Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lakefront Activity of a Different Kind

Want to ride this cool bike? And feel the cool lakes breezes at the same time? And ride past marinas, museums, beaches and more? You can, for a very small price. You can rent it from Bike Kenosha Rentals, which is housed in a trailer near the Southport Marina on the Kenosha lakefront.

I first noticed the trailer a few weeks ago and have walked by it several times. Today I stopped to talk to Jeff Shipley, the proprietor.

“How’s business?” I asked

“Not bad,” was the answer, “although the rain and cooler than normal temperatures haven’t been very helpful.”

Jeff is an entrepreneur who saw a need, and because he is currently not working elsewhere, decided to give the bike rental business a try. He set up in a parking lot next to an open field. So did the Pita Shack and occasionally a Ben and Jerry’s vendor is there, too. They all pull trailers, pack up and leave with them at night and are not there on rainy days.

The open field next to where they park was originally slated to be developed as retail shops as part of the Harbor Park Redevelopment . That was changed a few years ago to residential development and last year the whole project, a victim of the economy and perhaps poor planning as well, was either canceled or delayed ( I am not sure which).

But the field does get used. On any given day you can see dogs catching Frisbees, kids flying kites, or an impromptu baseball game. For me , that’s much better than stores anyway, but it will be interesting to see how successful these temporary business will be this summer.

Jeff told me the vendors have gotten some flack from people who think their businesses are taking away from the downtown, a few blocks away, which is struggling to survive. But I think the two areas are different. People strolling at the lakefront want something different than those strolling downtown. They want bikes and the kind of food you can eat while walking.

Besides there are signs of hope downtown, too – two kid-oriented businesses, a child’s play place and a do-it-yourself pottery place are slated to open next month, in addition to the already open and successful toy store and ice cream places. All these business can be good for each other. And good for my neighborhood. And when people use the lakefront for businesses and recreation, they will see how beautiful it is here and come often, so that should be good for the lake, too.

The open field may not exactly be a "field of dreams" but I do believe there is a bit of a “Build it and they will come” effect. I am not much of an economist, but I am sure some economic guru would have something to day about this literally “grass roots” movement. It can only be better for all of us.

By the way, there are many good bike paths in Kenosha, my favorite of them is along the lakefront. Jeff has maps at his bike rental stand if you are interested. Jeff is at the red flag at the far upper corner of the field picture.

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