Pedaling Park Maintenance

Photos Courtesy of the City of Mt. Pleasant

Photos Courtesy of the City of Mt. Pleasant

Staff members of the Mt. Pleasant Parks Department in Michigan knew they needed a more efficient and earth-friendly way to complete daily park-maintenance tasks. After exploring several options, and noting at least one staff member who had a passion for bicycles, the department decided to incorporate this mode of transportation into its routine.

This project—named the Green Maintenance Bike Initiative—provides new and recycled bikes for daily maintenance in the city’s parks. With connected access to five of the city’s most utilized parks through the Mt. Pleasant GKB Riverwalk Trail, bikes are a natural option for tackling daily maintenance tasks.

Starting Off On The Right Wheels

Prior to 2011, the department relied solely on gas-powered, motorized utility vehicles for moving material, equipment, and personnel. It was determined that nearly 10 gallons of gasoline were being used daily. This created pollution in the form of exhaust, as well as excess noise in otherwise peaceful park areas. 

The decision was made to put one bike and trailer into service and encourage a staff member to try it out. Then the department invested in two new bicycles and two specialized trailers. Key staff members with an interest in cycling were challenged to see what tasks they could accomplish with the new additions. Just getting staff members to think about new approaches to maintenance put them in a different mindset. Also, having a couple of staff members excited about the program helped promote a new sense of creativity and a new way of performing the work.   

Trial And Error

Without a model to work from, the department has built its program from the bottom up. Much has been learned through some old-fashioned trial and error. 

The program began with new bicycles, but once it gained momentum, additional bikes were needed. The parks department approached the city’s police department about its used bicycles. This partnership provided the parks department with used Cannondale bikes. They were refurbished and retrofitted with new fenders, saddle bags, and first-aid kits. Bike-trailer hitches also were added, allowing specialized trailers to be connected in order to transport push mowers, weed whips, yard and hand tools, and trash receptacles. 

Since all of the bikes and trailers required maintenance—some of it costly—park staff members were prompted to become creative. A third trailer is currently being built. Using plans found online, they built a bike that is slimmer, which fits well over the department’s


many bridges. The new trailer will be wider to hold more materials, such as trash barrels. Different hitches have been tried, and weight balance is something the staff is still trying to master. 

Bikes abandoned in the parks also are utilized for parts. One bike might have a seat that works great on a maintenance bike, while another might have usable rims. Others may be able to be repaired and recycled, which park employees are learning to do in their shop.

The Cost Of “Going Green”

The parks department not only wanted this project to be green, but also to be low cost. 

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