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September 2011 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Adirondack Community Rallies Around Rail-Trail Potential

    Crucial to the success of any new trail project is the formation of an energetic and motivated group of local advocates and volunteers.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is always eager to provide planning expertise, assist with securing state and local government support, and mobilize our national network of members and supporters. But unless a strong local organization is in place, it can often be very difficult to get a new project off the ground.

    By that measure, the future looks pretty bright for the proposed Adirondack Recreational Trail.

    In the Tri-Lakes region of upper New York State, the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake currently carries a seasonal sightseeing excursion train, which many residents say has not delivered significant economic benefits to a picturesque region bursting with potential for recreational tourism.

    The newly created Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) hope to see that track converted into a 34-mile recreational trail, following the lead of many communities like theirs which have converted their natural resources and historical rail lines into sustainable local economies. They are spreading word of their cause and hope to recruit 500 members in order to persuade local politicians and planners that this project is a development that residents and business people want.

    In August, Carl Knoch, manager of trail development for RTC's Northeast Regional Office, met with area residents to present a message that has sparked the development of similar projects in his native Pennsylvania:  Trails are good business for small towns.

    That's not just a gut feeling. Knoch's office is a national leader in compiling trail user data to assess the economic stimulus of trails to the towns and villages they pass through. This commercial impact--for hotels, campsites, food outlets and outdoor retailers, and the multiplier effect of an injection into the local economy--has helped promote the development of several renowned trail systems in Pennsylvania, and secured the viability of towns once dying with the decline of industry.

    Knoch says the Tri-Lakes is perfectly placed to reap the same rewards.

    "The 60-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail has seen about $3.6 million annually in new spending since the trail was created, with 138,000 users on an annual basis," he says of a comparable trail in the neighboring state. "What could 138,000 new users do for Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and Tupper Lake? In talking to the folks that own businesses along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, they basically say the conversion of that railroad into a multi-season rail-trail is the salvation of the valley."

    Knoch will continue to work with ARTA to recruit new supporters, seek grant opportunities and develop plans for the trail from the concept stage to a more concrete reality.

    Support, spread the word, or keep tabs on this exciting rail-trail project, at www.thearta.org.

    Photo of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • New Administration Making All the Right Moves in Connecticut

    It's hard to believe that no sitting state governor has ever addressed a single meeting of the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA) Trail Council or Board, given the tremendous tourism and recreational significance of a trails network that will eventually link communities along the entire eastern seaboard.

    So when Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (right) walked into an ECGA meeting in Simsbury, Conn., earlier this year, the trails community took notice. And when Malloy started talking about hiking and biking as keys in the battle against obesity, and of a changing culture in the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) in favor of cycling and walking, it was hard to ignore what appeared to be genuine support from the new administration. 

    Malloy's appearance at the ECGA meeting was just the latest in a series of shifts in Connecticut's transportation and planning leadership that has sparked optimism among trail advocates. His election in 2010 has coincided with the introduction of a number of people in key positions with a history of promoting multi-modal transportation projects, and the creation of the state's first-ever full-time bike/ped coordinator.

    Kate Rattan, who assumed that role in February after four years in corridor planning in the same department, says it's an exciting time for Connecticut. "Now we're moving forward," she says. "Our administration is amazing."

    Rattan pointed to Malloy's interest in non-motorized transportation--and the appointment of James Redeker as DOT commissioner and Tom Maziarz as chief of policy and planning--as reasons for optimism among bike and pedestrian advocates in the state. In their previous roles, both men demonstrated a support of non-motorized projects and an ability to work with other agencies and community groups.

    At the opening of a new 1.8-mile stretch of bicycle trail in Canton recently, Redeker told local reporters the transportation landscape was changing. "I'd say it's moving very quickly from being a highway department to being totally intermodal," he said.

    These changes at the top are being translated into real improvements on the ground. Rattan says CDOT was about the launch a pilot to equip the Metro-North trains into New York with bike mounts, so commuters can carry their bikes on the train even in peak times.

    New road design guidelines bring city roads in from 12 feet to 11 feet, allowing some extra room for pathways, and CDOT is experimenting with new sharrow designs and other ways to make biking safer on the road. A ban has been lifted on CDOT staff traveling out of state for multi-modal planning education and training. And CDOT and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are collaborating on trails and sidewalk projects like never before.

    CDOT has also made effective changes to the way it applies Transportation Enhancements (TE) funding, resulting in more money being utilized for trail improvements in local communities. And Surface Transportation Program funding is for the first time being made available to trails and sidewalks projects.

    These adjustments are part of the reason Connecticut has either completed, or is in the process of completing, key connections in its trail system, including a long-delayed segment of the Farmington River Trail.

    Next month will see the opening of a five-mile section of the Charter Oak Trail between Manchester and Bolton, a vital link of the East Coast Greenway chain that will also serve commuters and local users.

    Steven Mitchell, a member of the ECGA Board of Trustees and a resident of Simsbury, Conn., is excited to see state administrators catching up with what has been a dynamic and active biking community for many years. "When he was mayor of Stamford, Governor Malloy always had a strong awareness that cities which have parks and trails and green space thrive," Mitchell says. "He made it a more desirable place to live and do business. He built the jewel--he and his administration."

    Mitchell says the excitement in the biking and trails community at the moment is palatable, generated by a new energy from CDOT, but also a growing awareness across the country that Connecticut has a lot to offer. The Tour DaVita was held in Connecticut this year, the first time it has been staged in the Northeast, bringing 500 riders and support staff to towns like Simsbury. Connecticut has risen to 21 in the League of American Bicyclists' Bike Friendly States Rankings this year, up from 40 in 2010.  "We want to keep moving forward," Mitchell says. "The goal now is to crack into the top 15."

    The good news keeps coming. This month, CDOT announced they would add a 6-foot-wide pedestrian walkway to the Putnam Bridge, which carries Route 3 over the Connecticut River between Glastonbury and Wethersfield. And on October 1, CDOT and ECGA officials will cut the ribbon to open a new bridge on the Hop River Trail in Andover, which has long been closed to trail users.

    ECGA's Eric Weis, who has been involved for more than a decade in efforts to complete the bridge link at Andover, says he is delighted with CDOT's newfound understanding of the many benefits of trails. "Governor Malloy deserves a big pat on the back indeed," says Weis. "His support has caused a sea change in state agency support for bicycling and walking programs. Employees who have been chafing at the bit for years are finally able to address issues the way they should be addressed."

    Connecticut riders are particularly excited about plans for a redesign of the Merritt Parkway to provide for an off-road bike and pedestrian path. Built in the late 1930s, the parkway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is renowned for the beauty of its scenery, as well as its narrow shoulders and dangerous, winding alignment. With the right improvements, it has the potential to be a crucial non-motorized link.

    "The Merritt Parkway offers access to some of the region's largest employers, and a number of residential areas," Rattan says. "An off-road bike route would connect to transit stops along Metro-North's branch lines. It would also be a lovely ride."

    Malloy used his visit to the ECGA meeting in Simsbury to announce a $1.1 million grant had been secured to study the feasibility of using the right-of-way along the Merritt Parkway for a non-motorized corridor. Malloy says it was an idea he pursued during his tenure as mayor of Stamford, but to no avail. Supporters hope as governor he will be more successful.

    Many trails advocates believe, and Malloy himself acknowledged, that credit for this system belongs to the well-organized grassroots groups that have long lobbied for funding and mobilized volunteer labor. In recent memory, the state DOT was seen as an obstacle rather than a partner. So while it is early yet, the direction that Malloy and his transportation chiefs are heading is a pleasing sight for many in the Connecticut trails community.

    Photo of Gov. Malloy (top) courtesy of East Coast Greenway Association; photo of newly completed section of Charter Oak Greenway (middle) courtesy of Robert Dexter; photo of Merritt Parkway (bottom) courtesy of Creative Commons/Flickr.

  • Hurricanes, Rail-Trails, Hills and Adventure

    By Carol Waaser and Karin Fantus

    Karin and I had started planning more than a month in advance. It would be a six-day, self-contained, inn-to-inn tour during the Labor Day weekend, leaving New York City on September 1 and returning September 6. Who knew the Northeast would be slammed by Hurricane Irene on August 28? 

    Our planned route was up to Pawling, N.Y., then across western Connecticut and north through western Massachusetts, finally crossing just into New Hampshire. We would return through the Berkshires and ultimately take the train back to the city from Wassaic.

    As the storm mop-up began on August 29, we watched all the flood warnings and road closure updates we could find. There were several places, particularly in Connecticut, where roads on our route were closed as of Monday, but we couldn't get any further updates as to whether they would be open by Thursday. And we had planned to take the South and North County trailways the first day, which we feared might not be cleared as quickly as the commuter roads. So on Tuesday, August 30, I scouted the southern section of the South County Trailway. Although it was still strewn with leaf and twig debris in many places, crews had already been out clearing the downed trees. We were confident it would be completely passable by Thursday...and it was! Luck stayed with us throughout the trip and we never encountered a closed road or bridge.

    Embarking on the journey as scheduled on September 1, we took the subway from Columbus Circle up to 238th Street in the Bronx, there being elevators at both those stations, allowing us to get our lightly loaded bikes down to the platform and then to the street easily. Thus we skipped the "junk" miles and started our tour close to the first entrance to the rail-trail. Starting with a trail was a good way to ease into a multi-day tour, putting us immediately into a touring frame of mind--an easy, relaxed pace, a chance to chat as we rode side by side, remembering to look at the scenery and maybe even stop for a photo. On a weekday morning, there were few other trail users.

    We were never without a little adventure, from missed turns that added eight miles to each of the first two days, to a hill that was 18- to 20-percent incline for about half a mile (yes, we walked), to on-the-fly route changes, to a power outage the third night that meant a bath in the swimming pool instead of the shower. On the fifth day, as we cycled over the mountains from Northampton to Great Barrington, we had torrential rain storms. The worst came as we started across Route 23 from Otis to Great Barrington. We didn't know there was road construction on the route, and some sections were now unpaved. At 3 in the afternoon, it might as well have been dusk, cycling in the pouring rain, unable to see more than a few yards ahead, on unpaved stretches with loose stones, ruts and mud, and a little lightning and thunder just to keep us alert! But we made it to our next inn, had a good dinner in town and spent the evening drying things out.

    Our route was specifically designed to accommodate visits with various friends and cousins in western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. In addition, we met other fun and interesting people and animals along the way. Three nights were spent at bed-and-breakfasts, one of which, the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn, sits immediately alongside the Northampton Bikeway, which is a westward extension of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Massachusetts. The inn is run by Craig Della Penna, who has been a lobbyist and advocate of trails and alternative transportation for a number of years. Needless to say, that was an interesting evening. 

    We had planned to do a few sections on rail-trails and ended up doing about 75 miles (out of a total of 350-plus miles) on eight different trails and greenways, including the Putnam Trailway and Harlem Valley Rail Trail in New York, and the Still River Greenway and Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Connecticut. The trail systems in the Northeast continue to grow; we probably could have done more miles on trails had we done a little more research beforehand. Some trails we either came upon serendipitously or were told about along the way by local folks, and some of the roads we were on are now marked as bicycle routes. These trail and bike route systems are making multi-day touring safe and possible for even novice cyclists. 

    The innkeepers where we stayed, as well as local residents we encountered, see rail-trails as an asset and an economic boon to the community. Wherever we stopped to ask about trail facilities, local merchants and residents knew the information and were very helpful. Along the way, we encountered many smiling cyclists and other trail users who exhibited good trail etiquette. The whole experience came together so nicely.

    Light-loaded inn-to-inn touring is an easy way to take a short, inexpensive vacation. Karin used her road bike and a large Carradice bag that attaches firmly to the seatpost. I used my touring bike with a rack and Topeak MXP rack trunk with small drop-down panniers. Each of us carried between 10 and 15 pounds extra, including gear and tools, an extra cycling kit, a set of off-bike clothes and lightweight shoes, plus whatever toiletries and necessities we needed. Ziploc bags and dry bags protected most of our stuff, even in the downpour. With a spirit of adventure, you can handle anything that happens (especially when you're not camping). And when you're touring by bicycle, you can count on folks to help you out along the way. 

    There are plenty of interesting places you can see in a two- or three-day trip if you want to dip your toe in without making a big commitment. But we've also done 10-day trips covering 600 to 700 miles, still only lightly loaded. (For some of us, camping is not in the cards--we like our creature comforts!) This style is very different from doing club rides, but it is another gift your bicycle--and trails--can give you.

    Photos courtesy of Carol Waaser and Karin Fantus. 

  • RTC's Work in Camden, N.J., Opens a New World for Students, Residents

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Camden Youth Cycling Learning and Exercising program (CYCLE) is about getting young students on bikes, teaching them how to ride safely, and showing them that with a bike and a pathway, the world is their oyster. But the program is also opening up new options for biking and walking. Thanks to our partners at the Campbell Soup Foundation, the William Penn Foundation and the Coopers Ferry Development Association, this work is helping to revitalize this former center of manufacturing on the banks of the Delaware River.


  • Doctors Hail Trails as Crucial to Improving America's Health

    The recent focus on the American health care system brought to light the fact that an extraordinary amount of time, money and precious resources are spent on reactive treatment - drugs and surgery to counteract what are often lifestyle-related ailments.

    Medical professionals now understand that proactive health care is often the most efficient, effective and long-lasting - by living healthier day-to-day lives we immunize ourselves from the chronic illnesses that stem from obesity, lack of exercise, and poor diet.

    Kaiser Permanente, a medical insurance company, has put a big focus on healthier lifestyles as pre-emptive health care. This week they launched the first "Every Body Walk" campaign to encourage more Americans to include a regular stroll into their daily routines.

    Almost half of all urban trips in the United States are less than two miles, but almost all of these are taken by car. By choosing to walk rather than drive just a few times a week, we can all make a big difference to our personal health. Many doctors now believe that walking just 150 minutes a week can have marked impact on treating a range of problems, from depression to high blood pressure.

    Encouraging walking is a big part of RTC's work, too (along with biking, riding, skiing - and anything else that involves a trail), which is why we are partnering with Kaiser Permanente on Every Body Walk!

    RTC President Keith Laughlin said a few words to kick off proceedings at the campaign launch celebration in Washington, D.C. last night. Talking about how the built environment can either be an impediment to, or a promoter of, healthy living, Keith said that D.C. residents were fortunate to live in a relatively walk-friendly city.

    "We have that option. But that's not a given for many Americans," he said. "Over the past 50 years we have built landscapes that work for cars but not always for people. In many communities it is inconvenient, or even dangerous, to go for a walk, to try and live an active lifestyle."

    Speaking just days after RTC's advocacy efforts helped ward off threats to federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects, Keith said there was a massive disconnect between what residents and local businesses wanted to see in their communities, and what many federal politicians understood.

    "At the local level, people are yearning for investments in their cities and towns that make them more livable and walkable," he said. "But on capitol hill, there is often the feeling that things like bike paths and sidewalks are 'nice to have, but not essential.' We have a real challenge to convince them otherwise."

    The testimony of medical professionals is now adding to the growing weight of evidence that investing in biking and walking infrastructure will not only save the nation billions in reduced oil consumption and environmental mitigation, but also slash wasteful health care expenditure.

    Dr. Bob Sallis is one of the many medical professionals who regularly prescribes walking to his patients. He says that instead of focusing on the numbers of a bathroom scale, people worried about their weight should be focusing on a different set of numbers - how many minutes a week they walk.

    "Walking really is the cornerstone of combating non-communicable diseases," he said. "This is the beginning of a crucial health message. As a public health community, this is like where we were with smoking, 20 years ago."

    Dr. Sallis says he consistently sees improvement in patients from increasing the number of minutes they walk each week - and that for maladies such as depression, walking has a myriad of positive side effects that psychotherapy and medication do not.

    Today, Kaiser Permanente's impressive new facility next to Union Station will host a Walking Summit featuring noted experts in public health, research and walkable communities. The Summit will explain to policymakers why creating a walking agenda would prevent and mitigating chronic conditions in America.

    On Wednesday - RTC will host a walking tour of the Met Branch Trail, from 1 to 3 p.m. To take part, register here, and show up at 400 S Street, NE.

    The Iverson Mall walkers will also host a morning walk on Wednesday from 7:30 to 11 a.m. at the Iverson Mall in Hillcrest Heights, Md.

    On Friday - there's something awesome for the kids, parents and teachers. The Forum on Walking and Kids will address the economic, environmental, transit and safety aspects of creating a culture of walking. The Forum will be followed by a noontime walking school bus with D.C.-area school children, led by the Samurai Power Rangers, stars of the #1 kids action series! The Power Rangers are teaching kids and families how to put the Power Rangers values of teamwork, confidence, health and physical activity into action.

    To register for Wednesday's walk on the Met Branch Trail, or any of the Every Body Walk events this week, follow this link.

    For more information, visit www.everybodywalk.org

    Photos by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy - RTC President Keith Laughlin and Dr Bob Sallis discuss the nexus of trails infrastructure and public health at the new Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health in Washington D.C.

  • Met Branch Clean-up Attracts Diverse Trail Community

    Whether it was a whole load of good karma, or just a meteorological fluke, the rains that had been soaking Washington, D.C., all week stopped and the gray clouds gave way to blue sky for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Day of Service clean-up on the Met Branch Trail (MBT) last Saturday.

    About 20 local residents, trail users, RTC supporters and friends of the MBT rolled up the sleeves and pulled some serious weeds, cut some unruly grass and generally tidied the place up. With summer coming to an end, this yard work on a section of the trail between the New York Avenue and Rhode Island Metro stops should keep the trail foliage tidy through winter.

    Kelly Pack, director of trail development for RTC, has been closely involved in the completion and continued maintenance of the MBT. She says Saturday's event was a perfect way to continue building an active community around the trail.

    "It was great to see the variety of people we had putting their hand up to be involved," she says. "Some people lived nearby, others lived farther away but used the trail every day to get to work. The trail runs right past the Catholic University of America, and so a few of the teachers and faculty joined us. It really said something about the wide variety of people the trail supports."

    The NoMa Business Improvement District helped out with clippers and maintenance machinery; a few residents brought their own lawnmowers along, too.

    As always, every good working bee needs tasty snacks and cool drinks to keep the workers happy, so a big thanks to Kaiser Permanente for providing food and refreshments.

    Our friend Randall Myers took some great photos on the day. Visit our MBT facebook page for pics and more info about how to connect with the MBT community.

    Photo courtesy of Randall Myers.

  • New Arkansas Rail-Trail a Product of Community Effort

    Arkansas isn't yet known for its abundance of rail-trails, but a number of promising projects are in the works. One community in the mostly agricultural region of Lawrence County is pushing ahead with a rail-trail project that will link residences in Hoxie and Walnut City with the local college and a regional airport.

    Spurred by the efforts of a number of community volunteers, the Lawrence County Rail-Trail Committee was this week successful in securing an Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department grant of $80,000 to pave a few more miles of the 6.7-mile Hoxie to Walport trail along a out-of-service spur extending from the disused Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line.

    In rural communities where getting from A to B often presents few other options than driving, a paved trail like this one can have a remarkable impact on the community.

    In 2007, trail advocates received $40,000 from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, which funded paving the first mile from the trailhead in Hoxie to the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative in Walnut Ridge.

    The success of rail-trail projects in small communities often depends on the generous involvement of volunteer and community groups, and this project is no different. The Lawrence County Rail-Trail Committee has formed a partnership with the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs to undertake maintenance and beautification of the trail.

    The committee is looking for any other community groups or dedicated individuals who would be interested in adopting a stretch of the trail.


  • El Monte Community Ride Celebrates Trails and Healthy Living

    Last Saturday the residents of El Monte, California, celebrated their city's fantastic location in the middle of the Emerald Necklace network of trails with a community bike ride for all ages on the Rio Hondo bike path.

    More than 220 riders came out to enjoy the easy trails and get some exercise as they toured the path to Peck Water Conservation Park and the Whittier Narrows.

    The community bike ride capped off a season spent raising the profile of local trails through an 'Rx for Health' program. 'Rx for Health' worked with doctors and schools to encourage walking and riding as an easy and fun way to get regular exercise.

    Typical of many urban areas, El Monte is battling public health issues like obesity and diabetes, which stem from the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of many Americans. Raising physical activity levels is seen as a key to improving health.

    Alice Strong of the West San Gabriel Valley Bicycle Coalition helped organize ride leaders for the day.

    "I sure saw a lot of smiling faces - lots of smiles per mile on the bikes!" she said.

    The ride was organized by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the City of El Monte, with funding by the California Community Foundation and other sponsors.

    Bike mechanics from the Bike Oven and RB Bike Shop helped get participant's bikes in tip top shape before the ride. There was even a roaming mechanic on hand who helped fix several flats and a broken pedal, to keep the youngsters happy and pedaling.

    Photos by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


  • RTC Releases Better Bikeways Report

    Wouldn't it be great if riding your bike on the street felt as safe as riding on the trail?

    This is a challenge for communities all around the world, as they attempt to design urban landscapes that make biking a safe and convenient transportation option.

    A number of communities in California are at the forefront of this effort, and you can read all about them in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) new Better Bikeways report, produced by our Western Regional Office with the help of city staff around the state and the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) review committee.

    With cycle tracks you feel like you're on a bike trail on the street - traffic calming and bicycle boulevards keep nearby cars at a safe and comparable speed. The Better Bikeways report focuses on four such innovations, as well as additional information on making intersections safer for cyclists.

    These facilities make neighborhoods more bikeable, and help people connect their homes or workplaces with the bike paths, lanes and trails they use and enjoy. A balanced network composed of shared-use paths, cycle tracks, bike lanes and bicycle boulevards appeals to a large cross-section of the population and helps increase cycling rates.

    RTC encourages you to utilize the Better Bikeways report, and other resources in our Trail-Building Toolbox, to help integrate paved trails and on-street facilities in your community into a safe and convenient transportation network.

    Download the Better Bikeways report (PDF; 1.5MB). 

    Photo by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

  • Mid America Conference Reflects New Era For Trails

    It wasn't so long ago that trails conferences were mostly concerned with issues like maintenance of gravel pathways, how to accommodate horses and bicycles, and ways to mobilize volunteers for recreational events.

    The times, they are a-changing.

    While these issues are still critical for trail managers, in recent times the humble walking or riding pathway has taken on a broader significance as people come to fully appreciate the role trails can play in the transportation landscape and in encouraging fitness and healthy activity in everyday lives.

    The overlap of economic, environmental and social issues has shown us that the current car-centric transportation system will continue to present more problems than it solves in coming years. Walking and riding have become more than just recreational options; they are now known as solutions for a crisis of sustainability.

    The 2011 Mid America Trails & Greenways Conference is one of a growing number of public gatherings to reflect the change. At this year's conference, to be held in Fort Wayne, Ind., October 2-5, discussions on active transportation systems and sustainability are juxtaposed with presentations on more traditional issues like public liability and wayfinding signs.

    "It's a culture shift," says Rhonda Boose, director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Midwest Regional Office. "We're seeing it at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and in the trails and transportation community in general."

    Boose has served on the conference's steering committee and will take part in a number of sessions. She says in the past few years awareness has been spreading of how trails and pathways are crucial to the future of communities of all sizes.

    "One of the things we're realizing is how the built environment impacts such a wide range of things, from air quality and congestion, to the commercial vitality of downtown areas and the health of our children," says Boose. "This is all about sustainability-how we can manage our towns and cities to be commercially and environmentally viable into the future, not to mention pleasant places to live."

    The term for this broader theme is 'smart growth.' And though it has fallen into common usage these days, Boose says there is still a need to ensure everyone is working on the same page.

    "How do you define smart growth?" she asks. "In an actual, concrete sense, how do we make sure trails contribute to better communities? We know that options for walking and biking improve everyday living-how do we connect this to public transportation, employment centers, parks, shopping areas? It's difficult, and costly, to go back and retrofit the key components of active transportation, so there needs to be foresight in the way we plan."

    Also on the agenda for the three-day conference: Trail Promotion and Social Networking, Providing Access to Waterways, Conducting Trail User Counts, and the very timely Funding Trails in Tough Times. RTC's Kelly Pack and Eric Oberg will be joining Boose as presenters and moderators at several sessions.

    It won't be all work and no play, however. The day before the conference, attendees will explore some of the region's tremendous recreational features, including the Wabash River Trail, the Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve, and the Franke Park Mountain Bike Trails.

    Anyone with an interest in trails management, development or advocacy is encouraged to attend. For all the fine print, visit www.cityoffortwayne.org/publicworks/matag-conference

    Photo courtesy of City of Fort Wayne

  • New Report from RTC on Canal-Waterways Trails

    Do you have irrigation canals, flood channels or other waterways running through your city? If so, you could have a great opportunity to create shared-use pathways along them for transportation, recreation and, ultimately, a healthier community. Long, uninterrupted corridors along waterways create the perfect opportunity to expand your active (non-motorized) transportation network. Examples highlighted in this report from all over the country--Florida to California-show how successful these projects can be.

    This report from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, entitled Development of Trails along Canals, Flood Channels, and other Waterways: Opportunities, Challenges, and Strategies, discusses preliminary considerations and strategies in the process of developing a trail along a waterway. Topics include: 1) Land Ownership; 2) Developing an Agreement; 3) Owner Use; 4) Liability; and 5) Maintenance, Public Safety and Other Considerations. The report includes sample cooperative agreements between water districts and local jurisdictions for trail development.

    Download a PDF of the report

    Photo: San Gabriel River Trail in Los Angeles County. Taken by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • After Storm, Roll Up the Sleeves and Help Your Local Trail

    Whether Irene was a hurricane or a tropical storm when it passed through your state, the result was probably the same: lots of wind and lots of rain.

    A week later, a number of affected regions are still without power, and emergency crews are doing their best to clean up an extraordinary amount of damage to homes and public infrastructure.

    Irene was also bad news for parks and trails. Park authorities and trail managers this week announced many popular spots would be closed as they scrambled to remove trees and debris, and clear washouts from flooding. If you are a fan of your local trail, this is your chance to roll up your sleeves and show your support.

    A number of volunteer groups are organizing worker bees this Labor Day weekend to help re-open storm-damaged trails.

    In Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River Park Alliance, Schuylkill River Development Corporation and Friends of Schuylkill Banks are meeting Saturday morning for a volunteer clean-up along the Schuylkill River Trail. Workers will meet at the Race Street Entrance to the Trail at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

    In other areas, trail friends are mobilizing on facebook and blogs to muster volunteer crews.

    If you are looking for something great to do this Labor Day weekend, reach out to your local trails group and see if you can lend a hand.

    Photo of trail damage in Philadelphia courtesy of Schuylkill River Park Alliance.


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