Riders in Tour des Trees fundraiser take break in Utica

Photo submitted by Ginny Vinson

Tour de Trees bicyclists are met at the Utica rest stop by Tour de Trees volunteer Maggie Harthoorn. There were 80 bicyclists for this year's fundraising efforts.

The annual Tour des Trees cycling fundraiser was held in Kentucky this year with cyclists stopping for a break in Utica on Wednesday morning.

Tour des Trees is an annual event hosted in a different state each year to raise money for arborist education, research and safety, according to Tour de Trees Volunteer Maggie Harthoorn.

This year's event started in Nashville on Monday and will end in Nashville on Friday. There are a total of 80 cyclists from all over the U.S. including several from Canada and one from the U.K. Harthoorn said this year's tour is a 450-mile ride.

The program also has 20 volunteers that travel with the cyclists in addition to volunteers posted at rest stops placed in several different regions throughout the week to provide water and snacks.

Owensboro Lions Club hosted the rest stop in Utica on Wednesday as part of their environmental efforts to give back to the earth, according to Lions Club President Ginny Vinson.

"We do several projects each year that kind of meet the criteria of what Lions International is trying to do in their environmental projects, so this serves as an environmental project for us," Vinson said.

Harthoorn said the minimum requirement for each of the cyclists is to raise at least $3,500. She said most cyclists have already exceeded that goal, bringing their current total as of Wednesday to more than $370,000 for arborist research.

Harthoorn said funds raised go toward many different aspects of tree research.

"It is all kinds of tree research. It can be … what benefits do we get from trees. Also worker safety, so how can we keep people safe when they're climbing up in the trees or working near utility lines when we're working on trees to keep them healthy," Harthoorn said. "Also underground research as well, like how trees are affected by soil issues. Most of it is urban forestry … we need trees in the cities.

Money from the fundraiser also goes toward college scholarships and educational programs in schools to teach children about the importance of trees in the environment.

"During this week, we have the riders doing their tour, but we also have an educator that's stopping at the different schools and doing like a 45-minute program about trees and why they're important," Harthoorn said.

cnetherton@mcleannews.com, 270-691-7360

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