By: Nancy Vogt
Trading in his sweater and sportcoat for bike wear and helmet, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar and a contingent of bicyclists took to the Paul Bunyan Trail on Sunday, June 7, to celebrate the sport of biking, as well as the trail system.
The 12th annual Ride With Jim took cyclists from Nisswa to Pine River and back, for a 28-mile roundtrip ride.
"You can tell who are the real cyclists, coming out on a 45-degree day to bike," Oberstar, D-Minn., told a crowd gathered at Nisswa City Hall. "We've done the Paul Bunyan Trail ride in blazing heat, warm rain and cold rain, but never this cold."
Oberstar praised Terry McGaughey, often called the godfather of the Paul Bunyan Trail, for his vision years ago to turn the abandoned rail bed into a paved recreational trail.
"We owe you an immense debt of gratitude," Oberstar told McGaughey.
Work continues to pave all of the 110-mile Paul Bunyan Trail from Crow Wing State Park to Bemidji State Park.
McGaughey said Sunday that bids soon will be opened to pave a "missing mile" in Baxter. Land has been acquired in Crow Wing State Park south of Brainerd and trail plans are in the development stage there.
The annual Ride With Jim celebrates Oberstar's commitment to provide quality bike trails throughout the nation. As chair of the U.S. House of Representatives' Transportation Committee, Oberstar is called the voice of bicyclists in the nation.
Sunday's event included guests from various riding and trail groups from Arkansas, Missouri, Washington, D.C., and Minnesota.
Oberstar said that over the past 40 years, more federal money has been allocated to states for trails, and more trails are being built. In an effort to combat obesity and get Americans healthier, as well as to reduce reliance on foreign oil, a big campaign is under way to change people's mindset and ways of living to get them more active.
"That's what we have to do all over America. We have to change habits," Oberstar said, noting the intent is to get people to bike and walk more, and drive less.
To that end, the Department of Transportation is being restructured, as is the way the federal government provides federal funding to states. The Federal Highway Administration will be restructured as well to streamline the way highway projects are approved.
Oberstar said a goal is to designate nationally bicycling as a mode of transportation.