Biking at Santa Ana to resume Aug. 1

HARLINGEN — Two-wheeled travel through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge will begin again Aug. 1.

Bicyclists will be allowed to hit the trails during the sunrise to sunset hours the refuge is open from Thursday through Sunday. Riders must obtain a bicycling permit, which they keep, as well as a daily bicycling bracelet.

Cycling on the refuge trails south of Alamo was reinstated last year after being discontinued following the flooding of 2010, said Christine Donald, outdoor recreation planner and site manager for the refuge.

“There are still a lot of people who are interested in it, and it’s a good family event,” Donald said. “We have started reaching out more to the local audience and trying to get local folks to visit.”

Santa Ana’s annual attendance used to number as many as 150,000 annually, but in recent years those numbers have ebbed.

The refuge on the Rio Grande always has been a birding hotspot but much of the birding activity is seasonal. Donald says the refuge hopes to become more of a year-round venue by offering outdoor activities such as bicycling for Valley residents.

“It’s a good family thing, and it’s geared toward the local family,” she said.

There will be some limitations imposed on cyclists in addition to designated riding days.

“They don’t allow big groups all at once, you have to stagger them,” Donald said. “No more than 10 at a time. Part of the problem before was you’d have a ton of these bicycle groups that got in there and they were a little too large. The roads are not really wide and there are a lot of curves and we had issues with the tram. We’ve tried to work out all of those issues.”

Donald said each rider must obtain a bicycle permit from the visitor center before hitting the trails. Riders will retain these permits but must obtain a daily bicycling bracelet each time they ride.

Beyond the daily refuge fee, there is no extra charge to ride.

“Once you get the permit, you keep the permit, and you just come in and get the bicycling bracelet,” she said.

On Aug. 31, the refuge will offer a free bike clinic for adult riders, which will consist of making mid-ride repairs and maintenance, bicycling etiquette and safety.

“This is something new for me,” Donald said. “It was something Gisela (refuge manager Gisela Chapa) did just to help with some of the issues with how to patch your bike, to just kind of prep people when they get out here. If you have a flat, how to change tires and stuff.”

There is no extra fee for the clinic, which will be held from 9 to 11 a.m., but it will be limited to 20 people and pre-registration is required.

How it works

Riders must pick up a bicycle permit at the Santa Ana NWR visitor center.

Riders will retain these permits.

Before each ride, bicyclists must obtain a bicycling bracelet.

No overly large groups of bikers will be allowed.

Cycling is allowed Thursday through Sunday.

Cycling will be available until late December or January.

The only cost is the refuge entry fee.

Adult biking clinic

WHAT: Clinic on how to make repairs while riding, safety, etiquette

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 31, 9 to 11 a.m.

REGISTRATION: Participants must register for the clinic, which is limited to 20 riders

COST: Free with refuge entry fee