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Bikes, burgers mark Earth Day celebration

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PABLO — Earth displayed many of its natural talents Saturday during a Community Earth Day/Bike Path Celebration based at Salish Kootenai College. Rain, sunshine, a few snow flurries and a wind-whipped dust storm all made appearances during the three-hour event, but organizers said attendance was surprisingly high despite the chilly, unpredictable weather.

More than 200 people turned out to celebrate Earth Day — officially April 22 — “which wasn’t bad considering the weather,” Stacey Sherwin of Salish Kootenai College said.

Families rode bicycles and walked along the bike path between Polson and Ronan, collecting stamps in their “passports” at checkpoints set up along the route. Three stamps entitled the passport holder to a free Made in Montana lunch of hamburgers made with local beef and topped with locally grown tomatoes, lettuce and onions, along with apples and brownies for dessert. Each checkpoint also offered giveaways of goodies like bike helmets, reflectors, backpacks, lanyards and water bottles. And 33 kids and adults — twice as many as last year — took home donated used bicycles fixed up by volunteer mechanics, Ronan Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Rolfsness said. 

“Some of the families were so jacked,” Rolfsness said, noting that one entire family left with new bikes. “It was great … people were really appreciative.”

Mechanics were also on hand at the event headquarters at SKC to help with minor bike repairs and maintenance, and a bicycle safety course helped kids learn the basics of safe riding.

The second annual Earth Day celebration was sponsored by a variety of nonprofit, health-promoting organizations including the Ronan Parks Department and Safe Routes to School, Salish Kootenai College, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Lake County Health Department, and the Montana Department of Transportation’s Safe on All Roads Program. In keeping with the event’s goal “to provide a family-centered day that promotes healthy lifestyle behavior, positive family interactions and acknowledges the principles of Earth Day,” all the passports, used napkins from lunch and litter from along the bike path cleaned up by bikers and walkers was collected in recycle bins provided by the Lake County Transfer Station. 

Rolfsness said she saw the event as a great way to raise awareness of the bike path and to get locals involved in healthy outdoor activities.

“(The bike path is) just a good place for families to go exercise,” she said. 

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