Construction students at two colleges and a high school are spearheading a project to make the southeastern Kansas community of Pittsburg a more welcoming place for hundreds of cross-country bicycle riders who stop in the city each year.
Pittsburg is along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, a roughly 4,200-mile route created in 1976 when thousands of riders celebrated the nation’s bicentennial by pedaling from Yorktown, Va., to Astoria, Ore.
Hundreds of riders still stream through Pittsburg each spring and summer as they follow the trail. But the city has no designated camping site, shower or restroom for them, leading those who choose to stop in the city to pitch tents in Lincoln Park and shower at the Pittsburg Aquatic Center or the YMCA if those buildings are open.
Those who pull into Pittsburg in 2013 will find some new amenities — a shower-restroom building and a special pavilion being built this fall by construction management and masonry students at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg High School and Fort Scott Community College.
The restrooms and pavilion are in the city-owned RV Park. A volunteer group called Pittsburg Beautiful donated the $25,000 needed for the work, and the city is getting new amenities built with free labor.
“It’s a win-win all the way around,” said Pittsburg parks and recreation director Kim Vogel.
The shower-restroom building will have equipment for cyclists to wash and repair their bikes. Bench seating and electric outlets in the pavilion will let the riders relax while charging cellphones, cameras and laptops. A shaded, grassy area between the two structures will make a great camping spot, Vogel said.
Seniors in Pittsburg State’s construction management program are acting as project managers, planning the schedule, estimating costs and directing the work.
“It’s the culmination of all we’ve learned for the past four years,” said Adam Shoemaker, a Pittsburg State construction management major who is leading the work on the shower house.
Nacoma Oehme, head masonry instructor at Fort Scott Community College, calls it a great partnership for everyone involved.
“It’s good for the students to get them out of the shop on actually building a project on the job site, and it’s good for the community because they’re getting free labor and a quality building done right that should serve them well,” Oehme said.
Roger Lomshek, owner of Pittsburg bicycle shop Tailwind Cyclists, likes what the project will do for the city’s image among riders.
“This is very forward-thinking,” he said. “There is nothing like this around here.”