The new Bike Hays system was celebrated Thursday during a ground-painting ceremony and block party held at 11th and Main.

Many in the community gathered to spotlight Hays’ newest community amenity, now including approximately 21 miles of off-street paths and bike routes.

“The bike system will be a wonderful addition to the city and provides a healthy lifestyle option,” said Downtown Hays Development Corp. Executive Director Sara Bloom. “I think it’s wonderful that the new trails will connect parks, schools and attractions that include our beautiful downtown.”

According to Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno, not everyone in the community agrees the bike system will bring convenience.

“I think there is a lot of misconception that this system will take up parking,” he said. “That is not the case. The way it was implemented — it was to assure that parking would not be affected.”

Others, however, see the benefits unfolding and hundreds rode their bikes to 11th Street to celebrate and take part in entertainment, including live music by The Freeway Revival, food and giveaways.

Hays Mayor Eber Phelps, alongside city commissioners, welcomed the crowd and thanked them for their support.

“The idea of bicycle lanes and routes has been on the city agenda for several years,” Phelps said. “Let’s get out there and ride our bikes.”

The mayor climbed aboard the machine used to spray paint on the roadways and posed for a group photo with all in attendance.

Co-host Gella’s Diner and Lb Brewing Co., which coordinated much of the event, featured a beer garden and sold burgers and bratwursts to the crowd.

“It’s a big community event — that’s what this has turned into,” said Gella’s head brewer Brendan Arnold. “We really just want to use this opportunity to create more awareness about Bike Hays trails.”

Teaming up with Gella’s, co-host Kandango — a biking group that tours the backroads of Kansas — brought more than 100 riders to join in on the celebration.

“Hays has really opened up for us,” said Kandango founder Shannon Corley. “It’s so incredible. Let’s take people and show them Kansas and the backroads.”

The rider said he wants people in Kansas to realize bikers are tourists and there is money in that, but that communities must first invite cyclists in to show them incredible places to ride.

“The community’s involvement is everything,” Corley said.

Lack of community involvement didn’t seem to be an issue during the celebration, as many Hays residents attended to show their support.

“When I bike to work I’m usually a little bit nervous, but now that I see those ‘share the road’ signs, I feel a little more confident in my daily routine,” said bicyclist Maryke Taute, Hays. “I’m really excited.”