Lakes Park in south Fort Myers is an example of a place to ride slow and easy. A park can also offer the opportunity to ride many miles at a more ambitious pace on single-track mountain bike trail, as is the case in Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva.
International Bike Your Park Day is Saturday, Sept. 30. Bike Your Park Day is organized by Adventure Cycling, a non-profit bike travel organization that provides resources for bicycle touring. The group is the primary force behind the creation of a U.S. bicycle route system, an interstate system for bicycles. In the U.S., the second annual Bike Your Park Day coincides with National Public Lands Day, a yearly event intended to get folks into parks and conservation lands where they will experience the treasures that are sometimes overlooked or taken for granted.
One of the federal gems that are in our own backyard is the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. There you can bike the paved five-mile Wildlife Drive (it’s one way so add three miles to return via the bike path along San-Cap Road). Ding Darling’s Baily tract is nearby but separate from the main area and has unpaved trails that are open to bikers and hikers. In between are plenty of other places to visit on the island via the extensive bike-path network, including a number of beachfront parks and nature areas.
For those willing to drive a bit, another federal property that’s worthy of a day trip is Shark Valley tram loop in Everglades National Park. It’s just over half way across the Everglades off U.S. 41 but this popular bicycling destination gets you as close to the real Everglades as anywhere that’s easily accessible to the public (bring your own bike or rent one there). Undoubtedly you will encounter gators and other wildlife.
Some of our area’s state lands are also excellent choices for bike riding. The one with the most bikeable miles is Cecil Webb Wildlife Management Area in southern Charlotte County. It offers 37 miles of flat, unpaved roads. Be aware, however, that hunting is allowed there in the late fall into winter with a few weeks of archery hunting taking place in September. Wear safety orange when riding there those times of year. Another very good option is Lovers Key State Park between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach. It has a combination of paved and unpaved roads as well as single track hiking trails that also accommodate those on bikes. And there’s one of the state’s best beaches there as well.
Lee County offers Lakes Park, Caloosahatchee Regional Park and John Yarbrough Trail Park. A good ride to consider starts at Lakes Park and follows the Tour de Parks route, which includes John Yarbrough Trail Park and a number of other parks and nature centers (fortmyers-sanibel.com/media/16998/tour_de_parks.pdf). You can ride anywhere from five to 25 miles on bike paths or roads, whichever you prefer.
Anyone wishing to “officially” participate in Bike Your Park Day can design your own ride of any distance, any speed, and in any park or public land that is open to bicycling (not all parks allow bikes or use is restricted so be sure to check). Participants may register the ride at BikeYourParkDay.org (it’s free) and it will be added to an interactive map displaying all of the rides taking place around the world. If you register by September 18 you’ll be entered to win a bike and an Amtrak train trip for two, with bikes, to Glacier National Park.
For more complete listings of parks and other public trails and green spaces in our area the following websites should be helpful: National Park Service – nps.gov; US Fish and Wildlife Service – fws.gov; Florida State Parks – floridastateparks.org; Florida Office or Greenways and Trails – dep.state. fl.us/gwt; Lee County Parks and Rec – leeparks.org; Cape Coral Parks and Rec – capecoral.net/department/parks_and_recreation-home; Lee Visitor website parks and trails link – fortmyers-sanibel.com/discover/on-land/biking-and-hiking; BikeWalkLee’s blog – bikewalklee.blogspot.com.
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site (bikewalklee.blogspot.com) has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.¦
- Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him at email@example.com and 334-6417.