Summer break can be tough on city kids.
They’ve lost the structure of the school year and, with parents and caregivers usually working, they easily can be led astray.
An organization called Trips for Kids offers a unique outlet: nature bike rides for Harrisburg youth, ages 10 to 18. It operates in conjunction with such groups as St Barnabas Center, Boys and Girls Club and Left Out Organization Program.
After retiring, Harrisburg resident Scott Shepler wanted to share his passion of biking and nature with the community. So, he began to search for ideas.
“Ross Willard (of Recycle Bicycle) was instrumental in the start-up,” he said. “He suggested I approach the Boys and Girls Club and provided an initial set of bikes.”
He also told Shepler about an international nonprofit called “Trips for Kids,” which uses bike trips so kids can get out of their neighborhoods, have fun, build confidence and learn about health, fitness and the environment. Shepler formed the Harrisburg chapter in 2011.
Shepler takes his eager participants on the Capital Area Greenbelt for their bike adventures. This 20-mile trail winds its way through and around Harrisburg, allowing for different views along the journey, including the Susquehanna River, wooded areas, parks, neighborhoods and urban businesses.
“The trail,” as the locals call it, is a wildlife oasis for those living in an urban setting, but it offers so much more. It passes near historic buildings, through rustic and manicured gardens and even by remnants of Harrisburg’s industrial past. Which part of the Greenbelt does Shepler most like to share?
“I favor the natural areas of the Paxtang and Cameron parkways,” he said. “During Harrisburg’s City Beautiful movement, (landscape architect) Warren Manning planned to connect the parks with carriage trails, but the plan depended on land donations, and these two parkways were the only parts donated and built.”
Shepler said his group almost always stops at the MLK Memorial on the Cameron Parkway.
“If we have time, I point out some of the historic sites, like the Rutherford Farm Spring House, the State Hospital Morgue and (City Beautiful activist) Mira Dock’s house,” he said. “She was an amazing person.”
One of the organizations that Shepler works with is L.O.O.P. Boyz & Girlz.
L.O.O.P. is a nonprofit with a goal to empower youth and keep them off the streets. L.O.O.P. took its first Trips for Kids ride in 2014, had two last year and has another one scheduled for this month.
“The kids absolutely love the Greenbelt ride,” said Cathy McMillian, assistant secretary for L.O.O.P. “They look forward to it every year. Kids always learn something new while stopping at different areas on the Greenbelt.”
There is no cost to L.O.O.P., and Trips for Kids provides riders with helmets and safety training before they leave.
“Scott loves what he does,” McMillian said of Shepler. “He has a passion for this. He is always up for a ride with the kids!”
“I really enjoy sharing things with the kids, but most rewarding is seeing the kids enjoy themselves, overcome challenges and accomplish their goals,” he said.
Author: Carissa Bannister Kauwell