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September 2009 - RTC TrailBlog

  • D.C. Residents Turn Out for Bike and Walk Tours of New Trail

    A major section of Washington, D.C.'s long-awaited Metropolitan Branch Trail is now under construction and close to completion. The first layer of asphalt was put down last week between Franklin Street and Rhode Island Avenue, and construction continues south to New York Avenue along the rest of this 1.5-mile section of trail in the Edgewood and Eckington neighborhoods. Last week, RTC partnered with the Coalition for the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the D.C. Bike Ambassador and the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association to host Bicycling in Brookland, an event to answer questions about safe cycling and the trail, which will connect Brookland residents with downtown.

    In addition, two tours this past weekend took area residents onto the trail for the first time. On Saturday, a bike tour of Ward 5 led by Bicycle Advisory Council member Jeanie Osburn attracted 38 cyclists from across the city and prominently featured the new section of trail. A smaller group of about ten area residents came on Sunday for RTC's tour of the Metropolitan Branch with D.C.'s trails planner, Heather Deutsch. Many in attendance have been awaiting the trail's completion for years, and while one part of the trail has fresh pavement, the key missing link that would connect this new stretch to an existing section at the New York Avenue Metro station is still awaiting stormwater runoff permits from WMATA and may not be completed until spring 2010 because of this delay.

    Photo: Cyclists on Saturday's tour use a newly-paved section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail for the first time. Finishing touches on the trail, including gravel running paths on each side, remain to be installed. Photo by Stephen Miller/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Active Transportation Programs Eligible for $650 million Available Through New Public Health Grants

    Via Safe Routes to School National Partnership:

    On September 17, 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new program: Communities Putting Prevention to Work. Thirty to forty communities will receive a total of $373 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) dollars through this competitive grant program to support interventions that reduce obesity (through improved physical activity and nutrition) and/or reduce tobacco use. Communities can apply for either focus area or both. This landmark opportunity is aimed at mobilizing community resources toward broad-based policy, systems, organizational and environmental changes. The application places an emphasis on communities demonstrating effective coalitions, and notes that special consideration should be given to the inclusion of populations disproportionately affected by chronic diseases.

    On September 29, 2009,  the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the release of $120 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for prevention and wellness programs for U.S. states and territories, building on the recent announcement of the $373 million funding opportunity for communities and tribes around the country. In all, the comprehensive Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative will make $650 million available for public health efforts to address obesity, increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and decrease smoking.

    Lead Applicants: Local and State Health Departments


    • Letter of Intent Deadline: October 30, 2009
    • Application Deadline: December 1, 2009 

    The Opportunity for Bike/Ped and Health Officials: Communities Putting Prevention to Work provides an important opportunity for bicycle and pedestrian professionals, enthusiasts, and advocates, as well as health officials, to act quickly to get your city or state to:

    1. Apply for the funding;
    2. Educate the health department about the range of bike/ped interventions that can be included in their application and action plan; and
    3. Include your organization as a partner in the effort.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has worked with our partners at America Bikes and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership to prepare a list of sample bike/ped activities that fit within the five categories of evidence-based interventions that are required as part of this CDC application. We encourage you to review these sample activities and assess which would work well in your community. Funds are available to make these projects a reality—so it is in your interest to work with your health department to develop the bike/ped aspects of the CDC application for obesity prevention, and to demonstrate how your organization can be a resource to them.

    Act Now to Contact Your Health Department and City Officials: Now is the time to contact your health department and city officials to encourage them to apply, and to share your ideas on bike/ped interventions. Don’t wait – health departments are making decisions now about whether to apply, and what to propose in their grant applications.

    • Populations greater than 500,000: If you live in a city or county with a population of 500,000 people or more, your local city or county health department will be the lead applicant on the grant. You should find and contact the health department staff person who is the lead on physical activity or obesity. In addition, you should contact your Mayor and City Council members to urge them to ask the health department to apply for this grant with a focus on bike/ped to increase physical activity.
    • Populations less than 500,000: If you live in a city, county, or community with a population of less than 500,000 people, then your State Department of Health will be the lead applicant. States can only choose two communities throughout the whole state to sponsor, so it will be important to reach out soon. Work with your local health department, Mayor or members of the Board of Supervisors to encourage them to reach out to the state department of health to include your community in the state’s application.
    • Tribal Applicants: If you live in a tribal area, you should work with the health department lead staff on physical activity or obesity to prepare the application. Tribes are permitted to apply directly.

    Application Focus: The CDC Request for Proposals notes that the “key to the success of this initiative, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, will be to implement community-wide policies, systems, and environmental changes that reach across all levels of the socio-ecological model and include the full engagement of the leadership in city government, boards of health, schools, businesses, community and faith-based organizations, community developers, transportation and land use planners, parks and recreation officials, health care purchasers, health plans, health care providers, academic institutions, foundations, other Recovery Act-funded community activities, and many other community sectors working together to promote health and prevent chronic diseases. Funded programs need to build on, but not duplicate current Federal programs as well as state, local, or community programs and coordinate fully with existing programs and resources in the community.”

    Please note that construction and research are not eligible activities.

    Resource Links:

  • From Bike Repair to Bike Odyssey

    Bike Recycle Vermont (BRV) is a nonprofit located in Burlington, Vt., that refurbishes donated bicycles and resells them to low-income Vermonters as affordable, reliable and sustainable transportation. The Fall 2009 issue of Rails to Trails magazine featured a story on Emily Eschner (”Gals and Gears”), and specifically a course she instructed;  at the time she was with AmeriCorps VISTA and serving at BRV.  The “Women’s Wrench Workshops,” designed and taught by the recent University of Vermont (UVM) graduate, sought to make cycling less intimidating for women, and to recruit more female volunteer bike mechanics to the bike shop. “I know lots of women who have a bike and ride it, but they don’t know how to fix it when something goes wrong,” says Eschner.

    Left: Emily Eschner, right, and Margaret Fitch show off their BRV riding gear. 

    She began offering the course as a seven-week, hands-on workshop exclusively for women. It was open to students of all ages and experiences. Many came in only knowing how to pump up tires or adjust a bike seat. During the course, they moved through progressively more complicated lessons, from basic bike anatomy and tools to brake realignment and wheel truing. “They [could] learn together and not be afraid to ask questions,” Eschner says. “They can be proud of their bikes and feel confident working on them.” Attendees donated $1 to $5 per session, depending on what they could afford, and all proceeds benefited BRV. Eschner completed several class cycles, and she saw class sizes increase from three or four students to as many as a dozen.

    Having completed her one-year AmeriCorps stint at BRV, though, Eschner has focused on a new plan for the next few months of her life: a 2,000-mile bicycle ride from Burlington to New Orleans.

    After her older brother biked across the country in 2005, Eschner knew she wanted to take a long cycling trip of her own. For his trip, he took four friends and a support vehicle from Maine to California in 40 days. “Definitely a great trip for him, but not my style,” she says. “I always knew I’d do it differently when it was my turn.”

    That time came this past spring when her friend Margaret Fitch, a fellow UVM grad, proposed the idea of a joint cycling journey. “Working at Bike Recycle Vermont as a bike mechanic and instructor, I became more interested in and knowledgeable about bikes,” says Eschner. “When my friend Margaret approached me with the possibility of a long bike trip, I entertained the idea more seriously than before. Margaret and I were on the same page: yes, ride bikes. Hooray! But ride them not merely to zip from point A to point B—ride them from point A to point B at a pace relaxing enough to stop and smell plenty of roses.”

    Right: Fitch and Eschner get excited for their 2,000-mile journey.

    The two have been mapping their route, but they have no specific agenda along the way, other than to explore and make plans as they go. “‘Why New Orleans?’ a lot of people ask us,” says Eschner. “‘Why not?’ is often our answer. It was a city south of our starting location that neither of us had ever been, and that holds a fair amount of intrigue for us. We’re both in that ‘odyssey’ stage in our lives where we’re not tied down to a career, family or house and trying to figure out our next steps. The ultimate goal is simply to experience any and everything that the country has to offer.”

    Starting September 13, Eschner and Fitch will set out on their trip, hoping to arrive in New Orleans by mid-December. They’re keeping a blog of their preparations and experiences along the way, and they’re also hoping to stay with fellow cyclists who might have a yard for camping or a floor to share. You can check out their tentative route at www.emilyandmargaret.blogspot.com to see if they’re passing through your town, or just to track their progress south this fall. They have a lot of miles of ride, and they’re eager for suggestions about where to stop and what to visit.

    More about Bike Recycle Vermont
    BRV began five years ago as the backyard project of founder Ron Manganiello. The organization has grown into a full-time operation run entirely by volunteers. Using donated bikes and salvaged parts, BRV charges $20 for the bicycles, each of which comes with a complimentary helmet, lock and rear light. Diverse local populations, including resettled refugees and immigrants, benefit from the program.

    Last November, BRV became an official program of Local Motion, a nonprofit that promotes trails and bikeways in the Burlington area. For more information, call 802.264.9687 or visit www.localmotion.org.

    More about AmeriCorps
    AmeriCorps is a national service program designed to fight poverty. For more information, visit americorps.gov.

  • Chain links: Back to school time

    Photo: The race is on along the Katy Trail in Dallas to capitalize on the economic potential of this urban trail. Photo by snowboard9 on Flickr.

  • Chain links: Happy Labor Day

    Photo: A cyclist excited for WABA's Full Moon ride along the Capital Crescent Trail. Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

  • Chain links: Endless summer rides

  • Trail Voices: Mike Haering

    “Trail Voices” highlights the work of rail-trail supporters around the country. Our interview subjects are anyone from high-level urban planners to local volunteers, and no contribution to the trails, walking and bicycling movement is too big or too small–dedication comes in all sizes. We could never tell all the personal stories that make rail-trails a success, but we can share a few of the voices behind the movement.

    Left: (Left to right) Kyle Morgan, Mike Haering and John Tichenor, part of Fetzer's crew on the Sojourn.

    Mike Haering lives in Louisville, Ky., and has always been an active outdoorsman and hiker. “I’m not going to say I’m a recluse,” he says, “but I could have a very happy day if I’m alone on the top of a mountain and watch the sun come up on the east, the sun go down in the west, and I don’t see anyone else the whole day.”

    In the office, Haering works as the brand director for Fetzer Vineyards, makers of the “Earth Friendly Wine” in Hopland, Calif. After 18 years in the wine industry, Haering still marvels at the process and lifestyle of winemaking. “First thing I really noticed, being in wine and wine country, is the sense of community,” he says. “It’s a farming environment, and you feel like you belong to something close to Mother Earth. I’m fascinated by the winemakers and the magic they can do with the fruit, and give us a great glass of wine at the end of the day.”

    Starting in 2009, Fetzer began a partnership with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) to help support the Trail of the Month program and the 2009 Greenway Sojourn, which wrapped up this past July on the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pennsylvania. Haering and the Fetzer crew were active and popular participants. Several members of the official Fetzer Bike Team came along for the four-day ride, and Fetzer poured wine at several overnight stops and meals for the 250 riders. “The wine pouring was a huge success,” he says. “Not only were we able to share a taste with those so inclined, but we got to share Fetzer’s sustainability story with them.”

    We caught up with Haering after the ride to learn more about the Sojourn, the partnership with RTC, and about Fetzer’s long-recognized commitment to sustainable winemaking.

    What makes Fetzer’s sustainable wine production unique and so important?
    Everything we do, we look to make sure we minimize the impact to our community. The first place you do that is with the environment. We have a concentrated effort not to throw anything away. Since 1990, we have reduced our waste to landfills by 96 percent, while doubling production. We don’t even go to recycling right away; we reuse first, so we’re doing more with less. We were also the first winery that went to 100 percent green energy for its winery operation. We put solar arrays on the roofs of various buildings, and sometimes we generate so much energy that we can sell it back to the electric company. Also, by lowering the weight of our wine bottles by an average by 16 percent, we have saved the equivalent of 70,000 trees a year.

    There’s always this perception that when you’re doing something sustainably, you’re not doing it well. But we don’t compromise quality. Simply stated, we make great wine the right way.

    Right: The Fetzer team joins Sojourn riders on the first morning of the four-day ride.

    How did the partnership with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy begin?
    Fetzer seeks to partner with likeminded organizations in order to connect with people who act with long-term, sustainable practices. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was a perfect fit. Their commitment to establishing trails for years to come is fantastic, and their vision of having 90 percent of the population within three miles of a trail by 2020 is truly inspiring.

    What about the Sojourn in particular made the event such a great opportunity for Fetzer?
    The Sojourn fits well with Fetzer because we know Fetzer consumers enjoy the outdoors and are active in a variety of pursuits, including cycling. This ride provided Fetzer a chance to connect with riders in their environment, and hopefully connect in a fun way.

    What did you think of the Pine Creek Rail Trail?
    Absolutely gorgeous. You know, I’ve traveled many places around the world, and before you get there you always have this perception of what it is or could be. Well I went into [Pine Creek Gorge], and the canyon walls, the river running through it, watching the peace of the fly fishermen, just enjoying nature—it was pristine, just beautiful. The trail fits the personality of the place; it felt like a natural trail next to that river.”

    What did you find most memorable about the Sojourn?
    The ride and experience exceeded our wildest dreams. Everyone was so friendly and they accepted us warmly. I’d say the biggest memory we will leave with is the sense of community everyone on the ride shared. Although it rained several times, people came together and we believe they bonded closer. We were blessed to be part of it.

    To learn more about Fetzer, visit www.fetzer.com.

  • URGENT ALERT: Speak up for Trails, Walking and Biking Now

    UPDATE: Amendments are Defeated!

    Thank you to everyone for your calls to your senators' offices speaking up against the two amendments below. Please stay tuned for a more detailed analysis and follow-up. Read below for background on the alert.

    If you are not on Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's free e-mail list, RTC Online, please sign up now.


    On Tuesday, September 15, Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) issued two amendments to the FY10 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. If passed, these amendments would eliminate the majority of available federal funds for trails, walking and bicycling.

    Amendment 2370 would prohibit the use of federal funds for pedestrian or bicycle facilities, efforts to reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife, or other specified Transportation Enhancement (TE) projects if the Highway Trust Fund cannot cover unfunded highway authorizations. 

    Amendment 2371 is even trickier; while it claims to allow states to opt out of spending on TE projects, the actual amendment text in fact notes that "None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement" TE projects.

    Providing opportunities for Americans to walk, bike and take transit to get where they’re going improves our communities’ health and livability, reduces emissions, creates jobs and save money.

    Click here to take action now!

    Photo: East Capitol Street bike lanes by Stephen Miller/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Students: What's Your Vision for Trail-Oriented Development?

    View Larger Map

    The Ed Bacon Foundation and The Philadelphia Center for Architecture are sponsoring Brown to Green, a competition that challenges university students to "create a new vision for South Philadelphia's Grays Ferry Crescent," a DuPont brownfield site along the Schuylkill River. The site features the planned southward extension of the Schuylkill River Trail and provides a great opportunity for students to explore urban trail-oriented development that engages and improves the surrounding neighborhood . The winners will be announced in Philadelphia on December 8.


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