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
recognize the legacy of Tom Murphy, one of the first mayors in the nation to
recognize the economic value of trails to developing cities.
For the last 30 years, Tom Murphy has been a highly active
and influential supporter of rail-trails. As an elected official, his promotion
of trails and urban green space has transformed the landscape of Pittsburgh and
helped make Pennsylvania one of the nation's most trail-friendly states. From
1979 through 1993 Murphy served eight terms in the Pennsylvania State General
Assembly House of Representatives. The legislation Murphy authored during this
time to encourage industrial land reuse and transform unused railroad rights-of-way
into trails and greenspace went a long way toward building a sustainable
economy around trails tourism and outdoor recreation.
Murphy led the passage of the Pennsylvania Rail Trail Act in
1989, as well as the state's purchase of what is now the 64-mile Pine Creek
Rail-Trail. He went on to serve three terms as mayor of Pittsburgh from 1994 to
2005. During this time, he oversaw the development of more than 20 miles of new
riverfront trails and urban green space, and he developed strategic partnerships
to transform more than 1,000 acres of blighted, unused industrial properties
into new commercial, residential, retail and public uses. Murphy's legacy in
Pittsburgh is evident today in the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System, which
attracts millions of recreational and commuter users.
"Tom understood what trails and biking could do for the
city, at a time when nobody was talking about it," says RTC's Tom Sexton.
"Beyond his role in Pittsburgh, Tom was a cheerleader for trails right
throughout the southwest part of the state. Now that we have all these great
trails, people forget there was a time when people weren't interested in this
stuff. But Tom was a visionary; he was out on the stump."
Murphy dedicated the Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion
grant awarded in his honor to Friends of the Riverfront, which has worked for
20 years to reclaim Pittsburgh's riverfronts for public access and recreational
Photo of Tom Murphy at RTC's 25th Anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C. by Laura Cohen/RTC.
Thanks Tom for your forsight in leading the development of these trails which and and my others now enjoy.
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037