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June 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • True Love on the Rail-Trail

    The most recent e-news from Friends of the Katy Trail in Dallas, Texas, included a letter from trail supporter Scott Gorenc:

    I have been in Dallas for two years and it didn’t take me long to find the Katy Trail and ever since I have been running on the trail at least three times a week. The Trail soon became my favorite part of Dallas, aside from my girlfriend Katherin, of course. It came time for me to ask her to marry me and I wanted to do it at a special spot in Dallas. The Katy Trail was an easy answer. I had watched the construction of Snyder’s Union for some time and thought the spot would be perfect.

    The day of the engagement I took Katherin out to the trail to go walking. Little did she know that I had a friend go ahead and strategically place placards along the trail. These signs, initially talked about love but as we progressed down the trail, they became more and more specific to Katherin’s and my relationship. Once we got to the plaza, I got down one knee and the rest is history. (She said yes!)

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank the group for sharing my love of the trail and keeping it one of the best spots in Dallas.

    Photo courtesy Friends of the Katy Trail.

  • Scared Off: Crime Myth vs. Reality on Trails

    On the urban planning news website Planetizen, Diana DeRubertis recently noted that trails in her neighborhood weren't getting enough use because they seemed isolated, and as a result, unsafe for users on the trail alone. Despite the reality that trails are no more dangerous than their surrounding areas, this misperception is a serious issue that discourages trail use. First, the hard numbers: In Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's survey of crime on rail-trails, results show that the real issue is one of perceived rather than actual danger. Of 372 trails surveyed, only three percent reported major crimes such as mugging, assault, rape and murder. Other studies of crime along trails have shown the same result: trails are simply not dangerous places. In fact, rail-trails often clean up formerly derelict areas that had hosted criminal activity, as Charles R. Tennant, former chief of police in Elizabeth Township, Pa., has discovered. "We have found that the trail brings in so many people," he said, "that it has actually led to a decrease in problems we formerly encountered such as underage drinking along the river banks."

    Despite these facts, the perception of danger remains and many potential users are dissuaded from getting out on the trail. Yet with proper design and programming, trail managers can ensure their trail is a safe, appealing community resource.

    Smart design is paramount to making users feel secure. In addition to lighting the path, trail managers need to work with local emergency services to create a locator system similar to those in Dallas, Texas, and San Jose, Calif., so trail users calling 911 can relay their location to the dispatcher. In addition, new construction along the trail should face the path instead of ignoring it. Turning the trail into an inviting neighborhood front porch is more effective for improving safety than treating it as a back alley.

    Similarly, a trail cannot be ignored once it is built. First, you must overcome the perception that trails are unwatched areas. Part of the challenge is the location of some trails. Continuous paths suitable for trails are often found along long-ignored waterfront or rail corridors, and many trails - even in busy urban neighborhoods - are located in areas that have not traditionally hosted many people. But along seemingly hidden trails, you can turn residents into regular trail users by engaging communities along the corridor with meaningful programming.

    Sometimes that includes volunteer patrols or programming with local police. But more often, programming serves to encourage area residents to use the trail. Recently, we hosted a grand-opening celebration for the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C. Nearly half of those who filled out surveys at the event hadn't used the trail before. The event introduced a new set of potential users to the trail and made them more likely to use it again. The "safety in numbers" phenomenon applies to trails, as well. With more trail users, there are more eyes on the trail and fewer opportunities for criminals to attack. With proper design and programming, trails become cherished places that attract more and more users - so many users, in fact, that overcrowding can become an issue. With bicycling and walking on the rise nationwide, increased demand for trails is something we should all be working to address.

    Photo: An officer patrols the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C. by M.V. Jantzen/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Sensory Trail Creates Unique Experience Along Ohio Rail-Trail

    On April 22, 2010, Earth Day brought the official opening of some of the more interesting trail amenities we've seen along the Fairfield Heritage Trail in Lancaster, Ohio. Adjacent to the trail is the campus of Forest Rose School, a Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities (FCBDD) facility that provides special needs children with educational and life skills opportunities from birth to age 22. Where the trail meets the school, the Lancaster Sensory Trail has taken shape.

    The idea behind the trail was to build an outdoor experience, easily accessible for the students, that would stimulate and engage their senses. The first phase of the project, now open, includes items such as herb pots, fragrant flowers and bushes, bird feeders and houses, native trees, grasses and art pieces. A local Lions Club also installed a rough bark tactile display that includes Braille interpretation. Also installed are six large, permanently mounted outdoor musical instruments that have been custom designed with their own tethered mallets. The entire trail is wheelchair accessible.

    The project has been a multi-agency collaboration since its beginnings in 2008. Spearheaded by FCBDD, other agencies integral in its success include Fairfield County Soil & Water Conservation District, U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, city of Lancaster, Southeast Ohio Center for Independent Living and the Heart of Ohio Resource Conservation and Development Council. Major additional funds were raised through in-kind local volunteer efforts as well as two successful 5K running events. The innovative project was so impressive that it was awarded the 2009 Project of the Year award by the North Central Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils.

    While phase one has been an enormous success, the group is not resting on its laurels and has an ambitious plan for expanding the Sensory Trail. Future additions are to include a bridge over the nearby creek, wetland restoration as well as a wheelchair-accessible treehouse! As one very early supporter of the Fairfield Heritage Trail noted, it's amazing to see the types of innovative community-based projects that seem to sprout off of a seemingly simple rail-trail.

    Photo: Musical equipment along the Lancaster Sensory Trail. Photo by Bob Williams, Fairfield Heritage Trail Association.

  • San José Trail Markers Improve Safety and Emergency Response

    To attract new trail users to urban pathways and keep them coming back, trail managers are striving to increase the safety and comfort levels of those users. One thing to consider is that new users may be venturing into unfamiliar territory away from the view of street traffic. So to increase their comfort level, the city of San José, Calif., has come up with an innovative marking system that will help trail users know their location and also be able to communicate it quickly to emergency response personnel in case of an accident. Together with trail maps, signage and introductory group rides and walks, these efforts help new users gain confidence and familiarity with their trail system.

    San José has more than 54 miles of trails open to the public, and an ambitious plan to reach 100 miles across 35 unique trail systems by 2022. The interconnected systems can leave people questioning their actual whereabouts. Trail markers will be located at quarter-mile increments, labeled with a unique icon and color defining the trail system. The combination of icons, colors and mileage figures makes the system more accessible to children and non-English speakers as they seek to communicate their location to 911 operators. The GPS-located markers provide emergency dispatchers with precise and important data on the paving surface, points of entry, access limitations and site photos. This information will allow 911 personnel to determine the resources that can be brought to the site and how to quickly enter and exit the site. Post-incident data tied to specific locations will help trail managers determine if a recurring issue needs to be addressed or if more patrols may be warranted.

    San José's approach is unique in that it conveys location to the trail user in a simple manner, but it is supported by a high level of data to permit 911 operators to expedite deployment of resources. San José will conduct a test deployment this summer and anticipates updating the guidelines with lessons learned. The guidelines are available for public view online.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in San Mateo, California

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about June 3, 2010, Union Pacific Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 0.57 miles of track in the City of South San Francisco in San Mateo County, California. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A "boiler plate" letter (found here) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-33 (sub-no. 287x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is July 2, 2010. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $200 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project's progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

    Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC's Web site may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the "Trail-Building" section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact the Western Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Kane County, Illinois

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about June 4, 2010, Union Pacific Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 3.17 miles of track near St. Charles, in Kane County, Illinois. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A "boiler plate" letter (found here) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-33 (sub-no. 284x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is July 14, 2010. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $200 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project's progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

    Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC's Web site may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the "Trail-Building" section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact the Midwest Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • RTC Selected as Team Member for Bike/Ped Master Plan in Lee County, Fla.

    The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization has selected a team of consultants, including Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, to assist with the development of the Lee County Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan. The goal of the plan is to provide an accessible and connected bicycle/pedestrian strategy for short and long-term improvements on the arterial and collector roadways throughout Lee County.

    The project website will serve as a tool to keep the public informed. As the project progresses, there will be an interactive map where visitors will be able to identify and comment on locations of specific traffic safety issues. This information will then be collected, evaluated and utilized in the development of the final study. The Lee MPO and the project team hope this webpage will allow for increased visibility for the project and enhanced communication between the consultant team and the Lee County Community in the development of a successful master plan.

  • A School Garden Begins to Bloom Along D.C. Rail-Trail

    By Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl

    As part of the Meet the Met grand-opening celebration on Saturday, June 5, DC Prep Academy Charter School and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy teamed up to add another school garden into the growing rolls of urban agriculture taking place around the country. The 1,000-square-foot garden, set in Northeast D.C.’s Edgewood community, will combine an edible forest of fruit trees, perennial vegetables, herbs, insectary plants and dynamic accumulators with a large space for growing annual crops like collards, corn, squash, tomatoes and more.

    The advantage of this garden site is that it is located along the brand-new Metropolitan Branch Trail coming out of Union Station, which provides previously cut-off communities accessibility to the metro and to Union Station and the Capitol. The garden will not only beautify the new trail, it will hopefully connect the charter school to the community in a new way. DC Prep is housed in old industrial buildings that had used the nearby railroad, and even now their middle school campus has no playground to speak of. A true “urban” campus, DC Prep students are absolutely the students that most need to be reconnected to the growing of food and how it affects our lives

    Plans are being made for how the garden will be used, but classes and teachers are already lining up to use the garden in their curriculum. Hopefully, the site will be used not only to educate students in genuine food production, but bring a small and steady stream of locally grown produce into the homes of the students and teachers at the school. DC Prep already is at the forefront of school food, using Revolution Foods as their sourcing agent, and we hope next year to collaborate with Revolution Foods in cooking demonstrations using food from the garden.

    Crossposted at Center for a Livable Future. Photo by M.V. Jantzen/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • National Trails Day Kicks off Weekend of Events Around Cleveland

    On Saturday, June 5, National Trails Day kicked off a plethora of trail events in Cleveland. The festivities began Saturday morning at Fullerton Elementary in Slavic Village, where more than 50 children enjoyed the neighborhood Bike-a-Thon. The event included free bike helmets provided by Slavic Village Development and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, as well as bicycle maintenance stations and a supervised cone course to test riding skills. The Cleveland Police Department participated throughout the event and provided a police-escorted bike ride through the streets of the neighborhood. After the ride, the children were treated to a cookout back at the school.

    Later in the afternoon, participants in the annual Bike Slavic Village National Trails Day ride were not deterred by ominous skies. Enthusiastic riders, including City Councilmen Tony Brancatelli and Eugene Miller, enjoyed a leisurely ride along the Morgana Run Trail to Mill Creek Falls and then along the Cleveland MetroParks Trail through Garfield Reservation.

    Sunday morning brought more than 250 participants to the Third Federal Savings and Loan campus in Slavic Village for the fourth annual Morgana Run 5K race. With participants from toddlers in strollers to seasoned marathoners, the event was a popular draw for people from throughout Cleveland and beyond. Councilman Brancatelli along with Councilman Kevin Kelley were among the folks braving an abnormally cool and breezy June morning to enjoy a great community event.  Upon the final finisher crossing the line, the crowd enjoyed perogis, smokies and fruit while awards were given to the winners.

    Monday brought a multidisciplinary gathering of more than 200 trail advocates from throughout northeast Ohio. The first annual Greater Cleveland Trails and Greenways Conference was hosted by Southwest General Hospital and the Polaris Career Center. Breakout sessions, dealing with topics ranging from funding, design and working with new partners such as the health care industry, were all popular choices with participants. The conference's final brainstorming session was a spirited discussion about the future of the area's trail movement that highlighted successes and the desire for future gatherings.

    Photo: Participants in Sunday's Morgana Run 5K by Eric Oberg/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

 

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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