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RTC TrailBlog

  • Detroit Trail Maintenance Project Celebrates Completion of Pilot, Looks to Future

    By Ruby Brunk

    In 2010, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, through its GreenWays Initiative, awarded a $147,433 grant to The Greening of Detroit for a pilot project focusing on the maintenance of local greenways. The resulting project not only kept targeted greenways maintained but also provided jobs and improved community trail usage and stewardship. 

    The Detroit Greenway Maintenance Pilot Project focused on Detroit’s Conner Creek, Southwest Detroit-Dearborn and Lyndon greenways. Before the season began, The Greening’s project manager met with partners from each site to go over specific maintenance details. The three greenways were split into manageable sections, and extensive maintenance surveys were conducted. The Greening developed work plans based on the surveys and kept careful records of all work performed. Four individuals were hired to make up the project’s maintenance crew. In addition to pre-season field orientations, the crew was given an overview on their work in the larger context of greenway development. Crew members also benefited from trainings on tool use, horticulture and landscaping throughout the season.  

    The regular presence of the crew, along with the work they accomplished, boosted morale on the greenway and increased community use and stewardship. Crewmembers reported on daily positive interactions, such as greenway users thanking them for their work or seeking them out to address additional maintenance issues. The community was further engaged by the project’s Growing Greener Detroit Series, which brought together Detroit residents, schools, churches and community organizations for events on the greenway. Partnerships with community centers and the dispersal of 3,000 promotional flyers were part of a concerted outreach effort, resulting in 316 youth and adults from 68 different organizations participating in day camps, tree walks, service days, horticulture workshops and other programming. 

    One of the goals of the Detroit Greenways Maintenance Pilot Project was to develop best practices for Detroit’s current and future greenways. On the Conner Creek, Southwest Detroit-Dearborn and Lyndon greenways, the success of the project is palpable. With the Detroit Greenways Coalition moving the city's trail network forward, this project should help inform the planning of other greenways in Detroit.

    Photo: Detroit's Dequindre Cut Greenway by Flickr user Rex Roof.

  • Iowa's High Trestle Trail--In Less Than Two Minutes!

    Coming up on April 30, 2011, is the grand-opening of the 25-mile High Trestle Trail in Iowa. If you can't make the celebration for this incredible trail, which includes a 13-story-high trestle over the Des Moines River, then take a look at this video of the rail-trail--compressed into less than two minutes of fast-paced fun by the city of Ankeny!

    Also, we'll be out exploring the High Trestle Trail ourselves later this summer for a destination piece in Rails to Trails magazine

  • Award-Winning Documentary Film Coming to Miami April 27

    Ride The Divide, the award-winning feature-length documentary about the world's toughest mountain bike race, will descend on South Florida for two shows at the O-Cinema in Miami on the night of Wednesday, April 27. The event will be a fundraiser for the Virginia Key Bicycle Club.

    The film chronicles the story of several mountain bikers who attempt the 2,711-mile race named the Tour Divide along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. The movie was named best adventure film at the 2010 Vail Film Festival.

    This film has become an instant cycling classic and made its television premiere in September on the Documentary Channel. But the Adventure Cycling Association says the film should be seen on the big screen: "The cinematography is stunning!" says Epic Riding. "In a word? Fantastic. In more words? Moving, funny, inspiring."

    Ride The Divide embraces the stories of three of the racers who experience the immense mountain beauty and small-town culture as they attempt to pedal from Banff, Canada, to a small, dusty crossing on the Mexican border. There's Mike, a 40-year-old family man who uses this challenge to chart a new course in life; Matthew, a leader in extreme endurance racing who's competing for his 5th time; and Mary, the first female rider to race this route. As they set out, they will attempt to accomplish what very few have been able to do: During the course of a few weeks, they'll attempt to climb more than 200,000 vertical feet along the backbone of the Rocky Mountains.

    They'll experience mental breakdowns, treacherous snow, hellacious blisters and total fatigue. Above all, they'll race with no support--at times in total isolation. The tests of endurance and the accomplished moments throughout Ride the Divide prompt us to reflect on our inner desires to live life to the fullest.

    Reviewing the film, Outside magazine proclaimed that "(t)he toughest bike race in the world is not in France."

    Ride The Divide will be shown at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the O-Cinema, located at 90 NW 29th Street in Miami. Tickets are $15 at the door and $10 in advance online purchase. The event is sponsored by Mack Cycles, All 4 Cycling and Scott Skate & Bike of Miami.

    Media contact: Garry Harrington at 603.209.5010 or gharrington3165@hotmail.com.

  • Tree Planting with Casey Trees

    One of the great things about being part of such an active community organization like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is getting to partner with our friends in the nonprofit world on projects where we share a common interest.

    For the past couple years, we've especially enjoyed working with Casey Trees, which since 2002 has partnered with the neighborhoods of D.C. to make sure we have enough trees is this urban metropolis.

    Improving the tree canopy of communities has a close relationship to the mission of RTC. Shady areas for rest and relaxation are important amenities for rail-trails, especially in the summer. Strands of healthy trees make trails more appealing places to visit; they also play a crucial role in the broader ecosystem, in busy cities as well as in wilderness areas.

    This Thursday, April 21, RTC and Casey Trees are teaming up to celebrate Earth Day with a community tree planting along the Metropolitan Branch Trail in D.C.

    If you live in the area and use the trail, this is a great chance to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty--improving this vital community facility and partnering with two nonprofits doing great things in your neighborhood.

    There will be snacks and drinks from 3 to 6 p.m. Commuters--stop by on your way home from work!

    For more information and to register as a volunteer, visit Casey Trees' website.

    Photo of tree planting courtesy of Casey Trees.

  • D.C. Couple to Celebrate Anniversary on Climate Ride

    By Stephany Small

    I have lived in the Washington, D.C., area for the past several years and have taken advantage of the amazing trails and commuting routes found throughout the area. In fact, I was car-free for more than five years, using feet and bicycle as my main modes of transportation. Commuting by bicycle is wonderful: It is incredibly economical, the fastest commute and the most time-efficient form of exercise. Plus, it felt great to know that I wasn't contributing to traffic and was making a small impact on preserving our planet.

    For our first anniversary, my husband Doug and I are riding our bikes from New York City to Washington, D.C., as part of Brita Climate Ride. This 300-mile, five-day ride from May 13 to 17 raises support and money for alternative transportation, bike advocacy and protecting the environment.

    I have decided to make Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) the sole benefactor of all funds I raise. I believe in RTC's mission and want to contribute to the growth of trails around the country so others may be able to have the same opportunities for safe, outdoor activities and alternative transportation that I have been privileged to enjoy.

    Please support me as I pedal toward a healthier, safer, happier place for us to live. Any donation you're able to make will go directly to benefit RTC's trail-building work around the country!

    Learn more about Climate Ride, and find out other ways you can get involved.  

    Photo: Doug and Stephany Small, courtesy of the Smalls.

  • RTC Works to Engage Supporters of New Orleans Greenway

    Getting to know the Lafitte CorridorRails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been closely involved with the efforts of New Orleans residents to incorporate rail-trail projects into the rebuilding of their city in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

    The latest initiative is a "Greenway Ambassadors" program for the Lafitte Corridor, a 3.1-mile section of inactive railroad line and former portage canal that will soon be rejuvenated as a commuter and recreational rail-trail and linear park. Greenway Ambassadors work to engage interested citizens in the creation and management of the Lafitte Corridor, which would provide a crucial link downtown and, organizers hope, help revitalize neighborhoods along the greenway.

    Kelly Pack, manager of trail development for RTC, proposed the Greenway Ambassadors program to Friends of Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) earlier this year as a means of empowering and educating those who were interested in the corridor's development and wanted to stay involved.

    RTC and FOLC prepared a Greenway Ambassadors training program and packet containing information about the corridor's history and the greenway planning process.

    "The Ambassadors program provides a stronger voice for the greenway," Pack says. "Even with all the communication tools available to advocacy groups today, conversations between neighbors and friends can still be one of the most powerful ways to capture people's interest."

    This coming Saturday, April 16, Greenway Ambassadors will lead tours of the corridor at "Hike the Lafitte Corridor," an annual event organized by FOLC (register now if you'd like to take part in the hike).

    RTC has also worked with FOLC to create fun activity stations along the corridor on Saturday. Visitors doing the hike can stop and play volleyball or other group sports, and speak with the team designing plans for this exciting new greenway. Pack hopes that after the hike the Greenway Ambassadors program can be expanded to engage residents and local businesses with the greenway design process.

    Learn more about the Greenway Ambassadors program, including how to sign up and get involved.

    Photo: RTC and FOLC members along the Lafitte Corridor, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Help Win Funding for Florida's Rail-Trails with a Click on Facebook!

    This April, one of our long-standing partners, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSFL), has launched a community engagement campaign called The Pursuit. This month-long voting competition invites BCBSFL's Facebook fans to vote for their favorite nonprofit, and we're excited that Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is one of three organizations on the ballot!  

    If we get the most votes by the end of the month, we could win up to $3,000 for our trail-building work in Florida -- not to mention great promotion of rail-trails across the state. So how can you take part and vote?  

    1. Visit the BCBSFL Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BCBSFL, and then click to "like" them as an organization.
    2. After that, you can find "The Pursuit" page through a link on the lefthand sidebar.
    3. Next, select the "click here to vote" button. You'll be asked to accept the voting "app," but rest assured our agreement with BCBSFL prohibits them from accessing, utilizing, storing or sharing any personal information other than using a voter's login ID to ensure individuals vote only once per day.
    4. On the next page, you can vote for RTC out of the three choices.
    5. If you're still not clear on the process, BCBSFL has posted a quick how-to video on YouTube.

    Even a single vote from you will be a huge help. But in this competition, you can vote every day until the end of April. So if your clicking fingers are up to the challenge, we'd love for you to vote as often as you're able or willing to do so!  Also, to spread our reach as far as possible, you can forward this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues and encourage them to support RTC as well.  

    Thank you for your great support. Let's win The Pursuit!

  • California Rail-Trail Projects Pick Up Steam

    In the past few months, we've been tracking some exciting developments in the California rail-trail community. Several high-profile projects are reaching and passing milestones this spring, with a pipeline of big projects under way that will help weave the state's trails together.

    Along the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County has secured funding for a 32-mile rail line that has long been proposed as a rail-with-trail project. This project  could link in with the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail to provide a 50-mile active transportation and recreation corridor along the scenic Monterey Bay.

    In the Sierra foothills, Friends of the El Dorado Trail just reached a compromise with railroad enthusiasts that makes trail construction on the complete corridor from Placerville to Folsom feasible and brings us much closer to a trail from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe! Look for trail extensions coming soon.

    In the great Central Valley, the city of Modesto is extending the Virginia Corridor with a half-mile of pathway that includes a bridge over a major street. Modesto is also working to acquire five miles of additional corridor length from Union Pacific that will allow the trail to be extended northward to Escalon.

    In the North Coast region, a grassroots drive to turn the damaged Eel River section of the North Coast Railroad into a multi-use trail has gathered thousands of signatures in support and prompted the North Coast Railroad Authority board to begin discussing options for railbanking the line. A trail along the Eel River through the redwoods of California would be an excellent tourist attraction and amenity for the residents of Humboldt County.

    To learn more about these and other rail-trail projects in California, contact Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Western Regional Office at 415.814.1100.

    Photos courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: At left, Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail; at right, Virginia Corridor.

  • Your Expertise Needed on Trail Conflict and Safety in California!

    El Dorado Trail

    The California Department of Parks and Recreation is conducting a Statewide Roads and Trails Change-in-Use Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR). The department's goal is to study trail use conflict, safety issues and solutions.

    They are seeking hard data and documented practices, including success stories and failures. This report is not a trail user opinion survey; rather it is an attempt to find the most complete and objective documentation of the issues, and the best practices for addressing them. The plan is to complete the research collection and document review by April 30, 2011.

    How can you get involved? You can help by letting the department know of any study, strategy, contact or other source of information on techniques for managing multiple user types on trails and shared-use paths. Please direct all suggestions and questions to Hannah Kapell, research coordinator, at hannahkapell@altaplanning.com or 510.540.5008 x111.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas!

    Photo of California's El Dorado Trail courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  

  • From Polio to a Passion for Cycling

    For each issue of Rails to Trails, the official magazine of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we invite our readers to submit a short essay in response to a specific question in our "Trail Tales" department. We then publish one of the responses in the next magazine issue.

    For the Spring/Summer 2011 issue, we received our most responses yet to "Trail Tales," and we ended up choosing an inspiring story from Margaret M. Frey of Sun City, Ariz.. Enjoy her essay below!

    What did you love most about cycling when you were a kid?

    I dreamed of riding a bicycle as a child, but physical limitations from polio held me back. My brothers and sisters zoomed around on bikes, yet I could only watch. 

    For a family of 14, our two to three bicycles were in high demand. However, one day I did pick up an old Schwinn that lay on its side. At 12 years old, I began my pursuit to ride. In those days, there was no such thing as adjusting seat height-and it was high. I wore a brace on my weakened right leg, so the effort would come from my left side.

    I found a high spot in the yard which became my take-off point. The slight downhill grade proved helpful. I practiced and fell, got on again and fell. Day after day, I attempted to sail through the streets as others did. Then it happened! I was up! I stayed up!

    At 20 years old, my first paycheck bought me a new Schwinn 10-speed. At 40, a Trek was my dream bike. At 60, I received a retirement gift of a Gary Fisher comfort bicycle and all the gear. My husband and I travel and camp. We have ridden many roads and trails throughout the Western states. The rail-trail movement has provided us grand opportunities for sharing and solitude.

    We now live in Sun City, where bicycling is a means of transportation. We eliminated one car. My endurance for walking has decreased (a fold-up cane fits nicely on a bike), but my passion for cycling still grows. For that I am thankful. 

    Photo: Courtesy of Margaret Frey.

  • Do You Count? Join Our Webinar Next Week

    Do You Count? Using Trail Counts Effectively
    Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EST
    Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now!

    As the adage goes, "You can't manage what you don't measure." This rule is especially true for trails, which host a wide variety of transportation and recreation users. Learn how nonprofits, governments and the private sector are using trail counts to better understand bicycle and pedestrian behavior, and how these resources can assist your pathway. We will discuss counter technology, volunteer management, using trail counts to conduct economic impact studies and the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project.

    See which types of options are available for your trail and ask questions of the panel. We look forward to your participation! 

    Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now!


    • Jennifer Donlon, Alta Planning + Design 
    • Mel Huie, Oregon Metro Regional Government 
    • Eric Oberg, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy 
    • David Patton, Arlington County, Virginia

    Read biographies of the webinar presenters (PDF).

  • Helping the Homeless with Bicycling

    By Ruby Brunk

    As our nation warms to the environmental, health, safety and economic benefits of bicycling, more and more people are choosing to hop on a bike to get where they're going. But for those who don’t have cars and struggle to afford public transportation, biking is not a choice but a necessity.

    A number of organizations exist with the purpose of assisting those who need it most with this mode of transportation.

    Many groups that assist the homeless refer to those who need their services as "clients." The Community Bicycle Project in Goshen, Ind., bridges the gap between volunteer and client, requiring that clients work for an hour or more in the shop to get a bicycle. Many clients end up as long-term volunteers. Good Karma Bikes in San Jose, Calif., goes a step further with their Certified Bicycle Mechanic job skills training, a program for clients-turned-volunteers. Good Karma founder Jim Gardner counts the personal empowerment he sees in his clients when they learn how to fix something as his greatest reward.

    In PortlandOre., The Community Cycling Center’s Create a Commuter program uses the help of volunteers to provide fully outfitted commuter bikes and bike safety workshops to low-income adults. Wrench Raiders, also in Portland, brings its services directly to the homeless, setting up shop under bridges, and in the downtown area.

    The Community Cycling Center maintains that "bicycles are a tool for empowerment and a vehicle for change." Indeed, these organizations are doing more than just providing bikes; they’re building community and empowering the individuals they serve.

    Photo: Wrench Raiders at work, courtesy BikePortland.org

  • Connecting Cyclists to Trails: Portland's 50's Bikeway

    By Ruby Brunk

    Work is scheduled to begin in early 2012 on an important piece of Portland, Oregon's 1996 Bicycle Master Plan. Funded through a $1.5 million federal grant with an 11-percent city of Portland matching grant, the 50’s Bikeway will run 4.5 miles north-south along Portland’s east side, providing an important link to the Springwater Corridor.

    A celebrated rail-trail running east-west from Boring to downtown Portland, the Springwater Corridor connects to the north-south Eastbank Esplanade along the banks of the Willamette River. The 50’s Bikeway will improve north-south access to the rail-trail by adding bike lanes, street crossings and signage from Rose City Park to the Woodstock neighborhood, where it will connect to the Springwater Corridor through existing bike lanes.

    Portland’s new Bicycle Plan for 2030 targets the expansion of bicycle infrastructure from 630 miles by 2016 to 962 miles by 2030. Projects like the 50’s Bikeway show that the city is also working to connect on-street infrastructure to trails to form the backbone of the city's bike network. Portland isn't alone in using its on-street bicycle network to better connect its residents to trails. We've reported before on a temporary complete street in Memphis connecting to the Shelby Farms Greenline, and the role cycle tracks can play in connecting cyclists arriving by trail to their destinations across downtown Washington, D.C.

    Map: The 50's Bikeway (pink) will connect with the Springwater Corridor (red).
  • Urban Pathways to Water Quality and Flood Protection

    Volnteers put in native plants on MLK Day - courtesy The Watershed Project

    The Richmond Greenway in the San Francsico Bay Area is demonstrating how urban pathways can be multi-purpose--critical not only for transportation, but also as a place to treat storm runoff, prevent flooding of nearby properties, enhance habitat and provide green space. In addition to the community gardens Urban Tilth is building, The Watershed Project is constructing the Richmond Greenway Bioswale Project, located between 6th Street and 8th Street along the three-mile greenway. The bioswale was designed to serve as a demonstration project, showing how Low Impact Development (LID) management practices can be used to capture and treat stormwater using natural landscaping to model nature.

    According to Matt Freiberg, the project manager:

    "The bioswale is designed to capture and filter stormwater from the immediate neighborhood, reducing the impacts of urban runoff from the area. We amended the site's soil by replacing the dense clay soil with more pervious sandy soil to increase the lands capacity to absorb water. We also designed the channel to meander like a real river would. This provides a natural aesthetic that enhances the beauty of the site and slows water during large flow events, increasing the residence time of the water, allowing for greater filtration and infiltration of the water. Lastly, we incorporated native plants that attract beneficial insect and bird species as well as break up the soil allowing water to drain deeper into the soil. The overall design maximizes infiltration to keep water on site in the soil rather than flooding the site, and allows the soil bacteria opportunity to literally eat the organic pollutants that would normally run off into the bay."

    The project will include posting a number of interpretive signs, providing an opportunity for the public to learn about native plants, how a bioswale works and the site's history. The bioswale engages the community as the Watershed Project hosts monthly workdays where people can help continue to plant new native vegetation, weed invasive species, beautify the site and learn about the impact of this project and how similar projects can be replicated throughout the community. "We also want to engage the community so they feel a sense of ownership of the site and are motivated to become stewards of their community environment for years to come," says Freiberg. 

    Photo: Volunteers plant native plants on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, courtesy The Watershed Project

  • Webinar: Promoting Equity in the Next Federal Transportation Bill

    As the White House and Congress jumpstart a dialogue about the next federal surface transportation bill, the Equity Caucus at Transportation for America invites you to join them on Friday, March 18, from 1 to 2 p.m. EST for a webinar focused on how we can expand mobility and opportunity for all Americans, including low-income populations and communities of color, through smart and equitable transportation investments.

    The Bus to the Capitol: Promoting Equity in the Next Federal Transportation Bill will feature:

    • Roy Kienitz, Undersecretary of Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation
    • Wade Henderson, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
    • James Corless, Director, Transportation for America
    • Radhika Fox, Federal Policy Director, PolicyLink (Moderator)

    Join the webinar to:

    • Hear about the Obama Administration’s blueprint for the transportation bill
    • Get an update on Congressional activity on transportation
    • Learn how to get engaged in advocacy for a transportation bill that creates strong, healthy communities of opportunity

    We hope you’ll join us. Register today!

    Also, please stay tuned for future webinars hosted by the Equity Caucus at Transportation for America.

    The Equity Caucus at Transportation for America--formed by the nation’s leading civil rights, community development, racial justice, economic justice, faith-based, health, housing, labor, environmental justice, tribal, public interest, women’s and transportation organizations--drives transportation policies that advance economic and social equity in America. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a member of the Equity Caucus.

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