Plans taking shape for March 31 Common Thread bike conference

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About 70 attendees were welcomed by Perry Mayor Jay Pattee, right, at the start of the 2015 Bike Trail Tourism Conference. The 2016 conference is scheduled for March 31 at the Hotel Pattee in Perry.

The third annual Bike Trail Tourism Conference will convene Thursday, March 31 at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, and the conference’s sponsors, the city of Perry and the Common Thread consortium, have released some preliminary details of the day’s agenda.

Organized around this year’s theme, “New trail opportunities,” the day-long meeting will gather featured sessions and panels on building bike-friendliness in communities, improving signs and way-finding, developing businesses on the trail and using technology to promote trail events.

2016 bike conference Poster detailThe annual conference has been well received by the biking community in Iowa and across the Midwest. Registration for this year’s event suggest another success, according to Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson.

“From what I’ve read on the evaluations, everyone enjoys this conference and receives value from it,” Peterson said. “We have another strong lineup for this year.”

The conference will focus on helping businesses on or near the trails to reach more trail users and capture the growing economic potential of our trails, according to Jim Miller of Waukee, board member of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association (RRVTA) and one of the conference organizers. The conference runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“We’re really fortunate to have the RRVT and the High Trestle trails communities here in central Iowa,” said Miller. “Those trails are a great linkage between our communities and the larger metro area —  a great ‘quality of life’ asset for our trail towns and way to attract more trail users out from the metro area.”

Jay Hartz, owner and general manager of the Hotel Pattee, which hosts the annual conference, said his business is a prime example of successful marketing to bike-trail tourists.

“One of our strategies to grow our business is to focus on bike trail users,” Hartz said, “and we do all we can do to give them a great experience when they eat a meal here or stay overnight with us. We continue to see a steady increase in trail users coming to the hotel. Trail counts continue to rise every year, and when we get the connection open between Woodard’s High Trestle Trail and Perry’s Raccoon River Valley Trail, I think they will soar.”

Shawna Lode
Shawna Lode

The 2016 conference will open at 9 a.m. with a keynote address by Shawna Lode, manager of the Iowa Tourism Office for the Iowa Department of economic Development.  She will discuss trails and tourism in Iowa and the potential of central Iowa trails to draw people looking for great trail experiences from beyond central Iowa.

Lode will also outline opportunities for local businesses to serve the growing number of trail users. Her previous positions include communications director for the Iowa Finance Authority and director of the Burlington Area Convention and Tourism Bureau. The Buena Vista University and Drake University graduate received the 2007 Governor’s Excellence Award for achievements and exemplary service to the state of Iowa and the Fred Burns Award from the Midwest Travel Writers Association in 2002.

The balance of the conference will be four panels of local and area speakers with expertise in the following topics:

  • Social media and an online presence to reach trail users and a discussion of examples of businesses successfully using social media: Panelist will be Susan Erickson of ISU Extension, Jim Caufield of ThePerryNews.com and Curt Thornberry of Panora Telco.
  • Success in business on the trail: Local businesses on the trail and those serving trail users will discuss challenges and opportunities. Panelists will be Traci and Rick Armstrong of the Whistlin’ Donkey Sports Bar and Grill in Woodard and Jeremy Boka of Reclaimed Rails Brewing Co. in Bondurant.
  • Trail users’ views: A panel of avid trail users will talk about their trail experiences and what they look for in a good trail experience. panelists will be Georgie Libbie, president of the Des Moines Cycle Club, Kristie Harrold, Ironman competitor and a board member of the Des Moines Triathlon Club, and Mark Powell of Perry, who runs, bikes and camps along the trail.
  • Signage and wayfinding for guiding trail users to your business and town attractions: Panelists will discuss how towns and businesses are developing signs to get trail users to local businesses. Panelists will be Mary Laborde, Raccoon River Valley Trail board member, Bob Wilson, Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, and Jay Hartz, owner of the Hotel Pattee.
Chuck Offenburger
Chuck Offenburger

Chuck Offenburger, tireless trail traveler and founding member of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, will again offer closing remarks and a call to action for trail-tourism development.

Conference sponsors are the city of Perry, Common Thread, a regional consortium of towns on the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the High Trestle Trail, and the Center for Towncraft in Perry, a collaboration between Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the city of Perry.

Pre-registration is due by March 30 and is available by clicking here. The registration fee is $20 and includes lunch and all conference materials. To register by mail, send your name, address and a check to: City of Perry, Attn: Bike Conf., P.O. Box 545, Perry, IA 50220. Make checks payable to the City of Perry.

Day-of registration begins at 8:15 a.m. at the Hotel Pattee.

For more information contact Butch Niebuhr, 515-249-8696, Sven Peterson, 515-465-2481, or Alan Vandehaar, 515-231-6513.

2016 bike conference Poster
The 2016 Bike Trail Tourism Conference will explore new opportunities for attracting trail-using tourists.

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