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December 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Trees for Trails! RTC Partnership Greens D.C. Rail-Trail

    On Saturday, December 11, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) teamed up with Casey Trees to plant 29 trees on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C. More than 50 volunteers braved chilly winter weather for the community tree-planting event, adorning the trail with a variety of species including Cherokee sweetgum, Kentucky yellowwood, Eastern Redbud, paperbark maple, crape myrtle, golden raintree and saucer magnolia. As the trees grow, they will provide a much-needed shade canopy along the trail, improve air quality, reduce storm water runoff and provide habitat for wildlife.

    The planting was part of RTC's Metropolitan Grants Program, funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation. Casey Trees, a D.C.-based organization that works to restore, enhance and protecting the tree canopy of the nation's capital, will continue to water and care for the trees with their innovative Water By-Cycle and High School Summer Crew programs. Casey Trees' new headquarters is located a few blocks from the Met Branch Trail route, making them a natural partner and trail steward. RTC is grateful to Casey Trees staff and Citizen Foresters and looks forward to planting fruit trees on the trail in Spring 2011.

    Interested in planting more trees along your trail? Check with your state's Urban Forestry Coordinator to learn more about available public resources and local nonprofits that can assist. Your local forester can also provide guidance on planting the right tree in the right place.

  • Cal Park Tunnel Opens to Great Fanfare in Marin County

    Last Friday, hundreds of cyclists and walkers celebrated the long-awaited opening of the Cal Park Tunnel in Marin County, Calif., with some even setting off fireworks to commemorate the occasion. All the work by the County of Marin, Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC) and others now pays off with a quick, smooth ride through the hill that separates San Rafael from the ferry terminal in Larkspur and southern Marin County. The shared-use path will share the tunnel with SMART commuter trains when they start running, though the path is walled off from the train in the tunnel and has its own ventilation system. The tunnel features lighting, video monitoring, cell phone reception, a fire suppression system and graffiti-resistant walls.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has advocated for opening both the Cal Park and Alto tunnels in Marin, and work on the Cal Park Tunnel led to the publication of  our Tunnels on Trails study in 2001.

    At the opening, speakers touted the shared-use path as the most important aspect of the SMART project, and supervisor Steve Kinsey quipped, "We don't have a high-speed rail, but we do have a high-speed trail... and a low-speed walking trail." You can take a virtual ride through the new tunnel and see it for yourself!

    The Cal Park Tunnel joins the recent opening of the Lincoln Hill Path north of San Rafael to complete two new links in the North South Greenway, a non-motorized transportation corridor through Marin County. The Lincoln Hill Path is sandwiched between the SMART train line and Highway 101and allows for an unbroken coast down the hill in an interesting urban canyon of hill cuts and sound walls. If you missed the Cal Park ribbon cutting, the Lincoln Hill Path ribbon cutting will be coming up in January 2011.

  • Montour Trail Council Partners with Natural Gas Company to Construct Rail-with-Trail

    The Montour Trail Council has successfully negotiated for a three-mile rail-with-trail near Pittsburgh to be built by MarkWest Energy Partners of Denver, Colo. MarkWest is transporting natural gas by rail and needs an additional three-mile section to connect the processing facility with an active mainline.

    A common concern expressed to RTC's Northeast Regional Office about the increase in gas drilling is the additional heavy truck traffic, making the roads less safe for bicyclists. Montour Trail Council’s negotiation with MarkWest may be unique, but it provides further proof that rails-with-trails are an ideal partnership that present an opportunity for communities faced with increased traffic and unsafe conditions.

    The Montour Trail Council also just announced a successful negotiation with another energy company, Range Resources, for a gas lease on more than 180 acres of land owned by the trail council. The council will create an endowment fund with the initial $511,000 payment on the lease. You can learn more about this arrangement in the latest edition of the Montour Trail-Letter.

    The Montour Trail Council stated they are aware of the many environmental and community concerns associated with drilling for natural gas, but they feel they have been diligent in protecting the interest of the trail.

  • An Intern(al) Review

    by Marshall Pearson

    When I was much younger, I would ride my bicycle everywhere. Nearly every day, I'd zip around Huntington Woods, Mich., on a little black BMX model, going to the community center, a friend's house, the pool, the library, or often just for a joyride. Back then, I felt like there was no place my bike couldn't take me.

    As I got older and moved away, I relied on a bicycle less and less. Riding in the street felt more dangerous. Going to the mall seemed impossible. I couldn't impress any girls with a bike, so it stayed in my garage.

    In college, however, my life changed yet again, and I found enough space for a bicycle. Going places on two wheels became both practical and enjoyable. I attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, for four years, and the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway (a rail-with-trail) allowed me to pedal to the farmers' market for groceries. I would use the path for late-night excursions with friends to the abandoned boxcars dormant along one section of the path, or cycle the 33-mile roundtrip to Nelsonville on a lazy Saturday. Frankly, I owe my relative sanity to that bicycle, both for the functional and exhilarating role it played in my life.

    Later, as I observed the larger context surrounding the bikeway and bicycle culture in Athens, I realized I wasn't the only person relying on it. Local residents living outside the city still had access to the trail, and many would use it to get to their jobs at local businesses or the university. Athens is squarely in the middle of Appalachia, and many of its citizens face poverty every day. Some residents cannot afford vehicles, but the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway helps them access jobs, food and other necessary services.

    Once I saw the broad effect a simple path could have on my community, I began to see my hobby in a different light. Not only was bicycle commuting possible in larger cities, but it was possible anywhere. I soon became interested in changing how cycling is viewed, and how it can be used in an entirely new model of sustainable transportation. That led me to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), where I have worked as a communications intern since early September.

    Working at RTC has taught me a great deal about how policy influences bicycling, but it has also shown me that the bicycle is only one part of the non-motorized future of transportation. I have learned that the thinking, as well as the infrastructure, of transportation must be re-evaluated and reformed in order to make walking and bicycling regular--and safe--options to get around.

    For even the shortest of trips, many Americans do not have an accessible route to walk, ride a bike or take public transportation. Massive amounts of federal, state and local funds are allocated to maintaining highways every year, but a vastly disproportionate amount is being set aside for alternative transportation.

    I believe we need a sea change in our perception of transportation. That is why RTC is important to me--it's an organization that understands the consequences of embracing what author Daniel Sperling refers to as a "car-centric monoculture." The people here work tirelessly to promote alternatives to automobiles and congested roadways. Whether they are negotiating trail-friendly policies with politicians or in the courts, or working with local entities to bring rail-trails to fruition, the employees of RTC are endeavoring to change the public view of the trails, walking and bicycling movement.

    I don't have that black BMX model anymore, but I have thankfully rediscovered the joy I first felt when riding it. For me, biking will always be far more than just a hobby. The more I learn about cycling's vibrant culture, the more I realize its potential. A bicycle can't take you everywhere, but I hope our country learns to give cycling, as well as other non-motorized options, a chance to grow.

    Photo of Marshall Pearson courtesy of Marshall Pearson; photo of Hockhocking Adena Bikeway through Ohio University's campus by Will Elder. 

  • Join Florida's Pinellas Trail this Saturday for its 20th Anniversary Celebration

    Come celebrate the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail's 20th anniversary this Saturday, December 4! Everyone is invited to come get on the trail and enjoy walking, jogging, skating and bicycling from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. There will be a ceremony at John Taylor Park in Largo beginning at 10 a.m. and concluding with a ribbon cutting at the end of the ceremony.

    Also on Saturday, family, friends and co-workers are invited to join Bob Evans for a Community Fun Day at any of the five Bob Evans Restaurants in Pinellas County. With mention that you are celebrating "Pinellas Trail Day," 15 percent of the total bill will be contributed to Pinellas Trail, Inc.

    The following Bob Evans restaurants are participating to raise money for this great cause:

    • South St. Petersburg, 4900 34th Street South, St. Petersburg - 727.866.1166
    • Pinellas Park, 7550 US Highway 19 North, Pinellas Park - 727.541.3336
    • Country Side, 29335 US Highway 19 North, Clearwater - 727.787.3359
    • Tyrone, 2410 66th Street North, St. Petersburg - 727.347.4545
    • Ulmerton Road, 3335 Ulmerton Rd. Clearwater - 727.573.2929

    Pinellas Trails, Inc. (PTI) is a 501(c)(3) organization that has successfully promoted the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail through a public/private partnership for more than two decades. PTI is hosting this celebration event and raises private funds for the amenities and additional landscaping along the trail. In addition, PTI supports the volunteer Auxiliary Ranger program for the trail. In 2000, Fred E. Marquis--the former county administrator and trail advocate who supported the trail's creation-- was honored with the "renaming of the trail." Mr. Marquis has volunteered as an Auxiliary Ranger. Interested in volunteering, too? You can - sign up anytime!

    Photo by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


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