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RTC TrailBlog

  • Greg Cox Shaped Active Transportation in California

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration last October, we honored a group of men and women--the inaugural Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions--who have made a remarkable contribution to the rail-trail movement during the past quarter century. We will be posting a blog story on each of the honorees during the coming weeks. Today we recognize Greg Cox's enormous contribution to providing active transportation options to the people of California.

    The rail-trail movement is fortunate to have a number of active supporters in positions of municipal leadership-men and women well-placed to convert an understanding of the benefits of trails and active transportation into actual projects and programs. Greg Cox is one such champion.

    With a career in public service that began as a high school teacher, Cox went on to serve two terms as the mayor of Chula Vista, Calif., in the 1980s. He has served as a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors since 1995, overseeing a regional government providing services for more than 3 million people.

    Thanks in large part to Cox, Chula Vista is a community with plenty of options for getting around. During his time as mayor, Cox led a groundbreaking regional effort to build to a 24-mile, class I bike path looping around San Diego Bay. Today, the Bayshore Bikeway (left) connects five city jurisdictions and a number of parks and recreation facilities. Due to its stunning coastline setting and urban accessibility, the Bayshore Bikeway is a nationally renowned rail-trail often held up as an example of trails that serve a wide cross-section of the community. (*An update on construction of the Bayshore Bikeway and its many natural attractions

    Cox is respected by his fellow professionals and members of the public as a champion of the Safe Routes to School program. He continues to advocate for Complete Streets projects, and as president of the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities, brought together a bipartisan coalition to consider active transportation as an integral component of smart growth.

    Cox selected the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition (SDCBC) to receive the Doppelt Family Rail Trail grant awarded in his honor. SDCBC is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the bicycling experience in San Diego. They organize educational programs, promote awareness of bicyclists and bicycling issues, review infrastructure improvements and act as a voice for bicyclists to elected officials and decision-makers throughout the region.

    Photo of Greg Cox (right) with RTC Board Member Matthew Cohen at the RTC's 25th Anniversary Celebration by RTC
    Photo of the Bayshore Bikeway by RTC

     

  • Holding a National Trails Day Event on Your Local Rail-Trail? Tell Us About It!

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is keen to hear from communities or individuals holding a National Trails Day event on their local rail-trail, June 2.

    Although many of us celebrate our love for trails in our own personal way each day, since 1993 National Trails Day, organized by the American Hiking Society the first Saturday in June, has been the one occasion when people across the country come together as one large community and celebrate together these wonderful avenues of recreation and transportation.

    America's 200,000 miles of trails represent a many-splendored thing. They allow us access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude and inspiration. They take us to good physical and mental health by providing us with a place to breathe fresh air, get our hearts pumping, and escape from our stresses. And, just as importantly, they provide mobility and transportation, a connection to schools, stores and employment--an open door to the wide world.

    No wonder tens of thousands of Americans are always eager to show some serious love for trails on National Trails Day!

    What about you?

    Trail clean-up? Barbecue? Three-legged race or a good-ol' fun run? If you know of something happening on a rail-trail near you to celebrate National Trails Day, let us know about it! We can help promote your event through our nationwide network of members and friends.

    And be sure to get lots of photos and video from the event! It's a great way to not only recognize those supporters and volunteers who give their time to keep our rail-trails spick and span, but it also helps promote both your trail and your town to rail-trail aficionados all across America.

    Take a moment to get in touch at jake@railstotrails.org.

    Photo courtesy of Vermont State Parks blog.

  • New App to Boost Biking, Walking in Kansas City, Mo.

    It's fair to say the word 'hacking' carries with it more negative connotations than positive ones. At its worst, it's destructive cyber-vandalism, an invasion of privacy and an interruption of the online systems many of us rely on each day.

    But at its best, hacking allows creative, highly-skilled individuals the chance to improve upon these online systems and build technological applications that make a positive difference in the community.

    The latter concept is the inspiration behind 'Hack-a-Thon,' part of an event being held in Kansas City, Mo., this week, CityCamp, bringing government officials and staff, private planning experts, programmers, designers, journalists and residents together to produce actionable ideas for applying technology to government challenges.

    The great news is that the first-ever Kansas City 'Hack-a-Thon' is charged with creating a mobile application for citizens to find safe and convenient places to walk or bike, report road or sidewalk hazards, and provide data to local officials planning new bike lanes, trails and sidewalks.

    Even better news--the work on a Kansas City biking and walking app will be done for free. Programmers from across America will donate their time and talent. It's hacking for civic good.

    "In a world of rapidly changing technology and constantly shrinking government resources, it's more important than ever for local governments to leverage technology and citizen engagement to deliver more efficient and more relevant services," says Eric Roger, executive director of BikeWalkKC.

    After being launched in Chicago in 2010, CityCamp has gone on to host 'unconference' events in a number of America's largest cities. In a nutshell, the goals of CityCamp are to address:

    How can technology enable us to work together across jurisdictions?
    How can we empower citizens to take greater part in our government?
    How can open source software and open data save taxpayer money?
    How can we increase online service delivery despite shrinking budgets?

    The term 'open source' means that the design and building blocks of a program are not locked and made private by one owner, but kept open so that others are able to produce their own variations and offer improvements. CityCamp 'Hack-a-Thons' use open source events to gather and share knowledge about how to use new technologies and policies to make government work better for residents, and to produce actual programs and apps for that purpose.

    Such mobile platforms have an important role to play in increasing rates of walking and biking, particularly in urban areas, with speed and convenience often the two prime considerations for choosing active transportation options in the city.

    Following the lead of states like Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maine, Missouri is fast rising up the bike-friendly ranks. Hot the heels of the announcement earlier this year of a new bike-sharing program, a cutting-edge app to improve biking and walking in the city is sure to bring plenty of attention from bike/ped advocates, city planners, and potential new residents and businesses.

    Photo courtesy of BikeWalkKC.

  • A 5,000-Mile Hike Across the Country Makes it to D.C. for Earth Day

    Among all the events taking place across the country this Sunday to mark Earth Day, there will be few as remarkable as the arrival of Kirk and Cindy Sinclair in the nation's capital.

    When the Sinclair's complete the last few miles of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park (C&O Trail) into Washington, D.C., it will bring them close to the end of a 5,000-mile hike that began at the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes, Calif., almost a year ago.

    Their trek is the first-ever continuous west-to-east thru-hike of the American Discovery Trail, a route connecting thousands of miles of existing trails and rail-trails, community paths and greenways.

    The Sinclairs hiked across the red rock canyons of Utah, and the calm prairies of Kansas. They braved the blistering sun in Nevada and stood in awe of the snow-covered peaks in Colorado. The American Discovery Trail route passes through 15 states, 16 national forests, 14 national parks and connects some 10,000 significant historical, cultural and natural sites.

    Along the way, the couple averaged 12 to 15 miles a day in the winter and 20 miles in the fall and summer. They slept in churches, parks and the homes of locals while stopping in towns, or set up camp outdoors when far from a settlement.

    The Sinclairs, who call themselves "Hiking Humanitarians," are walking to raise awareness of housing, hunger and health issues in America, and to promote the importance of community, kindness and helping others.

    "The common thread here is all of the acts of kindness we've found along the way, and in all sorts of forms," says Kirk Sinclair. "We want to raise expectations of the kindness of humanity and the virtues of community to address housing, health and hunger."

    "We have been received well everywhere we've gone," Kirk says. "Regardless of ideology, everyone takes to the message of community, that we need to rely on each other to address community issues."

    The Sinclairs plan to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Earth Day--Sunday, April 22--and complete their trek at the Atlantic shore at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on May 2.

    The couple is eager to talk with community groups, bloggers and the media, or anyone interested in their journey. They can be reached at 860.309.3063 (cell), or through the director of the American Discovery Trail, Krista Lenzmeier, at 800.663.2387, or krista@discoverytrail.org.

    Photo of the Sinclairs hiking through Posey County, Indiana, courtesy of Evansville Courier & Press.

  • Just for the Moms--Welcome to Stroller Rollers on the Rail-Trail

    This great photo of the Kennebec River Rail Trail published in the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, Maine, shows just what an asset this pathway is for residents.

    No, it's not rush hour outside the local day care center--it's Stroller Rollers, a fitness class for new moms. Designed to "increase stamina, build endurance, and boost overall hotness quotient by at least 33 percent," Stroller Rollers is run by Kennebec Valley Coaching, a local business with a big emphasis on fun and simple exercise programs, rather than boot-camp style agony sessions.

    The lady at the front of the line is Amy Lawson, the founder of Kennebec Valley Coaching. Her philosophy is that exercise should be cheap, simple and sustainable. Luckily for Lawson, thanks to the Kennebec River Rail Trail the people of Augusta have a free and accessible track to fitness running right through their backyards.

    Photo courtesy of Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.

     

  • Event Alert: Webinar to Examine Active Transportation in Small Towns and Rural Communities

    When Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) released its research report earlier this year on the prevalence of walking and biking in small towns and rural communities, we provided a groundbreaking examination of a long-neglected area of study--what active transportation really means to people living outside the metropolitan centers.

    And the results certainly raised some eyebrows.

    Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers: Walking and Biking in Small Towns and Rural America for the first time illuminated the fact that in many instances the proportion of residents in rural communities who walk or bike to work is equal to, or higher than, the rate in big cities.

    More importantly, it busted the long-held myth that active transportation is only a priority for city dwellers, and provided invaluable statistical ammunition for bike and pedestrian advocates in rural areas.

    Now, Beyond Urban Centers co-author Tracy Hadden Loh, and a team of bike/ped experts and community organizers from regional America, will further examine the report's findings in a free webinar hosted by RTC, Active Living Research, and the Public Health Institute's Dialogue4Health Web forum series.

    The webinar is open to anyone with an interest in rural communities or active transportation, and will be held 3:30 to 5 p.m. (EDT), Tuesday, April 24.

    The panelists will relate their experiences of how some towns have implemented policies, programs and environmental changes that support walking and biking, and outline strategies and resources to promote active transportation in your community.

    Rather than just restating the findings of Beyond Urban Centers, the aim of the webinar is to move beyond the report itself by sharing on-the-ground experiences of biking and walking in smaller communities, and examining the real challenges and opportunities for planners, organizers, residents and businesspeople.

    Anyone wishing to take part in the webinar is encouraged to download and read the Beyond Urban Centers beforehand. The report can be downloaded for free at www.railstotrails.org/beyondurbancenters

    To register for this webinar, visit the Dialogue4Health web forum page.

     

  • New Rail-Trail at Heart of Delaware's Push for Walk- and Bike-ability

    "There is a perception that (trails) are nice amenities from a recreational standpoint, but with $4-a-gallon gas I have seen a lot of people out there biking and making an economic choice," Shailen Bhatt, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation, told Delaware Online this week.

    That's great new for you, Delaware, because comments like that indicate the state is headed in the right direction when it comes to sustainable transportation networks, and providing public infrastructure that works for all people.

    Sec. Bhatt is currently overseeing a $13 million project tasked with making the state more walkable and bikeable.

    A key part of that plan is the recently unveiled New Castle Industrial Track Trail, a 2.1-mile section of paved rail-trail north of New Castle toward Wilmington. The end goal of the rail-trail is the Wilmington waterfront, a terrific recreational and tourist amenity in a region now moving to fully utilize active transportation in its economic future.

    Leading the push toward a more walkable and bikeable Delaware is Gov. Jack Markell, who last year developed the First State Trails and Pathways Plan, charging the DelDOT and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control with creating and connecting communities with a system of maintained trails and paths. As nearby Connecticut is finding out, having state leaders who comprehend the wide-reaching benefits and cost-effective investments that walking and biking represent goes a long way to building a transportation landscape that offers better alternatives.  

    Executive Director of Delaware Greenways Mark Chura said recently that Gov. Markell has taken Delaware's efforts to build a first-class bicycle and pedestrian network "to a whole new level."

    "Interconnecting our towns with their outlying suburbs and close-to-home recreational areas benefits us all and is a great investment in Delaware's future," Chura said. "We have some amazing places here in Delaware that, to most of us, are only accessible by car or not at all. The Governor's initiative will change all that, while at the same time providing new options get out of doors and improve our health."

    Photo of the New Castle Industrial Track Trail courtesy of Bike Delaware.

  • South Carolina Company Builds Trail for Employees

    While opponents of investing in our nation's biking and walking infrastructure try to convince us that trails, bike lanes and sidewalks are frivolous and nonessential, America's business leaders continue to understand the importance of these lifestyle assets to a productive workforce.

    Just ask the South Carolina-based company ACS Technologies, which this week opened a half-mile walking trail, built and paid for by the company, through their 14-acre Florence campus.

    A local news blog called the new trail "a great stride for its employees' health and well-being," and wrote that Dean Lisenby, executive director of information technology at ACS, spearheaded the project about a year ago to increase the wellness of the 300 employees at the company's campus.

    ACS was inspired to create the trail by studies that show that walking during the middle of the day, even for just 10 or 15 minutes, increases energy and worker productivity.

    Even better news for ACS employees and the residents of Florence--the ACS trail will soon connect to the city's own rail-trail system, which spans two miles between the Ebenezer Park neighborhood and a local health and fitness center.

    "The initial goal was just to make a place for ACS employees, ACS Technologies employees to walk, and have an opportunity to have a healthier lifestyle," Lisenby told SCNow.com. "Once we began the process, we realized the city would be interested in connecting it to the rail-trail system, so we reached out to them and they've been very helpful and working with us. The goal is eventually to let the entire Florence community use it as part of the Rail Trail system."

    Florence City Manager Drew Griffin says the city's research found that for potential residents 50-year-olds or older, the most-demanded local amenity is accessibility to a greenway or a trail system.

    "When you look at cities, and when you look at what makes them a great place to live and play, almost in every case what do they talk about? They talk about their greenways, their park systems and entertainment," Griffin says

    Congratulations to ACS, and the city of Florence, S.C. You're on the right track to a healthier, happier and more economically robust community.

    Photo of ACS employees doing a little recon' work during construction of the walking trail courtesy of ACS Technologies.

  • Report on Bike/Ped Pilot Handed to Congress

    Word just came in from the Department of Transportation that the U.S. Congress will later today receive the much-anticipated report detailing the measureable impacts of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP).

    Established and funded by federal transportation legislation SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) in 2005-and with management support from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)-NTPP set aside $100 million for biking and walking infrastructure in four communities of varying size across the country. The purpose of the program was to accurately demonstrate how such investments equate to significantly higher levels of walking and bicycling and reduced vehicle miles traveled.

    We have already witnessed how each community's $25 million investment in bike lanes, trails and sidewalks has returned a myriad benefits, not just helping people get from A to B but also increasing physical activity levels and energizing downtown shopping districts. These effects were hailed by everyone from business leaders and elected officials, to health workers and teachers, in the four pilot communities: Columbia, Mo., Minneapolis, Minn., Marin County, Calif., and Sheboygan County, Wis.

    "Now, it will be great to see those outcomes reflected in hard data," says Marianne Fowler, RTC's senior vice president of federal relations, and one of the architects of the NTPP. "Not just in terms of additional bike and pedestrian pathways, but in terms of how many miles of driving were averted, and how many people shifted from auto trips to active transportation because of these investments."

    The report on the impact of the NTPP, which will not be made public for about a week, arrives in Congress at an opportune time. With opponents of walking and biking infrastructure claiming it is a frivolous use of transportation funding in these tough economic times, the testimony of state and local leaders as to their cost-efficiency and effectiveness, and data supporting their improved functioning of transportation systems, will be welcome messages.

    RTC will make the NTPP report available as soon as it released.

     

     

  • Connecticut Finally Celebrates the Little Bridge That Could

    "...I was standing before the newly built Andover covered bridge spanning Route 316, half disbelieving it was really in front of me. I pinched my arm. I rubbed my eyes. I put one foot in front of the other. I told myself I wasn't going to be like Wile E. Coyote and get halfway across the span, only to discover it was just a mirage and wave goodbye as I plunged into a cloud of dust far below. Out of the corner of my eye, I swear I saw a pig flying by...."

    So wrote Peter Marteka, the hiking and outdoor recreation columnist for the Hartford Courant in central Connecticut, earlier this month. Marteka is certainly not the only person to have wondered from time to time whether the much-anticipated bridge over what has come to be known as the 'Andover Gap' along the Hop River State Park Trail would ever be complete.

    It wasn't just Andover locals pacing and fretting. The gap in the trail was a key fracture in the regional trail system and a crucial missing-link in the East Coast Greenway, an effort to connect a continuous trail system from the Canadian border to Florida.

    And so when the bridge was finally put in place in a public ceremony on the last day of March this year, the rounds of applause, and the sighs of relief, could be heard from Calais to Key West.

    "The bridge went up and within moments people were gravitating to it. No longer is it a dangerous impediment," said Rep. Pamela Z. Sawyer, who had worked for this moment since 2002. As Marteka writes in his column, the dream of Sawyer, a Connecticut House Republican and staunch advocate of trails, to bridge the 'Andover Gap' outlasted three governors, five state Department of Transportation commissioners and four Andover first selectmen.

    A well-deserved pat on the back to all those who worked so hard to make this vital improvement to the Northeast's trail system.

    Photo courtesy of the Hartford Courant.

     

  • Attention West Virginia: Input Needed on Regional Bike Plans

    Great news for the residents and businesses of West Virginia, with the Department of Transportation (WVDOT) announcing last week it will be gathering public input for a series of regional bicycle plans in population centers across the state.

    The study is being funded by a federal Transportation and Community System Preservation Grant, and will identify opportunities to improve interstate and regional connectivity for bicycles.

    All interested parties are encouraged to attend the meeting in their area, or submit written comments. The public meeting will focus on the geographic region where the meeting will be held, but will also present and receive comments on the other regions of the state.

    All meetings will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be brief presentations at 4, 5 and 6 p.m., followed by an opportunity to give comments in a workshop style setting.

    Public meetings will be held at the following locations:

    May 3, 2012
    Ranson City Hall
    Council Chambers
    312 South Mildred Street
    Ranson, WV 25438

    May 7, 2012
    City Service Center
    915 Quarrier Street
    Charleston, WV 25301

    May 8, 2012
    Tri-State Transit Authority
    1251 4th Avenue
    Huntington, WV 25701

    May 10, 2012
    Municipal Building
    2nd Floor Executive Conference Room
    1 Government Square
    Parkersburg, WV 26101

    May 14, 2012
    West Virginia Independence Hall
    1528 Market Street
    Wheeling, WV 26003

    May 15, 2012
    City Building
    Council Chambers
    389 Spruce Street
    Morgantown, WV 26505

    May 21, 2012
    City Hall
    Council Chambers
    942 Washington Street, West
    Lewisburg, WV 24901

    May 22, 2012
    City Building
    Council Chambers
    401 Davis Avenue
    Elkins, WV 26241

    Written comments can be dropped in a comment box at the workshop, or mailed to:

    Robert Pennington, P.E., Director, Program Planning and Administration Division
    West Virginia Department of Transportation
    Capital Complex Building Five, 8th Floor
    1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
    Charleston, West Virginia 25305-0430

    Photos courtesy of Studio Gelardi (top), and EcoVelo.info

     

  • The Fight to Save Pennsylvania's Popular Trails Fund

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is this week mobilizing its thousands of members and supporters in Pennsylvania in defense of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund--a immensely popular and successful program that has supported trails and open space creation in that state for the past 19 years.

    The Keystone Fund is widely credited for establishing Pennsylvania as one of nation's foremost trails destinations, creating a recreational infrastructure that has saved many towns and communities struggling economically following the demise of mining and other primary industries.

    "Keystone is the main reason we have more open rail-trails than any other state in the country," says RTC's Northeast Regional Office Director Tom Sexton. "It has funded thousands of park and recreation projects, and hundreds of miles of trails in every county in the state--including the Great Allegheny Passage, the Pine Creek Rail Trail, the Delaware Canal Towpath, the Lehigh Gorge and the Schuylkill River Trail."

    Despite the overwhelming support of residents and businesses, Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed to eliminate the Keystone Fund and send those monies, designated by voters for the creation of trails, baseball fields, trout streams, community pools, bicycle paths and nature centers, among other investments, to the general fund.

    In our continuing efforts to maintain the Keystone Funding Program in Pennsylvania, our partners in the Renew Growing Greener Coalition have launched a petition drive in support of the program.

    Our goal is to reach as many signatures as possible today, Tuesday, April 10. In addition to sending an email to your contacts in Pennsylvania, please promote the petition on your social media sites to your friends and family in Pennsylvania: www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/2012budget.

    Only residents of Pennsylvania may sign the petition.

    RTC will continue to keep a close eye on this effort and will update you when there is more to report.

    Photos of the Schuylkill River Trail courtesy of www.schuylkillrivertrail.com.

     

  • RTC's Urban Trails Work a Key Moment in Public Health Shift

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is continuing its growing involvement in combating some of America's most pressing public health issues.

    With convenient access to trails widely regarded as one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to combat obesity and inactivity, these urban pathways are now thought of as not only recreation and transportation infrastructure, but also public health assets. Many doctors now prescribe just 30 minutes of walking or biking a day as a proactive step toward better physical and mental health.

    At the 2012 National Health Promotion Summit being held in Washington, D.C., this week, RTC's Director of Trail Development Kelly Pack will be one of the key presenters in an examination of how we create built environments that encourage healthier lifestyles.

    Pack is one of the driving forces behind RTC's groundbreaking Urban Pathways Initiative (UPI), which has attracted a great deal of attention in both the urban planning and public health communities for connecting the development of rail-trails in large cities with improving social and economic conditions in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color.

    Low-income populations often suffer disproportionately from a lack of physical activity. In urban areas, social and environmental determinants of health--like high crime rates, lack of access to play area and parks, busy streets, and inadequate sidewalks, trails and bike paths--contribute to this inactivity.

    Thanks to the support of The Kresge Foundation, UPI is working to reduce health disparities by providing access to trails and promoting community-based activities in these low-income areas. In Washington, D.C., Camden, N.J., Compton, Calif., New Orleans, La., Springfield, Mass., and Cleveland, Ohio, RTC's UPI work has not only encouraged an increase in trail activity, but has also enlivened neighborhoods and generated energy behind community initiatives and events.

    "That's one of the great things about this Urban Pathways work--that a simple thing like providing a safe place to walk and ride can produce such a variety of positive impacts," Pack says. "Making it possible for kids to walk to school, for people to ride to work or their local stores, has obvious health benefits. But we are also seeing remarkable social benefits, too. Trails like the Met Branch Trail in D.C., and the Morgana Run Trail in Cleveland, have now become gathering points for the community, with fun runs, public gardens and organized volunteer groups. That vibrancy is harder to measure but is certainly wonderful to see."

    Photo of riders on the Met Branch Trail courtesy of M.V. Jantzen.

  • Michigan Reaps the Dividend of Growing Rail-Trail Network

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration last year, we recognized the trail-blazing achievements of Carolyn Kane and the late Fred Meijer, two Michiganders who during the past few decades have made a remarkable contribution to the development of America's rail-trail network.

    Kane and Meijer would be the first to say it was an honor that should be shared with many in their state--for years Michigan has been a leader in building, maintaining and promoting trails, biking and walking. Driven by a number of strong and effective citizen advocacy and volunteer groups, and supported by proactive and farsighted local and state government agencies, Michigan is a model of how to get trails built, and how to maximize their benefits.

    Michigan has the largest rail-trail system in America, with more than 2,300 miles. And they are well-used; there are more than 300 bike tours that criss-cross the state, enjoyed by more than 45,000 cyclists each year.

    And, in a state that has had its share of economic struggles, this network of trails is proving itself to be a substantial and sustainable source of revenue.

    A recent article in Bridge Magazine found that the bike tour business in Michigan is booming, built on the growing popularity of outdoor recreation vacations and the state's expansive rail-trail network.

    Although a statistical review of trail users in Michigan has not yet been conducted, a 2010 University of Wisconsin study found that Wisconsin, which has about three-quarters the trail miles of Michigan, enjoyed more than $920 million in economic benefits due to bicycle recreation and tourism. Of that total, the study credited almost $540 million to out-of-state cyclists.

    The Bridge article quotes Rich Moeller, executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, as saying that the average household income of bicyclists is about $125,000 a year.

    "They are people who have expendable income, and when they come to tour, they want to spend, and they do," Moller said. "(The) local community is seeing dollars from folks coming in from somewhere else. I think that attracting out-of-town folks to your community to spend dollars is always a good thing, whether they come from another state, country or just another town in Michigan."

    Conscious of the importance of trails to the state's prosperity, Michigan continues to build. This June, the Top of Michigan Trails Council will open the North Eastern State Trail, a 70-mile rail-trail that passes through the Great Lakes region and connects to another long adventure, the 62-mile North Central State Trail (above).

    "When it comes to trails, Michigan really gets it," says RTC's Karl Wirsing, who rode the North Central State Trail in 2008. "From the local advocates and businesses right up to the Department of Natural Resources and the funding agencies, it is amazing to see how much the state has been able to achieve. It is also great to see that investment returned, many times over, in terms of tourism dollars and quality of life assets for locals."

    Photo of North Central State Trail courtesy of David Yates/traillink.com
    Photo of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail by RTC.

     

  • Train Trestle From Famous Film Soon to Welcome Hikers and Bikers

    For lovers of American cinema, the scene in the 1986 film Stand By Me where the young protagonists sprint madly across a towering rail trestle (right) to narrowly escape an approaching train is one of those classic moments.

    Now, Americans of all ages will be able to reenact that famous scene in a much more leisurely (and safe) fashion, with the announcement last week that an agreement has been struck to purchase the out-of-service section of rail corridor in northeast California and convert it into a rail-trail.

    The trail will be known as the Great Shasta Rail Trail (GSRT). The right-of-way along the 80-mile section of the McCloud Railway between McCloud, in Siskiyou County, and Burney, in Shasta County, was purchased from the property's owner, 4 Rails, Inc., by the Shasta Land Trust (SLT). Since 2009, SLT has been working with a coalition of local partners, Save Burley Falls, McCloud Local First Network, the Volcanic Legacy Community Partnership and the McCloud Trail Association, with the express intention of converting the corridor into a public recreation trail.

    This railroad right-of-way spans more than 80 miles through the forested mountains of northern California and is a significant property in the history of McCloud, Burney and the surrounding area.

    "It's not every day we get to announce the railbanking of 80 miles of corridor for a new rail-trail!" says a very excited Steve Schweigerdt, manager of trail development in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Regional Office. "This trail will be a crown jewel across northeastern California."

    According to SLT Executive Director Ben Miles, 4 Rails, Inc. agreed on a purchase price well below its appraised fair market value, representing a considerable donation of value by the seller.

    The multiuse GSRT will benefit Siskiyou and Shasta counties and the rural communities of McCloud and Burney by stimulating tourism and recreation-related commerce, increasing neighboring property values, and attracting new businesses.

    The GSRT will connect with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, recreational facilities on adjacent national forest land, and will link to trails around the McCloud River Falls and McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. 

    SLT and its team of supporters is confident of raising the funds necessary to complete the purchase, and have secured a grant for more than half of the purchase price from the California Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program.

    For more information, or to find out how to contribute to the project, visit www.mccloudlocalfirst.org.

    Photo of the McCloud Railway trestle bridge over Lake Britton courtesy of Redbeard Math Pirate/Flickr

     

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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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