer to help us write the grant to Visit Beloit and the Stateline Community Foundation. They gave us the grant to cover the cost of printing.” This was a Joint Effort Tourism [J.E.T.] grant.
“We needed the service of a cartographer, Francis Stanton,” said Barder. “He has a business that takes the maps available to various sources, and then he puts together the final maps. But you need someone like a cartographer to help you with the process. We got money to pay him and print the books. If you go to the statelinespinners.com website, you can go to the maps and routes, and then you could look at that and print all the maps on a PC off the website. You could photocopy from the book. You can also download the maps from your smartphone; there is a pdf file that is on the Stateline Spinners website that points you to a pdf file. There are 33 routes to choose from.”
In addition to the book itself, there is a separate printing of 10 routes within the book, which Visit Beloit is giving out free. If people want paper copies of the maps, they can obtain these at the welcome centers in Wisconsin and Illinois.
TRRT: What was the most rewarding part of the project for you? What was the most difficult part?
Rick Barder: “The most rewarding part is the people that will be able to use these maps; they don’t know the roads and will come into the area — the new people that will take advantage of the routes that the veterans are familiar with. The legacy for the future for bikers whether they are in Beloit, northern Illinois or southern Wisconsin — the healthy activity that we are encouraging. It doesn’t pollute the atmosphere. These maps provide an opportunity for people to explore the area and learn more about northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin and find all the wonderful ice cream shops.
“The most difficult part was identifying the roads — doing the cue sheets and identifying the names of the roads. The names of the roads change, especially the roads that start in southern Wisconsin and go into northern Illinois. In some cases, we had to take notes as we biked to make sure people got them right.”
Monica Krysztopa, executive director of Visit Beloit, said: “We see the greater Beloit region as very bike friendly. We wanted to make sure that bike maps are available. We have grant opportunities through our organization — a JET grant that was made available to this group to put these maps together. They’re quite beautiful; they are in color and provide great information.
“It helps that Rick’s office is right next door to mine. Visit Beloit understands the importance of bike-friendly communities and providing maps for those bike routes and trails. We encouraged them to apply for a JET grant to help underwrite the cost of this project. It was a labor of love project because you want to make sure that everything you’re publishing is absolutely correct.
“It’s important for me especially. … I knew Visit Beloit had been involved in one way or another, and we’re very happy with the maps and the photography work and the directions. One book is $10, and there is a smaller, not-bound version. We have some of the maps available. We have pulled out 10 of them. They are available at Visit Beloit and at the farmers’ market in downtown Beloit at the information booth.”
Greg Farnham of the Rock River Trail Initiative shared his thoughts with us. “The Rock River Trail Initiative is creating a bike route along the Rock River, which goes through Beloit,” he said. “We are very much interested in what Beloit is doing to establish its bike routes. The book that they prepared is a wonderful collection of maps, cue sheets, photographs and text regarding the wonderful biking opportunities in Beloit. This booklet sets a new standard for excellence in biking information.”
TRRT asked, how is the Rock River Trail Initiative promoting this book to their members?
“The folks who use the Rock River Trail bike route will have this available on our website,” he replied. “Visit Beloit is the main travel group behind this, and they have it available at all the tourism places. I am sure it will be distributed, and our people will be aware of it as they travel to the Beloit area and take different side routes.”
From the Aug. 20-26, 2014, issue