OUR OPINION: Bike-rental idea for Greenway could rollThe city, park and school governments in Grand Forks run skating rinks, swimming pools, playgrounds, band programs, interscholastic sports, golf courses, disc-golf courses and soon, a multi-million dollar wellness center. Assuming no private concessionaire steps forward, is a small bike-rental operation that much of a stretch?
By: Tom Dennis for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
In St. Cloud, Minn., historic Lake George is the 9-acre centerpiece of a park that sits a few blocks from downtown. For generations, residents have strolled Lake George’s perimeter in all seasons, skated on it in winter and enjoyed paddleboating in summer.
These days, the paddleboat-rental concession is run by Outdoor Endeavors, a partnership between the city of St. Cloud, the St. Cloud Parks Department and the St. Cloud Rotary Club.
So, for $8 an hour or $6 for a half-hour, visitors and their children can skitter around the lake, building wonderful memories that — as any St. Cloud resident will tell you — last a lifetime.
And you know what?
There’s nothing wrong with that. Just the opposite; there’s everything right about it. Sure, a private company “could” rent the paddleboats, and if one wanted to do so, that would be great.
But private companies don’t want to do so, probably because there’s not enough money to be made. So, local governments and a nonprofit teamed up in a successful, low-cost and entirely noncontroversial effort to keep a delightful local tradition alive. Good for them.
And good for Grand Forks officials as well for trying to figure out if renting bikes could work on the Greenway.
The Herald published a story on the Greenway bike-rental idea Sunday. By Thursday, the story had drawn 80 comments, a fair number of them saying that “if renting bikes on the Greenway is a good idea, then let the private sector do it.”
Well, yes: If a business wants to install and operate the high-tech bike-rental racks — which work something like the luggage-cart racks in major airports, but ask users to pay with credit cards to guard against theft — then that would be fantastic.
That’s how the bike rental concession at Itasca State Park in Minnesota works, after all. And judging by the website for Itasca Sports, the concessionaire, business is good.
But what if demand on the Grand Forks Greenway falls short of that in Itasca State Park? What if a Greenway bike-rental business would be brisk, but not strong enough to generate a big profit?
What if, in other words, renting bikes on the Greenway would be more akin to renting paddleboats on Lake George?
Then the city could reasonably consider alternative means such as grants and public/private partnerships to bring the bike rentals about.
And that’s just what officials are trying to do: “Results from this survey will be shared with existing and potential private sector businesses,” a Q&A about the project notes.
“If the private sector is not interested in offering this service but there is community interest in the program, partnerships with other organizations and agencies will be explored.”
The city, park and school governments in Grand Forks run skating rinks, swimming pools, playgrounds, band programs, interscholastic sports, golf courses, disc-golf courses and soon, a multi-million dollar wellness center. Assuming no private concessionaire steps forward, is a small bike-rental operation that much of a stretch?
There are worse things than living in a city with popular and attractive amenities. Living in a city without such amenities is one. Kudos to Grand Forks for exploring the bike-rental idea; here’s hoping the project succeeds.
— Tom Dennis for the Herald