BENTONVILLE -- Bike Bentonville recently hired its first full-time employee, an asset needed to implement the organization's nearly completed strategic plan.
Bike Bentonville became a program under Visit Bentonville in partnership with the city's Parks and Recreation Department last summer. The tourism bureau oversees the marketing, while the Parks Department oversees event organizing.
Andrea Ritchie's educational background, with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in recreation and sport management, makes her a good fit for the Bike Bentonville manager position, said Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville president and chief executive officer.
"She has the vision that we have," Griffith said. "I think she's going to elevate that vision for us and take it to the next level."
Bike Bentonville will work with the Parks and Recreation Department on cycling programming that will attract tourists and benefit residents while also advocating and teaching cycling safety, officials said.
Parks and Recreation Director David Wright described Bike Bentonville as a marketing brand that will be used to promote cycling in the community.
"The importance of the brand is that it gives us an identity locally, regionally and nationally that encourages people to participate in events," he said.
Ritchie, a Fort Smith native, graduated with a master's degree from the University of Arkansas in May. She began mountain biking six years ago after an accident that kept her in the hospital for about a month.
"That's what got me into cycling," she said. "I wasn't allowed to run."
Ritchie hit the Fayetteville trails on her mountain bike to get exercise and eventually invested in a road bike, which she rides 50 to 60 miles a week.
Being the Bike Bentonville manager "has a personal connection and a profession connection" for Ritchie, she said, explaining that one of her goals is to simply get more people active and outside because it enhances the quality of life within a community.
Professionally, one of Ritchie's main tasks will be to implement Bike Bentonville's strategic plan, which is nearly finished.
Barbara O'Connor, who was hired as the part-time Bike Bentonville coordinator in January, started the strategic plan before she left Visit Bentonville midyear for a different job.
Griffith expects the plan to be completed and go before the Advertising and Promotions Commission and the Parks Advisory Board for approval in January.
The plan has four main goals: to enhance and promote an all-inclusive cycling culture through events, to create a thriving and fun cycling culture with quality places to ride, to promote a safe cycling community through education and awareness and to promote cycling tourism in Bentonville.
A recent example of cycling tourism in Bentonville was the International Mountain Biking Association's World Summit Nov. 10-12. The event drew 525 attendees and more than 100 vendors from more than 40 states and 11 countries to Northwest Arkansas, according to Visit Bentonville.
Griffith estimates it had a $400,000 economic impact on the city.
"The summit far exceeded everyone's expectations, and I know that my thinking was reset by everything that I experienced in Bentonville," Dave Wiens, the association's board chairman, said in a news release.
The city has more than 20 cycling events scheduled in 2017.
"Bentonville is well on its way to being the premier cycling destination in the country," Griffith said in the release.
Metro on 11/25/2016
Print Headline: Bike Bentonville hires manager