Chesterton Tribune

Chamber peddles toward Swipe and Bike program for Dunes

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

South Shore riders may soon have the option of renting bicycles at the Dunes Park train station with one swipe of their credit card.

Details about the Swipe and Bike program were revealed during last week’s Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission meeting by the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce which is in the first steps toward moving the program along.

Chamber Executive Director Heather Ennis said she is hoping to launch the program through a $100,000 reimbursable federal grant. However, one drawback is the grant must be come through a government agency, leaving the program teetered on its kickstand.

The grant would be able to fund three bike stations: the Dunes Park train station, Indiana Dunes State Park, and the town of Chesterton. Once the funding is in place, the Chamber would be able to purchase 15 bicycles through the Trek Bicycles company.

Ennis said the plan could be instrumental in the Chamber’s mission of getting more train riders to experience Duneland area while enhancing the lives of local residents.

“Getting people into the parks and into the communities is challenging,” she said. “It (Swipe and Bike Program) has good potential.”

More bike stations could be set up around the Duneland area in towns and “hot spot” attractions such as the Bailly Homestead as the program grows, said Ennis. She heard about the program nearly three years ago and learned of it success in national cities such as Atlanta and Denver.

The Trek bikes, which can be operated by anyone ages 8 and over, are GPS equipped which would allow the Chamber to track their position. The Chamber hopes to have the program up and running sometime next year.

The PCCRVC board, also known as Indiana Dunes Tourism, said they liked the idea of the Swipe and Bike program but tabled the Chamber’s request to act as the conduit for the grant at their previous meeting, wondering if they would be “on the hook” should something go wrong with the grant application process.

“I think we’d be the body that’s responsible,” said PCCRVC board attorney Dave Hollenbeck.

The board agreed they would need to hear more details about the grant application process and possibly sign a hold harmless agreement with the Chamber at their next meeting scheduled for Aug. 16. The money for the reimbursable grant would need to come from the county council if the board approves.

Board member Michael Scott suggested “it would make more sense” for the Chamber to seek out other governments like the town of Chesterton, Porter or the county.

Ennis said she is considering going to the municipalities with her request and is contemplating other funding sources. She said the Swipe and Bike program isn’t a top priority on the Chamber’s wish list but thinks it would be “a fun thing to have” tying in with all the Dunes trails and the upcoming Dunes-Kankakee Trail.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said the connecting routes between the state park, the visitors center, the Prarie-Duneland trail will be completed over the next two years.

Weimer said the program would give an added benefit to South Shore riders wanting to explore the Dunes since they cannot bring their bikes with them on the train.

 

 

Posted 8/1/2011