Tour de Darke returns for second year


By Robb Clifford

Darke County Parks

“Allez, Allez, Allez!” The Tour de Darke returns on August 6th! While not a race, shouting “Go, go, go” as cyclists climb the hills of Darke County is still encouraged! I’m very excited for the 2nd annual TdD after a great inaugural year in 2022. We had over 220 cyclists from across the region and Ohio, with some even traveling from Indiana and Tennessee. It was an exciting day that brought interest to the Tecumseh Trail and Darke County Parks.

I’ve been riding for about 12 years, but started participating in events in the area about 8 years ago. As my interest and contacts grew, I realized this sort of event would be of great value for the Park District and the tourism of the County by showcasing the Tecumseh Trail. With that, the thought of a bike tour being hosted by the Parks got its wheels around 2018. Hitting a few snags along the way, including a global pandemic, I was hopeful to bring the idea to life in time for the Park District’s 50th anniversary in 2022. After bringing my co-worker Mitchell (whom I had recently infected with the cycling “bug”) on board with the planning, we were rolling!

Mitchell and I started throwing ideas around in early January at a program planning meeting. We came up with some plans for late summer and had an idea of what we wanted this non-racing event to look like. Shortly after deciding to make this a reality, it was discovered that one of the major sources for advertising such an event in Ohio, the “Ohio Bicycle Events Calendar” compiled by the Ohio Bicycle Federation, had a submittal date within the month! We had to make a lot of quick decisions and get a webpage prepped asap if we wanted a chance at spreading the word. We spent several days pouring over the calendar for the coming year, the other events in our region (so as not to compete), and many discussions on how the event would run. Deciding on a “leisurely” ride past some iconic sites such as historic Bear’s Mill and Maid Rite, while visiting several of the downtowns of as many villages as possible, we set to work with a series of routes.

Intending to make this Tour achievable by all levels of cyclists, from training wheels to century-enthusiasts, we developed a series of routes that would allow for a 20km (14miles), 50km (31miles), and 100k (62miles). We also wanted a short route for those just beginning their cycling habits and introduced the 3-mile family route through the City Park. While we were unable to hit all of the communities in Darke County, we were able to visit several and we also didn’t want to encroach on an existing route in the area used near Ansonia. Working with the local authorities, we planned routes through these communities bringing both Darke County residents and visitors into these fabulous hometowns on a Tour of Darke County. Once again, our cyclists will begin in Greenville and pass through Arcanum, Versailles, and Gettysburg finishing their Tour at the Bish Discovery Center.

Another key goal of the Tour de Darke was its purpose to raise funds for the upkeep and development of the Tecumseh Trail bikeway. We wanted this event to help ensure the existing bikeway would stay in good repair, protecting the initial grant-funded investment. Some improvements were planned for the bikeway that hadn’t been able to be fully realized with the initial grant funds, so the Tour is helping with this as well! This summer, we’re happy to say that there will be “wayfinding” signage installed along the Tecumseh Trail helping users know their location on the path, see how far they’ve ridden or walked, and also make it easier for EMS personnel to reach someone in need. Future plans hope to work towards connecting our little slice of the bike trail to the regional pie of 350+ miles of bike trail that connects Troy to Dayton to Xenia and beyond. This connection would provide the only loop in the Darke, Miami, and Montgomery counties, likely bringing a large number of users to Darke County to grab a bite to eat or something to drink as they pass through town before heading home.

What’s next? Well, this year I hope to surpass last year’s 220 cyclists and we’re currently on track to do so. I also hope many of you reading this will consider signing up for this year’s Tour de Darke and explore by bike with us! Both Mitchell and I are very happy with the routes we have currently and have had really good feedback (both on the routes and how GREAT our volunteers were!). That said, we’re also looking to further the goal of this being a tour of the county… so we’re hoping to explore options for a 100-mile route option that would incorporate further out-lying communities at some point. This may seem intense for non-cyclists… but trust me, if you map it, they will come!

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