June 4, 2004
The University of Maine at Fort Kent in cooperation with the St. John Valley Partnership have initiated a unique bike program that will allow students, faculty and staff mobility around campus and throughout the community.
The Partnership and UMFK have multiple goals for this project which are to promote wellness, to lessen parking issues on campus and within the community, to reduce pollution caused by gas driven vehicles, and at a time when gasoline is at an all time high, to help curb rising fuel costs.
The St. John Valley Partnership is a diverse organization with a mission to advocate for the people of the upper St. John Valley about physical activity, nutrition and tobacco prevention through initiatives that promote a healthy lifestyle.
The program began when Rachel Charette, project manager of the St. John Valley Partnership spoke with Bert Michaud of Fort Kent about a bike program on the Orono campus in which the bicycles are used by everyone on campus to travel from one location to another.
The Orono campus community members would use the bicycle and then leave it in the rack for anyone else to pick up and go to their next location, thus alleviating parking problems. The only risk was that individuals would arriving on bike, may not find it there when they are finished their class or business in that location.
Charette and her assistant Gloria Stoliker of Madawaska began making phone calls and placing advertisements for residents and businesses to donate bicycles to the project. Calls began coming in and soon enough bicycles were collected, some in working condition and others needing repairs.
In order to make the project feasible, bike racks had to be placed in strategic locations on campus and throughout the community. There were some bike racks in the Fort Kent area previously purchased by local businesses through a project initiated by the Town of Fort Kent when the hiking and biking trails were created.
The partnership encouraged businesses throughout their service area from Allagash, down to Eagle Lake and out to Grand Isle to purchase more bike racks. They also supplied racks to organizations and school districts lacking the funds to purchase them on their own. The Partnership's goal was to place racks in locations that are most frequented by people.
With an environmentally related cause on her hands, Charette approached Kim Borges-Therien, assistant professor of environmental studies on campus in October of 2003.
Borges-Therien referred her to the student senate where Lloyd Pulk, a senator at large, took ownership of the project on campus.
Eleven bikes were donated to the UMFK student senate for this project. As some of the units needed repairs, Pulk went to the student senate and requested $200 to purchase tires, tubes, lubricant and other materials to get the bikes in working order.
Pulk donated his services to do the repairs and the student senate now owns the bicycles and will maintain the upkeep of the equipment.
Unlike the Orono program, UMFK's academic outreach director, Don Eno, will sign a bicycle out to one person for up to a one week period. The bikes may be used on or off campus to allow students access to campus buildings, the down town businesses, and biking trails.
There are no fees for the rental; however, the person signing out the bike will be responsible for any damages to the equipment for the period of time during which it is in their possession.
At this time eight bicycles are ready to be signed out on the UMFK campus.