The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s seven-day BikeMaine ride began Sunday in Westbrook and will eventually make overnight stops in Boothbay Harbor and Bath before arriving back in Westbrook on Saturday.
In Gardiner, volunteers from a local food cooperative will serve the riders dinner Tuesday evening on a closed-off stretch of the downtown’s Water Street, and Johnson Performing Arts Center will provide a free show, open to the public, at the Waterfront Park.
The director of Gardiner Main Street, the downtown organization in charge of the overnight camp, said his group saw the ride as an opportunity to showcase Gardiner businesses and what the city has to offer in hopes that the riders will enjoy their time and return for visits later.
Riders are expected to begin arriving in Gardiner around 1 p.m. Tuesday, said Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street. The dinner and the afternoon’s activities will just be for the event participants, but Johnson Hall’s presentation of “The Early Evening Show” with Mike Miclon at 7:30 p.m. in the Waterfront Park is free and open to the public, he said.
“It should look really neat to have it set up in our Waterfront Park,” Wright said of the overnight camp. “It’s exactly the type of event that park was built for when that investment was made a few years ago.”
Dinner and breakfast will be served by volunteers from the Kennebec Local Food Initiative and the Gardiner Food Co-op & Café, connected groups looking to open a co-op in Gardiner by the end of the year. For the dinner, the groups recruited downtown restaurants — A1 Diner, Dennis’ Pizza, Gerard’s Pizza and Lisa’s Legit Burritos — to make dishes for the riders with local ingredients.
Véronique Vendette, chairwoman of the co-op’s steering committee, said it was a great learning experience for some of the restaurants as well because her groups connected the restaurants with local farmers and suppliers. The groups helped bring in more than 100 pounds of local food for the meals, she said.
Gardiner’s director of economic and community development, Nate Rudy, said he’s pleased the ride is going through central Maine and allowing the riders to tour a part of the state they maybe haven’t seen before.
“I think, for Gardiner, it’s a great opportunity to show all of the progress that’s been made in our community in the last few years,” he said.
Riders stopped for lunch Monday at the Monmouth Fire Department, where the Monmouth Lions Club and other volunteers served them food.
After staying Monday night at the YMCA Camp of Maine on Cobbossee Lake in Winthrop, the bicyclists will travel along Maranacook Lake on their way to Belgrade, Oakland and a stop for lunch at New England Music Camp in Sidney, according to the route posted on the event’s website.
The ride will follow Route 104 into Augusta and travel along the Kennebec River Rail Trail through Hallowell and Farmingdale before reaching Gardiner.
The BikeMaine ride, in its second year, aims to promote bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly areas and bicycle tourism. The Portland-based Bicycle Coalition of Maine is a nonprofit bicycle advocacy group founded in 1992.
Kim Anderson True, ride director for BikeMaine, wasn’t available for comment Monday. She said in February that the nonprofit selected communities that support cyclist and walking infrastructure, and are part of the Maine Downtown Network or have shown the ability to work collaboratively to show off what the communities have to offer.
“It really is their vision to be an economic driver and economic engine,” Wright said, “so that folks are discovering not only the shoulder season in Maine but also communities that folks typically don’t think of when they think about lobsters and lighthouses while visiting Maine.”
The city of Gardiner recently painted bicycle icons on some roads around the downtown to remind people that bicyclists also use the roads. The shared lanes, or sharrows, follow Maine Avenue from the Hannaford parking lot to the Gardiner Public Library and are painted on the one-way section of Water Street downtown.
The Maine Department of Transportation signed off on the painted lanes and City Council approved the action at its Aug. 27 meeting.
Rudy said it was an opportunity to send the message that Gardiner, particular the downtown, is friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians.
“Part of the hope is that we will sort of show explicitly a link between the Kennebec Rail Trail and Route 24, which is a beautiful scenic route between Gardiner and Richmond and Bath,” he said.
Paul Koenig — 621-5663