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As Mayor and Advocate, Darwin Hindman Made His Mark In Missouri

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 opportunities."

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 Columbia.

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.

Posted Mon, Nov 28 2011 12:30 PM by Jake Lynch

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