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October 2012 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Post-Sandy: How to Get Involved With Cleaning Up Your Local Rail-Trail

    We hope that Hurricane Sandy didn't wreak too much havoc on your community during the last few days.

    Though the dense urban areas of New York City and northern New Jersey were the most effected, the reality is that all through the Northeast people are now dealing with fallen trees, debris, collapsed fences and power lines that, in many instances, will be partially blocking or completely closing local trail systems.

    Now is the perfect time to roll up the sleeves and see what you can do help restore your local rail-trail. But how do you get involved? It's not a great idea just to grab the nearest machete and start hacking away at branches, so what is the right way to channel your energy and support?

    1. Find out who's in charge. Every trail has its own managing agency. This could be your local parks department, or it could be an organized volunteer group. Finding out is not too hard. The best bet is to Google the name of the trail, and find contact information at the trail's webpage. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) trail finder website www.traillink.com includes contact information on each trail's managing agency. Simply find your local trail's page, and look under the "Related Content" bar on the right side of the page.

    "Checking in with the trail manager enables local friends of the trail to better coordinate resources, provide equipment, and to make sure the most effort is being directed to sections of the trail that need it," says Tom Sexton, director of RTC's Northeast Regional Office.

    2. Get a team together. The silver lining to natural disasters like this one is often the tremendous response of people and businesses in helping their community in the aftermath. Talk to your friends and neighbors, gather a party of colleagues, and take your collective strength out on the trail. Many hands make light work, and cleanups are a great way to strengthen the sense of community that already exists around local rail-trails.

    3. Be safe. Trail managers and organized groups will always provide and insist on appropriate safety protocols. If you're out on your own, make sure you are visible to other trail users. Set up a safety cone or other visible marker on either side of your work area. Wear bright clothing. It goes without saying, but be very careful when using cutting tools and sharp implements. And, finally, don't try and do too much. That log might be heavier than you think. If in doubt, get someone to help you - it's always a good idea to have at least one partner on hand.

    4. Document your work. Take photos, write a blog entry, or contact your local paper. Not only is it great to give credit to those who helped, but publicizing the work however you can will bring attention to both the trail and the generous community it inspires. Events like these are great opportunities to build awareness of and support for local trail groups and trail funding.

    If you're having difficulty identifying the managing agency for your local rail-trail, or have other post-storm maintenance issues, contact RTC's Northeast Regional Office at 717-238-1717, or RTCNortheastOffice@railstotrails.org   

    Photos: Connecticut's Farmington Canal Heritage Trail after a storm last October, courtesy Farmington Valley Trails Council.
    Trail Manager Del Bischoff inspecting flood damage along Iowa's Heritage Trail, courtesy Dubuque County Conservation Board.

     

     

  • Chomping at the Bit, Tennessee Community Finds Ways to Make Rail-Trail Happen Faster

    The people of Putnam County in central Tennessee are getting impatient. The money is lined up and the plans have been drawn--like a child on Christmas morning, they can see the gift under the tree but have to wait a few more excruciating moments to unwrap it.

    That gift is the Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail, and palatable local energy has the project moving ahead with speed. On November 16, an initial half-mile section of the trail will open to the public. But this is just the first phase of what will be a 19-mile trail along an active rail line between the county seat of Cookeville and downtown Monterey.

    Aware that the rail-trail will immediately bring a myriad of benefits to local residents and businesses, Ken Hall, Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail board chairman, has his eyes well beyond phase 1 and is pushing for construction of subsequent sections. Thanks in large part to a $600,000 federal government Transportation Enhancements (TE) grant, the funding is already in place. Hall is now working on an expedited completion proposal--his plan for how the communities in the county can get the rail-trail built faster.

    "I'm an impatient guy," Hall told Cookeville's Herald-Citizen. "I wanted this done last year. This trail would bring in additional tourism bucks. It will be a big draw."

    His proposal involves each municipal body involved in the project--Algood, Monterey, Cookeville and the county--donating equipment and one employee each, to work three days per week. The municipal employees would supervise eligible construction-qualified inmates from the local jail. Volunteers will also be recruited to be involved with construction.

    Way to get it done, Putnam County! We look forward to a future of many more ribbon-cuttings for the Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail.

    Photos courtesy TCHRT's facebook page

     

     

  • Down Under Visits D.C. on Rail-Trail Study Tour

    The rail-trail movement is global. Though the United States boasts the most extensive network of developed rail-trails, as well as rail-trail organizations and advocates, all over the world citizens are recycling underused rail corridors into vibrant places of recreation and transportation.

    Australasia has been a hotbed of rail-trail development of late. Particularly New Zealand, where the 150-kilometer Otago Central Rail Trail is drawing rave reviews as a must-do tourism destination and single-handedly reviving a number of rural communities along its route.

    So it was great to host a visit by some of our rail-trail brethren from neighboring Australia earlier this month. RailTrails Australia committee member Vince Aitken and organization volunteer Margaret Holt stopped by our Washington, D.C., headquarters to meet with staff and share lessons and challenges about rail-trail development at opposite ends of the globe.

    Vince and Margaret had the opportunity to experience the fruits of good rail-trail development firsthand, with a ride along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal National Historic Park, one of America's most popular rail-trail destinations and a model for such projects around the world.

    Vince noted that due to the expansive and relatively unpopulated landscape, most rail-trails in Australia feature great distances between townships, and so there remains a tremendous opportunity to provide amenities for long-distance travelers.

    Learn more about RailTrails Australia at www.railtrails.org.au.

    Photo of Clare Valley Riesling Trail, South Australia, courtesy RailTrails Australia
    Photo of Vince Aitken and Margaret Holt with RTC President Keith Laughlin by RTC 

     

     

     

  • RTC Wins Pacifico Challenge!

    Thanks to the overwhelming support of members and supporters across the country, we won the most votes in Pacifico's summertime "Make Adventure Happen" promotion! Your votes throughout the campaign, and in particular during a few days at the end, helped vault us into the lead and secure the grand prize.

    All told, you helped us earn more than $50,000 for our trail-building work around the country!

    That's an incredible boost, and we can't thank you enough for participating and supporting us. We also want to thank Pacifico for including us in this fun promotion alongside three other worthy organizations: Surfrider, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Best Friends Animal Society. 

    We have a lot of exciting programs and projects this money will help fund, and we'll keep you posted in the coming weeks and months about how your support--in the simple act of voting for us--will make a huge difference in our trail-building work across the country. Thank you!

    Victory toast by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  

  • 20 Years Later, Massachusetts Advocates Break Through on Pathway to the Sea

    Rail-trail years are like dog years. In the world of planning and building a rail-trail, calendar years equal mere months, and a decade is barely a cycle of the seasons. In this world, where even the best rail-trail projects can take 20 or 30 years to come to fruition, patience, commitment and consistency are the most valuable of traits, their owners oaks of the movement rather than blazing stars streaking across the sky.

    As is Bike to the Sea, Inc. Since 1993 this Massachusetts nonprofit has been a solid voice for the creation of a nine-mile bike and pedestrian trail, known as the Northern Strand Community Trail, from Malden to the beaches of Lynn and Revere on the shores of Broad Sound and Nahant Bay. While the state has long recognized that a trail to the sea along the unused Saugus Branch rail line is feasible, the task of raising support, awareness and funds for the project has been left to local advocates.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has assisted in that crucial effort. Thanks to our partners at The Coca Cola Foundation, last year we granted Bike to the Sea $12,500 in order to meet the matching requirement for a Recreational Trail Program (RTP) grant of more than $84,000. This money enabled the first phases of construction of the Northern Strand Community Trail earlier this year, in Saugus.

    This ribboncutting came at a poignant time, with Bike to the Sea this year marking its 20th anniversary--two decades since a small group of locals beginning advocating for a pathway they knew would provide a tremendous benefit for the region.

    To celebrate, Bike to the Sea will hold a 20th Anniversary Gala at the Dockside Restaurant function room on the corner of Commercial and Medford streets, Malden, Friday, November 2, at 6:30 p.m. The event will be a terrific occasion to reflect on the many achievements of local advocates over the past two decades, including new sections of rail-trail in Everett, Malden and Saugus, and to look forward to the years of trail building ahead.

    Space is limited. Please RSVP to swinslow4152@gmail.com.

    Photo courtesy Bike to the Sea, Inc.

     

     

  • Trail Across Old Tampa Bay a Leap Forward for Florida

    Florida has some work to do. When it comes to creating walkable, bikeable environments, the Sunshine State is consistently rated one of the most dangerous places in America for anyone outside of a car.

    But things are starting to change, thanks in part to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) more than 20 years of advocacy and coalition building in Florida, and a dedicated community of local planners and advocates. This month, work began on a multi-use pathway alongside the Courtney Campbell Causeway, passing over Old Tampa Bay and connecting Clearwater in Pinellas County with Tampa in Hillsborough County.

    "In the not too distant future, this will be a spectacular stretch of trail that will build on the international draw of the area," says RTC's Florida State Director Ken Bryan. "Seeing this important project move forward is also evidence of the strong local support for the region's growing trail system."

    This four-mile section, including a half-mile bridge portion, is a critical link in a developing network. Replacing a connection that was lost with the closure of the old Gandy Bridge Trail in 2008, the trail alongside the Courtney Campbell Causeway will provide a link to the extensive Pinellas Trail network to the west, and the growing network of non-motorized pathways around Tampa to the east.

    When RTC launched a campaign in 2009 to urge the Florida Department of Transportation to make better use of federal funding dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, a Courtney Campbell Causeway trail became the 'poster child' for the huge public improvements these funds could make.

    Just a few years later, that advocacy effort has paid off, with a partnership of local agencies tapping into federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) funding, much to the delight of not only bikers and walkers in the area but also local business owners, public health officials, tourism agencies and elected officials. According to Tampa Bay online, an association representing Tampa's Westshore Business District is supportive of the trails' benefit to area hotels and office workers.

    The trail will also make a more accessible feature of the natural setting which draws many thousands of visitors each year.

    Images courtesy Florida DOT

     

     

  • 200 Miles Divided By 12 Friends = Good Times in the South

    By Jake Lynch

    I am seriously thinking about putting a team together for the Dixie200. This thing sounds awesome: 200 miles split among a group of your friends, an overnight relay run along two of America's most scenic rail-trails - the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails from Atlanta, Ga., to Birmingham, Ala.

    Got a crew of pals that are pretty fit and always willing to do something inappropriately extreme but undoubtedly memorable? Then the Dixie200 was made for you. Don't let the '200' part scare you - with a team of 12, each runner will run about the equivalent of a half-marathon. Plus, the whole spirit of the thing looks kinda silly and fun. (See photo).

    The good news is, you've got all fall and winter to train - the race takes off from Atlanta on March 22, 2013.

    For more information, visit www.dixie200.com. See you there. Maybe.

    Photo courtesy Dixie200

     

     

  • Community Buy-In Builds Beautiful Parkway in California

    Everywhere you go you hear that times are tough. Particularly in the world of trail-building, resources for development and maintenance are limited or nonexistent, and it can be disheartening for volunteers and advocates who face seemingly insurmountable planning challenges and multi-million dollar estimates.

    But Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's report, Community Built: Stories of Volunteers Creating and Caring for Their Trails, contains inspiring examples of everyday Americans across the country using their community strength to create incredible trails. It gives trail champions a reason to take heart, because across the country, stories abound of trails getting developed, extended and cared for with minimal resources.

    Reedley Community Parkway in California is one of those. Built along a railbanked right-of-way next to existing tracks, the 2.6-mile trail provides an alternate route to access some of Reedley's busiest arterial streets. Hundreds of walkers, cyclists and runners use the Reedley Parkway daily.

    From its inception, the trail-building process was driven by a coalition of citizens and volunteers who had a dream of a non-motorized trail in the heart of Reedley that could be used for commuting and recreation. At the time of abandonment, the city had possession of the downtown right-of-way, which they planned to relinquish to adjacent landowners. However, a grassroots coalition of citizens approached the city government and asked for it to be transformed into a trail. A Rails to Trails Committee was formed to engage in fundraising, organize volunteers to help with the construction process, and act as a forum for public input into the design of the trail. The Trails Committee has been the driving force in maintaining the trail and incorporating new amenities into it.

    The Trails Committee's success in engaging the community has been stunning: more than 75 different organizations have been involved with the trail. Volunteers have planted more than 840 trees and 150 shrubs, and the Trails Committee was given significant autonomy by the city council to utilize volunteers as needed for the beautification of the parkway, reducing costs for the city and enabling continued improvements to be made.

    While construction of the trail was funded by various federal government grants, $63,000 in donations from local businesses and citizens have provided the necessary amenities. Twenty-three benches were donated. Two drinking fountains, two bicycle racks, a kiosk for posting community events, three picnic tables, two donor boards with more than 100 tiles, and one art sculpture were all paid for by the community. An ornamental fountain was donated by Buttonwillow Nursery, and the brick foundation surrounding the fountain was donated by Reedley Lumber. Three dog waste dispensers were donated by the Reedley Veterinary Hospital. The Fresno County Workforce Investment Board Youth Commission painted a mural celebrating the town's history, and a gazebo was built by Beckenhauer Construction, using materials the city government had purchased with a grant. Landscaping was completed by student volunteers from Reedley College.

    The incredible amount of time and money contributed to the Reedley Parkway by volunteers is a great example of the benefits that can accrue when a tightly knit community "buys in" to the vision of a trail. Reedley Parkway is the only non-motorized trail running through the small town of Reedley, and it connects the entire town from northwest to southeast. These factors have made the residents proud of their trail and instilled in them this sense of ownership.

    To learn more about the community that has grown around the Reedly Parkway, and similar inspiring local efforts, read and download Community Built at www.railstotrails.org.

    Photos courtesy Blossom Trail Photography

     

     

  • Outside St. Louis, Rail-With-Trail Boosts Capacity of Transit System

    It's certainly catching on - the idea that rail-trails are incredibly effective ways to improve the functioning of active urban rail systems.

    In St. Clair County, Ill., on the outskirts of St. Louis, Mo., the county transit district continues to extend its heralded MetroBikeLink Trail, a paved, multi-use trail that provides a fast and efficient connection from local neighborhoods to the metro stations.

    This Thursday, county leaders will cut the ribbon on a new 2.2-mile section (right) connecting the Swansea MetroLink Station and Memorial Hospital Station. The extension compliments the existing 4.7-mile MetroBikeLink Trail (below) between the Swansea MetroLink station and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

    "This project demonstrates just how effective our multi-modal system is in St. Clair County," county board chairman Mark Kern told the Belleville News Democrat. "We are seeing a diverse group using the trail system. By adding this 2.2-mile segment, we are further opening the system to our residents and visitors alike."

    Successful rail-with-trail projects like this one, and similar projects in D.C., Massachusetts, Oregon, California, Connecticut and Texas, are helping correct the misconception that rail-trail development requires and supports the closure of rail service. Rail-with-trail projects combine the benefits of walking and biking with convenient access to urban transit. With the number of abandonments steadily decreasing since the mid-1990s, and cities looking for creative transportation designs for booming populations and diminishing space, rail-with-trail is a cost-effective and efficient solution.

    "Cities these days are putting more effort into their pedestrian and bike networks. But at the same time, urban space is getting tight," says Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Director of Trail Development, Kelly Pack. "Existing rail lines are natural corridors. More often than not the right-of-way is wide enough to accommodate a trail, they are built at grade, and they are already going where people want to go."

    As it becomes a critical element of day-to-travel in the area, the spine of the MetroBikeLink Trail has already spurred the development of connecting trail systems, including one from Southwestern Illinois College into the adjacent neighborhoods.

    And the success of this multi-modal system has regional planners thinking big.

    "It is our hope that this trail system, with the ability to hop on MetroLink or MetroBus, will link our system to the Missouri side of the river," says one local transit official.

    For more information about rail-with-trail projects, visit RTC's toolbox page on the subject, and read and download our 2009 survey of trails along active rail lines in California.

    Photos courtesy Metro Transit - St. Louis

     

     

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Branch and St. Joseph Counties, Michigan

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about September 19, 2012, Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 19.37 miles of track between Coldwater in Branch County, Michigan and Sturgis in St. Joseph County, Michigan. We are providing this information because it presents an 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-1102 (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. 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 Eric Oberg at eric@railstotrails.org.

     

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Pickens County, South Carolina

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about September 7, 2012, Pickens Railway Company filed for the abandonment of 8.5 miles of track near the cities of Pickens and Easley in Pickens County, South Carolina. We are providing this information because it presents an 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-1097 (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. 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 Kelly Pack at kellyp@railstotrails.org.

  • Michigan Communities Eager to Support Planned Rail-Trail

    In 1994, Michigan businessman Fred Meijer funded the purchase of the first rail-trail right-of-way in the state. That purchase became the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail (right), and since then, the philanthropy of the Meijer family has made possible one of the best trail networks in America.

    The success and popularity of these trails has been the best vindication of Meijer's visionary support. A year after his death, Meijer's legacy continues to expand as the people and communities of Michigan carry on his belief that such trails represent a wise investment.

    Right now, small communities in the mid-Michigan counties of Clinton, Ionia and Shiawassee are digging deep to help fund the planned 41.3-mile Fred Meijer Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee (CIS) rail-trail (below). These communities have raised more than $180,000 to match a number of state and federal grants, with a number of municipalities pitching in far more than the amount requested of them by the state.

    According to this story in the Sentinel Standard, smaller communities were asked to give a voluntary sum of $5,000 each to help support the trail system, with larger communities, including Ionia and St. Johns, asked to provide $25,000. In response, Ionia gave $50,000. Many other towns gave additional funds, too, conscious of the value of the trail and great value it brings to the area, improving not only the quality of life of existing residents, but its tourism potential and ability to attract new residents and businesses. Thanks to donations by local residents, the Friends of the Fred Meijer CIS Trail has also raised almost $50,000.

    "It's important for them to participate," Michigan Department of Resources Trail Planning Specialist Annamarie Bauer told the Sentinel Standard. "The trail brings people to their communities and can help provide economic opportunities."

    Photo of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail by RTC
    Photo of CIS rail corridor courtesy www.cistrail.org

     

  • Adirondack Corridor - America's Next Great Rail-Trail

    Though there are more than 1,700 rail-trails across America, covering all different shapes and sizes, a small handful stand out as true superstars of the rail-trail movement. Whether for the beauty of their surrounds, their length, or an indefinable charm and character, these rail-trails become beloved attractions drawing praise, and visitors, from near and far.

    On this list are  trails such as the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho, the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri, and Vermont's Island Line. Right now, plans are afoot for the conversion of former rail corridor that, when completed, will immediately force its way into that elite company.

    Running through the scenic Tri-Lakes region of upper New York is the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor (right). Currently, the line carries a seasonal sightseeing train, which through limited ridership hasn't delivered significant commercial returns in a picturesque region bursting with recreational tourism potential.

    Inspired by the ability of rail-trail projects elsewhere to boost recreational tourism, a group of locals last year formed the Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA), with the goal of converting a 34-mile section of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake into a multi-use trail.

    As they prepared to build a case to convince local residents and authorities of what such a rail-trail could bring to the area, ARTA turned to the experts. For the past year, Carl Knoch, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's manager of trail development in the Northeast, has been working closely with ARTA, evaluating the potential economic impact of an Adirondacks rail-trail, and studying ways and means to build it.

    Knoch's message to the communities between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake is the same message that has sparked the development of similar projects in his native Pennsylvania: Trails are good business for small towns.

    This is not just a gut feeling. Knoch's Northeast Regional 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 trails systems in Pennsylvania and secured the viability of towns once suffering 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."

    When Knoch first began traveling to the Tri-Lakes to discuss a rail-trail conversion, he encountered a good deal of local opposition. But after a number of public meetings and a period of outreach and education, business owners, residents and town officials are now supportive of removing the train tracks to construct the optimal rail-trail.

    However the state Department of Transportation (DOT), which has jurisdiction over the corridor, has indicated they plan to leave the little-used corridor, deteriorated in sections, as it is. Undeterred, local officials have begun petitioning the DOT to revisit its management plan for the corridor, which hasn't been reexamined in 17 years, despite the evaporation of rail service in that time. The locals' frustration is evident.

    "...[T]he taxpayers are paying huge unanticipated sums each year to subsidize a money-losing operation while simultaneously blocking one of the best economic development options open to the North Country," Saranac Lake resident Lee Keet wrote to the editor of the Times Union recently.

    Aware that hard data and the recorded experiences of similar communities tell the most compelling story, RTC recently published a study of the proposed 34-mile section, featuring estimated trail-user numbers and related economic impact based on data gathered from similar rail-trails in the Northeast. This study found that a rail-trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake would attract a midpoint estimate of 224,260 visitors annually, each spending between $63.86 and $99.30 per day--worth an estimated $19.8 million to local economies.

    The cost of constructing the 34-mile segment would be approximately $2.2 million, which could be offset by $5.3 million of income from the salvage and sale of the tracks and ties. Knoch says the $3.1 million excess could be applied to construction of future sections of the trail, or maintenance.

    To read and download the Adirondack Rail Trail study, and other RTC research publications, visit community.railstotrails.org/media

    Photos of the Adirondack Scenic Railroad corridor by Carl Knoch/RTC.

     

     

  • Do Trails Really Equal Dollars for Trail-side Communities? Here's What Business Owners Say

    Though the communities that have developed significant rail-trail networks can attest to the positive impact trail traffic has on local businesses, elsewhere this phenomenon still has its doubters. For every cynical landowner turned hotelier, or every entrepreneur who has been able to bring commerce and jobs back to local main streets thanks to trail tourism, there is another who holds firmly to the long disproven idea that trail users don't spend money in the communities they visit.

    Which is why Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has focused in recent years on accurately documenting that economic impact, presenting well-researched data, hard numbers that prove, for example, that non-local visitors to the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pennsylvania spend an average of $99.30 per visit. Or that people riding and hiking the Great Allegheny Passage leave more than $21 million a year in the communities and businesses along the way.

    Though the numbers tell a compelling story, the locals themselves offer unique insights into just what local destination trails mean to their businesses. In June of this year, we visited dozens of these business owners along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal towpath through Pennsylvania and Maryland. Here's what they had to say!

     

     

  • Nature's Own Fireworks Display--Fall a Great Time for Rail-Trails

    If the weather where you are is anything like the D.C. area, when you woke up Sunday morning it felt like the seasons had changed overnight.

    And though we bemoan the shorter days, the oncoming fall is a wonderful time for rail-trails. Not only do we wave farewell to the sweat-soaked rides and pesky bugs of summer, this time of year Mother Nature unveils an extraordinary pallet of colors with fall foliage.

    Across the country, rail-trail groups are planning fall foliage rides and hikes to take advantage of this short but spectacular window of opportunity.

    On Saturday, October 20, fans of the Western Maryland Rail Trail have organized their own fall foliage bike ride and picnic. When the colors start to turn and blaze, there are few better seats in the house than a rail-trail. Here's a few rail-trails famous for their fall colors.

    Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, Vt. This gentle, crushed-limestone pathway begins in St. Albans and winds through rolling hills and dairy farmland, generally following the Missisquoi River. Daytime temperatures should still be comfortable (nights quite a bit chillier), and the autumn landscape radiates color and wildlife.

    Paul Bunyan Trail, Minn. Northern Minnesota usually reaches its autumn heyday between late September and early October. The paved, 110-mile Paul Bunyan Trail (above) is well-suited for users of all kinds, and the foliage views are as epic as the trail's lumberjack namesake.

    North Central State Trail, Mich. The 62-mile North Central State Trail in northern Michigan offers an arresting backdrop for fall. Birch and maples pop firecracker yellow and glow red and orange like coals in a campfire.

    Hudson Valley Rail Trail, N.Y. Well worth a stroll for anyone eager to feel awash in golden leaves. At just more than two miles long, the Hudson offers an easygoing trip from Highland to Lloyd, where the woods begin to glow by mid- to late October.

    Virginia Creeper Trail, Va. The 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail offers a dirt and asphalt journey just above the North Carolina border. The trail's dense forests, sleepy hills, long trestles, pockets of pastureland, grazing cattle and inviting communities will make for a memorable and photogenic ride.

    Galloping Goose Trail, Colo. The Galloping Goose is a long, full-day ride that will see you gaining significant elevation as you delve deep into Colorado's Uncompahgre National Forest. The glow of the region's famous aspen trees notwithstanding, this 20-mile-long trail is surrounded by the splendor of snow-capped Rocky Mountain peaks.

    Silver Comet Trail, Ga. This scenic and well-maintained multiuse trail connects Smyrna, Ga., on the outskirts of Atlanta, with the State Line Gateway Park on the Georgia-Alabama line.

    Carrabassett River Trail, Maine. Maine's Carrabassett Valley is one of New England's most scenic plots. Mix in a sea of golden-flamed aspens, crimson red maples and purple-hued Joe Pye Weed each fall, and you've got the makings of the perfect weekend escape.

    Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle, Wash. Come fall, Seattle's 17-mile Burke-Gilman Trail is a great spot to savor fall's colorful sweep, which usually strikes between late October and early November. With the higher precipitation in this part of the world, the leaf-peeping bonanza here is shorter--but worth the wait.

    American Tobacco Trail, N.C. Along the rail lines that once supplied the factories of the American Tobacco Company, bikers, inline skaters and horseback riders now slice though the thickly forested countryside between Durham and west of Raleigh. Fall generally peaks a little later down here in the South, although the show is no less enjoyable.

    Explore maps, photos and reviews of trails across America at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's free trail-finder website, www.traillink.com.

     

     

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