PORTAGE TOWNSHIP | Members of the newly formed Friends of Portage Township are hoping to familiarize folks with themselves and what the township has to offer during an inaugural event next month.
The group will be sponsoring Trek the Township, a 21.5-mile bicycle tour of Portage Township, on May 18.
The trek will begin at Haven Hollow Park and wind its way through unincorporated Portage Township and Portage, along both the Prairie Duneland Trail and Iron Horse Heritage Trail, before coming back along country roads to Haven Hollow.
"We wanted it to encompass both the city of Portage and some rural areas of the township and get a chance to see and use the rails to trails," foundation President Scott Williams said.
The nonprofit foundation was formed in June 2011, just after the Portage Township Parks Department was formed.
"The foundation was part of the whole vision of township Trustee Brendan Clancy," Williams said. "Part of that was the forming of a foundation to support the park system and to improve the park system to improve the quality of life."
The foundation has spent much of its infancy organizing, receiving nonprofit status and developing its mission.
Its role, Williams said, is to support the township's Parks Department and help raise money to improve the parks, which include both Haven Hollow and Field of Dreams.
Clancy said the foundation is important to the development of the park system because it can receive funding from outside corporations, which allows it to seek grants independent of township government.
Williams said members chose the biking event because it is "unique" to the region and they hope it will help brand the foundation. The group is hoping to have at least 200 participants for the first event.
Funds raised through the event will help the foundation sponsor projects in the two township parks, such as building a concession stand with restrooms at Haven Hollow and rebuilding the fishing pier at the park.
Foundation member and fundraising committee Chairman Chris Evans said members have been seeking sponsors for the event. Vendors also are being sought to offer information to participants at the end of the trek.