Skies were overcast, but the atmosphere was uplifting Wednesday as the first marker in the Mickey Shunick Memorial Bike Loop was unveiled in tribute to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette student and avid bicyclist whose 2012 abduction attracted national attention and a massive community search that ended with the discovery of her body almost three months later.

Wednesday’s ceremony at Shunick’s ghost bike memorial at the corner of St. Dean and St. Landry streets marked the installation of the first sign for the 8-mile bike path through the heart of Lafayette.

“It’s really important because people riding on bicycles are at risk every time they get on the road,” said Shunick’s mother, Nancy Rowe. “If more people use the loop, then more cars will become aware of people on bicycles.”

Shunick brought the community together after her disappearance, and she is bringing the community together again for the bike loop, UL-Lafayette President Joseph Savoie told the small crowd gathered at the unveiling.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council unanimously voted in July to create the bike loop, which has no definite completion date because long-term projects are needed on some of the streets on the path, said Carlee Alm-Labar, the chief development officer for Lafayette Consolidated Government.

Nevertheless, bike lanes are marked out on most of the streets in the bike path, which is centered at the heart of Lafayette, near the UL-Lafayette campus and the Horse Farm. The path extends from Shunick’s memorial on St. Landry Street, where she was abducted, to the streets surrounding Cajun Field, down Bertrand Drive to Johnston Street.

From there, the loop stretches down Roselawn Boulevard and West Bayou Parkway, where it connects to South College Drive.

The loop concludes with a path along Girard Park Drive and West St. Mary Boulevard until it reaches St. Landry Street.

“As the city has grown, it’s become less and less safe for children and families to be able to get out to enjoy the outdoors, either by walking or biking, and so it’s important to have a designated area,” Savoie said.

Shunick’s disappearance as she biked home in the early morning hours of May 19, 2012, prompted a massive search for the UL-Lafayette anthropology student. Her remains were found nearly three months later when her killer, Brandon Scott Lavergne, led authorities to a shallow grave near Mamou.

Lavergne, 36, pleaded guilty in 2012 to two counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of Shunick, 21, and Lisa Pate, a 35-year-old Lafayette woman whose body was found in 1999.

He is serving a life sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.