VILLA PARK – On Saturday, 6-year-old Hayden Meeker of Villa Park took his longest bike ride. With his parents, Kevin and Andrea, Hayden rode along the Illinois Prairie Path, the Great Western Trail, Salt Creek Trail and Villa Park neighborhoods to complete a 10-mile ride during the village’s Community Bike Ride.
The Community Bike Ride just celebrated its fifth year and the Meekers, who moved to Villa Park about two years ago, participated for the first time this year.
“We’re an active family,” said Kevin Meeker. “I look for opportunities for my family to be involved in the community. I want to instill that in my son, and to support the community and just to do fun things.”
Each year, the event is organized by the village’s Environmental Concerns Commission. It was started with the goal of familiarizing residents with the many trails that run through the village and encouraging people to be active.
“It’s really just to introduce the residents and guests to the three different trails that go through Villa Park,” said Village President Deborah Bullwinkel. “We’re really unique and really lucky that we have all three ... ”
Five years ago, Bullwinkel was one of the organizers who helped start the Community Bike Ride, and she’s still active on the planning side of things now.
“I think it went really well,” she said. “We had a lot of new faces. A lot more families came out to participate. It was really, really fabulous.”
The ride offered participants the option to do a 2.4-mile ride, a 10-mile ride or a 1.4 mile kid-friendly ride. The longest bike ride Hayden Meeker had ever done before was about 8 miles, Kevin Meeker said, but he wanted to go for the longest route offered.
“We went through areas of town that I’m not familiar with, that I had never gone around or through,” Kevin Meeker said.
He said the ride is definitely something he and his family would do again. At the event, they met three different couples who, similar to his family, had recently moved into the village and wanted to get involved.
The Kamm family was another group who opted for the 10-mile ride. Lesli Kamm grew up in Villa Park and after college, she moved back to the area to raise her own family. She has ridden with her three children and husband every year since the bike ride was organized, and was very active in helping plan the first ride five years ago.
“I like getting a look around town rather than driving it,” she said. “It’s interesting for the kids to see. We bike on our own, but we don’t bike this route.”
Kamm’s children are 13, 11 and 7-years old, and last year was the first time her whole family was able to do the longest loop together. They picked the 10-mile route again this year.
As a member of the ride’s planning committee, Kamm said she’d like to see the event expand in the coming years. Bullwinkel agrees.
“We’re eager to grow the event,” Bullwinkel said. “It’s poised for growth. We’re looking for biking enthusiasts to volunteer with us next year.”
Aside from getting residents involved and showing them the local trails, the Community Bike Ride was also a way to show people the opportunities for bike riding in Villa Park, something that Hayden Meeker discovered.
“He did really good,” Kevin Meeker said. “It was nice because he saw that the things he can go to on his bike are the same places we drive a car to.”