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RTC TrailBlog

  • Trail Voices: Megan Odett

    By Megan Odett

    Before I had a kid, I used to be a cyclist of the "strong and fearless" variety. No road was too busy and no bike lane too narrow to stop me from getting to my destination by the most direct route. After I had my son Alex, though, it was as if I had become a newbie all over again. Suddenly I was hyperaware of every vehicle, every pothole, every pedestrian and every hazard on the road. I began to prioritize traffic calmness much more in choosing my routes.

    Around the same time, I discovered the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

    A little miracle in the heart of Washington, D.C., the Met Branch Trail enables Alex and me to bike from our Bloomingdale home to some of our favorite destinations while avoiding some of the city's most dangerous roads. From our house, it's an easy four-block ride to the trail's R Street access point. From there, we can head south to NoMa and Near Northeast, skipping the twin nightmares of New York and Florida avenues. Or we can pedal north to Brookland, gliding over the commuter artery of Rhode Island Avenue.

    The Met Branch is a huge help during our several-times-a-week commute to daycare. For those trips, we bike north on the trail to Brookland, then zigzag on side streets over the Maryland border to Hyattsville. The trail helps us bypass the commuter traffic of Rhode Island Avenue and converts the exhausting ups-and-downs of Edgewood into a persistent but manageable uphill climb.

    My favorite part of our daycare commute is the trip home, when the sweat from the morning's uphill climb pays off in a long downhill run and we fly past the trees and the railroad tracks, with the Capitol dome ahead of us and Alex waving his hands in the air to feel the wind. 

    The Met Branch is still a work in progress. The District Department of Transportation and numerous other partners are still working to complete the trail from Union Station to Silver Spring, Md. Even before the rest of the trail is completed, there are projects that will improve the trail's connection with neighborhoods and transit stops.

    Since we live in Bloomingdale, we use the R Street NE entrance in Eckington to access the trail. For us and many others, R Street is not only a gateway to the Met Branch Trail, it's an important cross-town street for cyclists, stretching nearly three miles from the Met Branch Trail in Eckington to Rock Creek Park.

    The only problem is that R Street is one-way for a single block in Eckington. In order to avoid illegally bicycling against traffic on our return trips, I hop up on the curb for that one block. Although a legal maneuver outside of downtown D.C., it's not the best solution. The sidewalk is narrow and residents store their trash cans there. I'm always worried that I'm going to run into a fellow sidewalk user or knock over someone's trash can--especially on days when we're using our bike trailer.

    For that reason, I've been following the recent debate over proposed changes to R Street with interest. I support the proposed addition of a contraflow bike lane to the one-way block and sharrows to the rest of R Street NE from North Capitol Street to the trail entrance. It will make this section of R Street safer for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians by slowing down traffic in this residential neighborhood--without eliminating any on-street parking spaces.

    This connection may face debate and delay, but it is critical to making our neighborhoods better places to walk and bike--not to mention raise a family. The Met Branch Trail has made it easier and even more fun to bike around town with my son. I'm so grateful to have this resource, and I look forward to many more miles on the trail with him.

    Megan Odett is the organizer of Kidical Mass DC, which promotes safe, fun family biking in the Greater Washington area.

    Crossposted at Kidical Mass DC.

  • Making Trails Truly Multi-Use: A Perspective From the N.Y. Equestrian Community

    On rail-trails throughout the country, local managers and planners make decisions about the types of users a pathway will support. Rail-trails generally allow for a wide spectrum of activities, from cycling and horseback riding to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, depending on the season and region. But these various user groups often require specific trail conditions and amenities, whether it's asphalt for skate wheels or space in parking lots for horse trailers. And even though these users all support a common cause--trails--tension over permissible uses can still occur on some pathways.

    In almost every case, though, improved communication and understanding among trail groups can prove the greatest asset in promoting shared uses on a trail--and making sure future trail projects are designed to allow as many user types as possible. Each group offers something valuable to the trail community, from economic impact and trail maintenance to vocal support at the legislative level. Learning about the roles these different users play is a central part of appreciating the shared nature of the rail-trail movement.

    In that spirit, we recently connected with Sharon Young Slate and Gary Slate of the New York State Horse Council, and we asked for their take on trail access and involvement with the New York equestrian community.

    From the Slates: The New York State Horse Council serves as an umbrella organization for the many diversified equine interests in the state. One purpose of the Horse Council, stated on our website, is to "facilitate grassroots efforts to educate N.Y. State Legislators regarding the tremendous economic impact ($4.8 billion dollars) provided by our horse industry and develop appropriate equine agricultural legislation." While some people see New York as pavement and skyscrapers, the top industry in the state remains agriculture--and horses are a valuable part of this industry, taking second place only to dairying. There are more than 200,000 horses in New York, representing everything from racing interests to a significant number of show horses, hunters and jumpers, draft horses and lesson animals, and a very large pleasure horse and trail riding horse population (in fact, 70 percent of New York's horses are involved in showing and recreational riding). The Horse Council works to create a "strong and unified voice for all those interests toward the preservation of a future for horses in New York State."

    Several trails open to horses do exist in the state, but the unrelenting push for more development in many areas--and the fact that many small farms have closed--often leaves riders without spaces and areas previously open to them. This shortage of publicly available land is likely true in many other states as well. The Horse Council has been a strong supporter of groups developing trails, and the large horse-owner population in New York has been diligent in working alongside other groups in maintaining these trails wherever possible.   

    Trail users, whether hikers, cyclists, runners, inline skaters or horseback riders, have far more in common than many of us realize. The majority of horse owners we know are responsible trail users and are grateful for the opportunity to share these trails with other interests. While basic rules of trail etiquette must be established, and appropriate footing (surface) is necessary for horses, we have found that all users can coexist when we work together in planning and management.

    In some cases and when possible, a parallel trail to that used by pedestrians and cyclists works best for horses and keeps users simultaneously and safely on the corridor. In others, where trails have a solid base and are sufficiently wide to allow for quiet passing where and when necessary, the same trail can be used, providing the footing is appropriate for horses. An appropriate footing would be dirt, grass or a very fine gravel base, well packed and well settled ("stonedust," for instance). Any pavement such as blacktop or cement is dangerously slippery for horses, and gravel, especially if it is sharp or at all large, can pose real problems for hooves.

    To allow equestrian use, bridges should be sufficiently sturdy and wide and provided with safe railings. A metal deck should be avoided where horses will be involved. Parking areas need to be large enough to accommodate trucks and horse trailers, leaving ample room for riders to tie their animals to the trailer to tack up and prepare to ride.

    Not every trail can or should be a multi-use trail that is accessible for horses. However, where horses are welcome and appropriate, horse owners and supporters will gladly carry their share of the load. Horseback riders, like others who enjoy nature and the use of trails, are eager to share in the development or opening of these trails, would unite to stand against their closure, and would be willing to stand side by side with other users to help with maintenance.

    Trail horses can share an appropriate trail happily and comfortably with hikers, cyclists and other users. The continued development of rail-trails provides an expanding and exciting opportunity for those of us who enjoy the natural beauty of our nation--and who promote recreational facilities that many Americans can enjoy in their own way.

    Photos: Sharon and Gary Slate, by Ralph Goldstrom; riders on the Paulinskill Valley Trail in New Jersey, by Boyd Loving.

  • RTC Partners with Guardian Angels for Trail Patrol Program

    The recently opened Met Branch Trail connecting downtown Washington, D.C., with neighborhoods to the north is a great example of how urban rail-trails serve a wide variety of needs--from everyday commuters to casual runners and the people and businesses in communities along the trail.

    But one of the realities of life in a big city is the threat of crime and assault, particularly after dark. Trail users returning home of an evening are often a target.

    Having been one of the key proponents of the construction of the Met Branch Trail, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) understands that building the trail is only half of the mission. The other half is to make sure the trail is well-used and well-loved, and that nearby residents become stewards of the pathway. That includes things like landscaping along the corridor to create places for rest and relaxation, and helping local school students build a natural connection to the trail.

    It also includes making the route safe.

    Following a number of troubling incidents on the Met Branch Trail in recent weeks, the challenge of reducing the threat of assault and robbery has received increased attention.

    That's why RTC is partnering with a national volunteer patrol agency, the Guardian Angels, to see what can be done about making the Met Branch Trail a place where all people feel secure.

    Last week, members of RTC's trail development staff met with a group of Guardian Angels, including one who often walks the Met Branch Trail on his way to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, where he connects to patrols throughout the Metro system.

    The plan is to build a closely connected network of trail security volunteers from neighborhood groups, trail users and residents in the area. Given that many of these volunteers probably won't have the burly presence of your average Angel, safety patrols will be made up of four or five volunteers, who will walk or bike sections of the trail together.

    It will not be the role of the volunteer patrols to directly confront troublemakers or act like citizen police in foiling crime. The idea instead is that one of the biggest deterrents to threatening behavior on the trail is a regular presence of groups of people.

    The hope is that these small volunteer patrols will be the kernel that develops into a strong sense of community ownership along some of the trail's less traveled and isolated spots.

    Interested? Join RTC, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Guardian Angels at a public safety open house between 4 and 7 p.m., June 22, at the S Street Pocket Park on the corner of S and 4th streets NE to discuss the formation of regular community patrols, and sign up today to join the trail patrol.

    Also, at the urging of one local rider, there is now also a "Bike Buddies" sign-up sheet, where trail users can connect with others who will be on the trail at the same time. Information about the volunteer security patrols, and the Bike Buddies system, can be found by joining the Met Branch Trail listserv.

    For more information, contact Stephen Miller at 202.974.5123, or e-mail stephen@railstotrails.org.

    Photos: Cyclists on the Met Branch Trail north of the New York Avenue Metro station; community members gather for the "Meet the Met" celebration in 2010, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Funding a Trail One Ukulele at a Time

    Ferry County Rail Trail Partners in northeastern Washington State just raised $17,100 in an online auction of a ukulele signed by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder. That kind of creative fundraising and marketing shows how large gifts can be generated in small rural areas to have big impacts on developing trails. The Ferry County Rail Trail Partners are moving quickly to complete their 30-mile trail, which was largely designated as a non-motorized corridor last year, and which will eventually connect as an international trail into Canada. The funds from the ukulele auction will be combined with a Transportation Enhancements grant from Washington State to help deck the trestle over Curlew Lake and improve the surfaces around the lake.

    "Funding this rail-trail is a direct investment in our economic, social and environmental infrastructure, as well as a way to preserve and communicate the amazing geological and cultural history of our area," says Bob Whittaker, president of the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners. "This [trail] will have very, very positive long-term results for our region." 

    "Eddie just called me to congratulate us, say that he was happy to be a part of it and wished Ferry County luck with its 30-mile rail-trail project.," said Whittaker after the auction ended. "Big thank you to Eddie, Pearl Jam and the whole Pearl Jam management team for helping our community!"

    To be fair, not every trail organization has the music industry connections of Whittaker, who happens to work with REM. But even if you don't have Eddie Vedder's number in the your cell phone, the Ferry County auction still offers a great lesson in using available resources. Other trail groups have successfully used community events, corporate or foundation partnerships and other drives to raise money and awareness for a project. If you've used or heard of other great fundraising ideas, let us know! 

    Photos: Eddie Vedder with the signed ukulele, and a trestle along the trail corridor, courtesy of Bob Whittaker.

  • Pop-Up Bike Shop Energizes Blue Island, Ill.

    It is always great when Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) can be involved in a project that goes way beyond building trails.

    So we were very proud to be a part of the very cool Cal-Sag Cycles Pop-Up Bike Shop in Blue Island, Ill., earlier this month.

    It was truly a community-wide effort that brought together youth advocates, Friends of the Calumet-Sag Trail, the Active Transportation Alliance, a local bike shop and other businesses, a temporary art space, and a bunch of great community energy and goodwill.

    On June 11, 15 at-risk teenagers and their adult mentors opened a temporary ("Pop-Up") bike repair shop in a vacant building in a section of Blue Island that had fallen on hard times. The Pop-Up Bike Shop was housed in the same building as a Pop-Up Art Gallery, the latest in a creative effort to bring life back to Blue Island's historical central business district.

    Under the expert instruction of staff from the local bike store, West Town Bikes, the kids learned the nuts and bolts of basic bike maintenance. Then, on June 11, they opened a one-day only, free-to-the-public bike garage, putting their newly acquired skills to work and helping local cyclists keep their machines running smoothly. 

    The teen bike mechanics serviced 90 bikes in just four hours. But RTC has a little more work for them to do. This week, a shipment of brand-new bikes from our friends at Fuji Bikes will arrive in Blue Island, awaiting assembly. Once each young mechanic has put together a bike, it is theirs to keep, courtesy of RTC's Metropolitan Grants Program, funded by the the Coca-Cola Foundation. The teens will also receive a helmet, lock and light at the culmination of this exceptional program to encourage young people to tap into their pedal power, take advantage of their local rail-trail, and provide another bright spark of creativity, commerce and collaboration in their hometown.

    Better yet, the blueprint has now been created to allow the program to be recreated anywhere in the region.

    Congratulations to everyone who made it happen!

    Photos courtesy of Cal-Sag Cycles. 

  • Past, Present and Future: A Florida Policy Update

    Many of you were aware of the recent effort to again gut the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) this state legislative session. Initial efforts aimed to eliminate 16 Tallahassee positions and merge the trail operations with that of the Florida Parks Service. After a hard-fought session and many tough conversations, we can report that OGT will remain an office, it will keep its own identity and the nine state trails will continue to be managed by the same team that has set the high bar we have come to expect.

    We will, however, lose several vacant positions as well as several valued members to the OGT team. But considering where the conversation started at the beginning of the 2011 session, this result is something to be proud of, and know that Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) will be well prepared to protect the program again next year. Kudos to the Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Secretary Ballard and Park Service Director Forgione for their handling of a tough situation and for results that out-preformed initial expectations.

    In the present, all eyes are looking to Florida. U.S. Representative John Mica of Florida's 7th District chairs the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He is considering allowing states to eliminate the federal set-aside that invests in trails, walking and bicycling. This proposal would include the Safe Routes to Schools and Recreational Trails programs, as well as the Transportation Enhancements program--the nation's largest funding source for trails, walking and bicycling.

    Please tell Rep. Mica his proposal is a bad idea. For the innumerable economic, health and environmental benefits of more active transportation, now is absolutely the wrong time to be jeopardizing these crucial programs. Send him a note that eliminating the set-aside is not acceptable!

    Looking to the future, there is another opportunity to make lemonade from lemons with the Florida Communities Trust (FCT). FCT will be transferred to the Department of Environmental Protection from the Department of Communities Affairs (DCA). When the program transitioned from Preservation 2000 to Florida Forever many years ago, the legislature saw the need for increasing funding for trail systems and passed into law language that required no less than 5 percent of the monies deposited into the trust to be used to acquire lands for trail systems. The intent was to start encouraging connections between neighborhoods, schools, places of business and to other parks and trails. However, DCA passed a dreadful rule that relegated this great accomplishment to mere points on an application. With the transfer to DEP and the return of such leaders as Senator Latvala, it is hoped that this regrettable rule will be corrected and the original spirit of the law honored.

    Photo: Rep. Mica speaks at a hearing in Maitland, Fla.

  • New Extension Brings Great Allegheny Passage Closer to Pittsburgh

    The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is one of America's best known rail-trails, winding more than 135 miles through southern Pennsylvania and just into northwestern Maryland. 

    The plan for the GAP has always been to provide a continuous pathway all the way into Pittsburgh. But as popular as the trail has been with all sorts of users, a few short, crucial segments south of the city remained undeveloped.

    Now, a huge step has been made toward that goal of bringing Pittsburgh onto the GAP.

    This Friday, June 17, a new three-mile section of the trail along the Monongahela River will open to the public, connecting the trail's current northern terminus at McKeesport up to Homestead, Pa.

    This extension means that just a single mile of additional trail into Pittsburgh is needed to complete a grand 150-mile route through rural Pennsylvania.

    At its southern end, the GAP connects with the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Cumberland, Md., where the canal towpath follows a 184-mile route all the way to downtown Washington,  D.C. When the final northern mile of the GAP is completed, adventurous cyclists and hikers and users of every stripe will be able to travel under their own steam all the way from Pittsburgh to the nation's capital, passing through some the region's most beautiful scenery en-route.



    This new three-mile section, which passes by the popular Sandcastle Water Park and includes two new bridges over active rail lines, cost $6 million--$1.25 million of which came from federal Transportation Enhancements funding and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The trail also received significant financial support from Allegheny County and private charitable foundations.

    Over the past few years, Allegheny County has negotiated with 18 individual property owners to make way for the trail between McKeesport and Sandcastle.

    In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on the development of the unfinished sections last year, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato described completing the missing links as "a transformational moment for our region, both economically and recreationally."

    For more information about next Friday's opening, or the GAP trail in general, visit the Allegheny Trail Alliance or e-mail atamail@atatrail.org.

    Photo: Great Allegheny Passage, courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  

  • Smith College Students Chip in on Local Rail-Trails

    Across America, college campuses are often hubs of bicycling activity. Students and staff regularly depend on the local municipality having decent bike lanes and safe places to ride--indeed, the "bike-friendliness" of the college's city or town can sometimes be a selling point for prospective undergraduates.

    But rather than just rely on their local trails, the students at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., have taken a proactive interest in their maintenance and development.

    The college was recently heralded for its involvement with the Northampton rail-trail network, work that included funding new crosswalks and bike lanes, producing trail maps and studying future expansion possibilities for these crucial commuter and recreational pathways.

    Students and staff worked with local authorities on the creation of bike paths on the main roads by campus, which dovetail with the rail-trails that been opened throughout Northampton in the last few years.

    A number of students also used internships with the Office of Planning and Development to promote bikeability around campus; one student helped coordinate trail ribbon-cutting events, another studied how many people are within easy walking distance of the new trails, and a third developed an application for national trail status.

    Smith College students also run their own Bike Kitchen, pictured at right, which offers bicycle repair and maintenance workshops, and provides refurbished bikes for students who can't afford their own.

    As a result of its tremendous work, Smith College was awarded the 2011 Trail Neighbor Award by the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways (FNTG), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the development of local trails and greenways.

    The Bike Kitchen, and the students' support of their local rail-trails, are great examples of how colleges can encourage biking around their campuses, providing students and staff with better transportation options and promoting healthy lifestyles.

    Congratulations to Smith College, and keep up the good work!

    Photo courtesy of Judith W. Roberge/Smith College.

  • First Annual Alabama Trails Conference a Success

    by T. Jensen Lacey

    This April, nearly 200 attendees came to the first annual Alabama Trails Conference, held at the Civic Center in downtown Fairhope, Ala., April 1-3. In a city originally founded in 1894 as a Utopian colony, the conference brought together trail builders, designers and all types of users in what was deemed "an experience of discovery" by those who put it together. 

    One of the key organizers who helped shape this event was Debbie Quinn of the Fairhope City Council. "We had probably 200 in attendance, and people coming through all day long for each of the three days," says Quinn. "One of the greatest experiences of the event was the ability for all types of trail users-kayakers, bikers, hikers, horseback riders and paddlers-to get together and share their information. This will lead to great partnerships between these groups in the future. The Alabama Trails Commission, which formed last year, also met here, and our speakers were phenomenal."

    Presented by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the National Park Service, Fresh Air Family and Cheaha Trail Riders, Inc., the host sponsor was the Alabama Association of Regional Councils. Also in attendance were such groups as the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alabama Hiking Trail Society, Baldwin County Trailblazers and a wide variety of activities and speakers.            

    To learn more about the Alabama Trails Conference, visit www.trails.alabama.gov.

    Photo: Alabama's Chief Ladiga Trail, courtesy of Rail-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Celebrate a Big Trail Opening in New Jersey

    As people who use, build and plan trails know, one of the keys to a great trail system is connectivity. And for many years, New Jersey's expansive 130-mile Liberty Water Gap Trail system has been missing one vital piece in its effort to connect two popular national landmarks across the width of New Jersey: the Statue of Liberty to the east, and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to the west, which straddles the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    Now, the vital last mile of the trail across the Delaware River--a spectacular footpath underneath the roadway--is complete! This Saturday, in honor of National Trails Day, the trail lovers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are invited to celebrate the opening of this crucial one-mile extension of the Paulinskill Valley Trail, which comprises part of the Liberty Water Gap Trail system. The opening will take place in Columbia, N.J., at noon, at the intersection of Washington Street and Route 46. Already one of the most loved rail-trails in the region, meandering 27 miles through rural land and small towns along a tributary of the Delaware River, the Paulinskill Valley Trail will now now lead hikers, bikers and equestrians through to the Delaware Water Gap, one of the state's most popular recreation areas.

    A few minor gaps, including one mile in downtown Newark, still remain in the overall Liberty Water Gap Trail. But this Paulinskill extension brings the system one big step closer to creating a continuous 130-mile pathway across New Jersey. 

    Funding for the one-mile extension was provided by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

    For more information, contact Lisa Patton at the city of Knowlton at clerk@knowlton-nj.com, or by phone at 908.496.4816 ext.6.

    Photo: Paulinskill Valley Trail, by Boyd Loving.

  • Tornado Damages Connecticut River Walk in Springfield, Mass.

    A few weeks ago, we reported on tornado damage to the Virginia Creeper Trail in southwest Virginia. Now, at the end of last week, we received news that a tornado directly hit the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway in Springfield, Mass.

    Jeffrey McCollough of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission snapped a few photos on Thursday, June 9. He says trees were down across the stretch of trail between Memorial Bridge and LA Fitness, including Riverfront Park. Other sections of the River Walk were impassable because of electric wires down on the corridor. 

    Check with the Springfield Department of Parks & Recreation for updates on trail clean-up and conditions.  

    Photos of tornado damage on the Springfield River Walk by Jeffrey McCollough/Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

  • What Can $5 a Month Get You at RTC?

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we understand that support for trails comes in many forms. Some people volunteer for a local rail-trail or take action on a regional or national policy campaign. Others spread the rail-trail word with friends and colleagues, share links on Facebook and forward e-mails, or post photos and reviews from trail trips on TrailLink.com for others to enjoy. Every effort adds up big for us, and we thank all of you for your contributions to our movement! 

    But while many people can donate their time and energy, not everyone is able to contribute financially--especially in larger one-time payments that often come with joining an organization. That's why we developed the Trail Keepers Club. It allows supporters to make a small monthly contribution, charged directly to your credit card and spread out during the course of a year. So for as little as $5 a month, you can receive all the benefits of membership in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, including the print editions of Rails to Trails magazine and discounts on merchandise

    These monthly contributions lighten the upfront burden of membership and make it easier for us to plan ahead. In the end, you often end up donating more during the course of a year, supporting a great cause and hopefully taxing your monthly bottom line a little less. 

    Best of all, next time you receive an e-mail, newsletter or magazine from us,  you'll know you're doing your part to support our work! 

    (Plus, you still get a free t-shirt when you sign up!)

  • This Saturday, Show Some Love for Your Favorite Trail!

    With an amazing variety of trails in every state across America, we don't often need an excuse to get out and do some hiking, biking or riding.

    But if you haven't managed to find time to enjoy a nearby trail lately, National Trails Day is this Saturday, June 4. Hosted by our friends at the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day is a great time to kick off the summer trail season and reacquaint yourself with these fantastic recreational resources.

    Since 1987, National Trails Day has been an occasion to encourage all Americans to use and celebrate the myriad trail networks in our cities, towns, rural and wilderness areas, whether it be on two legs, two wheels, four legs or any other (permitted) use!

    Today, there are more than 200,000 miles of trails nationwide (including nearly 20,000 miles of rail-trail!), providing access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration and much more.

    Not sure where to find the best trail for a National Trails Day outing? Well, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has done all the research for you. Just visit www.traillink.com, our free trail-finder website, where you can search for trails by location, length, surface or your favorite activity--anything from taking a nice relaxing stroll to going geocaching.

    At TrailLink.com, you'll find trail descriptions and interactive maps, as well us user reviews and photos from those who've already explored the area, so you know exactly what to expect. It's your one-stop trail guide for the whole country!

    Also, if you're looking for specific trail events in your community and would like to meet up with fellow enthusiasts for a great celebration, check in with the American Hiking Society (AHS). Their resources can help you connect with groups organizing events around activities such as trail maintenance, hiking, paddling, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, running races and more. And if you're hosting an event of your own, be sure to let AHS know. You could win cool, free stuff and lots of great promotion, and some of your neighbors might want to join and take part.

    Have a wonderful National Trails Day on June 4--and every day you can!

    Photo by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • New Rail-Trail in Delaware a Key to Transportation Future

    In a speech to mark National Bike to Work Day on May 2, Cleon Cauley, Sr., the acting secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), said cycling and trails were vital to the future of mobility. 

    Cauley's words were music to the ears of cycling and sustainable transportation advocates in Delaware, many of whom attended the Bike to Work Day launch at the University of Delaware's Newark Campus. The event was organized by the Newark Bicycle Committee, a partnership of cyclists and agencies working to improve options for bicycling in one of the state's most populous cities.

    "DelDOT is committed to continuing our efforts to make Delaware more bicycle friendly," Cauley said. "In the coming years, our transportation needs will change. As fuel prices continue to rise, more people will park their cars. They will walk, ride their bikes or ride a bus. We have already seen dramatic increases in the past two years. To ignore this trend is to do a great disservice to the people of Delaware."

    Delaware, like many American states, is struggling to provide adequate, safe bike lanes and facilities for the burgeoning fleet of residents who choose cycling as a regular form of transportation. According to Cauley, there were 158 car/bicycle accidents in Delaware in 2010, 96 percent of which resulted in injury. More than a fifth of those accidents involved children younger than 15.

    "Like most of you, I find those numbers unacceptable," Cauley said. "We must provide better facilities for bikes, and we must have fewer people getting killed."

    Part of Newark's plan to accommodate more walking and biking now includes a proposed rail-trail traversing the city from north to south. The Pomeroy Trail, a multi-use asphalt trail along the inactive Pomeroy Rail Line (out of use since 1939), is expected to open later this year, connecting White Clay Creek State Park and the existing James F. Hall Trail north of the city with residential areas and a transit hub to the south.

    The Pomeroy Trail will be well-lit along its two-mile length and will feature three informational kiosks dedicated to aspects of the line's history.

    "This is a very exciting week for us," said Newark Mayor Vance Funk. "For four years, we've been working on the Pomeroy Trail. The trail came about because Senator Thomas Carper gave us more than $5 million to build it. Finally this week, we're sending out the bid package. Hopefully, we will award the contract in late June, and we will finally see it built."

    The state of Delaware has been praised in recent years for its concerted efforts to promote cycling and non-motorized transportation in urban areas. Cauley said much of this momentum was a direct result of political leadership.

    "Many of the recent changes have come directly from Governor Jack Markell, who has made it very clear that Delaware must become more bike friendly," Cauley said. "He made this challenge to us not because he is a cyclist himself, but because he can see what we must do to prepare for the future."

    A few weeks ago, in fact, both the Delaware House and Senate voted unanimously to direct the DelDOT to "create contiguous systems or networks of walkways and bikeways within and between cities and towns in Delaware in order to provide travelers with the opportunity for safe, convenient, cost-effective and healthy transportation via walking and bicycling."

    For more information about other rail-trails in Delaware, visit RTC's free online trail-finder website, www.TrailLink.com

    Photos (top to bottom): James F. Hall Trail, which will connect to the Pomeroy Trail; Pomeroy Trail Bridge in White Clay Creek State Park, by Heather Dunigan. 

  • Newburyport Celebrates Rail-Trail's First Year

    The Clipper City Rail Trail in Newburyport, Mass., was almost 40 years in the making.

    The idea of a rail-trail through the downtown area of this historical seaport on the mouth of the Merrimack River had been talked about since the railroad corridor there became inactive in the 1970s.

    But in the last decade, the city made the development of a rail-trail a priority in its strategic and recreational planning, and today the Clipper City Rail Trail, opened in May 2010, is a spectacular asset, popular among locals and tourists alike.

    So a few weekends ago, the people of Newburyport showed their appreciation for the trail by marking its first birthday with a community celebration, complete with a birthday cake designed by 8-year-old local resident Maddy Vining (pictured below with contest judges Bill Steelman and Mayor of Newburyport Donna Holaday). 

    A 1.1-mile multi-use pathway connecting a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail station with the downtown shoreline of the Merrimack River, the rail-trail provides a vital connection to many local businesses, as well as forming an ideal pathway for visitors to explore the picturesque area on foot.

    Recognizing the importance of the trail to commerce and recreation along the riverfront, more than 2,000 people came out to enjoy the birthday party, which featured a kids cake decorating competition, free cake samples, a raffle for cakes made by local professional bakers, trailside food vendors, roving musicians, planting and mulching with the Green Artist League, kayak rides on the Merrimack River, and free bike helmets courtesy of the Newburyport Police Department.

    The Clipper City Rail Trail features an impressive display of public art installations, a riverside boardwalk made of tropical hardwood, and a number of stairway and spur trail connections to local bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants. Two public schools located nearby, the River Valley Charter School and the Molin School, regularly use the trail for students and teachers to walk to downtown, the harbor, parks and other destinations.

    Learn more about this wonderful recreational and commercial resource in downtown Newburyport! 

    Photos courtesy of Geordie Vining/City of Newburyport.

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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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