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October 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • RTC Celebrates TIGER II Grant in California

    Laura Cohen celebrates TIGER II grant in California
    Laura Cohen, Director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Regional Office, appeared with U.S. Congressmen John Garamendi (back left) and George Miller in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday at a press conference to celebrate the $10.2-million TIGER II grant awarded by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to the East Bay Regional Park District for their Green Transportation Initiative.

    The funds will be used to help complete the nearly 200-mile regional bicycle and pedestrian paved trail system--including the Iron Horse Regional Trail and Easy Bay Greenway--creating jobs and connecting communities, schools, employment centers and transit. The trail system is an important feature in "Active Alameda:– Kids, Commuters & Community," a community case statement for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Campaign for Active Transportation.

    Read more about the recently announced TIGER II grant recipients around the country

    Photo by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • A Climate Ride to Remember

    by Milo BatemanMilo Bateman on Climate Ride

    From the moment I first learned about Brita Climate Ride California--a 320-mile bicycle trek from Eureka to San Francisco--I knew I had to do it. Not just because of the mission and the great beneficiaries, including Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), but because the ride presented a challenge and journey I'd wanted to experience for a long time. I'd never been to California, and Climate Ride had to be one of the most extraordinary ways to explore the state. So I eagerly volunteered to fly across the country to lead Team RTC and help raise awareness for bicycling as sustainable transportation.

    The trip began on September 21 at a lodge in Fortuna, Calif., along the Eel River. About 120 of us had signed on for the ride. Many, like me, had come from distant corners of the country. We started out cycling south along Highway 101 until coming to my favorite part of the ride, "The Avenue of the Redwoods." As you enter the forest, an immense, clean, oxygenated pine smell overwhelms your senses. I felt like I was walking in the footsteps of dinosaurs, surrounded by large ferns and pads of moss you could nap on. Experiencing these ancient forests firsthand was an important part of understanding why we should be protecting them.

    Continuing on through the wooded hills, we eventually emerged into a clearing where you could smell the ocean--and soon we noticed whales traveling by, spouting in the distant waters. The next couple days we labored up and down hills along Highway 1 with a panoramic view of the Pacific coastline. As we approached San Francisco, we rode through wine country and eventually across the great Golden Gate Bridge to finish in the city, 320 miles under our belts!    

    As RTC's representative on the ride, I had a great time talking with and getting to know the other riders. Some were happy to see a face from RTC, and others were curious to know more about our work.

    I want to say thank you to everyone who rode in Climate Ride California for their fundraising efforts and inspiration for this ride. Also, a particular thank you to the riders of Team RTC. Being a part of such a well-organized ride and advocating for active transportation through one of the prettiest parts of the country was an adventure I'll never forget.    

    Photo by Milo Bateman/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • Trail Voices: Drew Snodgrass

    Snodgrass on the Met Branch Trail.by Marshall Pearson

    Up to four times each week, second-grade teacher Drew Snodgrass can be seen pedaling his vintage red Schwinn road bike along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, enjoying the early morning solitude before the forthcoming deluge of classroom activity. Joggers training for a marathon and other commuters punctuate the landscape, and Snodgrass has even witnessed the talents of muralists as they covered an adjacent wall with silhouettes of cyclists. He says the subdued activity on the trail has had a calming effect and makes it easier to teach throughout the day.

    Snodgrass recently moved to Washington, D.C., to teach at DC Preparatory Academy, a public charter school. He has been a bicycle enthusiast since his days living in Chicago before attending Illinois Wesleyan University. In a metropolitan area where traffic is congested and car parking is scarce, Snodgrass found himself biking from classes to his job on almost a daily basis, depending on weather conditions. A move to the northwestern corner of Mississippi as a Teach for America corps member position saw his riding transition mostly to trail activity, and cycling was no longer a viable commuting option. However, Snodgrass moved to Washington sans automobile and, once again, he turned to his bicycle as a primary mode of transportation.

    After discovering the eight-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail, or Met Branch, on Google Maps (which uses trail data from RTC's online trailfinder, Traillink.com, to formulate bicycling directions) and hearing about the trail from co-workers planning to start a girl's running club, he began utilizing the new path and has integrated it into his daily life.

    "I don't own a car, but even if I did, I think biking on the Met Branch Trail is a quicker and easier way to make the commute," he says. "It's such a nice and convenient route between my house in Capitol Hill and my school in Edgewood. There's no direct street route connecting those neighborhoods, but the trail goes straight from M Street Northeast and drops me [right] at the backdoor of my school-and it's a relatively flat and easygoing ride."

    Snodgrass merges with the trail near M Street, less than a mile from his home in the Capitol Hill area, and exits near Edgewood Street and the DC Preparatory Academy. All told, the journey takes approximately 20 minutes.

    "Sometimes I catch a ride with a co-worker, and by the time we fight traffic, find parking and walk from the parking lot to the school, I could have saved 10 minutes by biking," he says.

    Even though Snodgrass tethers his Schwinn to the school's chain link fence before the start of the school day, he allows his renewed hobby to follow him into the classroom. In fact, he recently created an assignment based on The Important Book, written by children's author Margaret Wise Brown. For the task, his second graders wrote a short story about an object of their choice. While his students may have selected an action figure or stuffed animal for their tale, Snodgrass chose his bicycle (you can listen to his story below).

    This teacher's active commuting and lifestyle has significantly increased his passion for cycling as a recreational activity--and everyone at DC Prep has taken notice. After all, his students know him as the teacher who rides his bike to school.

    Drew Snodgrass - My Bicycle by railstotrails


    Photos by Stephen Miller/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

    Note: This post has been edited from its original version. Drew Snodgrass moved to Mississippi, not Alabama, as was previously written.  

  • Join RTC at Walk & Roll Louisiana 2010

    Join Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) for Walk & Roll Louisiana 2010, a free, one-day summit on walking and biking sponsored by the KidsWalk Coalition.

    REGISTER TODAY - IT'S FREE!

    The summit-the first of its kind in Louisiana-will feature free helmets and bicycle safety trainings for kids, keynote speakers, workshops on ways to improve community streets, and panels on recent progress at the local and state levels on making our streets safer for all users.

    In addition, RTC staff will be presenting the results of the community volunteer walk/bike audit of neighborhoods surrounding the planned Lafitte Corridor Greenway in New Orleans.

    Register today to join the movement for safer streets, enjoy a free lunch, and get a chance to win a bicycle and other prizes by visiting the summit website or calling 504.988.7778.

  • Join RTC at the National Trails Symposium in Chattanooga

    Join Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) for the 20th National Trails Symposium, hosted in Chattanooga, Tenn., November 14-17, 2010. Hosted by our friends at American Trails, the Symposium is the largest gathering of trail enthusiasts and professionals in the country. American Trails champions the development and care of all trails (including rail-trails!) by fostering cooperation and communication among trail builders, planners, advocates and users.

    REGISTER TODAY!

    The National Trails Symposium is an excellent opportunity for those in the trails community to learn best practices, share experiences and network with others from across the country. Several RTC staff will be providing educational sessions and workshops on topics including rail-with-trail, trail safety and patrols, trail counts and economic development, and urban trail programming. In addition to these events, the Symposium provides you with the opportunity to:

    • Learn the latest information available in trail construction, trail projects, new trail products, and new technologies to incorporate into trail use;
    • Have an adventure on one of the Mobile Workshops showcasing the Chattanooga area;
    • Enroll in one of the Featured Workshops to receive training in a variety of issues;
    • Explore the nationally known Exhibit Hall featuring the Indoor Trails and Greenways System;
    • Mingle with other trail enthusiasts at the Trails Rock Party at the Hunter Museum of American Art.

    Keynote speakers are Dayton Duncan, co-writer and co-producer of the documentary National Parks: America's Best Idea, and Chris Balish, author of How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Out of Life. They will address the Symposium's theme, "Trails: The Green Way For America."

    We hope to see you in Chattanooga!

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Polk County, Iowa

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about September 29, 2010, Norfolk Southern Railway Company filed for the abandonment of 1.7 miles of track Grimes, Polk County, Iowa. 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-290 (sub-no. 322x). 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 October 29, 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 National Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Pulaski County, Arkansas

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about October 1, 2010, Union Pacific Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of these corridors within Pulaski County, Arkansas:

    • 0.32 miles of track in downtown North Little Rock (STB docket number AB-33 sub-no. 290x)
    • 4.04 miles of track that starts near Levy and ends near Camp Robinson (STB docket number AB-33 sub-no 289x)

    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(s) listed above. 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 October 29, 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 North Little Rock and complete filing for Levy to Camp Robinson. 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 National Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Wiki What? Bike and Pedestrian Resources, from New York to California

    In an effort to solicit input on its Long Range Transportation Plan, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Non-Motorized Program has launched its Bike/Ped Wiki. This website allows users to upload, comment on and modify plans that could be included in the final plan from SCAG. With a goal of getting the planning process out from behind closed doors and serving as a long-term collaboration tool, this wiki serves a different purpose than most other wikis, which are collaboratively edited online encyclopedias. While Wikipedia is the most famous online encyclopedia, the active transportation world has StreetsWiki, which grew out of the efforts of New York-based Streetsblog.

    If you are involved with active transportation in Southern California, we encourage you to sign up and get involved--the future of bicycle and pedestrian access depends on your vision.

    Photo: Chandler Bikeway by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Do You Count?

    A couple weeks ago I was able to participate in the city of San Jose annual trail count on the Guadalupe River Trail and found it an amazingly simple process to gather critical information for trail planning and funding needs. Trail counts and surveys help the active transportation movement show both the need for trails and the many benefits that come from increased use. Look for a trail count going on with an advocacy group or city near you to help out! Resources for starting a trail count or survey are readily available on RTC's User Surveys page and Alta Planning and Design's National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project site.

    The city of San Jose has completed trail counts for four years running and has been able to document increased usage as the trail network has expanded. Data collected with the count and past surveys have supported grant writing efforts, realigned a special events venue to minimize trail impacts, and influenced the view of trails as a key component of the General Plan’s transportation element. A fact sheet about this year’s count is available on the city's website.

    Photo by Steve Schweigerdt/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • Connection Made! Moffett Field Bay Trail Opens

    The San Francisco Bay Tail has just opened an exciting new 2.4-mile trail section along Moffett Field that finally links 26 miles of trails together along the South Bay. The segment connects Sunnyvale to Mountain View along a levee with unobstructed views of San Francisco Bay. The trail is part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, which aims to restore salt ponds to tidal marsh and required many agencies to work together for many years to make the project a reality.

    The new trail section features benches, interpretive signs and viewing scopes for wildlife. “While the ponds adjacent to the trail are not yet restored, they are being managed to provide much improved wildlife habitat for a variety of avian and aquatic species,” says Marge Kolar, regional chief of refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

    This gap closure gets the Bay Trail one step closer to its goal of encircling the Bay with a continuous 500-mile network of bicycle and hiking trails. To date, 310 miles of trail segments have been completed, but there are still many holes. The dedicated team at the Bay Trail are working hard to close these gaps; grant proposals through Prop 84 are currently available that could help extend this large completed section south to San Jose’s network and north toward Redwood City.

    Photo of newly connected Bay Trail segments by Laura Thompson.

  • Volunteers Create Teaching Garden Along D.C. Rail-Trail

    On Saturday, the District of Columbia Building Industry Association hosted its 18th annual Community Improvement Day on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. More than 450 volunteers pitched in to help create a landscaped area along the trail through the Edgewood neighborhood. The new community amenities include a teaching garden, soft surface walking path, edible plants and a sitting area. WTTG-TV was there to document the day's events; you can view the video embedded above.

  • Take Action: Design Change Needed for Pathway in Grand Teton National Park

    Friends of Pathways is looking for your help in asking the National Park Service to change the alignment for a planned trail from the Gros Ventre River to Moose in Grand Teton National Park. The park has more than $4 million in federal funds approved by Congress and secured in part by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso to construct the trail. The current alignment is unnecessarily close to the busy, high-speed U.S. Highway 26/89. Friends of Pathways is asking Grand Teton National Park to shift the pathway's alignment approximately 50 feet away from the roadway.

    SIGN THE PETITION NOW

    The Record of Decision (ROD) for this pathway states that it would be "constructed outside the highway corridor," which falls 30 feet from the edge of this highway. The park has planned the path within this zone and should shift the route so it complies with the ROD. It is important for the park to work with Jackson Hole, a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community, and within the pathway standards of Teton County. The county's path south of the Gros Ventre, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is 60 feet or more from the road where feasible.

    Changing the design this modest distance is not a huge burden. Claims that it would take another year are unsubstantiated. The long-term benefits of building a user-friendly pathway greatly outweigh the small immediate costs of moving the trail alignment farther from the highway. Sign the petition now to let NPS know that you support a better pathway.

    Photo by Friends of Pathways.

  • Join RTC on Thursday at the New England Bike-Walk Summit

    The first-ever New England Bike-Walk Summit is being held in downtown Providence, R.I., on Thursday, October 7. A gathering of agency personnel, grassroots activists and private sector professionals, this conference includes sessions on a wide variety of topics, from the economic development potential of biking and walking to a legislation roundtable. The summit even includes an afternoon field visit to the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, which serves immigrant communities in Providence's Olneyville neighborhood.

    RTC staff will be on panels to discuss our Urban Pathways Initiative and the rail-with-trail concept. On Facebook, you can join the group and RSVP to the event -- but don't forget to register. We look forward to seeing you there!

    Photo of Blackstone River Bikeway by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Marin County Recognized by U.S. Department of Transportation

    Established in 2005 as part of the federal transportation bill, the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) allocated $25 million to each of four pilot communities: Marin County, Calif.; Minneapolis, Minn., Columbia, Mo.; and Sheboygan County, Wis. The program was designed to help these communities complete active transportation systems, thereby shifting substantial numbers of trips from driving to walking and bicycling. Five years in, the program has already yielded huge results, and Marin County was just awarded the 2010 Exemplary Human Environment Initiatives (EHEI) award by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

    Marin County's flagship initiative through the NTPP is WalkBikeMarin, which aims to make Marin more healthy, livable and environmentally sustainable by encouraging walking and bicycling as everyday transportation options. The EHEI award in the Education and Training Programs category honored WalkBikeMarin for "using a range of education and encouragement activities to promote walking and bicycling." 

    "This award highlights Marin County's success at maximizing the synergy between infrastructure investment and education in implementing the NTPP program to accomplish a shift from auto transportation to walking and biking," says Marianne Fowler, senior vice president of federal relations for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC).

    EHEI awards recognize outstanding examples of transportation projects that either create or improve conditions for human activities while protecting the natural environment. Ten projects received EHEI recognition nationwide.

    You can find detailed updates and fact sheets on NTPP accomplishments in all four communities at RTC's website. 

 

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