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Cambridge bike route will be named after Van Valkenberg

Construction is expected to begin this spring on the extension of an existing off-road route that begins at CamRock County Park and runs through the village of Cambridge, up to a safe crossing at U.S. Highway 18 and England Street

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A new bike path stretching northward from Cambridge toward the Glacial Drumlin State Trail will be named after village native and 2017 Wisconsin Bicycling Hall of Fame inductee Phil Van Valkenberg.

The Cambridge Village Board approved naming the bike trail in honor of Van Valkenberg on April 13.

Construction is expected to begin this spring on the extension of an existing off-road route that begins at CamRock County Park and runs through the village of Cambridge, up to a safe crossing at U.S. Highway 18 and England Street.

The new stretch, that will ultimately cost more than $400,000 to design and construct and is being funded through a combination of public and private local contributions, Dane and Jefferson County grants and a state stewardship grant.

It will run westward along U.S. Highway 12-18 from the safe crossing at England Street to The Vineyards at Cambridge neighborhood where it will connect into an existing 1-mile off-road neighborhood loop. From there it will continue northward through a 50-acre property owned by the Cambridge Foundation, to State Farm Road.

From State Farm Road, bicyclists will have to continue north on local roads for about a mile to reach the state trail.

The ad-hoc committee that began talking about the connector route in 2017, that is now is in the process of incorporating as a new non-profit, the Friends of CamRock Glacial Drumlin Bike Connector Trail, envision eventually completing the remaining mile to the trail, all off-road. That is a separate project, however, with ongoing discussions and no final decisions made.

Dane County Board Supervisor Kate McGinnity, of Cambridge, who has tentatively been named president of the new non-profit, working alongside vice president Chuck Hutchens and secretary/treasurer Steve Struss, said a date will be announced soon for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Phil Van Valkenberg Trail.

In an interview this week, Van Valkenberg called the new route “a fantastic opportunity for the village of Cambridge,” to tie into a key Wisconsin bike route that further ties into trails in neighboring states.

He said he hopes Cambridge continues, into the future, to promote the village as a bicycling destination, given the proximity of regionally renowned mountain bike trails at CamRock Park.

And he called the work that went into funding the trail “impressive.”

“A lot of people have put a lot of work into this,” he said.

Van Valkenberg grew up in Cambridge and his parents long owned a downtown shoe store. For decades he crisscrossed the United States and Europe on a bicycle, leading group tours and writing eight books about biking in Wisconsin and the Midwest, seven official state biking guides for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, a rural bicycling planning guide for the state Department of Transportation and countless columns and articles about his lifelong passion.

Van Valkenberg organized his first ride – around Madison’s Capitol Square – in 1973. In 2017, he was an inaugural member of the Wisconsin Bicycling Hall of Fame.

Village board vote

Van Valkenberg is a “longtime Cambridge resident” and a “very strong biking advocate,” Struss told the Cambridge Village Board on April 13.

“He has a lot to do with where biking is currently in the state, and really, in the nation,” Struss said. “He’s kind of an icon.”

Struss added he believes Van Valkenberg’s name on the trail would draw people from across the state to Cambridge.

Struss said that early conversations about naming the bike path included a naming contest, opening the naming up to a community vote to get local residents engaged in the process. But, Struss said, that turned out to be difficult to manage with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The trail is envisioned to have several signs to honor Van Valkenberg, as well as a couple of service stations dedicated to him along the trail.

Some village board members expressed concern over the fact that in the past, the village has only named things after people who had made financial contributions to projects. But the board voted 6-1 in favor of the naming, with Village President Mark McNally dissenting.

“I think he deserves it,” board member Ted Kumbier said. “He is known throughout the state, I think it’d be a good idea.”

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