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January 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • What Can Be Done to Reduce Danger at Dallas Trail Crossings?

    The Katy Trail is a very popular rail-trail through the heart of Dallas. KDFW-TV reports on a dangerous crossing where the trail intersects Knox Street. Too often, drivers don't stop for trail users in the crosswalk, even though they are required to by law. This dangerous game of Frogger makes trail users nervous, and drivers on Knox Street have a hard time seeing the crosswalk and warning signs. According to KDFW, the city of Dallas is seeking federal funding to improve trail crossings across the city; a decision on that money is due by July. Recently, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center hosted a webinar on treatments for unsignalized crossings like this one on the Katy Trail. A full resource guide to trail crossings can be found in our Trail-Building Toolbox.

  • City Mouse, Country Mouse: How Trail Users Differ

    RTC's Northeast Regional Office is completing work on a report of trail users and economic impact analysis for the Schuylkill River Trail in southeast Pennsylvania. The trail runs from downtown Philadelphia, connecting to commuter transit lines and continuing northwest toward Valley Forge National Historic Park and farther into suburban and rural areas. Covering a total of 56 miles, the trail is currently broken into three sections of open pathway.

    In order to get a clear picture of the trail users' priorities, we decided that separating the survey respondents into metropolitan area users and suburban/rural users would be most helpful for the trail management.

    The categories that showed substantive differences between metropolitan users and suburban users are:

    1. Age group: The majority of users in the metropolitan section are younger than 46. In the suburban section, the majority are older than 46.
    2. Primary activity: Though cycling is the primary activity on both sections of trail, nearly twice as many people are jogging on the metropolitan section than on the suburban section.
    3. Economic impact: The metropolitan users reported spending an average of $10.04 per trail visit, while the suburban trail users spent an average of $8.07.

    Fifty percent of users on the Schuylkill River Trail spend an average of $9.07 per visit to the trail. That's a total of $3,628,000 local economic impact from expenditures on consumable products such as snacks, water or meals.

    The report was developed for the Schuylkill River Greenway Association and the Schuylkill River Trail Council through funding provided by the William Penn Foundation. Learn more about the survey and read a final report on survey results.

    Photo of Schuylkill River Trail by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (original post edited 1/28/2010). Post edited again 03/03/2010 to include link to final report.

  • Does Your Trail Need a Bridge? Maryland is Offering

    View Larger Map

    We've posted about interesting ways to bridge the gap on RTC TrailBlog before. Here's another one in case your trail could use a span with a 27-foot width. TheWashCycle points us to this offer from the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA):

    Maryland Highway officials hope to sell the Maryland Route 545 bridge over Little Elk Creek in Childs in Cecil County. The steel pony truss bridge was built in 1932...The span is available for purchase by any city or county government, historic preservation organization, bicycle/trail group,  non-profit organization, corporation or individual for reuse at a new location. State funds may be available to cover some of the costs of moving the bridge... The new owner is required to preserve the bridge according to established standards for historic bridges.

    Interested? Contact Fred Shoken in SHA’s Environmental Planning Division/Cultural Resources Section at 866.527.0502 or at fshoken@sha.state.md.us before March 15.

  • Rail-Trail Activities Can Help You Stick to New Year’s Resolutions

    It’s that time of year again. With holiday indulgences behind us and the promise of a new year ahead, one of the most popular resolutions for Americans is to start – and stick to – a regular exercise routine.

    Here are some ideas for using your local rail-trail to help keep your exercise resolution:

    • Rail-Trail Exercise Club – Join a running or walking club, like the So Yo Trail Blazers, which meets on Saturday mornings at the Heritage Rail Trail County Park in Pennsylvania.
    • Rail-Trail Race – Training for a running or cycling race is another good way to incorporate regular exercise into your schedule. There are a number of races on rail-trails around the country, including the Pace of Courage in Portland, Ore.; the Katy Trail 5K in Dallas, Texas; and the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail Race, Run, Ride, and Ramble in southern Pennsylvania.
    • Commuting Convoy – Join other bicyclists in your area in riding to work regularly, like the Don’t Sweat It! morning rides that RTC hosted last October on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C.

    These activities also help build awareness and support for your local rail-trails. If you can’t find a group in your area, invite your friends and neighbors and start your own. You’ll be exercising regularly in no time. And when you need a little extra motivation, the other members in your group will be there to nudge you on.

    Photo by Stephen Miller/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • New Report Details Rise in Media Use Among Kids and Teens

    Smart phones. MP3 players. The "boob tube" and YouTube.

    Each day, young people spend an average of 7.5 hours with electronic and entertainment media—and, because they frequently use more than one medium at a time, their total consumption now stands at nearly 11 hours a day.

    These figures appear in the Kaiser Family Foundation's new report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds, published earlier today. The report is the third in a series of national studies that detail the rise in media consumption among children and teenagers, who now commonly engage with media from the moment they wake to the moment they sleep—and much of the time in between.

    Another interesting finding: youth who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower levels of contentment.

    It's an alarming trend, but one that can be reversed by balancing "screen time" with "green time." While there may be no single solution to a sedentary childhood saturated with electronic media and devices, we can think of no better antidote than to unplug your family and to hit the trail together. 

    • Visit TrailLink.com, RTC's free resource for finding multi-use trails and rail-trails where you can bike, hike, walk, run or ride!

    Photo: Bryce Hall / Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • One State, Two Very Different Wall Treatments Along Rail-Trails

    This study in contrasts caught my eye this afternoon. The cities of Methuen and Newburyport, both along the Merrimack River in Massachusetts, are only 20 miles from each other. In Methuen, a rail-trail is under development, while in Newburyport the Clipper City Rail Trail is receiving its finishing touches. Both trails have large walls created by bridge abutments. Both walls act as ideal canvases but have received vastly different types of art recently. In Methuen, colorful graffiti has sprouted, while in Newburyport artist Bob Kimball was commissioned by the city to produce mounted steel sculptures of local fish species. 

    The Methuen Rail-Trail blog says that while the graffiti is temporary, it "is quite impressive and obviously represents an investment of time and energy." Downstream, Newburyport-Today notes the "very positive response to the new sculptures already from people walking the trail." The interest generated by these installations proves that art can take all forms on rail-trails, even in cities so close to each other.

    Top photo from Newburyport-Today; bottom photo from Methuen Rail-Trail blog.

  • Registration Open for RTC's 8th Greenway Sojourn

    Registration is OPEN for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's 8th Annual Greenway Sojourn -- the most exciting Sojourn to date! July 17-24, ride with 350 other cyclists on a grand heritage loop through southeastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware River Valley of New Jersey.

    Pedal more than 250 miles in seven days on at least seven different Pennsylvania and New Jersey rail-trails, including:

    Enjoy overnights in unique locales including the Battleship New Jersey on the Camden/Philadelphia waterfront, Bull's Island on the Delaware River, the John James Audubon Homestead, the America on Wheels Museum, Jim Thorpe (the "Little Switzerland" of Pennsylvania) and more.

    This ride cannot be duplicated on your own and will sell out fast! Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has been given special permission to camp on many of the sites, and our rail-trail experts will give the tour of a lifetime on these magnificent trails. Register today!

  • Join Us in New Orleans for Urban Pathways to Livable Communities

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is proud to present a unique opportunity to meet other professionals working to encourage trail use and livable neighborhoods. RTC is one of the hosts of Urban Pathways to Livable Communities, a two-part conference in New Orleans, February 25-26, 2010. Day 1 is an invitation-only forum for professionals working to encourage use of shared-use pathways in low-income urban neighborhoods. We will discuss trail amenities and programming, engaging diverse constituencies, reducing crime and improving traffic safety. Day 2 takes a broader look at the issues of livability across the nation and on the federal level. The latest conference information and pre-registration can be found at www.railstotrails.org/conference.

    Day 1, hosted by RTC's Urban Pathways Initiative, includes a walking workshop along the Lafitte Corridor, a greenway project in New Orleans. For a preview of the corridor, the promise it holds and the challenges it faces - issues common to urban pathways across the nation - listen to this piece which is airing today on WWOZ, posted by Friends of Lafitte Corridor:

  • Vigilante Trail Maintenance

    UPDATE: A video has been posted by Omaha.net. See it embedded above.

    Omaha, Neb., gets its share of snow. Unlike many other places, the city plows its trail network to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians can get where they need to go after a storm. Despite this effort, there are blockages that occur when a plow reaches a place it cannot clear, or drifting snow covers a section of the trail. Via the RTC Blogroll comes word from Omaha Bikes of the Guerrilla Trail Crew, a group of Omaha cyclists that has decided to take snow removal into its own hands. The group's members mean that literally - they bring shovels and ride the Keystone Trail, clearing blocked sections.

    Although not an established 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the group is looking for volunteers with shovels or snowblowers to help them remove the white stuff after Mother Nature's next winter storm. One of the Guerrilla Trail Crew's participants encourages those who are interested to take the initiative themselves: "Since there is no official 'organizer' or 'person in charge,' anyone is welcome to attack an area of trail or organize their own guerilla army. If you hear of an area that needs [to be] addressed and you have time," he wrote, "have at it."

  • Rail-with-Trail: Tracks and Trails Can Share the Corridor

    As more communities seek to accommodate both active and rail transportation, rail-with-trail has become an increasingly popular concept. Many successful examples of rails-with-trails exist in North America, but it's not uncommon for local leaders and railroad companies to be apprehensive about developing multi-use paths within active railroad rights-of-way (ROW).

    However, mounting evidence supports the claim that trails and trains can coexist, and more rail-with-trail projects are in development across the United States and Canada. At RTC, we are often contacted by local and state groups that want to know how to advocate for rails-with-trails in existing and planned railroad ROW. Through this exchange, we have a growing collection of resources that can help build the case for rail-with-trail. For a summary of rail-with-trail issues and a comprehensive list of studies, reports and photos, visit the rail-with-trail section of our Trail-Building Toolbox. Also, be sure to check out RTC's newest publication, California Rails-with-Trails: A Survey of Trails Along Active Rail Lines. There are also numerous resources available elsewhere online:

    Photo Collections

    Statewide Rail-with-Trail Advocacy Efforts

    • The Virginia Bicycling Federation has garnered support from dozens of national and state organizations requesting a formal endorsement from Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine to support rails-with-trails along all major rail projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Read more about their effort to implement innovative rail-with-trail policy at the state level.

    New Rail-with-Trail Projects

    Photo of Cedar Lake Regional Trail in Minnesota by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • In 2009, Florida Saved its Trails Program. What's Next in 2010?

    For many years the Florida economy was a reliable growth machine. But state revenue fell and suddenly the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT), just recognized by America Trails as the nation's best state trails program, was on the chopping block. It had been so long since the trails community in Florida faced such a major test. Even I, the usual optimist, wondered if the trail community could be rallied to save OGT. What will happen to trails in Florida if the state's Department of Environmental Protection sees the trail community as disorganized, uncaring and unwilling to take action?

    Later in the same year we needed Floridians to again be heard and call for improvements within the Florida Department of Transportation to make walking and bicycling safer. Had the walking, bicycling and trails movement become complacent and content to wait for government to make safety improvements for us and to complete a statewide trails system?

    The answer was a resounding NO! The movement met the challenge and YOU generated thousands of e-mails, letters of support, resolutions and personal communications. The state of the walking, bicycling and trails community in Florida remains strong. Our collective voice was heard loudly by the state's leaders in 2009 like never before, and as a result the Office of Greenways and Trails remains fully staffed, there is still citizen input via the Florida Greenways and Trails Council, and the vision of a statewide system of interconnected trails lives on.

    Now that the holidays are complete and your batteries recharged as we enter 2010, prepare yourself, for we will need to call upon you again soon as we build upon past successes and strive for significant improvements in the New Year. The Florida legislative session approaches. Let's roll!

    Photo of Florida State Capitol by StevenM on Flickr.

  • New Orleans Success Story Smells Opportunity with Nearby Trail

    By Ethan Ellestad

    Located at 2401 St. Ann Street, just two blocks off the path of the Lafitte Greenway, Willie Mae's Scotch House has been a culinary institution for more than 50 years. Willie Mae Seaton, the restaurant's namesake and proprietress for most of its long history, originally opened the famous business in 1956. By 2005, Willie Mae's was locally and nationally famous for its exquisite fried chicken, smothered pork chops, butter beans and other southern specialties. In May of the same year, the small, family-owned restaurant achieved what most other eateries can only dream about - it was honored by the James Beard Foundation, dubbed the "Oscars of the Food World" by Time magazine. Willie Mae Seaton was also honored at City Hall for her contributions to the city of New Orleans. Yet, only three months later, Hurricane Katrina flooded the restaurant, kitchen and bar with four feet of water, throwing the institution's future into doubt. With assistance from the Southern Foodways Alliance, the Seaton family reopened Willie Mae's Scotch House in April of 2007.

    Upon reopening, Ms. Seaton turned over the daily operation of the restaurant to the able hands of her granddaughter, Kerry Seaton. Since that time, the accolades have continued, and Willie Mae's has been featured by the Food Network, which bestowed the honor of "America's Best Fried Chicken," the Travel Channel and Bon Appetit magazine. This increase in national attention has led to an increasing number of tourists stopping in for the famous fried chicken, though New Orleans natives still make up a large portion of the daily clientele. Celebrities, too, have made the pilgrimage to Willie Mae's, including Spike Lee, Magic Johnson, sports analyst Tony Kornheiser, R&B singers Genuine and Drake, and numerous actors and actresses.

    The younger Ms. Seaton sees a bright future for Willie Mae's Scotch House, but she would love to see more traffic in the area. She envisions the section of the Treme and the Seventh Ward surrounding the restaurant transformed into a culinary and entertainment district, "where people come out in the evening and enjoy themselves, just like they do Uptown or in Mid-City." An increase of interest in the area, due in no small part to the Willie Mae's acclaimed cuisine, as well as the impending construction of the Lafitte Greenway, may soon make this vision a reality.

    This post is a shortened version of the original, posted at the website of RTC partner StayLocal! New Orleans. Photo by Ethan Ellestad.

  • California Planning Grants Available

    Funding for trails and other strategies to create bikeable, walkable communities is available through two California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) grant programs. Caltrans is now accepting applications, and the deadline to apply is April 1, 2010. The two grant categories are: 

    1. Environmental Justice grants: Promote community involvement in planning to improve mobility, access and safety while promoting economic opportunity, equity, environmental protection and affordable housing for low-income, minority and Native American communities.
    2. Community-Based Transportation Planning Grants: Coordinated transportation and land use planning that promotes public engagement, livable communities, and a sustainable transportation system which includes mobility, access, and safety.

    Each program has $3 million total available for grants for the FY2010-11 year; individual grant requests are capped at $300,000. Check with Caltrans to access the Grant Guidelines, application, a toolbox and other helpful information. Applications are due by April 1, 2010, to the local Caltrans District office. For more information on Environmental Justice grants, contact Marlon Flournoy, 916.651.6889 for Community-Based Transportation Planning grants, contact Russ Walker, 916.651.6886.

    To learn more about other trail projects in California, visit Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Regional Office.

  • Call for Safe Routes to School Examples in Low-Income Communities

    Many urban pathways serve low-income communities. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is searching for examples of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs in these neighborhoods. They are also seeking examples of SRTS programs that relate SRTS to student health and wellness.

    From Margo Pedroso/Safe Routes to School National Partnership:

    With generous funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership is developing two different SRTS resource guides. One is for volunteers and professionals working locally with low-income and diverse communities to showcase promising strategies and success stories. The other is for education professionals and policymakers at state and local levels, focused on how SRTS fits into state and local efforts to improve health and fitness.

    We are asking our partners to help identify local communities with promising SRTS initiatives that can be featured in either of the resource guides. Read on for more details:

    1. Promising examples of SRTS in low-income and diverse communities:  We are looking for examples of low-income, urban, rural, and/or communities of color that show promise in implementing SRTS and overcoming barriers like crime, limited financial resources, language and cultural barriers, staff turnover, and more. Please send any suggestions to Margo Pedroso at margo@saferoutespartnership.org.
    2. Promising examples of SRTS as part of student health and wellness:  We are seeking examples of schools, school districts, or states that have included SRTS into broader efforts to get children healthy and active. We aim to help demonstrate why student physical activity impacts a schools' core mission of educating children. Please send any suggestions to Margo Pedroso at margo@saferoutespartnership.org

    Thank you very much for your help in identifying promising local SRTS examples and prospective consultants. With your input, we can develop two outstanding resources guides that will help strengthen the implementation of SRTS initiatives across the country.


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