Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Donna Krug, bicycle trail
Feb. 16, 2022
By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
“Due to the pandemic, it’s not been possible to travel and see the world. But now, the world has come to us.”
That’s a paraphrase of a sentiment expressed by one Kansan as he described the benefit of improvements made to the bicycle facilities in his community. These improvements have welcomed people from across the globe.
Last week we met Donna Krug, district director and family and consumer sciences agent for the K-State Research and Extension Cottonwood District in Barton and Ellis Counties. She and her husband John live in Great Bend.
At right: John and Donna Krug
Donna grew up on a farm near the rural community of Washington, population 1,131 people. Now, that’s rural. “We had a tandem (two-seater) bike when I was a kid,” Donna said. After she and John married and had kids of their own, they rode bikes as well.
“We had always been a biking family,” Donna said. In 2000, she and John purchased a tandem bike for themselves. Bicycling became a passion.
“We’ve put 75,000 miles on our tandem bike,” Donna said. “We’ve ridden in every Kansas county and every one of the contiguous 48 states,” she said. While it’s not possible to ride a bike across an ocean, Donna still has hopes of riding a bike in Hawaii.
Donna learned of an organization known as Adventure Cycling that designates a TransAmerica Bike Trail. The route went through Kansas but bypassed Great Bend. When the organization’s representative contacted Barton County’s Central Kansas Partnership looking for someone to do a route study, they were told: “Contact Donna Krug. She bikes all the time.”
Donna and John performed the route study, which involved measuring the width of highway shoulders, evaluating the quality of pavement, and noting support services available. Ultimately, this led to the route being redirected through Great Bend.
The study also identified the need for a bicyclist camping facility. Public camping is prohibited in Great Bend city parks. However, when she and John met the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Great Bend, they found that the church had an unused grassy lot on the property and was willing to let this space serve as a bicycling campground. In fact, it already had a bicycle repair station.
“It had been a (landscape) nursery at one time, so it had some nice trees for shade,” Donna said.
People pitched in to improve the lot. Volunteers installed a kiosk, bike rack, covered shelter, and electrical recharging station and repaired two picnic tables. However, there was no fresh water available at the site.
One day, John and Donna participated in Great Bend’s Friday night community bike ride. “Let’s show everybody the new campground,” Donna said. When they stopped there, it caught the eye of another rider who had recently lost his son to suicide.
“They need water here,” said the rider. “I wonder if we could drill a well?”
Ultimately, the rider was able to use funds from his son’s memorial, his family and the suicide prevention task force to drill a well that provides fresh, potable water for bicyclists at the campground.
It was a fitting, life-giving tribute to the deceased young man. Another young man had been in scouting with the suicide victim. He worked on the campground as his Eagle Scout project.
A memorial bike ride was held subsequently to honor the memory of this young man. “The organizers ordered 150 orange t-shirts for those who would participate in the ride, and they ran out,” Donna said. In the end, some 200 people participated. The two people asked to lead the ride were John and Donna Krug.
This campground has become a haven for cross-country bicyclists. “Without this even being listed on Google Maps, since August 2021 we ‘ve had people from 17 states, South Korea, England, Germany, Australia, and other countries,” Donna said.
We commend Donna and John Krug and all the volunteers who are making a difference by contributing to this project. As John Krug later reflected: “The pandemic has kept us from traveling the world, but this trail has brought the world to us.”
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.