Eighty to 100 bicyclists will arrive in Surry County on Oct. 9 as part of the 2016 STIHL Tour des Trees, an annual ride to raise money for forest preservation and similar causes.
“Mount Airy will be their first layover,” said Dwayne Carter of Mount Airy, the executive director of the Southern Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, which is hosting this year’s tour.
The cycling adventure starts on Oct. 9 in Charlotte and also will end there on Oct. 15, after the riders have traveled nearly 600 scenic miles through North and South Carolina during the seven-day period to benefit the TREE Fund. It is a charity devoted to sustaining the world’s urban trees through various means.
Carter and other local observers are happy about the fact that the riders, who possess a shared passion for trees, are making this city their first stop on the opening day of their 2016 Carolinas Tour.
“They will have ridden about 116 miles,” said the official of the Southern Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture that is headquartered in Mount Airy.
Plans call for the riders to enter Surry County at Rockford on the afternoon of Oct. 9, which will include visiting the general store in the historic village located near the Yadkin River.
They are expected to arrive later that day to a heroes’ welcome in Mount Airy hosted by the arboriculture chapter, which has 1,800 members in eight states in addition to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The cyclists’ achievement of completing their arduous ride on the tour’s first day will be celebrated with a dinner at Old North State Winery. In addition to the riders, the entourage will accompanied by about a 20-member support staff which provides water and other services to them during their trek.
After staying overnight and having breakfast in town the next day, Oct. 10, the visitors are scheduled to gather with local officials and tree stewards at Blackmon Amphitheater at 8:30 a.m. to dedicate a new tree at the Mount Airy Public Library, near City Hall.
A donation of children’s books to the library also will occur that morning, with local supporters to then wish the cyclists well on their continued journey.
“Their next stop will be Greensboro,” Carter said. In addition to that city and Mount Airy, other overnight stops are to include Raleigh, Southern Pines and Camden, South Carolina.
A typical day during the annual ride includes three or four stops hosted by local tree stewards, tree plantings, library book donations and a kid-friendly education program about trees presented by Professor Elwood Pricklethorn (aka Toronto arborist and veteran tour rider Warren Hoselton).
Carter indicated that any accolades coming the cyclists’ way during their journey will be much deserved.
“This is a good group of people,” he said, who hail from all across the U.S. and elsewhere in North America, including Canada.
“Some of them look at this as their vacation,” Carter added. “They do it for the sake of raising money.”
Full-tour cyclists commit to generating at least $3,500 for the TREE Fund, which helps save urban forests and supports educational and research efforts to control diseases and insects. Many raise thousands more, and return each year to reunite with friends who share their passion for cycling and trees.
With funds generated by the bike tour, TREE Fund researchers have discovered better ways to propagate, plant and care for urban trees, making them more resilient, more resistant to pests and less prone to failure. The tour also funds education programs aimed at connecting young people with the environment and career opportunities in green industries.
Riders obtain pledges from their companies, families and other sources to achieve the fundraising goal.
The Tour des Trees is the primary community outreach and engagement event for the TREE Fund, combining great cycling and environmental education in an annual, week-long celebration of urban trees.
Riders visit dozens of communities to plant trees, educate children, engage with local tree stewards and promote the mission of the TREE Fund.
Since its inception in 1992, the Tour des Trees has raised more than $6 million for research.
Its legacy further includes a growing legion of civilian tree stewards and aspiring arborists in its host communities.
Second local visit
Carter said a local stopover is rare for the Tour des Trees, which began in 1992.
The riders have come through Mount Airy only one time before, in 1995, before they headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway toward Asheville.
Participants wanted to return to the Carolinas this year after meandering through Florida in 2015.
Carter said both he and Michella Huff, city landscaping supervisor and the immediate past president of the Southern Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, lobbied vigorously to have Mount Airy included in the 2016 ride.
“Everyone’s looking forward to it,” he said, a sentiment echoed by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander.
“This is just another great opportunity to show off the city,” Alexander said Thursday.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.