The Eastern Trail Alliance, Community Bicycle Center in Biddeford and Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s South Portland Club have joined forces to introduce pre-teens and teens to the wonders of the Eastern Trail by teaching the mechanics of bike repair and providing bikes on which to ride the trail.
It all began last summer when ETA Ambassador Ed Hoell expressed interest in starting a biking program for members of the Boys & Girls Club. A subsequent conversation with then ETA executive director Carole Brush led Ed, who was a recent transplant to Maine, to Community Bicycle Center (CBC) in order to learn about current curricula dealing with bike safety and maintenance. When then CBC executive director Bronwyn Barnett and Ed began discussing the idea and brought Boys & Girls Club staff into the conversation, it quickly became clear that a formal partnership between the three organizations was a natural fit. CBC was looking to expand their outreach to youth beyond Biddeford; South Portland Boys & Girls Club was always eager to advance their core programming that promotes health and well being; and ETA was happy to promote the many joys of the Trail to a new generation. The fact that the Trail is a mere 50 feet from the Club’s back door only added to the possibilities of thepartnership. Introducing members to the extensive trail system in South Portland will be the
beginning of trail activities that last a lifetime.
Before you knew it, a program was designed, initial funding was identified, and the first class was launched in the summer of 2018. Kids from the Club came to CBC once a week for eight weeks, were given a donated used but serviceable bike on which to work, and with older CBC teens serving as mentors and under the guidance of CBC program director Cliff Oliver, they learned everything from how to fix a flat, adjust brakes, and clean and lube a chain. Rides from CBC to a local beach gave them a true sense of how liberating a bike can be in their lives. At the culmination of the eight weeks they not only took ownership of the bike but also gained a real sense of accomplishment and an increase in self esteem.
Building on this initial success, a second class was convened over the fall months and a third is underway this spring. Several challenges remain as the program grows, not the least of which is funding. The program was launched with the financial support of friends and family members and a generous grant from Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, along with significant in-kind support from Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine and Community Bike Centers. The program could benefit not only from further financial support but also from additional volunteers – people with a desire to work with kids (bike mechanic skills are a plus but not a requirement) – and donations of serviceable bikes and equipment.
To learn more about the partnership and how you can help broaden a young person’s world contact Ed Hoell at email@example.com.