Bicyclists from far and wide will converge in Berryville this weekend for what is estimated to be the largest influx of visitors to the town in recent history. The 2012 Bike Virginia Tour is rolling into Berryville Friday June 22nd and will bring with it over 2000 bicycle enthusiasts who will participate in 5 days of rides and other activities. The organization has made arrangements with two towns to serve as hosts for the event and Berryville is the first on the list. Riders will begin checking in at Clarke County High School Friday where a tent camp will be set up for overnight accommodations. A full schedule of events has been arranged with volunteers to welcome participants and provide an entertaining visit. Tour rides continue Saturday, as do numerous other activities, culminating in an 8:00 p.m. gathering at Rose Hill Park as Bike Virginia celebrates their 25th year. Riders will stay a second night in Berryville on Saturday and push-off to nearby Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia for the next leg of the event on Sunday.
As preparations are finalized police and other town officials say they are ready for the weekend population explosion. Chief Neal White of the Town of Berryville Police said, ” We are taking a very active approach to ensure that we have adequate representation in the community to promote the general welfare and safety for the community during this event. We have been coordinating with other departments within the Town government as well as the local volunteer fire and rescue service in anticipation of the Bike Virginia event.”
As it turns out this will be a busy weekend throughout Clarke County as several other scheduled events are being held concurrently. HarvFest at Clermont Farm, the Amateur Radio Field Day event at the fairground, and the annual Horseshoe Curve barbecue fundraiser for the Blue Ridge Fire Department are all happening at the same time. Some local residents have expressed concerns that these events, in addition to the massive bicycle outing, may stretch police presence extremely thin. Sheriff Tony Roper commented on these concerns saying,”We have arranged for additional staffing to be deployed, funded in part by grant revenue from the Department of Homeland Security. The coordination between emergency services and law enforcement is a fairly constant undertaking. While there has not been a specific scenario involving the bike event, we had a table-top exercise with all of emergency services several months ago in order to evaluate our ability to coordinate efforts.”
Safety is paramount to the Bike Virginia organization as well. All participants get a mandatory check-in briefing with safety information covering Virginia cycling laws, safety tips, and tour safety policies. The quality and importance of this and other safety programs implemented by Bike Virginia was recently recognized by the state of Virgina as Bike Virginia was awarded the Governor’s Transportation Safety Award for 2012. The award recognized three bicycle education/awareness programs including the safety briefing held at the tour.
The town has also been busy planning events and entertainment to capitalize on the economic benefits from the the throng of visitors the event will bring. Organizers say that the tour’s impact on local economies in rural areas brings over $2.8 million in spending and indirect revenue.
At a more direct level, grant money from Bike Virginia’s Sunrise Grant Project will flow into two local organizations. In 2011, Bike Virginia began offering grants to improve biking in the communities they visit. Grant amounts of up to $500 are awarded with a total maximum amount of $5,000 to be granted in the host region in a given year.
In Berryville, two grants will be awarded to local organizations.
The Town of Berryville and County of Clarke submitted a joint grant proposal for the $500 grant to start employee Bike Share Program for the town/county office building. Employees of the Berryville/Clarke County Government Center including Town of Berryville, County of Clarke, and Handley Library personnel will have access to the bike to run errands, attend meetings, and for wellness riding during breaks, lunch, and after work.
The Berryville Police Department also applied for the $500 grant to purchase materials for improving an existing bicycle safety/ bike rodeo education program. The department’s officers reach approximately 400 youth per year with these safety courses. Funds had recently dried up for the yearly event and Chief White was thankful for the positive impact this infusion of funds will have in the community. “This grant will help the police department sponsor bicycle rodeos for years to come, and hopefully through these events the department can help foster young cyclists to become responsible users of our streets and educate them in best practices to prevent injuries.”
The Bike Virginia event officially kicks off at at 2:00 p.m. Friday as riders begin checking in at Clarke County High School. Events and riders will will be in and around the Berryville area through Sunday. The five day event will then continue into West Virginia, but travel routes for rides run throughout the northeastern portion of Virginia as well as areas of West Virginia and Maryland through Tuesday.