Fundraising for the connector trail linking the Raccoon River Valley Trail and High Trestle Trail got a big boost Monday when the Let’s Connect Big Bike was installed at the Perry Welcome Depot.
The enormous machine stands nearly 15 feet high and measures about 30 feet long and will make a striking ornament alongside the bike trail at the intersections of First and Willis avenues in downtown Perry.
The vision of the Big Bike was provided by Cheri Scheib of Perry, a Let’s Connect committee member, who also collected many of the parts composing the Big Bike. Making Scheib’s vision a reality was the work of Wiese Industries master welders Doug Krueger and Rich Pearson.
“It’s been a busy few weeks,” Scheib said Monday as the Big Bike was placed at the corner of First and Willis avenues. “They had to get the concrete run and the lights installed. Working on my ‘baby’ has been such fun, but it has been a ton of work, with many, many phone calls, but it’s so worth the work for Perry, Iowa!”
The Big Bike was moved Monday afternoon from the Wiese factory to the Welcome Depot and bolted securely to two concrete pads. A kickstand will be added to further stabilize the big yard ornament, which is likely to become a popular spot for selfies and similar memory moments.
Scheib said a few details remain to be wrapped up, such as Graphics 2U’s lettering on the chain guard and A. J. Kettlesen’s spraying it with sealer. She said the tail light is from Pat McCluen’s old Ford found at Billy Devilbiss’ salvage yard — she thinks it might be a 1959 model — and the headlight is from a car or truck dating from the 1920s.
Once finished, the Big Bike ornament will form a kind of palimpsest of Perry history, with elements drawn from different times and different places, all coming together to energize Perry’s forward movement into the future.
Scheib was also quick to note “how crucially important it is that the Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors not only agreed to give us a piece of land on which to put the bike, but they gave us a hefty donation from the hotel-motel taxes to help fund the bike.”
Scheib said the hotel-motel dollars will be spent on ground-level spotlights to illuminate the Big Bike at night and for “conduit to run so that this bike’s headlight and tail light light up along with outlets to string Christmas lights on.”
Scheib gave a long list of people who helped bring the Big Bike to reality, starting with Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Wilson.
“Bob’s our town’s cheerleader,” she said.
Scheib said her fellow brainstormers on the project were Kent Scheib, Nancy Graney, and the team of Matt McDevitt, Carolyn Guay, Joelle Miner, Larry Meacham and Jill Brosnahan.
Along with Krueger and Pearson from Wiese, she thanked Perry Public Works Department Director Jack Butler, Assistant Director Josh Wuebker and staffers Mike Landals, Jose Arceo and Alan Kelleher.
Schieb said American Concrete provided the concrete, and Dalton Moore will eventually stain it. There were others earning thanks as well.
“The creativity of Lee Coons who stepped in when Joyce Conklin-VanKirk had to step away for a time was phenomenal,” Scheib said, “and so was Betsy Peterson for the amazing chain guard design, Jeff with Graphics2U and to Chuck Scheib and Cliff Fagen for putting it on.”
Joining Scheib at the installation were her parents, Ray and Gaynel Tice of Perry, and her sister, Nancy Tice of Perry. Scheib’s aunt, Carol Sparks, said an artistic streak runs in the family.
“Our father was an artist,” she said of her sister Gaynel and herself, “and the artistic side seems to come out in every generation. Our brother made a tin man over 10 feet tall, and it now stands in a museum for recycled things.”
As the Big Bike rises in downtown Perry, the Let’s Connect campaign continues to gain steam, raising funds for the Perry-to-Woodward connector trail. The Let’s Connect committee met Sept. 26 for a monthly update, and Dallas County Conservation Board Director Mike Wallace had some good news to share.
“As of Friday,” Wallace Said, “our total is just shy of $80,000.” He and other committee members said they were also aware of several other $5,000 donations in the works, and the Hotel Pattee’s Gofundme page for the Let’s Connect campaign is also nearing $5,000.
The Let’s Connect fundraising committee is aiming to reach a $100,000 goal, which money will then be matched by another $100,000 from an anonymous local donor.
The Let’s Connect donor packet contains background on the project, including details of the money raised so far from state and federal recreational trails grants, other public funding sources and private donations. A donation form is also included in the packet.
Connecting the two popular trails will mean a big jump in bike tourism in all the towns along the trails. An estimated 417,000 people rode the High Trestle Trail in 2014, and about 330,000 rode the Raccoon River Valley Trail. Those numbers are expected to keep growing, and the economic impact made by so many bicyclists will grow, too.