Cyclists get shuttle boost from nonprofit

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Caeli Quinn (left) and Denny Gignoux and their two children, Luca and Marin, were among the first bicyclists to try the new NPS Hiker-Biker Shuttle from Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche on Saturday, May 7. The shuttle bus and bike trailer service is part of a demonstration project that the park launched for the NPS Centennial. The service runs daily between Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. through June 26 or when the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens to vehicles, whichever comes first. Funding for the project was raised by Gignoux's organization Climate Ride, which sponsor's a long-distance bicycle ride across the region to raise funds to reduce the effects of climate change on Glacier National Park. (National Park Service photo)

Fundraising bike tour raised $100,000 in inaugural Glacier ride

Glacier National Park’s new bicycle shuttle service got off to a promising start last weekend, with more than 123 cyclists taking the bus between Lake McDonald Lodge and Avalanche.

Started in response to the increasing popularity of early-season bicycling along Going-to-the-Sun Road, the free service got off the ground thanks to a $52,000 donation from Climate Ride.

Climate Ride is a nonprofit group that organizes multiday bike rides each year throughout the country, raising money for environmental awareness and sustainability issues. It’s the brainchild of Whitefish resident Caeli Quinn, the Missoula-based organization’s executive director.

“I was a longtime hiking and cycling guide around the world,” Quinn said Tuesday. “I was living here in Montana and wanted to figure out how to use my bike-tour riding and guiding skills to make an impact on conservation and climate change issues.”

Since its inception in 2008, the charity has run fundraising bike tours in locations from Maine to the California Coast and raised a total of $3.2 million for environmental groups throughout the country.

Last year’s inaugural Glacier Ride, a six-day tour through Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, raised nearly $100,000 despite only having room for 30 participants. Quinn said since the ride traverses the entirety of Going-to-the-Sun Road, space is limited for a large cycling group.

“This was really close to my heart. I really wanted to figure out a way to make an impact here, to support the park and the conservancy,” she said. “The idea is to educate people about Glacier’s flora and fauna, the wilderness as well as concerns about environmental issues that could really alter our park in the future.”

She said it’s also an opportunity to reach a younger generation of conservationists, noting that about a third of last year’s Glacier Ride participants are under age 30.

Beginning with a warm-up along Camas Road, the tour takes cyclists along Sun Road and up to the Many Glacier Valley, then to Waterton National Park for a “layover day” of hiking.

It finishes with a day of rafting along the Middle Fork Flathead River, courtesy of Quinn’s husband, Denny Gignoux, who co-founded Climate Ride and owns Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Co.

Money raised for this year’s Glacier Ride, from July 5-10, will support renewable energy initiatives throughout the park, in the form of a donation administered by the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

“These projects are a template for other parks that are dealing with the issues of how to tailor the park to future generations,” Quinn said. “We’re creating a way for individuals to make an investment in nature.”

Participants pay $100 to register and must raise a minimum of $3,000 to participate in the ride.

The organization covers all costs of the ride itself, including meals, water, route planning, lodging and support staff and vehicles. Climate Ride also provides fundraising software and staff support.

Quinn said a couple of spots on the 30-person roster for this year’s ride still remain.

For find more information or to sign up, visit www.climateride.org/events/glacier-ride.


Reporter Sam Wilson can be reached at 758-4407 or by email at swilson@dailyinterlake.com.

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