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July 2011 - RTC TrailBlog

  • South Dakota Surprise

    by Kartik Sribarra 

    After riding the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, the Route of the Hiawatha, the Great Allegheny Passage and other stunning rail-trails, I thought I'd ridden the best of the best. I've never heard of a disappointing rail-trail, but some just tend to stand out. No other trail could even approach the beauty I'd seen on some of these jewels, I thought.

    Then, a few weeks ago, I rode the George S. Mickelson Trail in South Dakota with some Rails-to-Trails Conservancy staff and partners.

    In one word: wow.

    You want another? WOW.

    Heading south from the trail terminus, mile marker 109 in Deadwood (yep, that Deadwood), the trail surpassed even my tall expectations of riding South Dakota's famed Black Hills. The on-again, off-again showers and steady incline throughout most of the first day--both endemic of the section we rode from Deadwood to Hill City--couldn't put a damper on the heart-lifting experience delivered by thick Ponderosa pine stands and rolling landscapes.

    From Hill City, the landscape opened to sweeping fields, jagged rock formations, white-tailed deer and a bison calf zigzagging across the field, dancing away the gorgeous day just as were we. Riding along at a cyclists' pace, with the scent of pure, open air, I found myself envisioning settlers on horseback, Native Americans on the open plains, and bison as far as the eye could see. A bit overly romantic, perhaps, but such was the magic (fueled by a visit to the Crazy Horse Monument, mere steps off the trail).

    We were warned that the canyons and views at the southern end would blow our minds. Not having learned my lesson, I again assumed I'd seen the best and was somewhat dismissive of the cautionary words. As we rounded the bend to Sheep's Canyon outside of Edgemont, silence overcame the group as we all slowly pulled over and gazed; anywhere our eyes fell carried some secret waiting to be discovered. Though we did not spot any of the bobcat, elk or golden eagles said to make their homes in this area, the natural palette of wildflowers did not fail to impress.

    Maybe after three days spent on what is without a doubt the most amazing rail-trail anywhere on earth, I've learned that, no matter how memorable an experience, there's another one waiting just around the bend!

    Photos of the Mickelson Trail by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • South Carolina Rail-Trail a Model of Multi-Modal Planning


    Beaufort County on the South Carolina coast is being heralded by national transportation planners for its project to develop a 13.6-mile multi-use rail-trail that would connect with a new local public transportation system.

    According to the county's recently launched rail-trail project website, the pathway would run from Ribaut Road in Port Royal to the Whale Branch River, and could eventually expand into a 20-mile recreational trail. County officials have expressed their hope that the trail, to be built along a section of the unused Port Royal Railroad, will become "a successful regional draw, local recreational amenity and economic-development tool."

    Last year, a presentation on Beaufort County's rail-trail plan caught the attention of the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), which had earlier awarded the South Carolina Department of Transportation a $3.1 million grant to help Beaufort develop a bus service. The trail would connect to the bus system, where riders could then travel with their bikes throughout the area.

    With the FTA grant and local matches, Beaufort County has raised about $4 million. Last month, organizers applied to the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program for $1.6 million to construct a 4.6-mile section of the trail.

    One of the trail's strongest selling points, and the reason it is being applauded by transportation planners, is that it would reduce the need for future investments in public infrastructure. In its grant application, officials point to a projection that by 2025 the regional arterial, U.S. 21, will need to be widened to six lanes in the Port Royal area to accommodate projected growth, at a cost of about $40 million.

    Beaufort County is using the new rail-trail project website to encourage community involvement in the process. A public workshop will be held in September to develop a Beaufort Rail Trail Master Plan, addressing such issues as trail width, paving material, trailheads, connecting pathways and how the trail integrates with the surrounding neighborhoods, businesses, schools, shops and parks.

    Photo: undeveloped Port Royal Railroad corridor, courtesy of Beaufort County. 

  • In Washington State, Anacortes Eager to Build Upon Success of Coastal Trail

    When it was completed in 2005, the Tommy Thompson Trail became an instant favorite of the residents of Anacortes, Wash., and the tens of thousands of visitors to the city each year.

    It's not hard to see why. Connecting the marina in downtown Anacortes with a stunning trestle over the sparkling waters of Fidalgo Bay, this rail-trail is much-loved by locals and tourists alike for its expansive views across the water to Mount Baker and the North Cascades.

    Now, the success of the Tommy Thompson has spurred local trail supporters to envision even bigger and better things.

    The Anacortes Parks Foundation recently launched a plan to build a new trail along the waterfront--a project they are calling "Complete the Dream." That dream is to effectively extend the Tommy Thompson along the north shore of Fidalgo Island, on which Anacortes sits, bringing to fruition a long-held vision of an island connected by a perimeter trail.

    The trail would follow a three-mile section of an out-of-service Burlington Northern railbed along the channel shoreline, linking downtown Anacortes and Washington Park. The transportation benefits and scenic attraction of a shoreline multi-use path from Washington Park and the busy Washington State Ferry terminal to the heart of Anacortes is sure to provide both a quality of life and a commercial benefit to residents and businesspeople.

    The new trail could even top the visual splendor of its older sibling--the north shore of Fidalgo Island looks out across Rosario Strait to the idyllic San Juan Islands, and the setting sun to the west.

    "It will give Anacortes residents peaceful and scenic access along the waterfront with views up the Bellingham Channel and to the Guemes and Cypress Islands," said Michele Pope of the Anacortes Parks Foundation. "It will bring economic vitality to both the ferry terminal and the downtown. By converting this significant trail segment, Anacortes will continue to gain respect for the care its citizens take in improving the quality of life on this beautiful island."

    The Anacortes Parks Foundation is currently working with the city of Anacortes and private individuals and organizations on fundraising and initial planning.

    Photo courtesy of Michele Pope/Anacortes Parks Foundation.

  • After Flood Damage, Communities Rally Around Island Line Rail Trail in Vermont


    There are few sections of rail-trail more remarkable than the 3.5-mile causeway that arcs across Lake Champlain along the Island Line Rail Trail in Vermont. Every year, thousands of riders and hikers cross the narrow bridge of mottled marble and rock built by the Rutland Railroad at the beginning of the 20th century. Out in the middle of the lake, warblers and kingfishers flit past, the lake trout and walleye stir. To the east, the Green Mountains; to the west, the Adirondacks.

    But just as this famous rail-trail is made all the more spectacular by its precarious setting, so too is it exposed to the same raw natural elements that make it such a popular destination.

    Earlier this year, heavy snowfall followed by record rainfall caused flooding along the shores of Lake Champlain, damaging homes and businesses and sparking requests for emergency aid relief for nearby farmers and property owners. The lake rose to its highest point in history, 103.2 feet--seven feet higher than the average summertime lake level, with the swollen waters lapping at the elevated trail.

    Five- and six-foot waves crashed over the pathway in some places, washing away not only the trail's surface but also the rocks and fill that cover the marble slabs and form the surface of the causeway. When the waters receded, the causeway remained strong, but most of the trail surface was gone.

    Yet locals love their Island Line and are wasting no time in repairing this treasured regional asset, which, as one of the most popular outdoor recreation facilities in Vermont, brings in millions of dollars each year to the local economy.

    Local Motion, a Burlington-based nonprofit, has for the past decade operated a bike ferry service across a narrow cut in the middle of the causeway to allow trail users to pass between Colchester and South Hero. In the aftermath of the floods, Local Motion is one of a group of trail supporters that have come together to form "Friends of the Island Line Trail," charged with getting the trail back into full operation.

    "Flooding like that was unprecedented," says Brian Costello, who coordinates the bike ferry across the 200-foot gap that severed the causeway when the railroad swing bridge was removed in the 1960s. "We had the third snowiest winter on record, followed by the rainiest spring on record. The rainfall in April and May was 100 percent above the average--it was just 'biblical.'"

    For Local Motion, the damage to the trail was a bitter pill to swallow. For the past three years, the nonprofit had been raising money for a bigger boat and floating wave attenuators to allow trail users to cross the cut daily throughout the season. Costello says that with their old six-seat passenger pontoon boat, and no protection from the frequent high wind and waves, Local Motion had limited their service to just eight weekends a year. A more regular ferry crossing service would allow up to 25,000 riders and hikers to complete the full 12-mile Island Line each year, up from about 7,000 currently, a massive boost to the local tourism and service industries.

    But with all resources focused on rebuilding the trail, the group's plans have been swept aside for now.

    There are two options in rebuilding the trail. One is to replace the fill between the marble boulders and reform the trail surface. The other option, both more expensive and more time-consuming, is to rebuild the surface and reposition the enormous marble foundation slabs so as to protect the causeway and the trail against future flood damage. This effort would require money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) pre-disaster mitigation fund--a proactive measure to mitigate flood damage in this time of changing rainfall patterns.

    "We just don't know if this just a one-time event, or whether we are looking at the new normal," Costello says.

    The call on how the trail will be repaired now rests with FEMA, which has not yet determined a timetable or final cost estimate. And it's a pretty big ballpark--Costello estimates anywhere between $1 million and $6 million. If FEMA opts to fund the quicker fix, the trail should be re-opened by next spring. If FEMA supports a plan for more substantial repairs, the Island Line may not fully re-open for all of 2012.

    "Frustrating," is how Costello describes the situation. "I just wish we could go out there with shovels and the donated heavy machinery and start getting it done."

    But until engineers' plans have been completed, Friends of the Island Rail Trail will continue to build strong local support for the repairs, and raise some money for reconstruction. After all, to secure FEMA's financial contribution, the local communities must come up with 25 percent of the money themselves. With cities and towns already feeling the economic pinch, much of that burden will be carried by local businesses and individuals--the people who use, love and rely on the trail.

    Between now and September, South Hero, Charlotte and Burlington will host a number of fundraisers, as trail users and recreation and tourism-related businesspeople rally around the rail-trail. "The response has been more positive than we could have ever expected," Costello says.

    While parts of the Island Line remain closed, significant sections are still open to the public. Local Motion is working proactively to maintain trail activity, steering residents and visitors around closed sections and toward the many other multi-use trails in the region.

    For information on how you can help rebuild the Island Line Rail Trail, or for the most up-to-date news on open trail sections, visit www.localmotion.org. And to discover other trails in the Burlington and South Hero region, and right across Vermont, visit www.traillink.com.

    Photos: Island Line prior to flood damage, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; images of flood damage courtesy of Local Motion. 

     

     

  • With Railbanking, Tweetsie Line Trail Project Steams Ahead

    By Lindsay Martin

    When I started at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 2009, one of the first Early Warning System notices I sent out was for a 10-mile corridor The Swamp Rabbit Trail in South Carolina between Johnson City and Elizabethton in Tennessee. So I was especially thrilled when the city of Johnson City and East Tennessee Railway reached a railbanking agreement for the corridor, locally known as the Tweetsie Line. The nickname "Tweetsie" dates back to the early railroading days, referring to the sound of the trains' steam whistles.

    Local officials view this rail-trail project as an enhancement to the area's tourism industry. In a recent news article, Johnson City Commissioner Jane Myron said, "I think [the trail project] is a great tourism piece...an economic development piece."

    What's also exciting about this news is that the Tweetsie corridor is poised to be Tennessee's first rail-trail built on a railbanked corridor. Railbanking allows railroad companies and a trail management agency to preserve an out-of-service railroad corridor for potential future reactivation through interim use as a trail. There are currently rail-trails built on railbanked corridors in about 35 states, including the Katy Trail (Texas), the Flint Hills Nature Trail (Kansas), the El Dorado Trail (California) and the Carolina Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail (South Carolina).

    Additionally, there are trail projects planned on railbanked corridors in at least three other states--and with this recent news about the Tweetsie Line, Tennessee makes four.

    Photo of Carolina Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail from TrailLink.com.

  • As Far as You Want to Go Along the C&O

    I had been meaning to check out the C&O Canal towpath ever since I moved to Washington, D.C., a few months ago. The C&O (officially known as the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park) is a bit of a treasured icon in these parts, and all my biking and hiking buddies had their own favorite C&O story to tell.

     

    Starting out in historic Georgetown, the C&O Canal towpath follows the, you guessed it, C&O Canal, as well as the Potomac River, hugging these two waterways for 184 miles to the northwest.

    So starting out in Columbia Heights in the District's northeast, I began my bike ride by heading south on the Rock Creek Park Trail, which hooks up with the C&O while avoiding all that city traffic.

    I didn't set off until about 2:30 in the afternoon, and so only had three or four hours of daylight for the ride. But I soon realized that one of the great things about the C&O is that, no matter how far you are able to go, there is something for everyone.

    In just a short ride of a few miles, there is the wonderful scenery of Georgetown and the locks, and the original lockhouses from the 1800s that are now available for nightly rentals. Cyclists, walkers and runners can choose between a dirt or paved trail, both of which are flat and true. While the persistent green algae doesn't do much for the appeal of the canal on your right, on your left the Potomac grows wilder with every passing mile away from the city.

    If you're just looking for a short mission of a few miles, it is hard to beat.

    But for those looking to stretch out a little farther, the C&O offers one of the best long distance rides in the region. If you have the time, the C&O will take you all the way through the West Virginian panhandle before terminating in Cumberland, Md., where it connects to the 135-mile Great Allegheny Passage.

    Along the way there are plenty of beautiful spots to stop for a dip and a shady picnic, including Great Falls Park and Harpers Ferry.

    Matter of fact, that's exactly what I've got planned for this weekend. Those first few miles of the C&O made me keen to check out what's farther up the trail.

    Click on the photo at right for a slideshow I put together of my pics along the Rock Creek and C&O Canal trails.

    Photos by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

     

  • Rail-Trail News from New Zealand

    A few days ago, we wrote about a few new rail-trail projects coming together in Australia. Today, we turn our gaze to New Zealand, where rail-trails are increasingly popular--and, as planners are discovering, hugely beneficial for local economies!

    A survey into the economic benefits of the Otago Central Rail Trail has shown it brings NZ$12.2 million into the local economy every year, up $5 million from 2009. The survey, commissioned by the Central Otago District Council, showed 40 percent more people, about 4,000, were using the trail, they were spending more while traveling on it, and more people were being employed because of it.

    According to The Southland Times, people were spending an average of $582 while exploring the 150-kilometer trail, compared with $472 in 2009, and 25 more people were employed to work on or along the corridor. Opened in 2000, the Otago Central Rail Trail has created a new gold rush in the mostly abandoned towns and stations along its length, and the trail has become one of the most important parts of Central Otago's economy.

    In fact, according to a story in The Nelson Mail, the Otago Central Rail Trail is the one success story that every trail group in the country is turning to for tips. 

    On the northern reaches of New Zealand's south island, the Nelson Tasman Cycle Trails Trust is exploring ways to build and market two rail-trail rides in the region. Organizers hope will bring much-needed tourism revenue to the area. And Nelson Tasman Cycle Trails Trust Executive Officer Fiona Newey sees the Otago Central Rail Trail as a blueprint for what is possible in terms of tourism and economic development, from envisioning a trail-map iPhone app, cyclists cruising local vineyards and cafes, screened bird-nesting areas, boardwalks and visitors plucking fruit from a new trailside edible orchard.

    The government allocated the region $2.6 million in July 2010, which included funding to upgrade the Dun Mountain Trail and to take the Tasman Loop trail from Richmond to Mapua by July 2012, and from Richmond to Wakefield by January 2012. The Trust is working to raise roughly $4 million to build the rest of system.

    Photos of the Otago Central Rail Trail courtesy of the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust.  

  • TE Grant Kicks Off Rail-with-Trail Project in Washington State

    Construction is now under way on the first segment of the 33-mile Chelatchie Prairie Rail with Trail, just east of the city of Battle Ground in southern Washington.

    The initial one-mile segment will run from the entrance road inside Battle Ground Lake State Park southwest along the county-owned railroad tracks to Washington State Department of Natural Resources land. The new trail will be 10-feet wide and paved.

    In April the Board of Clark County Commissioners awarded a $406,800 contract to a local construction firm for clearing, excavation and grading, concrete and asphalt paving, erosion control, signing, landscaping and other work. When that work is completed, local equestrian and hiking groups plan to use volunteers to build an adjacent soft surface trail. It is hoped the trail will open to the public later this year.

    The total cost of this first segment, including design, land, construction and inspection, is $728,600, more than half of which was provided by a grant from the federal Transportation Enhancements program.

    Clark County originally planned to build a 2.8-mile trail, connecting Battle Ground Lake State Park with Fairgrounds Park in Battle Ground. However, wetlands, steep slopes and sensitive wildlife habitat made that project more expensive than originally estimated, so it has been scaled back to stay within the original budget. County officials will continue to apply for grants, pursue partnerships and explore ways to build future sections of the entire 33-mile trail.

    The Chelatchie Prairie Rail with Trail Corridor Study was approved by the county in 2008 after extensive public input. The planned trail will improve pedestrian safety and enhance recreation.

    The start of work on the Chelatchie Prairie Trail is the latest in a series of good news for trail users and advocates in the region.

    ∙ The 2010 Clark County Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail Use Snapshot showed that overall bicycle and pedestrian usage of area trails continues to increase.

    ∙ Late last year Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation partnered with health insurer Kaiser Permanente and local public land managers to publish a free trails map. It is hoped the map, which is available at community locations all throughout Clark County, will improve access to, and awareness of, local trails in the area.

    ∙ It was recently announced that the city of Vancouver, Wash., will host the 2012 Washington State Trails Coalition Conference, an interactive forum centering on protecting, promoting and enhancing a statewide system of trails.

    For more information on trails activity in Clark County, contact Regional Trail Planner Lisa Goorjian at Lisa.Goorjian@cityofvancouver.us.  

    Photo: The Chelatchie Prairie Trail isn't open yet, but trail activity in the Vancouver area is booming; courtesy of Lisa Goorijian. 

  • Dominion Trail Mix a Melting Pot Party for All in Virginia

    The great thing about community trails is they are all things to different people. The functions they serve range from fitness facility to gathering place to commuter pathway.

    So diverse are its purposes that typically a community event or celebration of a trail will focus on one particular use or group, but miss out on inviting several others to the party.

    Which is why we love what folks are planning on the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park (W&OD) Trail this fall.

    On Saturday, September 3, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and Dominion Virginia Power will come together to host “Dominion Trail Mix,” a unique trail celebration that runs the whole gamut of community involvement, from a bike, run and walk event, to a community clean-up, to live music and entertainment.

    The purpose of the one-day festival is to demonstrate how this much-loved asset encompasses many themes of active lifestyles, recreation, the environment and community.

    The 44-mile W&OD Trail links rural Virignia with downtown Arlington, just a few miles west of Washington, D.C.

    A spectacular event like this doesn’t come cheap–at a cost of $300,000, Dominion Trail Mix was made possible by funding from Dominion Virginia Power’s philanthropic arm, and other corporate donations.

    The celebration is a part of Virginia’s First Lady Maureen McDonnell’s First Lady’s Initiatives Team Effort program, which recognizes community service in the areas of health and wellness, economic development and opportunities for military families and women.

    For more information, visit dominiontrailmix.com.

    Photo courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • Early Warning System: Oakland County, Michigan Corridor Up for Abandonment

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about July 1, 2011, Michigan Air-Line Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 5.45 miles of track in Oakland County, Michigan. The corridor runs westerly from Haggerty Road, ending just past N. Wixom Road. The filing states that the railroad wishes to "sell the right-of-way to an appropriate governmental entity for use as a recreational trail." 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-1053 (sub-no. 2X). 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 10, 2011. 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 Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

     

  • 2011 Sojourn Blazes New Trails in Southwest Pennsylvania

    The 2011 Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) Greenway Bike Sojourn, which is this week visiting towns and trails in the northern Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, is casting a spotlight on the enormous potential of trails tourism in the region stretching from Ebensburg to Apollo.

    250 riders from 24 states across America spent the past three days in Ebensburg, and are today riding the famous Ghost Town, Hoodlebug and West Penn trails on their way to Saltsburg. The ride will end on Sunday, with a ride from Indiana back to Ebensburg.

    But more than just wheels and tents, the Sojourn has brought with it an unprecedented focus on developing the northern Laurel Highlands as a trails destination, sparking the completion of several trail systems—closing gaps and increasing the trail connectivity needed to bring visitors from out of town and out of state, putting heads in beds in dozens of towns across the region.

    On Wednesday night, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Cindy Dunn used the Sojourn to announce the formation of the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway Alliance. The goal of this groundbreaking collaboration is to complete a continuous land- and water-based recreation system between the two centers, a trail that would bring many thousands of visitors through towns in Blair, Westmoreland, Indiana and Cambria counties each year.

    Dunn compared the vision of a Main Line Canal Greenway to the achievement of the canal and rail pioneers who built the Pennsylvania Main Line of Public Works in the 1830s, overcoming enormous geographical and political challenges.

    "The obstacles to overcome in realizing this vision of a recreational greenway are immense," she said. "And central to the successful effort of this alliance will be a group of volunteers committed to the community."

    Dunn was referring to the many active volunteer trails and park organizations which, through labor, fundraising and promotion, have done much to connect hundreds of miles of trails in the region. At the fore of this effort is RTC, which in laying the groundwork for this year's Sojourn was able to push forward work on the Cambria and Indiana Trail (CandI) around Nanty Glo and Vintondale, and several other trails in the region. The Sojourn took riders along the CandI, which although passable is not yet open to the public. It is an example of the connections that will need to be made if the Main Line Canal Greenway is to come to fruition.

    "We have advanced this Greenway because of your coming here, by bringing attention to what still needs to be done," Dunn told Sojourners at the Young Peoples Community Center in Ebensburg Wednesday. "The formation of this alliance is a new day, and means new hope for the Main Line Canal Greenway."

    "The Sojourn has bought a lot of attention to the area," says RTC's Tom Sexton, who in the past few months has overseen investments of more than $30,000 in five trails along the Sojourn route; with local matches, that figure reaches $60,000. "We have been able to complete a number of crucial missing sections and developed new trail networks to connect with the famous routes. In order to spread the benefit of trail tourism to towns throughout this area, places like Vintondale and Nanty-Glo and Blairsville, we need more than just out-and-back trails. We need trail networks, and loops, and places for people to stop along the way."

    Trail-user surveys conducted by RTC in 2009 found that more than 70,000 recreational users visited the Ghost Town Trail each year, representing annual expenditures of close to $1.7 million. Sexton says that with some coordination and promotion, trail tourism could transform Blair, Westmoreland, Indiana and Cambria counties into outdoors recreation destinations with a regular source of commercial activity that is both sustainable and lucrative.

    On Tuesday night, Mayor of Ebensburg Randy Datsko told participants and organizers that the Sojourn, and trails tourism, was critical to the commercial viability of small towns.

    "I was looking in the carpark outside, and saw number plates from at least 18 states," he said. "It is just phenomenal that you would find us here, in this little town in Pennsylvania. We are so glad to have you, and hope you come back again soon, to enjoy our trails, and enjoy our town."

    Datsko said he was eager to explore more opportunities for Ebensburg to capitalize on the boom in cycling and outdoor recreation that is spreading across America.

    "We are well-positioned, being at the eastern terminus of the fantastic Ghost Town Trail," he said. "I would love to see Ebensburg become a trail town. There is great potential for us to attract visitors as they enter and leave the Ghost Town, not to mention the tremendous asset the trail provides to all the locals who use it."

    For the photo slideshow from Tuesday, visit our flickr pages:
    Tuesday: Optional Day 1

    Photo by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • Florida County Continues to Pursue its Trails Future

    A major county in Florida is being heralded for a new study that not only outlines cost-effective strategies for building new trails and greenways, but also quantifies the environmental, economic and social benefits of such facilities.

    The Miami-Dade County Trail Design Guidelines and Benefits Study received an award of honor from the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (FLASLA) in the category of Planning and Analysis, following up on similar recognition in recent months by the American Planning Association (APA) Florida Gold Coast Section for best plan, report or study, and a national finalist in the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) professional design awards.

    The study was developed by prime consultant, AECOM, as a comprehensive reference for trail, greenway and linear park design and planning. Innovative urban trail guidelines were paired with in-depth analyses that provide direct environmental, economic and social benefits estimates. The study includes extensive research and analysis of best practices and successful comparable urban trails while providing extensive methodology to estimate direct benefits in order to prioritize limited resources.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Florida State Director Ken Bryan was part of the team that helped author the award-winning plan, using his extensive experience with rail-trail development to provide insight on how best to acquire rights-of-way and appropriate corridors for recreational pathways.

    One of the features of the study was its establishment of a methodology to analyze the benefits of trails such as vehicle trip reduction, increase in accessibility, reduction in pollution, effects on property values and job creation.

    "This recognition is a validation of our tireless efforts to provide quality trails and greenways throughout Miami-Dade County," says Miami-Dade Parks Director Jack Kardys.

    In recent years Miami-Dade has actively pursued its stated Greenways, Trails and Water Trails Vision, "for an interconnected system that provides transportation alternatives and reduces traffic congestion; creates new recreational opportunities; increases property values; protects natural resources; and encourages tourism and business development."

    A highlight of the regional trail system will be the developing Biscayne Everglades Trail, comprised of 49 miles of greenways and multi-purpose paths. It will be the only trail in the United States that connects two National Parks, and it also travels through local residential and commercial neighborhoods, increasing opportunities for tourists and residents alike. In coming years Miami-Dade County has also set itself the ambitious goal of establishing a 1- to 5-mile-wide corridor of conservation and recreation land along the county's western edge, buffering the Florida Everglades.

    Miami-Dade County's belief that a strong trails network is integral to the economic future of the region is a vision shared by many cities and counties across Florida, as evident by the growing opposition from Florida elected officials to Congressman John Mica's plan to eliminate dedicated federal funding for trails, bike paths and sidewalks.

    Download the report, and for more information about Miami-Dade County's vision for its trails future, visit www.miamidade.gov/parksmasterplan/trails.

    Artist rendering of Ludlam Trail courtesy of Miami-Dade County Park & Recreation Department.

  • Combing the Racks

    By Sun Kim

    I'm seeing more and more people biking around the city these days. With the increase in bike riders, it’s also clear to me that we need more bike racks. I don’t know when it’ll get to the level where we’ll need bicycle parking structures like those in The Netherlands. But in the meantime, I'm excited to see local communities providing some fun options for bicycle parking, along with the purely utilitarian varieties.


    The Know How Shop, a fabrication shop and design studio in Los Angeles, recently created a bike rack for Roanoke, Va. The rack is shaped like a comb with a “strand of hair” weaving in and out of it. Not only is this rack fun and sculptural, but it seems very practical for parking a bike. The bike fits between the “teeth” of the comb and can be locked onto parts of the “strand of hair.” As far as I'm concerned, I would ride my bike just to park it in the comb!

    In my own neighborhood, there are several examples of creative bike racks. The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District in Washington, D.C., held design competitions for artistic bike racks, and currently there are four of these on display in the area: Bike Here and Clip Art are pictured below, (Re)Cycle is made of old parking meters, and the latest, Exploration, is a series of circles representing four natural elements: mountains, the sun, the moon and water.

    I think the dual purpose of these racks, reflecting practicality and aesthetics, reinforces the sense that bicycling in the city can be useful and beautiful. And bicycling definitely can be both!

    Comb bike rack photo courtesy of The Know How Shop.
    Art bike rack photos courtesy of DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

 

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