Lyme - As residents get ready to cycle through miles of trails for the first "Tour de Lyme" bicycle event this Saturday, land trust members, town officials and first responders are also preparing for the fundraiser's debut.
Tour de Lyme, organized by the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, will feature six different bicycling paths of varying difficulty through Lyme, East Haddam and parts of Old Lyme and Salem.
The two mountain bike routes and four road bike paths, including the 55-mile "challenge" ride and the 10-mile "family" ride, will culminate with a picnic lunch at Lyme Consolidated School on Hamburg Road, according to the event's description.
Land trust President John Pritchard, himself a bicyclist, came up with the idea of holding a cycling event.
Formed in 1966, the land trust manages about 3,000 acres of land and 40 miles of trails. As the trust began managing more lands and its obligations increased, its members realized the benefits of growing the trust's membership and support beyond the town, said George Moore, the trust's executive director.
Moore said the event will give people from all over an opportunity to enjoy the land and routes.
"It allows us to reach outside our normal borders," said Moore.
The trust hopes the Tour de Lyme, which it has been planning for more than a year, will become an annual event, he said.
As of Thursday, 275 residents from Connecticut, New York, Washington, D.C., and even Colorado had registered for the event.
"Word of mouth" helped drive the number of registrations, as well as cyclists taking note of event signs as they rode through town, according to Moore. To publicize the event, the trust established a website, posted notices in online event calendars, installed small signs around town and sent postcards and fliers to cycling shops and clubs.
On Saturday, all roads in town will be open as normal. Moore said the trust staggered starting times to pose a "minimum inconvenience" to the town and avoid excessive cycling traffic along Route 156. There will be two rest stop stations.
Sponsors are helping with the cost of the event and about 40 volunteers are assisting with set-up. Moore said the event was made possible with help from the town and first selectman as well as the Board of Education, which allowed part of the school to be used on Saturday.
There will be police supervision on Route 156 near the school, as well as a police officer at the intersection of Baker Lane and Route 82 in East Haddam, said Moore. The Lyme Fire Company and Lyme Ambulance Association will also be on call in case of injuries.
First Selectman Ralph Eno said the town is providing a level of police supervision, but it's not "blanketed" throughout the trails. The event coincides with the time of year when the town crew sweeps roads, so much of the sand on road shoulders should have been removed by now, he said.
"We're doing everything we can to make it safe and enjoyable," added Moore.