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November 2012 - RTC TrailBlog

  • In Los Angeles, Locals Show Some Love For Compton Creek Bike Path

    By Jake Lynch

    The urban environment of Compton, Los Angeles, provides a strong example of why Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Urban Pathways Initiative is such urgent and important work.

    With less than one acre of open space per 1,000 residents, well below the national recommendation of 10 acres per 1,000 residents, the people of Compton have few opportunities to incorporate physical activity in their day-to-day lives - to ride a bike, to jog, to walk to the store or even to take a relaxing stroll with friends.

    Improving access to trails and pathways, and the appeal and usability of those pathways, has been one of the focuses of our work in Compton since first getting involved there in 2009.

    Running through the center of Compton, the 5.3-mile Compton Creek Bike Path (right) passes schools, parks, businesses and neighborhoods, offering a valuable resource to the community for physical activity and active transportation.

    Unfortunately, concerns about safety and maintenance on the trail are keeping people from using it as often as they could. It is a cycle that can repeat itself - with less activity on the trail there is less impetus to improve its condition, less community ownership, and so it goes.

    In order to address these issues, the City of Compton has started an initiative of hosting community volunteer days to clean up and beautify the bike path. We are very pleased to report that the first event of that program was held early this month, thanks to volunteers from the excellent Hub City Teens (below). The Hub City Teens Trail Ambassadors are all graduates of an RTC Earn-a-Bike program, and are now trail champions in their own right, helping to educate other local students about the importance of the trail, the creek, and of regular physical activity. More cleanup events have been scheduled for December and January.

    "It is terrific to see a community of people who use and care about the trail slowly coming together," says RTC's Manager of Trail Development in the Western Region, Barry Bergman. "As we have seen in our other urban project areas across the country, building this kind of lasting ownership takes time. But in the long term this is how you build a community pathway that is loved, cared for and well-used."

    As part of RTC's ongoing Urban Pathways Initiative work in Compton, our western region staff have started collaborating with the City of Compton and local groups to produce monthly calendars of trail-related events and outdoor activities in the greater Compton community. To keep updated on Cleanup Days, and other trail-related events, check the events calendar on the City of Compton's website, or contact RTC's Western Region Office at western@railstotrails.org, or 415-814-1100.

    Photo of Compton Creek Bike Path courtesy www.traillink.com
    Photo of cleanup event courtesy Hub City Teens 


  • In Fayetteville, Arkansas, Business is Booming Around Urban Trails Network

    By Jake Lynch

    It used to be that "bike friendly community" was a term you thought you could pigeonhole. Oh sure, Portland and Seattle, right? And dense, hip, urban metropolises, yes? New York, D.C...

    Yes, and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

    The third largest city in a state that was this year judged the least bike-friendly state in America, Fayetteville has for the past decade put an urban trails system, and bike and walkability, at the heart of its development plans.

    And it's booming. Fayetteville's population has grown 27 percent in the last decade, and in the past few years has been ranked one of the best places to go to college, to do business, to retire, or to live, work and play. It is no coincidence that this acclaim has come as the city's long-range trails and greenways plan has started to come to fruition.

    "The success of the Fayetteville trails system grew from the community's vision back in the 1990s for a viable alternative transportation system," says City of Fayetteville Trails Coordinator, Matt Mihalevich. "Over the past 10 years, we have worked toward providing a connected network of trails, and are currently up to 21 miles of 10- or 12-foot-wide paved trails within the city. The primary goal of the network is to provide an alternate form of transportation. And we are seeing this goal realized, with more than 2,000 people using some of the busier trails each day."

    One of the key segments of that system is the Frisco Trail, which utilizes both active and inactive sections of rail corridor running north-south through the heart of the city. Although relatively short at 1.3 miles, the historic layout of the rail corridor, bisecting the downtown area, makes the Frisco Trail a natural "spine" for the broader trail system. It also connects locals and visitors with the vibrant entertainment center on Dickson Street with newer developments on the south side of Fayetteville. Like the best urban rail-trails, it provides users with human-powered access to a myriad of restaurants, arts centers, schools and libraries, neighborhoods and open spaces. And the Frisco Trail provides a seamless connection with the Scull Creek Trail, which itself connects with the Mud Creek Trail further north of downtown.

    Mihalevich says the Frisco Trail and its connections have now become a focal point and catalyst in Fayetteville's development.

    "In the last few years the city has experienced a steady increase in residential and commercial urban projects close to the trail, creating a positive and sustainable economic impact for the city," he says. "The trail system has been instrumental in advancing our planning goals of discouraging suburban sprawl, prioritizing urban infill development and growing a livable transportation system."

    One of the developers drawn to the city by its trail system is the Specialized Real Estate Group, which is currently building an apartment complex for more than 600 residents close to the Frisco Trail. The Sterling Frisco development will target students and staff at the nearby University of Arkansas and young professionals.

    Last month, Sterling executives partnered with Mihalevich and a local business school on a bike tour which featured discussion of the benefits of transit oriented development, and an exploration of opportunities for business development along the Frisco Trail corridor.

    "The trail is such an integral part of the character of the site that we chose to name this project after the Frisco trail and historic rail corridor," says Specialized Real Estate Group President Seth Mims. "The people we serve love the connectivity and health benefits of the trail. There are obvious environmental benefits of choosing walking or biking over using a car, and these benefits give our developments an edge over conventional apartments built on the outskirts of town. In addition to our proximity to campus, we chose to build on the trail to give residents access to the entertainment district and greenspaces."

    Mims says the company plans to offer a bike loan program to encourage residents to take advantage of the trail.

    A natural offshoot of the popularity of Fayetteville's trails is the strong team of volunteers that has grown around it. In a great piece of community organizing, the local parks and recreation department created the Trail Trekkers program. The goal of Trail Trekkers - local people who use and appreciate their trails - is to serve as models of proper trail etiquette, help others with trail navigation, report hazards and maintenance needs and keep an eye out for potential safety concerns.

    What the Frisco Trail, and Fayetteville's network, has done for Fayetteville has not been lost on the other cities in Northwest Arkansas. The Fayetteville system is now the anchor of the planned Razorback Regional Greenway, 36 miles of active transportation pathways connecting Fayetteville to the cities of Springdale, Lowell, Rogers and Bentonville. When complete, the Razorback Regional Greenway will link six downtown areas, three major hospitals, 23 schools, the University of Arkansas, the corporate headquarters of WalMart, JB Hunt Transportation Services and Tyson Foods, shopping areas, parks and residential communities. Having witnessed firsthand the connection of active transportation infrastructure to Fayetteville's residential and commercial growth, regional planners and politicians know a good thing when they see one.

    But the development of the Frisco Trail suffered the same opposition as many rail-with-trail projects. Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, which owns and operates the active (though lightly-used) line, were worried that putting a trail close to active train tracks would be a public safety hazard and liability concern.

    "But what we have seen from the real-life operation of rail-with-trail pathways is typically the opposite," says Kelly Pack, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) director of trail development and one of the authors of an upcoming RTC study on rail-with-trails. "Creating a designated, safe pathway reduces the inclination of people to make their own way along or across the tracks. And through good design, such as a fence or natural landscaped barrier, for example, the users can be kept very separate and exist without incident."

    Such was the case in Fayetteville. Prior to the creation of the trail, the rail corridor was often used as a makeshift pathway in and out of the popular entertainment district, and there had been several accidents involving trains and late night revelers.  

    "The trail and fencing provided a safe alternative, and people no longer walk the tracks like they had in the past," Mihalevich says. "The railroad is pleased."

    Photos: Top, a local coffee shop beside the section of Frisco Trail along active rail line
    Middle, trail construction in Fayetteville
    Bottom, the Frisco Trail.
    All photos courtesy City of Fayetteville


  • From Jersey, With Love - RTC's Newest Team Member Has Big Plans for His Own Neighborhood

    By Jake Lynch

    Always a very civic minded guy, for New Jersey's Akram Abed (right) the connection between bikes, trails, and making a positive impact in the world was first forged by the most unfortunate of circumstances: a flat tire.

    As a youngster cruising around his home territory of Camden and Philadelphia, flat tire after flat tire would disable his only form of transportation and make getting around difficult and time consuming. After flat tire number 15, young Akram decided he needed to learn how to fix these things himself. He eventually found his way to a community bike garage run by Philly's Neighborhood Bike Works.

    "I never forgot the spirit of the place," Akram recalls. "They made me see how such simple services have a huge impact on the real, day-to-day lives of people in our cities - for actually getting them on a bike, getting them to work or school, giving them that freedom. Biking, and knowing how to repair a bike and keep it working, really empowers a person in a real and measurable way."

    Akram is all about real life impact. Born on the West Bank and raised in Camden, he studied international relations at Brown University with the idea of a career in international development or diplomacy. After a period working for local nonprofits, however, he began to see the need for that kind of energy right in his own backyard.

    "In a lot of ways, Camden is like a developing nation," he says. "It has the same need for creative solutions, for ideas to improve the landscape and empower local residents."

    He first partnered with RTC last year as a volunteer on the Camden County BikeShare program, and his work with encouraging young riders in the area made him the perfect fit to join our North East Regional Office in 2012 to continue building the very cool Camden Youth Cycling, Learning & Exercising program (CYCLE). Thanks to our friends at the Campbell Soup Foundation, the CYCLE program is leveraging the simple joy of young people pedaling around their neighborhoods to grow support for trails and bike/ped connections throughout the region.

    His enthusiasm for biking is contagious, and by inspiring his fellow Camden residents with the endless possibilities represented by better transportation options, he is making a real and lasting impact in the city he calls home.

    Photos by RTC



  • School in N.Y. Wants Rail-With-Trail for Much-Needed Route for Students

    By Jake Lynch

    Everyone agrees that getting more children walking or riding to school each day would be a great thing. The regular exercise would do them the world of good, not to speak of keeping all those parent-taxis off the road in a.m. and p.m. peak hours.

    In 1969, about 41 percent of kids walked or biked to school. Now, that number is down to about 13 percent. And in that same time period, the percentage of children who are overweight has more than tripled. This generation of young people is the first in our history expected to have a shorter average life expectancy than their parents, and inactivity is the main reason why.

    However the problem isn't just lazy kids. Many communities have developed in such an auto-centric way that their roads and streets don't have sidewalks, and walking or riding is either unsafe or, in some instances, banned.

    Students at Kenowa Hills High School in Michigan were suspended earlier this year for riding their bikes to the last day of classes, a ride which, incidentally, they had to take on-road as there are no sidewalks or bike lanes connecting to the school.

    At Norwood-Norfolk Central School in Norfolk, N.Y., they are facing a similar challenge - students and staff are desperate to add more regular physical activity to their days, but the school is in an area where the built environment discourages active transportation. The school says it was told by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYDOT) that sidewalks would not be permitted alongside the only road that connects to the school.

    No sidewalks? Okay then, how about a rail-with-trail? Luckily for Norwood-Norfolk, there is a rail corridor running adjacent to the school's playground (left). Though still active, the line is lightly-used, and school district officials are leading the push to make better use of the underused corridor as a walking and biking pathway for students, teachers and the broader community.

    "It would be a definite benefit," Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie told the Watertown Daily Times. "We were told by DOT, no sidewalks, no recreation on [State Route] 56. This is one possibility. We don't have a lot of alternatives."

    Kirnie's aim is to create an all-season recreational trail that could be used for activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, walking and running. Elected officials in Norfolk and Norwood have added their support, and as a result of this coordinated application the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) has awarded the project a grant of consultancy expertise, to be provided by the Department of Interior.

    Although it is still early stages for this exciting project, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Northeast Office has contacted RTCA staff and offered to provide technical assistance relating to rail-with-trail designs.

    "Rail-with-trail is a growing part of our work," says Carl Knoch, RTC's manager of trail development in the Northeast. "These rail corridors were designed to take people and goods directly to community centers, gathering points and places of interest, which are exactly the routes modern planners are looking for today."

    One of the biggest hurdles to getting approval for rail-with-trail projects continues to be the perception that having biking and walking close to active rail lines is unsafe.

    "But building a designated trail area alongside such corridors can contribute to a reduction in accidents, as it provides a better alternative to walking on the actual rail line. If there is a trail there, you don't need to," Knoch says. "As these pathways prove themselves to be safe, convenient and incredibly efficient uses of otherwise underutilized land, I think more and more municipalities are going to see their tremendous value."

    RTC is currently producing a report on rail-with-trail projects across America, to be released in 2013. Stay tuned.

    Photo of school children walking to school in Crete, Neb., courtesy Natalie Kingston
    Map view of Norwood-Norfolk Central School courtesy Google
    Photo of joggers on the Springwater Corridor, Ore., courtesy Bryce Hall 


  • New Thanksgiving Traditions Form Along America's Rail-Trails

    By Jake Lynch

    We are all familiar with the traditions of the Thanksgiving holiday - the food, football on TV, catching up with friends, and the leftovers, of course. But it is great to see energetic Americans starting new traditions, creating their own Thanksgiving rituals that add to the spirit of togetherness that the holiday is all about.

    One foggy November morning in 2009, a group of buddies gathered in a parking lot in Vernon, Conn., a town along the Hop River State Park Trail. They rode to Steele's Crossing and back, along one of the state's most-loved rail-trails. Needless to say, they had a wonderful time, and made a promise to each other that this would be a ride they would do every November, a new Thanksgiving morning tradition.

    According to a great story in the Vernon Patch, four years later the original group of six riders has grown to 50, as the popularity of rail-trails booms and more Americans look for an active way to begin the holiday.

    "It does not matter if your bike is $4,000 or you found it in the dumpster," says Eric Barr, one of the 'original six.' "Finally a bike ride where all riders are created equal. It gets you a nice ride and back home for the first football game and Thanksgiving dinner. What more can you ask for?"

    Has your family or group of friends started a Thanksgiving tradition on your local rail-trail? I'd love to hear about it - post photos and info to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's facebook page, or email me at jake@railstotrails.org.

    Photo of riders gearing up for the 2011 Thanksgiving ride courtesy of Eric Barr/Vernon Patch



  • Hit Your Local Rail-Trail for a Thanksgiving Fun Run

    For many, "turkey trots" are as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Most take place the morning of Thursday, November 22, and cover a distance of 5 kilometers, (about 3 miles) at a non-competitive pace suitable for almost everyone. A little turkey trot in the morning really helps you work up a healthy appetite for the rest of the day!

    Thanksgiving fun runs are a great way to spend time with family and friends outdoors, and many are in support of noteworthy charities and trail organizations.

    Below is a sampling of Thanksgiving-week events taking place on rail-trails across the country. To find out if there is a turkey trot on a rail-trail near you, check your local newspaper or with your community trail group. Better yet, start one!

    Burke-Gilman Trail

    6th Annual Seattle Turkey Trot (right)

    Seattle, Wash.


    Cardinal Greenway

    Turkey Trot 2012

    Muncie, Ind.


    Methuen Rail Trail

    Methuen Rail Trail Autumn Walk

    Methuen, Mass.

    (This event takes place on Sunday, Nov. 25, rather than on Thursday).


    Pennyrile Rail Trail

    2012 Turkey Trot

    Hopkinsville, Ky.

    (The Pennyrile Rail Trail is still under development and the event is in support of the Pennyrile Rail Trail Foundation, which is supporting the effort).


    Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail

    9th Annual Family of New Paltz Turkey Trot

    New Paltz, N.Y.


    West Fork River Trail (also locally referred to as the Shinnston Rail Trail).

    Shinnston's 4th Annual Turkey Trot

    Shinnston, W.Va.


    Photo of the 2011 Seattle Turkey Trot courtesy Seattle Times


  • Movement Begins Westward On Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail

    The people of central Tennessee are excited about the potential of an extensive rail-trail in their region, and are wasting no time making that dream a reality.

    Last Friday, the community of Monterey celebrated the official opening of the first section of what will one day be the 19-mile Tennessee Central Heritage Rail Trail.

    The first half-mile of the trail, utilizing an active railroad corridor in downtown Monterey, is the first movement west of what local businesses and residents hope will showcase the Tennessee Highlands, one of the most scenic and historic regions of Tennessee, and encourage more physical activity in a state beset by the costs of obesity and inactive lifestyles.

    And things will continue to move on the trail project, with construction permits for the 3.9-mile Cookeville to Algood segment already approved, and some funding secured.

    Locals interested in learning more about the rail-trail's development can attend a meeting at 12 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the Leslie Town Centre, Cookeville. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TennesseeCentralHeritageTrail



  • Sally Jacobs, 'Force of Nature'

    People like Sally Jacobs are rare and treasured. Renowned in her adopted state of Maine as a committed rail-trail advocate and builder, among other roles, Sally's more than three decades in the service of conservation and outdoor recreation forged a tremendous legacy that includes the establishment of the Downeast Sunrise Trail.

    The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy family was saddened to learn that Sally passed away earlier this week, after a year-long battle with cancer.

    Named one of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's 25 Rail-Trail Champions last year, Sally's obituary in the Bangor Daily News perhaps put it best in describing Sally as "a loving mother, grandmother, friend and a true force of nature."

    Donations in honor of Sally may be made to the Orono Land Trust at www.oronolandtrust.org.

  • In D.C., Met Branch Community All About a Good Time

    Wow. For us here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), and everyone who works hard to build trail systems, there are few better feelings than seeing a group of people having a great time on their local trail, beaming smiles and loving life.

    And so it was wonderful to see our efforts on the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) in Washington D.C. over the past five years bloom into an energetic and supportive trail community. Our MBT program coordinator Pat Fisher and her crew of helpers have shown local residents that the trail is all about having a good time, getting the blood pumping, hanging out with old friends and making new ones.

    And as you can see from these photos taken at the MBT Community Veterans 5k Walk/Run for Fun event on Saturday, people of all ages, sizes, colors and shapes are responding to that message! (Click on either of the photos to run a slideshow...)

    D.C. Prep Physical Education teacher, Dan Kipperman, and local Zumba instructor LaShawn Scott-Boone helped make Saturday's event on the MBT a real party, with dance music, high fives and shouts of encouragement the order of the day.

    But, as Fisher knows, to attract an even bigger community of trail-users and supporters, the trail must remain a safe and convenient facility for locals. Fisher and the Edgewood Community Travel Safety Planning Committee will to continue to work with RTC and local transportation and neighborhood planners on providing safe intersections near and around the MBT, and advocating for trail safety efforts that involve the whole community.

    To learn more about RTC's work on fostering a trail community around the MBT and other urban trails, visit www.railstotrails.org/urbanpathways

    Photos by RTC



  • For $40 a Foot, Londonderry Grows Rail-Trail Plans From the Grassroots

    Inspired by the great popularity of rail-trails all around them, the people of Londonderry in southeast New Hampshire continue an impressive volunteer-driven effort to build a rail-trail in their community.

    Londonderry Trailways, a nonprofit group formed by local residents, has spent the last few years raising money and support to connect their community to a developing rail-trail project recycling the disused corridor between nearby Salem and Lebanon, almost 100 miles to the northwest.

    Last week the group made a very physical statement of their support, cutting down and clearing about 2,000 feet of overgrowth on the railroad corridor, work done by volunteers with chainsaws, shears and shovels.

    As well as contributing volunteer labor to the project, Londonderry Trailways has raised local funds to meet grant matching requirements, and continues to raise money for future planning and construction of what will soon be more than six miles of paved pathway through Londonderry. The nearby towns of Derry (left) and Windham have already developed segments of the corridor into paved trail, and as biking and walking grows in popularity in these areas Londonderry is keen to follow their lead.

    The group is now offering supporters a unique opportunity to take ownership of the trail's development, one foot at a time. For just $40, people can adopt a one-foot section of the trail. The tax deductible donation will help Londonderry Trailways leverage grant funding to provide a public recreation and transportation facility to benefit the whole region.

    For more information on Londonderry Trailways, visit londonderrytrails.org.

    Photo of Londonderry Trailways volunteers working on the corridor courtesy derrynews.com

    Photo of Derry Rail Trail courtesy Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire



  • From the Courtroom to the Cowboy Trail, Chuck Montange Builds First Blocks of the Rail-Trail Movement

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration last year, 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. Among that revered group was Charles Montagne, RTC's first general counsel and a founding board member whose legal expertise and commitment paved the way for the rail-trail movement today.

    Few have been as vital to the enduring success of the rail-trail movement nationwide as Charles "Chuck" Montange.

    Born in Kingsley, Iowa, Montange's professional life as an attorney brought him to Washington, D.C., in 1976. Almost a decade later, David Burwell, then at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), called Montange for assistance in preparing comments for NWF in connection with the Interstate Commerce Commission's initial rulemaking to implement the railbanking statute. (Burwell would soon become, along with friend and colleague Peter Harnik, the co-founder of RTC).

    It was a timely phone call and would prove to be one of the key moments in RTC history. Just the week before, Montange had pedaled the Cedar Valley Nature Trail in Iowa. He had witnessed firsthand the potential of rail-trails and was eager to help.

    The comments Montange put together helped in the formation of RTC and were instrumental to the success of countless rail-trail efforts nationwide. His understanding of railbanking and abandonment legislation, and ability to win key legal battles as a pro bono attorney representing RTC and other rail-trail advocates, made possible the formation of America's best known and loved rail-trails, including D.C.'s Capital Crescent Trail, the Katy Trail State Park, the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska and South Dakota's George Mickelson Trail.

    Foremost among his many landmark legal efforts was the successful defense in federal court of a 1986 constitutional challenge of the legal validity of the Katy Trail.

    Montange now lives in Seattle, Wash., where he continues to work on behalf of rail-trails. Happily, he gets to enjoy his local rail-trail whenever he accompanies his wife on her daily bike commute to Children's Hospital in Seattle.

    Montange selected the Klickitat Trail Conservancy in Washington to receive the Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions pass-through grant awarded in his honor. After local trail opponents barricaded the 31-mile Klickitat Trail in 2002, supporters mobilized to protect the route and formed the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, which today provides much of the maintenance of the trail. Montagne believes that diligent and prolonged effort on behalf of this beautiful trail-and in the face of threats and adversity-deserves recognition and reward.

    Photo of Chuck Montange on the Klickitat Trail courtesy Chuck Montange



  • Indiana's Active Transportation Conference - Nov. 13, 14

    When many people think about "Indianapolis" and "transportation" they are likely to see visions of high-powered cars racing around and around a circular track like greyhounds chasing a fake bunny.

    This is an image that the state's public health community is eager to overcome. Health By Design, a group based in central Indiana, is bringing together community design, transportation and health experts to promote healthy and active living in the region.

    Health By Design is behind this year's groundbreaking conference on how Indiana's built environment directly affects the state's pressing public health problems, particularly the symptoms of an inactive lifestyle.

    "Striding Toward Healthy Communities: Indiana's Active Transportation Conference," Nov. 13 and 14, is designed to educate attendees on the programs and policies that achieve walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented neighborhoods, and to inspire action in local communities around the state.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has become a leading figure in highlighting the connection between the health of all Americans and the availability of options to walk and bike in our built environments. And the enormous success of rail-trail projects (like Indiana's Monon Trail, below) in providing this option has made rail-trail development an effective public health intervention.

    "Health professionals see all the time that poor planning and automobile-centric environments are often the biggest obstacle to people being able to walk or bike for everyday trips," says Tina Jones MPH, RTC's Healthy Communities Manager and a member of the Partnership for Active Transportation. "No matter how much someone might want to bike to work, or walk to their local grocery store, if there isn't a safe and convenient way to do that then we're all back in the car. It is important that local transportation planners build environments that offer better, healthier, more efficient options to get around."

    At Indiana's Active Transportation Conference, national experts and advocates will explore smart growth and active transportation programs and policies, and how they have been used successfully in other areas of the country to increase physical activity, create safer, more accessible places, and to advance community and economic development.

    The target audience is community leaders, city and transportation planners, engineers, landscape architects, developers, public health practitioners, and anyone interested in achieving walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented neighborhoods. For more information, and to register, visit www.healthbydesignonline.org/12Conf

    Photo of Monon Trail, IN, courtesy of www.traillink.com/barry ladwig



  • All Systems Go for First Stage of 93-mile Rail-Trail in Vermont

    Local business leaders have joined the groundswell of support for a rail-trail project which, when complete, will run 93 miles through the communities and recreational and rural lands of northern Vermont.

    “I think it’s great for us,” Executive Director of the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce Cindy Locke told the Stowe Reporter last week. “It’s going to be great for tourism. It’s going to be great for the community, especially in this day and age where we’re trying to be more active.”

    Locke and fellow Vermont business people are celebrating a Vermont environmental court’s decision to grant approval to begin construction on the 44-mile Phase 1 of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. With funding already in place, work on phase 1, between Morrisville and Cambridge, could begin next spring.

    U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt). is one of the trail’s biggest backers, eager for the much-needed local jobs it will create.

    “Once built, the trail will be a huge attraction for tourists who come to Vermont in the winter to snowmobile or ski, or in the summer to bike and hike,” he says. “These tourists will stay in our hotels and inns, eat in local restaurants, visit other Vermont attractions and buy Vermont products.”

    “I see this as playing a significant role in creating jobs, in a part of the state where we really need those jobs.”

    When complete, the Lamoille Valley Rail-Trail will be the longest in New England. This four-season trail will be open to walkers, cyclists and horseback riders in the summer, and for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling during the winter.

    Though parts of the corridor are already open to snowmobile use in the winter, the effort to open the trail to summer uses is being spearheaded by the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST), which currently leases the disused rail corridor from the state. VAST is coordinating management and promotion of the project, as well as providing funds and donated effort to match federal investment.

    For more information, visit lvrt.org. Be sure to watch the wonderful video on the trail project, it's history, backers and potential benefits to the region.

    Images courtesy lvrt.org





  • Trails Mean Business

    Last year, Americans spent $81 billion on bicycling gear and trips, a sizable chunk of the total outdoor recreation industry which accounts for $646 billion in spending each year.

    A large proportion of that expenditure on bicycling trips is captured by communities that have been able to connect destination trails with their downtowns, main streets and local businesses.

    Just how important is this trail traffic to these local businesses? Let's let the numbers speak for themselves...



  • The Sum of Its Parts: Small Group Makes Big Progress on Massachusetts Rail-Trail

    After nearly two decades of dedication and perseverance, a small group of volunteers continues to make great strides in the development of the North Central Pathway, connecting two historical north-central Massachusetts towns. The committee of local citizens, formed back in 1995 to develop and promote the trail, remains active today.

    "We started with a group of about 20 people and are now down to a core group of six people all dedicated to making it to the end," says Cindy Boucher, the Winchendon co-chair for the North Central Pathway. "They each do their own special thing: one does the maintenance, another stocks brochures, one takes photos, I coordinate with the engineers...between the six of us, we manage to get things done."

    Even Ludger Robichaud, a resident of the city since 1937, still does maintenance on the trail and serves as the Gardner co-chair for the North Central Pathway. He has bicycled all around the country and attributes his good health in part to trails.

    "I'm lucky to be so healthy at 83," says Robichaud. "My second wife is 25 years younger and tells me that I'm keeping her young."

    As soon as the construction of Phase 5, slated to begin next year, is completed, the rail-trail's current gap between Winchendon and Gardner will finally be closed. When another short section is added in 2015, the paved pathway will stretch 13 continuous miles, connecting popular attractions such as Whitney Pond and Crystal Lake to homes, businesses and schools.

    "The bike path is beautiful," says Boucher. "It's very rural and woodsy, with wildflowers and wetlands."

    The sections through town at either end of the trail are especially popular with recreational walkers. And although there is a 2.5-mile on-road section in Gardner, it's an easy ride on quiet streets.

    "We were amazed by how much it's been used," says Boucher. "People stop me on the street and thank me because it's such an asset to the community."

    Photo of Winchenden to Gardner section courtesy Norman Beauregard.
    Photo of Mass. State Senator Stephen Brewer and local advocates opening a new section of the NCP courtesy Sen. Brewer.



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