As a small business owner, Terry Landreth believes in listening to his customers. At his shop, Camden Bicycle Center in St. Marys, Georgia, he saw that his customers were clearly concerned about safety. “People were walking in and asking, ‘Where can I ride my bike safely?’ I began to realize that we’re a hub for that kind of information.”
As he searched for safe route recommendations, Landreth expanded his role from retailer to include greenways advocate and bicycle tourism champion. As chair of the Coastal Georgia Greenway, his state’s committee for the East Coast Greenway, Landreth has spoken to scores of Rotary clubs, county commissions, and state legislators about the quality of life and economic development benefits of building greenways.
“Our small communities thrive on small bits of tourism. Every bit of increased tourism makes a bigger pie,” he says. Not catering to the interests of outdoorsy tourists means “we’re losing dollars out of our backyard.”
Herb Hiller, a longtime East Coast Greenway advocate in the Southeast, first introduced Landreth to the national route. “Herb tells a pretty compelling story,” Landreth says, about the prospects of bicycle tourism. “He mentored me and expanded my thought process from thinking of my own community to thinking about the whole East Coast.”
Landreth says Georgia’s greenway is starting to gain life. The national nature of the East Coast Greenway helps. “We needed the backing of a national ‘product’ like the East Coast Greenway to say, ‘Listen, there’s no reason to be left out of a national project like this.’”
He talks with great pride of his home community, which sits on the St. Marys River facing Florida to the south and the renowned Cumberland Island National Seashore across the sound.“We’re the most southern community of the original 13 colonies, we’ve got tons of history right out our back door,” he says. The resilient seaport town and its historic homes have withstood the test of time: war, floods, and hurricanes. Not to mention modernization, which brought with it suburban sprawl and disconnections.
“Our community is extremely ripe for better access,” he says. Locally, moms want their kids to be able to walk home from school safely. But there’s also a global audience of visitors traveling to St. Marys to take the ferry to Cumberland Island. “These visitors are outdoor enthusiasts, they love history and being active. If they don’t stay for another day in St. Mary’s, we’re at fault.”
In 2010, Landreth attended the National Bicycle Summit in Washington, DC. He heard Trek CEO John Burke talk about how successful bike dealers don’t just sell bikes, they also serve as a hub for the local bike community. It’s a message Landreth and his wife and co-owner, Darlene, embrace. Recently, when the Blue Bridge from Florida to Georgia was closed, they offered cyclists a shuttle service for more than a year. In 2016, the League of American Bicyclists awarded Camden Bicycle Center with its gold level Bicycle Friendly Business recognition.
This story appears in shorter form in our 25th Anniversary Edition 2016 Annual Report. Read more of the annual report here.