At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary
celebration in October, we honored a group of men and women--the inaugural
Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions--who have made a remarkable contribution to
the rail-trail movement during the past quarter century. We will be
posting a blog story on each of the honorees during the coming weeks. Today we
pay tribute to Darwin Hindman, who as a mayor and passionate advocate was
a pioneer for non-motorized transportation in his native Missouri.
"My father was a professor of physical education, so I was
always a great believer in people being active and having recreation in their
lives," Darwin Hindman said in an interview with Rails to Trails magazine earlier this year. "I recognized that walking and bicycling were wonderful
forms of recreation. Yet we weren't building our cities to provide those
This statement reflects an ethos that inspired the former mayor of Columbia, Mo., in a lifelong campaign for active living and walkable
and bikeable communities.
As a lawyer and citizen activist in the 1980s, he helped
convince then-Missouri Governor John Ashcroft and the state legislature to
convert an unused rail line into what is now one of the most recognizable and
successful rail-trails in the country: the 237-mile Katy Trail State Park.
Rather than bemoan a landscape that he saw as limiting recreation
and transportation options, Hindman set his mind to change it. As a five-term
mayor of his hometown, he worked tirelessly to expand Columbia's system of
trails, bike lanes and parks. Hindman is credited with the construction of
nearly 100 miles of side trails, pedways and bike paths that have made Columbia
one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the nation.
"Developing rail-trails always depends on a combination of
political leadership and citizen leadership," Hindman says. In Missouri, Hindman was the link between the two, and his
success is evident in the ever-improving non-motorized landscape of the state.
Hindman was also instrumental in securing a $25 million
federal grant under the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program--for which RTC
was the lead advocate and currently helps administer--to help Columbia develop a
multi-modal transportation system. As a result of his efforts, Columbia is
consistently rated one of America's most livable communities.
But one of things for which Hindman is most admired is that
not only does he talk the talk, he also rides the bike. At 78, he still rides
every day, pedaling around town on a modified mountain bike which he has
tweaked to best suit his active life. It has given him a working insight into
the concrete impact of trails, bike lanes and footpaths in communities like
Hindman has been honored with the Leadership for Healthy
Communities award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of
American Bicyclists. In 2010 he was recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama for
his efforts to build a bicycle friendly community.
Hindman dedicated his $1,000 Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion grant to the Missouri State
Parks Foundation, in support of the Katy Trail State Park.
Photo of Darwin Hindman receiving his Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion award from RTC President Keith Laughlin by Scott Stark/RTC.
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037