Glacier Ride participants Fannie Watkinson, Steve Dakin, and Fan Watkinson pause to take in the scenery along the Going-to-the-Sun Road last summer.
At dawn one July morning last summer, fifty cyclists from across the country set out from their camp in Apgar to traverse the entire length of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.After months of fundraising efforts aimed at supporting sustainability projects throughout the park, this would be the first time many of them would experience the awe-inspiring road.
The ride, organized by Whitefish based non-profit, Climate Ride, raised a total of $78,000 which was donated to the Glacier National Park Conservancy. Riders have their choice of rides to participate in across the country and specifically chose to ride for Glacier. The funds will provide an upgrade to the Apgar Visitor Center to install a solar energy system and will also fully support this year’s spring Hiker-Biker Shuttle on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
“I created Climate Ride to give people a uniquely positive way to get involved. Through Glacier Ride, we have helped grant nearly $173,000 to the Glacier National Park Conservancy over the past three years,” said Caeli Quinn, the Executive Director of Climate Ride. “I’m deeply moved to see Climate Ride have such a significant local impact supporting our beautiful national park.”
“On Climate Ride, I was able to explore Glacier from a new perspective and experience it with my mom who cycled with me,” said Fannie Watkinson, a 2017 Glacier Ride participant. “What better way to spend my time than biking through some of the most beautiful parts of the country with family and new friends, while raising money so that those same lands can be here years from now and appreciated by others?”
The Apgar Visitor Center is certified LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design); however, the building still uses electricity to operate essential items like computers and lights. Funding for this project will install a solar energy system that would be capable of offsetting the electrical usage of the building by 100%, making it a “net zero” user of non-renewable electricity.
A 17-kilowatt solar panel system will be installed on the roof or grounds and will be tied to the electrical grid through an agreement with Flathead Electric Cooperative for electrical regeneration possibilities. The system will consist of 50 340-watt panels installed as an array, and would include a kiosk-type monitoring display for visitors and staff to observe output in real time. The project is expected to cost $50,000.
The additional funds raised by Glacier Ride will be used to operate the Spring Hiker-Biker Shuttle on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Hiking or biking the 16 miles from Avalanche Campground to Logan Pass before it opens to vehicles each spring is a popular activity for locals and tourists alike. As interest has grown, parking congestion at the trailhead has become an issue. The shuttle allows visitors to park at Apgar Visitor Center or Lake McDonald Lodge and ride with their bikes to Avalanche. The bike trailers were purchased in 2015, also through fundraising from the inaugural Glacier Ride.
“More than that though, Glacier Ride and Glacier riders like Fannie and her mom inspire us all to think about how experiencing the power and majesty of Glacier Park can lead to transformative action,” Mitchell continued. “One pedal at a time, fifty adventurers turned their individual passion for bike riding and open spaces into a powerful collective action that really moves the needle in terms of preserving this special place for future generations to enjoy.”