Rails To Trails Conservancy
Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity
shop   |   eNews   |   find a trail
Share this page:

July 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Watch: D.C. Residents Meet the Met Branch Trail

    On June 5, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy celebrated National Trails Day by hosting an event with Kaiser Permanente on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The event, called Meet the Met: Party on the Met Branch Trail, introduced surrounding communities to a new pathway that had opened only one month before. While some area residents had been involved with the long history of getting the trail built, many in the surrounding neighborhoods didn't know that the trail existed. By working with our partners to host a celebration that included something for and from all parts of the community - free bike repairs and rentals, garden plantings and shows by cheerleaders from nearby Beacon House - we hoped to christen the trail and introduce it to all of Northeast D.C.

    Nearly 1,000 people turned out on a hot June day for the celebration, and of the over 200 we surveyed, nearly half had never been on the Metropolitan Branch Trail before. Photos and video (embedded above) can give you a flavor of the day's events, which included salutes to longtime trail advocates, a bike rodeo to teach kids safe riding skills, live music along the trail and a raffle of four bicycles donated by local shop Arrow Bicycle.

    Meet the Met is just the beginning. A new listserv connecting neighbors who care about the Met Branch Trail attracted more than 100 members in its first week and a meeting is being held on July 8 to move the conversation from the online world to the real world. Even with community support, this trail faces challenges, such as littering and public safety. But the Met Branch is not alone. As part of RTC's Urban Pathways Initiative, this trail is connected to dozens of others across the nation addressing similar issues, providing a support network to learn about best practices from other cities.

  • Take Action: Help the River of Grass Greenway in South Florida

    An important study is being conducted in Dade County, Fla., to build more bridges on U.S. Highway 41 immediately west of Krome Avenue (outskirts of Miami) for the purpose of restoring water flow to the Everglades. The recommended $330-million plan for the Tamiami Trail Modifications (TTM) project includes 5.5 miles of bridges in a 10-mile project area, but does not include a pathway. These bridges span key sections of the proposed River of Grass Greenway, which, when completed, will link Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Not including a pathway in the study would create huge barriers for this significant regional connection.

    Help convince planners to include a multi-use pathway by submitting public comments before July 27. Reasons to include a multi-use pathway in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) include:

    • Encouraging non-motorized transportation within the Everglades natural area will magnifiy the environmental value of this project.
    • A pathway will reduce congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce dependency on oil, and improve visitor mobility and accessibility.
    • U.S. Highway 41 is an integral transportation corridor, thus a full evaluation of transportation issues should be included in the EIS. U.S. Highway 41 is the only cross-state transportation corridor in southern Florida open to cyclists and hikers, and the sole access road to many popular Everglades destinations, such as Shark Valley.
    • A pathway is part of both a planned connection to Shark Valley and the cross-state River of Grass Greenway. It will be more efficient to incorporate the pathway into the TTM project now than to retrofit later, if a future retrofit is not precluded by design issues.
    • A pathway will provide an excellent opportunity for education of Everglades restoration. The TTM project has negligible educational value, yet a primary mission of the National Parks is education.

    See Friends of the River of Grass Greenway for more information and other useful links.

    Image courtesy of Friends of the River of Grass Greenway.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about June 30, 2010, Boston & Maine Corporation filed for the abandonment of 9.74 miles of track within Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts. 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-32 (sub-no. 71x). 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 30, 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 Northeast Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • What Do Americans Think About Transportation Funding?

    Bringing up tax hikes or new taxes in the current political climate is a scary prospect. Nevertheless, a panel of transportation experts brought together by the Commonwealth Club did just that as they investigated what's possible in the current anti-tax climate. Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal of Mineta Transportation Institute presented the results of the institute's latest nationwide opinion survey, which analyzed public support for options to increase the gas tax or institute a mileage tax to fill the gap in transportation funding. The panel also included William Millar of American Public Transportation Association, John Horsley of AASHTO and California state Sen. Alan Lowenthal.

    A couple key points from the survey were that:

    • Linking transportation tax to environmental benefits will increase support, specifically if the tax helps address global warming.
    • Support for gas taxes can be significantly increased with good program design.

    According to the panelists, the most successful measures have been local voter initiatives where the benefits of the funding are easily understood. Seventy-three percent of these local measures, including transit measures, have passed since 2000, and 67 percent of the survey respondents said that maintaining current infrastructure is a priority.

    The panelists portrayed the gas tax increase as a needed short-term fix, but a restructuring of transportation financing is necessary for long-term investment in the system. William Millar reminded the audience that we shouldn't assume that the way things are can never change. We spent the last 60 years building the system we have, he said, and we can spend the next 60 building a better system.

    It's useful information to keep in mind as we continue to build support for RTC's Campaign for Active Transportation and refocus priorities for the precious funding available.

  • Belgian Rail-Trail Sports Innovative Art

    A rail-trail in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, a municipality in the suburbs of Brussels, Belgium, is home to a sculpture that puts rail materials to artistic use. The sculpture by artists Daniel Steenhaut and Francoise Geeraerd is entitled Calligraphie Ferroviaire (in English, Calligraphy Railway) and was installed in 2002. It takes two tracks heading toward each other, gradually bending until they shape a man and woman meeting in the middle.

    The sculpture was brought to our attention by RTC supporter Pete Hargrove, who writes, "I used to live in Maryland, about a half-mile from the Capital Crescent Trail...Since December 2009, I have lived in Brussels and discovered within a month a rail-trail about a kilometer from my apartment here. I realized it is a rail-trail when I noticed that streets adjacent to the trail are named Rue de Gare, which even I know means Station Road. And, it has a sculpture, which nearly knocked my socks off the first time I saw it."

    Photo by Peter Hargrove

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Oakland County, Michigan

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about July 8, 2010, Michigan Air-Line Railway Company (MAL Railway) filed for the abandonment of 2.37 miles of track in West Bloomfield Township, Oakland County, Michigan. According to the filing submitted to the Surface Transportation Board and referenced below, MAL Railway intends to negotiate a purchase sale with the Parks & Recreation Commission of West Bloomfield Township once the corridor is abandoned. Although railbanking may not be pursued in this instance, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy prepares notices of all upcoming railroad abandonments and provides information about railbanking as a service to local decision makers and trail advocates.

    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-1053 (sub-no. 0x). 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 August 6, 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.

  • Red Fields to Green Fields: Turning At-Risk Properties into Community Assets

    By Angelina Horn, City Parks Alliance

    The glut of commercial space in U.S. cities threatens to pull down cash-strapped banks and stall the nation’s economic recovery. At the same time, urban parks can have a catalytic effect that improves the economy, environment and health of a city. Red Fields to Green Fields is an initiative that seeks to acquire vacant or financially distressed commercial properties for conversion into urban parks. In addition, adjacent land is "banked" for future sustainable development. The initiative hopes to capitalize on a historic opportunity to revitalize America’s urban core and create livable, walkable communities.

    A White House urban policy adviser endorsed the Red Fields to Green Fields concept as a “perfect match” for the administration’s approach to cities and pledged to work with the project’s leaders to convene a meeting with administration officials. Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs on the Domestic Policy Council, says the White House had identified three goals for its urban policy: economic competitiveness, environmental sustainability and social inclusion.

    “If you take these three broad policy goals and you overlay them on Red Fields to Green Fields, it’s a perfect match,” Douglas told city and parks officials gathered in Washington, D.C., on June 16 for a conference on the concept. The multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional approach, he said, “is at the core of our urban policy work.”

    The conference included representatives from communities involved in both phases of the national research project: Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, Wilmington (Del.), Detroit, Hilton Head/Savannah, Houston, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Altogether, the plans on a national scale would create 30,000 acres of new green space and more than 300,000 new jobs over six years.

    Catherine Nagel of City Parks Alliance, speaking at the conference, says support from Washington is critical to the transformational initiative. She argued for a multi-billion dollar federal investment and creation of a land bank with zero-percent interest on loans. “This is both a real estate problem and a banking problem,” she said.

    Photo by City Parks Alliance. L to R: Gwendolene Angelet (Nemours), Catherine Nagel (CPA), Tad Leithead (Atlanta Regional Commission), Derek Douglas (WH Domestic Policy Council), Mickey Fearn (National Park Service), Will Henry (Nemours), and Jennifer Leonard (Center for Community Progress).

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Fulton County, Indiana

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about July 1, 2010, Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Company filed for the abandonment of 1.3 miles of track in Rochester, Fulton County, Indiana. 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-1064x. 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 30, 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.

  • Spain Hosts European Greenways Conference

    The V European Greenways Conference, hosted by the Spanish Railways Foundation (SRF) and the European Greenways Association (EGWA), was held in Madrid, Spain, from June 10 to 12. Hosting 12 different countries and more than 160 participants, the conference was an international attempt to lay out the best principles and practices for maintaining a vast system of European greenways.

    The conference helped to "increase awareness about [the] benefits of greenways between different relevant organizations at international... national, regional and local level[s]," writes Mercedes Munoz Zamora, director of EGWA, in an e-mail. The conference provided examples of successful greenway development and policies, arguing that greenways are a way to promote sustainable development, healthy living and tourism in Europe.

    Similar to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) emphasis on developing networks of trails across borders in the United States, a main aim of the conference was to foster cross-regional cooperation in creating a European green network. The greenways would extend throughout Europe, reserved exclusively for non-motorized travel. In support of this idea, the conference put forth the Madrid Declaration, reaffirming the international commitment to creating a continental trails network and recommending ways to develop it.

    "RTC is a long-time partner of the EGWA," says Jeff Ciabotti, vice president of trail development for RTC. "We share a vision of the future that provides more people with more places to get outside and be active and healthy. The Madrid Declaration is an important step forward in making that vision a reality in Europe."

    Future efforts will include the continued promotion of a European green network, with the Madrid Declaration calling for an increase in funding as well as the creation of a platform through which information can be shared and spread. In 2011, EGWA will also host the V European Greenways Award, which will honor the people and places developing the best greenways in Europe.

    Ultimately, the conference showed "there is a[n] international movement for promoting and developing greenways," writes Zamora. "Greenways are a wonderful opportunity to create links between territories and between populations... and so contribute to build a better Europe."

    For more information about the EGWA and the development of greenways in Europe, visit www.aevv-egwa.org.

    Photo of a tunnel in Via Verde de la Jara by Miguel Ángel Delgado.

  • Bike-In Restaurant Proposed for Wisconsin Rail-Trail

    A grassy area owned by the city and state Department of Transportation along the Southwest Commuter Path, a popular rail-trail in Madison, Wis., is the proposed site for a bike-in restaurant. Local restaurateur Chris Berge proposes "The Badger Den," a seasonal facility that would be inaccessible by car, serve local products and produce zero trash.

    Although the proposal is still in the exploratory phase and Berge has not yet applied for any permits, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is supportive of the idea, which could prove popular among the 2,600 trail users who pass by the spot each day, according to a September 2008 trail survey. Having trail-oriented development along the path would make it an even more popular route.

    Photo of Southwest Commuter Path by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Town Connects to Regional Trail Network with Rebuilt "Green Street"

    Edmonston, Md., is a town of a little more than 1,000 people in Prince George's County, just outside Washington, D.C. Its location along the Anacostia Tributary Trail System provides access by bicycle to major destinations, including Silver Spring and the Unviersity of Maryland at College Park. In the future, two planned off-road connections in D.C. will extend the trail network south along the Anacostia River and provide an off-road route to downtown Washington via the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

    Despite the town's prime location at the nexus of a growing regional trail network, its streets have been anything but friendly for active transportation. Like many towns, Edmonston is home to wide asphalt roadways prone to speeding and excessive rainwater runoff. Because it is a low point near the confluence of two tributaries running through paved-over suburban areas, the town has suffered from severe flooding. When it came time to rebuild Decatur Street, the town's main road providing access to the trail network, a consensus emerged that it was time for a change, and the concept of a Green Street was born in Edmonston.

    Designed to reduce stormwater runoff and improve access for non-motorized transportation, the new Decatur Street includes bike lanes, narrowed vehicular lanes, textured crosswalks, native trees, porous pavement and LED lights. These and other road improvements will not only naturally treat 90 percent of the pollution washed into the river and reduce the total amount of runoff, but they will also provide a safer connection to the trail network along the river banks. Funded by $1.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the project is being completed in what the town calls an "open source" manner. As a result, planning and engineering documents are available online for advocates, officials and other professionals to use.

    At the project's November 2009 groundbreaking, attended by federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Mayor Adam Ortiz noted the town's diversity: a third of the population is Latino, a third black and a third white. "We're diverse in every way, except we don't have rich people," he said. "And if our little working class town can build a sustainable street like this, then anybody can."

    Photo: Decatur Street before its Green Street treatment. Photo courtesy the Town of Edmonston.

  • Watch: Michigan's Southern Links Trailway Opens

    From Michigan comes news of a trail opening for the Southern Links Trailway. A dream of trail advocate Lonnie Kester since 1998, the latest section of trail creates a continuous 10-mile paved link between Millington and Columbiaville. "It brings tears of joy to my eyes," Kester told WJRT-TV, which features some nice footage of trail users enjoying this new community asset.

  • RTC's 8th Annual Greenway Sojourn Under Way

    Take 350 riders, ranging in age from 4 to 90 and hailing from 30 different states. Spend seven days riding 250 scenic miles through Pennsylvania and New Jersey on some of the most historic rail-trails and towpaths in the nation. And, for good measure, add in amazing points of interest -- not the least of which is the Battleship New Jersey in Camden, where the participants bunked down for the first night of their journey.

    That's the recipe for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's 8th Annual Greenway Sojourn, which runs from July 17-24.

    And while it's an amazing adventure, there's more to this year's Sojourn than an unforgettable bike ride. It began in Camden on Sunday with a rally to celebrate one trail victory -- the start of a long-awaited, federal TIGER grant-funded improvement project to the road leading to the Ben Franklin Bridge -- and to call attention to the importance of safe, convenient walking and biking options as an integral part of sound transportation policy.

    For more, read RTC's press release on the 8th Annual Greenway Sojourn, or follow the action virtually with daily photos and Sojourn updates on RTC's Facebook page.

    Sojourners at the Battleship New Jersey. Photo by Becky Chanis

 

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037
+1-202-331-9696