Sharon Cycling Series will start this summer
It's an unusual formula, but the village of Sharon hopes to make it work.
In June, the village will officially launch the Sharon Cycling Series.
The series is four bicycle routes through the rural countryside surrounding the tiny town. All begin and end in the center of the village.
"It is an economic development tool, but it really taps into a lot of things," said Diana Dykstra, village president. "We wanted to hit on recreation, on eco-tourism types of activities. Wisconsin is known for its trails that connect with each other all over the state."
The series includes a 22.5-mile route to Clinton, a 17.1-mile route to Darien, a 22.5 route to Fontana and Walworth, and a 16.1-route across the state border to Capron, Ill.
Designing a bike series involves more than just drawing a line on a map or plotting a route on computer.
Lon Haldeman, Sharon resident and cycling ultra marathoner, designed the routes. Haldeman is considered one of the originators of the sport and holds several unbroken records. He once rode Wisconsin from end to end, pedaling 407 miles in 23 hours and 7 minutes, according to the Ultra Cycling Hall of Fame.
Haldeman also designed the Roun'da Manure Tour, which Bicycling Magazine once named one of the 10 best bike rides in the country.
Dykstra and the village board worked with Walworth County and all the towns and villages on the routes, making sure they approved of the suggested roads.
The village will pay between $1,500 and $3,000 for signs to designate the Sharon Cycling Series. Haldeman already has agreed to pay for half of the signs.
Maps and GPS coordinates are being prepared.
Next year, the village hopes to build bathroom facilities in Veterans Park.
It helps that Sharon is, in a small way, already on the state's cycling map because of the Roun'da Manure Tour.
When Dykstra went to the Wisconsin Bike Federation Summit in Madison earlier this year, summit organizers told her, "We love Sharon because we get to ride with the cows."
So where does the economic development come in?
In a letter of support of the project to the Walworth County Board, Kevin Hardman, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin wrote: "From increases in tourism to improved quality of life, communities across the state have seen tremendous return on their bicycle investments. … The proposal to sign designated bike routes around the village of Sharon is a creative and cost-effective way to leverage existing scenic roads and highlight recreational cycling opportunities."
Hardman noted that since Boulder Junction, which calls itself the Musky Capitol of the World, built its trail system, the city attracts as "as many if not more tourists who bring bicycles as those with fishing rods."
Sharon offers small-town charm, tree-shaded streets, an old-fashioned ice cream shop, two bar and grills and the Coffee Cup Café, an unassuming restaurant that serves good soup, a solid grilled cheese sandwich, skillet breakfasts that will carry you for a week and—wait for it—Swedish pancakes that bring travelers back to town again and again.
Dykstra hopes that now some of that Swedish-pancake traffic will be traveling on two wheels instead of four.