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August 2011 - RTC TrailBlog

  • In Search of the Fountain of Youth Along Ohio's Little Miami Scenic Trail

    by Abbey Roy

    It started out as a Father's Day excursion. My brother Ben, The Amateur Jetsetter, was leaving on Father's Day morning for Morocco, with a layover in Paris for a few obligatory shots of the Eiffel Tower. The least I could do as the only remaining (nee) Stirgwolt sibling in the country was to offer some sort of consolation prize for the man who has put up with our shenanigans for the last quarter century, give or take.

    For my dad, though--and me, too--our Little Miami Scenic Trail bike trip would be more than mere consolation. It promised to evolve into a belated coming-of-age tale; an exclusive chance to experience our beloved Buckeye State in a way we never had--on two wheels.

    The logistics as initially planned were daunting for two amateur cycling enthusiasts without the hours to devote to training: two days, 70 miles apiece. Our own miniature GOBA (that's Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure) minus the $200 entry fee and 2,000 other cyclists.

    Just me and Dad, a fanny pack, our cameras and our bikes.


    Dad spent weeks working out the details. They changed a few times, eventually shrinking to a single-day, 75-mile trip the Friday after Father's Day (thanks to rain delays and conflicting dentist appointments), beginning in Cincinnati and ending in Springfield, where Mom, having freshly returned from a day of antique shopping, would pick us up and haul us back to Newark, Ohio.

    On Thursday, the day before we left, Dad called me between work meetings to tell me how excited he was. He had been telling me that for weeks. It was cute. He was like a little kid--a 59-year-old kid--getting ready to go to Disney World for the first time.

    Friday was gray and intermittently drizzly and generally unpleasant, which didn't much matter after several days' worth of delayed plans: It could have been hailing and we would still have left the house by 8 a.m. to drive to Cincinnati in hopes that the sun eventually would peek out.

    Sitting in the back seat with Dad at the wheel took me back to the summer vacations when the four of us piled into our 1991 Plymouth Voyager, camping gear and a week's worth of supplies jammed in the back, ready for untold adventure. On this particular day, my parents were old enough to get senior discounts at most sit-down chain restaurants, my brother was spending two months in North Africa and I was leaving behind a 23-month-old and husband.

    Certainly a lot had changed over the years, but there was no doubt about it: The same old excitement was there.


    In the passenger seat, Mom worked to double-, triple- and quadruple-check the directions from the Cincinnati trailhead to the Springfield antique mall. It was obvious she had a few misgivings about the operation, but after 36 years of marriage, as I understand it, you have to pick your battles. This was a battle Dad had won.

    We arrived at the Little Miami Golf Center around 11 a.m. and learned during our short passage from the entryway to the parking area that there's actually such a thing as lawn bowling, though the foreboding clouds evidently had discouraged enthusiasts from demonstrating that morning. We prepped the bikes, changed into our gear, said bye to Mom, suggested that she try lawn bowling and were off.

    The journey started out chilly with a tinge of nervousness about the drizzle, as we'd both packed only short sleeves. But we warmed up as we pedaled and chatted about our plans for the trip, wished Ben could have been there and marveled at the beauty of the trees arcing over the path and the river--muddy as it was--along the route.

    Within the first 10 miles we were planning a similar trek upon Ben's return--maybe a two-dayer in the fall.

    Dad was in the lead as we held about 16 mph, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. I followed close behind with a goofy grin on my face for no other reason than that this was shaping up to be a pretty darn good day.


    We made several stops along the way, once to lunch at a Loveland coffee shop that was absolutely fitting for a journey like this, packed from wall to wall with quaint cottagey decor and fitted with a bathroom that doubled as a storage closet. I took a picture of the aprons hanging on the door.

    Over peanut butter granola bars, we waited out a pesky rainstorm in Corwin under an empty picnic shelter; I took advantage of the down time to snap a few close-ups of the specks of mud that had sprayed from the bicycle tires onto my legs as we rolled over the wet path.

    We moved on.

    As the miles added up, we talked less and looked more. I led for a short while at Dad's urging, but eventually traffic on the path died down and we fell to riding side by side.

    By the time we were a few miles away from Xenia, after more gradual climbs than I'd counted on or prepared for, the thought of stopping early crept into my mind. But every time I'd glance to my left and see Dad, his "high-vis" neon green bike shirt nearly glowing beside me, I put my head down and forced my legs to move up, down, up, down, around and around, rotation after rotation, mile after mile.

    He had 30-plus years on me. Didn't he ever get tired?


    We kept going despite mounting protests from our saddle-sore and pedal-weary bodies, stopping briefly in Xenia before coming to the unpleasant realization that more dark clouds were approaching. As we ducked under a maple tree to wait out the downpour, we actually discussed stopping.

    "You don't want to bag it here, do you?" Dad asked.

    I had been thinking of it. We'd come nearly 60 miles, a record for both of us. But we'd wanted to reach 75, to make it to Springfield.

    I paused a moment before replying.

    "Part of me knows the next 20 miles are going to be grueling," I said. "But the other part of me hates quitting early."

    I knew I got that from him.

    Finally we agreed to ride to Yellow Springs before calling to Mom to pick us up, presumably with a stash of great antique-store finds. It seemed like a nice compromise. By the time we arrived, it was around 5 p.m. and we were shivery from the combination of rain and a light wind that seemed to have come out of nowhere. The sun had just come out and we dismounted--stiffly and triumphantly--stretched and relished the feeling of being off the bike seat.

    I took a picture of the Yellow Springs sign and the cute fabric flowers that adorned it, and the mile marker from where we stood to Cincinnati: 68 miles, it said. We enjoyed a nice dinner with Mom and, though slightly disappointed we didn't finish out at an even 70 miles, agreed we were pleased with the day's accomplishments.

    As Dad drove the van back to Newark and I devoured most of the remaining Twizzlers in our snack stash, I took my place in the back seat and thought about the many times during those 68 miles I'd thought I'd like to slow down.

    And how, every time, I'd look over at Dad--the little kid in a big kid's body--pushing forward almost effortlessly, as if the Magic Kingdom were just ahead.

    It always made me smile despite my fatigue, and it kept us going--together.

    Abbey Roy is a native of northeast Ohio and transplant to central Ohio, where she is a newspaper reporter, wife and mom. When she was five, her dad insisted on teaching her to ride her bike without using training wheels. She's been rolling ever since. 

    Photos courtesy of Abbey Roy.  


  • Crossing Mountains, Chasing Rivers

    By Tom Bilcze

    Can a bicycle ride transform your life? In late June of this year, my best cycling buddy Chuck Gough and I--we both live in the Akron, Ohio, area--ventured out on our first bicycle tour, a 325-mile, eight-day ride across the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal towpath from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Washington, D.C. For seasoned bicycle tourists, this ride may not seem that notable or challenging. For novices like Chuck and I, this trip became the ride of our lives.

    Some Background
    In the summer of 2008 I underwent laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (Lapband) weight-loss surgery. I was approaching 300 pounds and in poor health with multiple chronic diseases. I was extremely sedentary. In the summer of 2009, Chuck underwent Roux-en-Y (RNY) weight-loss surgery. Chuck weighed close to 350 pounds and had many of the same health issues. As with me, cycling and exercise were not part of his life.

    Weight-loss surgery changed our lives in dramatic ways. We lost considerable weight; 130 pounds for Chuck and 90 pounds for me. We adopted an active healthy lifestyle. Chuck ran a marathon in 2010; quite an achievement for a person who a year earlier walked with the assistance of a cane. Chuck and I met at our local weight-loss support group and both began cycling. We quickly became friends and formed a cycling club to encourage a fit and healthy lifestyle for weight-loss surgery patients.

    In early 2011 Chuck and I decided to cycle the GAP and C&O Canal trails. Taking on challenges had become a passion for both of us. This ride was just the ticket for this point in our lives. We spent considerable time planning and training for the week-plus of cycling. We christened our bicycle tour "Crossing Mountains, Chasing Rivers," with a byline of "Cycling the footsteps of history through the Alleghenies to the Chesapeake." (We chronicled our story on a blog, www.crossingmountains.com.)

    Our Tour
    On a warm, overcast Saturday morning this past June, we pedaled east from the waterfront retail development in Homestead, just outside of Pittsburgh. Our bikes were laden with food, clothing, camping supplies and the necessities for an eight- nine-day, self-supported bicycle tour. Day one proved to be somewhat challenging. We cycled almost 50 miles through the woods along the Youghiogheny River to the River's Edge Campground just west of Connellsville. We were both tired and exhilarated after completing our first day as bicycle tourists.

    On Sunday we got our first lesson in cycling a constant uphill grade with over-packed bikes. We crossed through the beautiful Ohiopyle State Park and stopped for lunch in Ohiopyle. It was at this point that we realized that our day's goal to reach Rockwood was unachievable. We re-planned and made a decision to end the day in Confluence. We opted to forego primitive camping and spend the night at the River's Edge Bed and Breakfast. We were to learn that this decision would positively impact the remainder of our ride.

    Monday morning saw Chuck and I each mailing 25 pounds of excess gear back home. With lighter loads, on-the-trail experience and much needed rest, we cycled with new vigor uphill through Rockwood and into Meyersdale. Much more confident and relaxed, we continued to climb the Alleghenies. It was on this day that Chuck and I became a team rather than two buddies cycling together. We learned the success of bicycle touring is about relying on each other's strengths and being responsive to each other's needs.

    Tuesday afternoon we crossed the Eastern Continental Divide and began our downhill descent into Cumberland. Scenic mountain and valley vistas combined with a series of tunnels made this a day to remember. We crossed the GAP Mile 0 mile marker and began our journey on the C&O Canal towpath at the Western Maryland Railway Station. We celebrated our 140-mile journey across Pennsylvania at the Crabby Pig with our pal Aaron, a Cumberland resident, who was our innkeeper for the night.

    At this point, we realized our limited vacation time and miles remaining did not add up. So on Wednesday morning, our friend Aaron drove Chuck and me to Fort Frederick, and Aaron cycled with us from there into Williamsport. (Also, by saving 60 miles of cycling, we assured ourselves a free day to cycle around Washington, D.C.) The views from the C&O around Dam 5 on the Potomac River were quite beautiful. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Desert Rose's in Williamsport before we said our goodbyes to Aaron and continued east. We set up camp for the night along the shores of the Potomac in Antietam.

    Thursday was our most enjoyable day of the tour. We cycled into Harper's Ferry and spent the afternoon exploring this historical and scenic mountainside town. In late afternoon, we cycled into Brunswick, where we would spend a few hours at Beans in the Belfry, a coffee shop and restaurant that was very welcoming to bicyclists. We concluded Thursday with a stay in lockhouse 28, a National Park Service program where we rented a restored lockhouse for a night. The day's lesson was that it is okay to take it easy now and then and to get to know the people and places along the trail!

    Friday was a day of anticipation and excitement as we cycled the final 48 miles into Washington, D.C. It was a day of memorable landmarks-crossing the Monocacy Viaduct, enjoying a mid-morning break watching traffic shuttled across the Potomac at White's Ferry, and resting in the shade watching canal boats at the Great Falls Tavern. On a hot and muggy Friday evening, in the middle of a holiday weekend happy-hour crowd, we cycled into busy Georgetown and crossed Mile 0.

    Saturday was our reward for our week of cross-country cycling. We cycled eight miles down the shady Capitol Crescent Trail from our hotel in Bethesda to the National Mall, where we did the typical D.C. sightseeing. It was such a dramatic change for both of us. The bikes were lightened of their 50-pound loads, and quiet trails were replaced with the bustle of the city.

    We returned home the following morning by car, covering the distance of our 325-journey in a matter of hours. In our hurried lives, we seldom venture off interstate highways. Trails such as the GAP, C&O and Capitol Crescent connect us with the people and places beyond the exit ramp. Our fondest memories are of the innkeepers, servers, shopkeepers and locals we met a long the trail. I thank Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and local trail organizations for their tireless work to expand and maintain this trail network so that we can enjoy more of these experiences in the years to come!

    Photos courtesy of Tom Bilcze and Chuck Gough. 

  • RTC Reaches Big Trail-Mapping Milestone

    As part of our mission to promote the use and enjoyment of America's spectacular array of trails, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been working hard during the past few years to provide precise Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps for as many of these pathways as possible. 

    Accurately mapping and describing our nation's trail networks is a crucial step in making them more accessible to all users, through our series of regional guidebooks and at TrailLink.com, our free, one-stop trail-finder website. 

    But TrailLink.com and the guidebooks are just the end product of the time-consuming and technically challenging process of producing, collecting and filtering a myriad of geographical data and converting it to user-friendly forms.

    Sometimes it's hard to mark major progress with so many minute details to absorb and verify. But this summer, our hard-working Information Technology team celebrated an important milestone in their mission to catalog the pathways of America: hitting 20,000 miles of mapped trails.

    According to RTC's GIS Specialist Tim Rosner, it's great to reflect and take stock of the library of trail information compiled so far. Yet he says with new data coming in every day, and new trails projects under way all over the country, a finish line is not in sight just yet. Since RTC is the first organization to attempt to compile such detailed trails information on a national scale, it is impossible to know how many miles remain to be mapped.

    "There is really no way of knowing how many trails there currently are," Rosner says. "We're just going to keep collecting data until there is no more to collect."

    RTC has made a dedicated effort to ramp up its trail mapping capacity in recent years. When Rosner joined the team in 2008, we had mapped about 5,000 miles. The increase since then has been fueled by a combination of data submitted by RTC members and through TrailLink.com, Global Positioning System (GPS) data collected firsthand by RTC staff, existing trail maps compiled by city and county GIS officers, and information gleaned from high resolution aerial and satellite imagery.

    Collecting the data is only half of the work. A major challenge is making sure it is accurate before we pass it on to the general public.

    "We quality control check every piece of data we receive," Rosner says. "It is one of the exceptional pieces of our data set."

    The increase in our mapping efforts is a key element of RTC's goal for 90 percent of Americans to live within three miles a trail system by the year 2020. In order to track our progress toward this goal, we need accurate data on where those trails are.

    As with anything to do with technology, it is important to move with the times. Not only is RTC employing some of the latest GIS techniques in collecting data, we are also working on innovative ways to get that information to you, the trail user, including software and applications specially designed to bring mapping information to mobile technology like smart phones. Stay tuned.


  • Bike Touring Too Intimidating? Try a Bike Overnight!

    Photos and story by Heather Andrews

    Helping Adventure Cycling Association as a summer intern has been pretty fabulous. One of the projects I've been working on is their newest website, BikeOvernights.org, which features the stories of regular people--people with jobs, spouses, families, responsibilities--sharing their favorite places to go on a one- or two-night trip by bicycle. Our thinking is that a lot of people are intimidated by the phrase "bike touring," and we're showing that it can start with just an overnight.

    In fact, I'm the site's ideal audience--I've been commuting regularly by bike in Portland, Ore., since 1999, but my own mental roadblocks have kept me from thinking I could ever do bike touring. Ride on the edge of a highway next to fast traffic--wouldn't that be really unpleasant? Carry a bunch of gear? What if I got a flat? Could I even bike that sort of distance? With enormous hill climbs? How would I check my e-mail?

    Despite my reservations, I have done a few bike overnights. The first was in July 2009, to Stub Stewart State Park in Oregon. Many people I knew had done trips with Cycle Wild, and I decided to give it a try.

    There are two reasons Stub Stewart State Park is such a popular destination. The first is that the park is only about 25 miles from the western terminus of Portland's light rail line, MAX--and there are bike hooks on the train! Since I live near the eastern suburbs of Portland, using MAX cuts my distance in half, and I don't have to climb over the west hills of the city.

    Once you're off MAX, a series of rural backroads, with just a few rolling hills, takes you past farms growing blueberries, apples, wheat and more. If the weather's cooperating, Mt. Hood, about 60 miles to the east, is often visible peaking over the year's crops.

    The second reason the destination is so popular is because it's directly connected to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. Stub Stewart is in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, yet using this rail-trail makes it feel like you're barely climbing at all. Just 10 miles of car-free glory as you whoosh past more wheat fields before being enveloped by a shady forest of Douglas-firs.

    Once you're in the park, the climb is a little more challenging, but it's short. Maneuvering to the hiker-biker camp also requires traversing a gravel trail that dips down and then back up again, for about a quarter mile. But the payoff is sweet: an area secluded, where you can hear a gentle breeze play through tree branches instead of the drone of vehicles. If tent camping doesn't suit you, Stub Stewart also has rustic cabins available by reservation--a great option in cold weather.

    On the way home the next morning, the slight rail-trail grade still gives you a delicious downhill. You'll whiz down the trail at a perfect pace, barely pedaling. Is it any wonder that Stub Stewart is such a popular destination for Portland bicyclists?

    What happened with all of my concerns about touring? I've yet to have a flat on the road, largely because I have great tires on my bikes. Avoiding high-traffic highways largely involves not planning your route on them, and sites like RTC's TrailLink.com are great for mapping your way via trails (sometimes, though, busy roads are unavoidable). I'm still working on building my ability to bike longer distances. And since Stub Stewart is on the top of a mountain, I was able to check e-mail on my iPhone!

    There are plenty of other rail-trails in the Portland area that could be used in planning a great bike overnight trip. I live very close to the Springwater Corridor, an enormously popular rail-trail that opened in 1996. It starts near the center of Portland and can be taken to the very eastern side of the Portland area. If you're riding a bike that can take some gravel and bumps, the unpaved part of the trail even goes out to the misleadingly named Boring, Ore. (It's really quite nice--it even has an Army surplus store with some great deals on camping gear.) There aren't a lot of camping opportunities right along the Springwater, but the trail can get you most of the way to Oxbow Regional Park or Milo McIver State Park.

    These rail-trails are just two of many routes that are part of the Intertwine, an effort to connect the region's parks, trails and greenspaces. The name is new, but the concept is not. As far back as 1903, famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead envisioned a citywide loop of green spaces and parks for Portland.

    Even if your town doesn't have as many rail-trails as Portland, chances are there's a rail-trail and a campground near you. Summer is fleeting, and rail-trails can help make your first bike overnight easy and enjoyable. What are you waiting for?


    Bikeovernights.org provides inspiration, resources and tools for short bicycle tours (1-2 nights). You'll find stories, tips and how-to's about embarking on overnight cycling adventures, whether you're traveling solo to a beautiful state park, lounging at a bed-and-breakfast with friends and family, or anything in-between! BikeOvernights.org is a resource of Adventure Cycling Association, which has more than 44,000 members in North America. Adventure Cycling is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.

  • Looking Back at the 2011 Greenway Sojourn

    For people who love trails, long rides, picturesque towns, farms, mountains and rivers, Pennsylvania is a great place to be. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has a long history of involvement in Pennsylvania, helping local trails groups, volunteers and agencies develop some of the best trails networks in the country. Our annual Greenway Sojourn has had a lot to do with that, highlighting opportunities for new trails and celebrating existing routes. 

    This year's Sojourn took us to an area that is fast developing a reputation as the new destination for trails enthusiasts: the northern Laurel Highlands, east of Pittsburgh.

    For the first three nights of the Sojourn, we set up camp in a great spot next to the Ghost Town Trail in the town of Ebensburg. About 100 riders chose to join us for an optional first day ride on Tuesday, down to the Path of the Flood Trail, through Franklin and into the historical city of Johnstown.

    While there were many highlights that day, such as passing through the oldest railroad tunnel in America, traveling up the world's steepest vehicular incline (the Johnstown Inclined Plane), and visiting the Path of the Flood Museum, the day was particularly significant for another reason. This ride was the first time a group had passed along the newly cleared route from the Staple Bend railroad tunnel, where the Path of the Flood Trail now ends, through to Franklin and Johnstown. As those of us who braved it know, much work remains to be done before it is rideable--most Sojourners had to walk their bikes through the thick brush. But by beating a path for the Sojourn, RTC and local trails volunteers have forced the issue of what remains to be done to complete this vital connection. 

    Talking with some riders later that night, I was told that one local cyclist, on seeing the Sojourners emerge from the wilderness on their way to Johnstown, expressed his great excitement that such a connection was in the works. Hopefully the energy of more locals like him will push the project forward!

    But our trails pioneering wasn't done yet. With the remainder of the 250 Sojourners joining us for the official kick-off the next day, we headed west along the ever-present Ghost Town Trail through the town of Nanty-Glo. There, RTC's Mr Sojourn, Tom Sexton, unveiled the brand-new Cambria and Indiana Trail (C&I). Named for the railroad company that operated the original line the trail follows, the C&I loops north off the Ghost Town and reconnects in the town of Vintondale. 

    There is no denying it, the C&I also needs some smoothing work; loose ballast and BMX-style humps were a bit much for some riders, and it will be a little while yet before this rail-trail can be opened to the public.

    But, like the path through the wilderness from the Staple Bend Tunnel, by bringing the Sojourn to this region RTC has taken some crucial first steps to develop all the trail assets and connectivity of the region. 

    There must be something about the Sojourn that brings the hot weather! As has been the case in previous years, this year's Sojourn coincided with a newsworthy heat wave, with temperatures about 15 degrees above the average. It occasionally made for tough riding, but everyone was careful to drink plenty of water and look after themselves.

    Still, in 90-plus degrees, the 52-mile ride along the Ghost Town and West Penn trails from Ebensburg to Saltsburg was hard on a lot of folks. When the riders finally pulled in to the sumptuous grounds of the Kiski School above Saltsburg, sweat, exhaustion and a sense of accomplishment mingled in equal parts. The indoor and outdoor pools were popular spots over the next few days, with the Pittsburgh kids putting on a spectacular display from the diving board. 

    After many hot miles on the bike, the canoe and kayak trip down the Conemaugh River on the third day was a welcome change and allowed us to experience a different kind of recreational pathway. Enjoying this perfect antidote to the heat, Sojourners spent as much time in the river as in their boats, drifting slowly down the river swollen by a specially timed release from the Conemaugh Dam upstream. 

    A small group of dedicated riders took up the invitation of some local cyclists to explore the myriad of trails around Saltsburg, including the Westmoreland Heritage Trail and the Roaring Run Trail.

    One of important requirements to keep energy levels up after a long ride or paddle is good food. We were fortunate this year to again have the services of Dave Rose and Galloping Gourmet catering, which consistently dished up delicious and nutritious meals, often sourced from local farms and producers. That baked chicken was especially tasty!

    Thankfully, things cooled off just a little for the final two days. On Saturday the Sojourn pulled up stakes at the Kiski School for the 32-mile ride to Indiana, following the West Penn Trail and the meandering Conemaugh River back east, before turning north through Black Lick on the Hoodlebug Trail.

    The Indiana University of Pennsylvania playing fields made a fine home for the Sojourn's last night of camping under the stars. As in Saltsburg and Ebensburg, we were a short walk from downtown, and a number of riders made the most of this vibrant college town.

    The reception at the Jimmy Stewart Museum was a definite highlight--thank you to our impersonator and interpreter Chris Collins, who provided a Jimmy Stewart experience few Sojourners will forget! 

    By Sunday, many of the Sojourners were ready to return to a few home comforts. As wonderful as the trails were, after six nights in a tent, a cozy mattress and a long bath starts to look pretty good.

    So the final day's ride back to Ebensburg was a nice time to reflect on the many miles we had traveled in the week behind us, the people we had met, and the summits we had bested, actual or otherwise. And for some it was one last chance for a refreshing soak in Blacklick Creek! 

    Many thanks to the volunteers and Sojourn supporters who do so much to make this ride possible every year. And thanks also to all those who took part, this year and in years past. Your passion for trails, and your support of RTC is enormously important, and much appreciated.

    We hope to see you sometime soon, out and about on the trails!

    Photos by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy - click on any of the photos for a slideshow of images from the Sojourn.

  • Pete Bostich: A Passion for Rail-Trails

    By Mark Cheater

    It was a motorcycle, ironically, that got Pete Bostich into the rail-trail movement. The Orlando, Fla., resident was in a debilitating accident on his motorbike a few years ago, which led him to rail-trails as part of his recovery in 2010. Since then, Bostich has pedaled more than 3,000 miles on trails in Florida, Georgia, Maryland and Pennsylvania--"Hence, I owe RTC a lot of my time in the future for as much as I have used them!" he says. Lately, the 54-year-old retired sales engineer has been spending much of that "pay back time" helping our Florida and national offices in the battle to preserve federal funding for trails, walking and biking.

    How did you first get interested in rail-trails?
    In 2008, I was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident and spent the next eight months in a wheelchair. I started riding a bicycle as rehab, but with hearing loss--also from the accident--even side streets were scary. On May 9, 2010, I got on a rail-trail for the very first time. My son-in-law Eugene and I rode the West Orange Trail from Apopka-Vineland to Winter Garden. I loved every minute of it! I was hooked!

    What do you like about rail-trails?
    I love rail-trails because they're getting me healthier and stronger and keeping me from being a negative statistic in an overburdened health care system. Obesity is becoming a major health concern, and we find ourselves having to pay to do any type of physical exercise. Rail-trails offer a safe opportunity for people to get into a healthy lifestyle that has long-term benefits on our infrastructure, economy and environment!

    I also love rail-trails because they link us to where we came from. Look beyond the pavement and you will see hints of how a community came to life. Ride any rail-trail and I guarantee there is a hidden history lesson!

    Rail-trails also link us to a better future. Next time you are in traffic sitting at a red light, look at the other cars and see how many have a single occupant. How many people could have walked or cycled if the infrastructure were there? How much money could we have kept out of the pockets of OPEC members and placed into our own economy? Rail-trails are a required foundation for that kind of future.

    What drew you to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy?
    I found RTC because, by nature, I am an adventurer. RTC creates opportunities for adventure, new places to discover and better ways to challenge my physical limits. I remain engaged because I value the work they do for everybody, member and nonmember alike. Our voice needs to be heard loud and clear by those in government and elsewhere. And I promise you that I will remain engaged as long and my voice and heart allow me! 

    What makes you such a passionate advocate for rail-trails?
    I don't know where I would be in my recovery process from my 2008 accident if it weren't for rail-trails. I owe a lot in the way of health and attitude to RTC. It is time for me to pay back. I desire to keep the RTC network in the growth mode and to see usage exponentially grow with the network.

    What do you think is biggest threat to rail-trails?
    The lack of knowledge that the vast majority of casual rail-trail users have to the potential loss of rail-trail funding in the next federal highway transportation bill. 

    Dollars are getting scarce. The private sector isn't contributing as much because they don't have as much. Government is facing the same problem, but that is compounded with the fact that every special interest group is trying to get its large share of the pie at the cost of the smaller players. We are going to be the losers if we don't get our senators and representatives to see that rail-trails are legitimate, economically valuable infrastructure needs. 

    Tell us about the work you're doing to protect federal funding for rail-trails?
    On a daily basis, I watch my news searches for Rails-to-Trails, John Mica [a member of Congress from Florida who, as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has major influence over funding for rail-trails] and Florida government actions that can affect rail-trails and cycling. I respond via e-mail to government officials with my viewpoint. I also network with friends who share my interest.  

    What's the best thing other trail users can do to help support the cause?
    First and foremost, find out who your congressmen and senators are. Save their e-mail address. Then watch the RTC website or "like" them on Facebook. Watch for calls to action and be ready to send your opinion to your representatives. 

    Secondly, recruit anyone and everyone you know who takes advantage of rail-trails. Rail-trails attract an incredibly diverse cross-section of our population, but most of them are not members of any organization or even aware of RTC. Get them on the same page with you and have them contact their representatives. I would love to see this become a call to arms for all RTC members to get on the trails and start recruiting the non-member trail users to join the ranks to be heard by our government officials.

    Remember, we are the little guys in this game, and most of the time the little guys get beat up by the big guys; unless of course the little guys win with sheer numbers. We need to do that!


    For more information about how you can help out in the effort to preserve federal funding for rail-trails, become part of RTC's Action Alert Network.

    Photos by Kathryn Prestera, courtesy of Pete Bostich.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Geneva, Coffee and Covington Counties, Alabama


    Recently, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) learned of an upcoming railroad corridor abandonment in your area. On or about July 20, 2011, Alabama & Florida Railway Company filed for the abandonment of 42.9 miles of track through Geneva, Coffee, and Covington counties in Alabama. The corridor runs between the towns of Andalusia and Geneva, and the filing states that the corridor may be suitable for trail use. We are providing you with this information so you may take advantage of the 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-1073 (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 19, 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 National Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • The Capital's Cycling Cabbie

    By Mark Cheater

    Kathy Wimbush is a rolling contradiction: a cab driver who not only respects cyclists, but is an avid one herself. "The traditional relationship between bikes and cab drivers isn't a positive one," she says, laughing. A lifelong resident of Washington, D.C., Wimbush thinks she might be the only taxi driver in the city who would prefer to be on two wheels rather than four. We recently asked her to share some of her experiences and advice to both cyclists and drivers.

    How did you get started as a cabbie?
    I've been driving a cab for 12 years; it started out as a dare with an ex-boyfriend who had a license. We were in the cab together--he was taking somebody somewhere, and I felt the route was out of the way, and he said, "If you think you can do better, I'll pay for you to get a license." So I did it just to prove to him I could get a license. I'm also a freelance tour guide, but the market for that is very unpredictable, with the economy and wars and 9/11. So eventually the cab became my main source of income.

    When did you start cycling?
    When I was in college, I had a boyfriend who liked to bike, so we rode together and it was lot of fun. He had never been to D.C. before, and one July 4, we went on a bike ride from D.C. to Mount Vernon [in Virginia] and back. It was great. So that's really how I got started. I rode off and on after that. Then one year I went on vacation with some friends to Cape Cod [in Massachusetts]. I rented a bike and did the Cape Cod Rail Trail for the first time--it was really nice. That was my first rail-trail. 

    When the price of gas started going up a few years ago, and city officials decided to double the parking rates downtown, I started using my bike more--going to the bank and the grocery store and the health club. It's kind of silly to drive around and hunt for a parking space and pay double the price when I can just ride my bike from home, lock it up right outside where I need to go, take care of my business and ride home. 

    Do you know of any other cabbies who cycle?
    I haven't met any others! [laughing] The other cabbies see me on my bike when I go to the Yellow Cab lot to pay our weekly bills for the cab. Some of them are surprised--they think there's something wrong with my cab. I say, 'No, the car is fine, it's just easier to ride the bike.'

    How do your customers react?
    Last year I had to pick up a cyclist on the Capital Crescent Trail who got two flat tires and had to get to work. He was surprised that I was bike friendly. He called someone on his cell phone and said, "I actually got in a cab with a driver who rides a bike--I feel like I'm with family!" [laughing] That was nice to hear.

    What do you like about cycling?
    The last two years I've tried to do some weight-loss programs, and the bike actually is my best workout. Before I cycled regularly, I used to plateau a lot--I'd lose a few pounds, and then I couldn't lose anymore. I can do lunges and whatever till doomsday, but the bicycle is the only thing that can break through the plateau. Since I've been riding the bike, I've lost at least 25 pounds.

    My mother's side of the family is horrible in terms of health. My cousins on that side have had big health problems--heart attack, stroke, diabetes. But I don't have any of that. I have great blood pressure--the doctors are surprised, given my family health history. And I'm 46. I can lose a lot more weight, but I know I'm going to get there because of the bike.

    The only thing that's not so positive about bike riding for me is, because I don't look like I'm getting ready to ride the Tour de France, I don't think I'm taken seriously in bike shops. I had to go to several stores before I finally got the customer service I was starving for. The salesperson at that store was real pleasant to talk to. He was surprised I drove a cab and wanted to help me even more when he found that out.

    Do you use rail-trails regularly?
    I just recently rode the Metropolitan Branch Trail--that was great. I ran some errands for a cab customer and used that trail, because it starts near my home in northeast D.C. I can see where I will be on that trail a lot more. I also like the Capital Crescent Trail, but that's mostly for recreation. And the Mount Vernon Trail--but that's for work. If I'm meeting a tour group at Mount Vernon, I'm riding my bike down there. That's an income trail for me!

    What do your friends think of your cycling habit?
    Honestly? [laughing] My closest friends, they think I'm kooky--but they have noticed that I've lost weight!

    Do you treat cyclists differently than other cabbies do?
    Absolutely! The traditional relationship between bikes and cab drivers isn't a positive one [laughing]. I do get annoyed when I see a cyclist being irresponsible, but I'm not trying to kill anybody. Just today, I was driving near the Kennedy Center, and a cyclist was riding in the road, and the other drivers were being hostile. But I said, 'It's just somebody trying to get from point A to point B, and they just happen to be on a bike. That's no reason to try to kill them. Just move your car over.'  

    Has your experience as a cabbie made you a better cyclist?
    Oh yeah. One of the things I watch out for is cars pulling over and people opening the doors. I almost got into one of those tumble-over-the-door accidents last year, but I anticipated what the cab was going to do, and I was able to adjust for that. I usually ride my bike the way I drive--looking ahead and trying to anticipate what people are going to do. I also have mirror attached to my helmet so I can see what the traffic is doing behind me. If I see someone is getting impatient, I stop and let them go by me. It's an ounce of prevention.

    What advice would you give to urban cyclists?
    I'd say, you can stop [at an intersection] just like everybody else can stop. Jumping off your bike for a second is not going to ruin your day. Don't put your life in jeopardy. As a person driving, I don't want to run over someone--and it can be prevented if everyone follows the rules.

    What about drivers?
    I'd tell them, wherever you're going is not so important that you need to kill somebody on a bicycle to get there. A little patience will go a long way. We should be happy more people are out biking, because that means they're using less fuel. It's also good for their health. We've got to coexist, and it's not a bad thing to coexist. 

    Photos by Heather Wimbush.   

  • Designers Plug into Residents' Vision for Lafitte Greenway

    Even in a city where the rebuilding of public space has taken on such critical importance, the development of the Lafitte Corridor in New Orleans presents a unique opportunity.

    Since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005, socially and economically as well as physically, a lot of time and money has been invested in helping New Orleans grow into a city that better serves a diverse, vibrant and modern population.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is closely involved in that effort. For the past two years, RTC staff have been working with the city of New Orleans and Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC), mobilizing community involvement in the exciting development of this 3.1-mile right-of-way into a greenway of public space and trails, connecting nine historical districts between the Tremé and Lakeview neighborhoods.

    The Lafitte Corridor project is being funded by a $7.6-million Community Block Development Grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

    What makes the plan unique is its breadth. The neighborhoods around the proposed greenway house some of the poorest residents and the most wealthy, people of all colors and characteristics. The needs for each range from improving pedestrian access to shops and services, providing recreational space for young families and seniors, stimulating housing development, to addressing public safety issues connected to blight and crime.

    After many months of talking in broad, hopeful brush strokes about the potential of this corridor of disused rail tracks, the time has now arrived for concrete ideas to hit the drawing board. In August, RTC's trail development specialists Kelly Pack and Lindsay Martin assisted with the critical first public meetings in the planning process. Hosted by the city's contracted design consultants, Design Workshop of Austin, Texas, the week-long workshops were a chance for the people who will actually live near and use the greenway to say what they hope it will become.

    Described by elected officials as "the first glimpse of hope since the storm," there is much at stake in the development of the Lafitte Corridor greenway. It has the potential to not only greatly improve the city's bike and pedestrian transportation system, but also to revitalize real estate and commercial activity by connecting neighborhoods and businesses with a large public space designed for recreation and community activity.

    Much of last month's public engagement was concerned with ensuring the design consultants had accurately recorded citizens' desires for the space. Using real-time electronic 'clicker' polling, the consultants learned that making the corridor a safe place, promoting healthy living and removing blight from the area were the top three community goals for the project. A community garden was the top facility priority, followed by art and sculpture, fitness stations and an amphitheater for public performances. Most residents said they would use the greenway primarily to travel between neighborhoods, and for passive recreation. Automobile/pedestrian conflicts, loitering and crime topped the list of concerns.

    "From this feedback what emerged is that residents see the greenway as becoming a community gathering place," Pack says. "Although the trail will always be a central part of the greenway, we think that at first many people will be drawn to it for other reasons--to play, relax with friends and family, for an event. When they become familiar with the greenway, then they will start to use the trail for getting around as part of their everyday lives."

    Pack says the trail corridor's intersection with eight busy roadways will present a significant challenge for designers; only if pedestrians and cyclists feel the trail is a safe and convenient option to riding on the road will it attract regular use. When the designer comes back to the community with a series of refined concept plans in November, the intersection issue will no doubt be a focus.

    Though the drawing boards at the moment carry only hypothetical options and a sketch of community wants, there is already a good deal of optimism. These expectations can, however, be a double-edged sword: with a strong program of community involvement in public projects comes a strong sense of community ownership. Pressure on the city and its design consultants will be intense to bring to fruition a greenway the community expects.

    "On Saturday, when the consultant presented a preliminary concept map, there's was a lot of excitement in the room," Martin says. "But the planners were quick to point out that the money isn't there to make this all happen at once. This is not what you're going to get right off the bat."

    Instead, the consultants see the Lafitte corridor being developed in phases. As core elements go in--a paved trail, restrooms, shady parks, perhaps a community garden--a community life emerging organically will attract businesses to the area, boost home sales nearby. This activity will generate tax receipt income for the city, and coupled with future infrastructure budgets and developer contributions, will fund additional stages like skate parks, spraygrounds or playgrounds, facilities for public concerts.

    What has been made clear is that the corridor will be a place geared toward fulfilling the recreation and transportation needs of the area's residents, not tourists.

    Between now and November, when the consultant is due to present a shortlist of design options, the challenge for residents and the FOLC will be to maintain a high-level of public involvement in the redevelopment in order to ensure the residents' input continues to be heard, to carry weight.

    A new Lafitte Corridor greenway will not be an instant fix for these struggling neighborhoods. Like the broader city around it, improvements will come with a consistent period of planning acumen and time. Still, if the drawing board is anything to go by, there is certainly some basis for all this optimism.

    Learn more about the Lafitte Corridor and RTC's work in New Orleans,  which is supported by The Kresge Foundation as part of the Urban Pathways Initiative.  

    Photos courtesy of Bart Everson/Friends of the Lafitte Corridor.

  • In Spain, Exploring the Bear's Path Greenway

    In the most recent issue of Rails to Trails magazine (Fall 2011), we ran a letter from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy members Steve and Mary Curtis of Safety Harbor, Fla. Inspired by a previous feature on a Spanish rail-trail--La Senda del Oso, or the Bear's Path Greenway--they decided to add the pathway to a previously planned trip to Spain. When they wrote to us to share how much they enjoyed the trail, they also included a selection of amazing photos from their adventure. We didn't have enough space in the magazine to do justice to their photography, so we thought we'd share their story and a few extra shots here. Enjoy!


    We already had a trip to Spain planned when you wrote about La Senda del Oso in your Spring/Summer 2010 issue. Since my wife Mary and I tend to wing it on our travels with no set itinerary, we put the rail-trail on our list of things we'd like to do if we found ourselves in the vicinity. Well, we found it--and we are so glad we did!

    Our experience began with us trying to find the trail itself. We knew we were on the right road, but we didn't have a very good map and it was cold and rainy (this was early June). We finally spotted the trail but could not find any outfitters to get set up with cycling gear. (Later we found out that these outfits are seasonal and don't usually get much business until later in the summer.)

    We pulled into the town of Proaza and found Hotel Torrepalacio. Our hostess, Laura, was very gracious and took excellent care to ensure we were situated, from our room to bike rentals to understanding the trails and the local restaurants--although we ended up just eating at the Traslavilla Restaurante in the hotel, which was superb. 

    The following morning, we had arranged for bikes and off we went. It was so cold that we had to stop at a small hardware store next to the hotel and buy gardening gloves, which may have saved us. The tunnels are a little scary if you don't have lights, so take a headlamp. The scenery is spectacular and the trail is not too challenging. Plus, if you go, a trip to the post office in Proaza is a must. The only disappointment is that we discovered the bears are caged, much as they are in the zoos here, but we understand they do let them roam at times. 

    Of all we did and saw during our three weeks in Spain, experiencing La Senda del Oso was certainly one of the highlights. 

    Read the original Destination feature by Maria R. Schneider from the Spring/Summer 2010 magazine! The 25-mile rail-trail will carry you through steep mountainous ravines and more than 20 tunnels. 

    Photos by Steve and Mary Curtis. 

  • Register for the Pennsylvania Trails Summit!

    The state of Pennsylvania deserves a lot of credit for promoting the development of trails and greenways. Since the 1990s, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Greenways and Trails Summit has brought together land management and recreation professionals from across the country to share ideas and resources.

    The deadline to register for the 2011 Greenways and Trails Summit--presented by the DCNR in conjunction with the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS)--is fast approaching on August 31. To be held September 11 to 13 in downtown York, Pa., this year's event will be the first-ever fully walkable summit. Featuring three days of educational sessions, mobile workshops and networking opportunities, the summit is designed for land-use professionals and planners, although community groups and trails advocates may get a lot out of the popular Trail Building 101 workshop.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Northeast Regional Office will be very active in the summit. Our very own Pat Tomes and Carl Knoch will both be presenters--Tomes discussing the community health opportunities of local trails, and Knoch talking about the economic impact of trails in nearby towns and cities. "The summit is a unique opportunity to network with people who have gone through some of the challenges you might be facing," says Tomes. "It is a great forum to hear and share creative, innovative solutions."

    Keynote speakers include senior state officials and the leaders of some of America's most successful trails networks. Also, Tomes says this year's summit will have a particular focus on sustainability--how to build and maintain trails with limited financial resources. And to refresh the brain between sessions, there will also be excursions on the Lower Suquehanna River, the Heritage Rail Trail County Park and the Mason Dixon Trail.

    The cost of the summit for PRPS members is $125, and $140 for non-members. Registration is also available on a daily basis.

    To register, and for more information, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us.

    Photo from the 2011 Greenway Sojourn, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Residents Shape Vision for Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans

    Since 2009, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has played a crucial role in promoting the development of the Lafitte Greenway, a largely derelict strip of land running 3.1 miles through the center of the city. And this week marks a significant step for residents and planners who have long harbored hopes of a linear park and multi-use trail.

    The Lafitte project is part of RTC's Urban Pathways Initiative, which promotes trail use as a way to combat inner-city issues such as childhood obesity and a lack of transportation options for low-income residents.  

    Our role down in the Big Easy has been not only to help the city envision the possibilities inherent in such an urban pathway, but to build a community coalition behind the effort--a strong network of residents, businesses and supporters that would stay involved as advocates, fundraisers and cheerleaders as the project moved from general idea to actual landscape.

    After a long period laying the groundwork for community involvement in an urban greenway, including RTC's creation of a "Greenway Ambassadors" program, the people of New Orleans are finally getting to offer their suggestions on what the greenway should actually look like. Today, Monday, marked the official kick-off of "Lafitte Corridor Connections," a five-day series of workshops, public meetings and discussions hosted by the city of New Orleans and supported by RTC and Friends of the Lafitte Corridor.

    "This is when we begin to firm up the overall vision and concept for the Greenway," said RTC's Lindsay Martin as she prepared for an afternoon discussion about incorporating recreational activities and programming into the future life of the greenway. "The great thing about this event, and planning for the corridor, is that it is being driven by public engagement. This is not always the way it has been done in New Orleans in the past."

    This week's public workshop will divide the greenway into two elements for discussion: the trail itself, and all the other aspects of the greenway, such as connection points, commercial zoning, facilities, landscaping and gathering places.

    On Saturday, the project's design team will offer the first look of a corridor vision on paper during an open house and public presentation. Martin says that far from being a finished product, this presentation would be the first step in a long process of listening to what the community wants, and sculpting a workable blueprint that reflects their interests.

    "The drawing board is wide open," she says.

    In shaping a vision for the Lafitte Corridor, the advisory team has stayed close to their goal of the greenway being a catalyst for economic development--helping to revive struggling stores, bringing in new businesses, and boosting the appeal of nearby neighborhoods by connecting them to a transportation hub and recreational hotspot. This is a discussion that involves posing questions like, 'How do we encourage more grocery stores and restaurants to set up close to the corridor?' and, 'What level of residential zoning is appropriate so people want to live next to the greenway?'

    The design team will have a few months to shape all the input they receive this week into a series of concept options. At the next Lafitte Greenway open house in November 2011, planners hope to be working with a refined set of design options in order to receive feedback on more specific elements.

    For more information, visit lafittecorridorconnection.com.

    Photos of Lafitte Corridor (top right) courtesy of Friends of Lafitte Corridor, and planning (bottom left) by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  

  • Eastern Washington Continues to Pave the Way for Bike Commuters

    The city of Spokane in eastern Washington is on the verge of becoming one of the most trail-connected cities in the region, with plans afoot for a new recreational and commuter pathway along a county-owned railroad right-o- way.

    Support is growing for the city's proposal to build a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the Great Northern Railway Line, which was once the northernmost transcontinental railroad route in the United States, linking Seattle with Saint Paul, Minn.

    The trail, referred to in separate east and west segments as the North Greenacres Trail (east) and Spokane Valley-Millwood Trail (west), would connect downtown Spokane with a number of neighborhoods and commercial areas, including the nearby city of Millwood, Spokane Valley Mall and Spokane Community College.

    It would also provide vital links to the already established Spokane River Centennial, Children of the Sun and Ben Burr trails, a Spokane Community College trail, and an extensive trail system around Liberty Lake.

    "Spokane is really committed to creating a great network of trails, biking and walking facilities," says Laura Cohen, director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Regional Office. " We enjoyed working with them to restore the Iron Bridge as a trail over the Spokane River, making the connection to the Spokane River Centennial Trail.  And we're thrilled about the new trail plans for connecting into downtown."  

    According to a detailed story on August 4 from The Spokesman-Review, the project is being proposed by Spokane Valley's senior engineer for traffic, Inga Note, as a way to encourage bicycle commuting in the area.

    The Great Northern right-of-way is a hot commodity at the moment--the city is fielding requests from two separate agencies wanting to install a high-voltage electric line and a pipe for reclaimed water along the corridor. Planners hope to be able to combine the uses, though much will depend on the size and positioning of the proposed power poles.

    Spokane and Millwood have teamed up to secure $845,000 in federal funds to design the new trail; David Evans and Associates of Portland has been awarded a $95,000 contract to design the eastern section of the trail.

    Keep an eye out at TrailLink.com for updates on the trail's construction.

    (A special thanks to RTC member Michael Peart for sending us the clipping about the trail proposal from the Spokesman-Review, and for keeping us updated about what's happening in his neck of the woods. Much appreciated!)

    Photo of cyclists riding the Spokane River Centennial Trail courtesy of the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • New England Bike-Walk Summit Returns to Providence

    From our friends at the East Coast Greenway Alliance:

    On October 7, 2010, the first-ever New England Bike-Walk Summit convened in downtown Providence, R.I., for a day of learning and sharing. Nine breakout sessions covered the gamut of bicycle- and pedestrian-related topics including funding of bike-ped infrastructure, successful collaboration between advocates and agency personnel, and the economic development potential of biking and walking. Speakers included Tim Blumenthal, president of Bikes Belong, and Jeff Miller, president/CEO of the Alliance for Biking & Walking. The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association helped sponsor and facilitate the conference.

    This important regional event returns to Providence this fall. On Friday, October 7, at the Providence Biltmore, we have another full day of sessions in store, covering a wide range of issues of interest to planners, engineers and other bike-walk stakeholders. This year, among the nine breakout session topics are street design fundamentals, low-cost improvements for bike and pedestrian mobility, bike-sharing systems, emerging bike/ped transportation design, kids' programs that work, and how to conduct a pedestrian safety audit (field visit). There will also be a poster session, exhibits and plenty of opportunities to network, including at a complimentary reception that evening.

    Summit organizers are accepting presentation proposals, and registration is already open. The fee is only $40, or half that if you are a dues-paying member of the East Coast Greenway Alliance.  Public agency officials can apply for reimbursement of their travel funds, available as long as funds last.

    For more details about the conference, including the call for presentations, registration instructions, sponsorship benefits and more, visit newenglandbikewalksummit.org. Further questions can be directed to Eric Weis at eric@greenway.org or 401.450.7155. There are other fun (free!) events happening that weekend in Providence, including Waterfire, the Providence Cyclocross Festival and VeloSwap, so consider staying for the weekend. See you in Providence!

    Photo of the East Bay Bicycle Path in Providence, R.I., by Shawn McConnell. 

  • A Chance to Speak Up for Trail Projects in Pennsylvania

    The state of Pennsylvania has taken great strides in recent years to make itself a trail-friendly region, particularly when it comes to outdoor recreation trails through its countryside and wilderness areas.

    A lot of the credit for that goes to the scores of volunteers and citizen advocates who make sure their elected officials and government departments are aware of how important these facilities are, and work hard to see that planning and funding decisions reflect the desires of the people.

    However, there's always more room to encourage walking and biking options for commuters, residents and visitors alike. And now is the time to speak up for walking and biking transportation projects in Pennsylvania!

    The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced a series of pubic meetings to gather input for the two-year update to the 12 Year Transportation Program. The program is supposed to address all transportation modes and contains only projects that can reasonably be expected to be funded during the next 12 years.

    PennDOT will make its decisions based on which modes it feels will keep the most Pennsylvanians moving. If your daily life regularly depends on your local bike path, walkway or trail, or your community could benefit from better options for non-motorized transportation, this is your chance to be involved in planning decisions.

    "This is a great opportunity for trail managers and citizens at all levels to participate in the funding and planning process," says Pat Tomes, program manager for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Northeast Regional Office. "Decisions will be made that affect the next 12 years of work. For those who have trails projects on the drawing board, this is probably the one opportunity to promote your case. Twelve years can be a lifetime for some trails."

    Here's the schedule for PennDOT's public meetings:

    • Butler County: Thursday, Aug. 25 (tonight) - Marriott Pittsburgh North, 100 Cranberry Woods Drive, Cranberry Township
    • Adams County: Friday, Aug. 26 - Wyndham Gettysburg, 95 Presidential Circle, Gettysburg
    • Monroe County: Thursday, Sept. 15 - Shawnee Inn, One River Road, Shawnee on Delaware
    • Philadelphia County: Friday, Sept. 16 - Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, 190 North Independence Mall West, Philadelphia

    Citizens are encouraged to attend or present testimony at any of the meetings, but preregistration is required. Testimony may be project-specific, issue-oriented or both.

    Check with your local county for details on what time hearings will begin, and visit www.dot.state.pa.us for more information about the Transportation Program.

    If you cannot attend a meeting, but you still want to present testimony, you can e-mail comments to RA-PennDOTSTC@state.pa.us.

    Or mail to:
    Mr. Nolan Ritchie, Executive Secretary
    State Transportation Commission
    PO Box 3633
    Harrisburg, PA 17105-3633

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