About 10 years ago, a friend and I rode our bikes from Bemidji to Brainerd one day and the next day, rode back -- 220 miles. Fortunately we got onto the multi-use trail that was completed from Hackensack to Brainerd at which point we really started to enjoy our long ride.
Part of the pleasure came from riding by dozens of walkers and even more in-line skaters than bikers. Of course, the in-line skaters probably benefitted the most from the smooth paved trail. They would have been at serious risk on highway shoulders. The walkers benefitted from the freedom from motorized traffic. We bikers benefitted from separation from the highway, and in our case, having a long ride, we benefitted from the relatively level grade of the old railroad path as we passed through beautiful countryside.
What surprised and delighted us were the ways that towns along the paved route had made efforts to derive economic benefits from the trail. We stopped for lunch in Nisswa because of a small sign off to the side of the trail that announced a café with bike stands. Another town had a sun shelter and a hand pump by the trail that encouraged us to take a break and look around. There was a Dairy Queen by the trail that had several bikes parked by it. Funny how little it took for these places to benefit from a publicly funded trail.
Now, can Guthrie come up with a way to benefit from new people passing through on bikes, in-line skates, or on foot? I hope so.
Multi-use does not mean every-use. But it does present a real opportunity for small communities to present a positive image and to possibly take advantage of a new group of tourists who have simple needs that they are willing to pay for. Perhaps it could be a B&B, maybe a small shop with snacks and a few bike parts, maybe a shuttle service, maybe just a pump and a shelter from rain and sun. If they think the trail is a publicly funded lemon, then they should make lemonade from it.
If it helps these small towns, then I'm gladder that my taxes helped to build the trail. After all, thousands of people will pass by Guthrie at speeds that are slow enough for them to see it as more than a wide spot.