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
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
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
Washington, DC 20037