Joey Gomez

Organizers of last weekend’s 2nd Annual McCANALenburg Bike Race said the event goes hand in hand with Edinburg’s Cool Cities Initiative to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

Creating a bicycle trail is one of the more obvious things that can be done to reduce congestion on roads, according to leaders with Los Caminos del Rio, which organized the race. In a region that is 90 percent deforested, cyclists who often brave 100 degree heat also need an area with trees for protection.

“They are totally complementary,”said Eric Ellman, Caminos executive director, about the race and its efforts to emphasize Edinburg’s Cool City Initiative.

“One thing about being a Cool City is to reduce congestion on the roads. Creating a bicycle trail is one of the more obvious things that we can do that,” he said.

More than 300 cyclists were estimated to have participated in the grassroots event. Los Caminos del Rio organized the race along the Edinburg Main Canal between Edinburg and McAllen.

State Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Edinburg City Council Members Alma Garza and Gus Garcia,McAllen City Commissioners Jim Darling and John Ingram, were among the elected officials taking part in the race.

Cyclists started out at Edinburg’s Echo Hotel and finished at Westside Park in McAllen. The ride encompassed 13.5 miles of water, and ribbons of trees on a continuous stretch of green space, according to Ellman.

The Edinburg Environmental Advisory Board has long said it would like to see sidewalks and hike and bike trails take a priority when designing the city.

“We want to see a more compact city where people can get around easily without getting in their cars,” said Mark Peña, boardmember and coordinator of Edinburg’s CoolCities climate change initiative at the most recent board meeting earlier this month.

“We want people to want to live here, be proud of the city, consider the environment and we would like to see sidewalks and hike and bike trails a priority when we design a city, when we are planning it out,” he said.

As the first Rio Grande Valley City to sign onto the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, Edinburg has recently pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city by seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Ellman said the McCANALenburg race has enticed the National Park Service to send two planners to work with Los Caminos in the coming year to identify to help identify water and land trail corridors in existing irrigation and drainage ditches, levees, and connecting spaces.

He pointed out that Hidalgo County’s Irrigation District No. 1 is working with the cities of Edinburg and McAllen to demonstrate that the Valley’s hundreds of miles of irrigation trails are a safe and suitable destination for family activity.

The race has also raised awareness in the community of the need for more outdoor recreational facilities in the Valley, Ellman said.

“New agreements to transfer ownership of the Canal Right of Way, along with new laws that limit liability for accidents that occur during recreation create an opportunity to develop a Valley-wide network of bike trails that would be the envy of communities everywhere,” Ellman said.