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February 2013 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Beyond the DOT - the Three Federal Departments That Will Define Our Trail-Building Future

    Over the past few weeks, the trails, walking and biking community, including Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, has been very focused on what the impending departure of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will mean for federal policy and funding of investments in active transportation.

    But while another visionary leader like LaHood at the USDOT will certainly move us in the right direction, when it comes to the trail development work that RTC does there are other major departments that have a significant impact on whether trails get built.

    The Department of the Interior has been in the news lately, with the nomination of REI CEO Sally Jewell, to replace Ken Salazar at the top post. As the executive department responsible for the management of most federal lands, the department's leadership of  the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, to name but a few, has a significant impact on opportunities for trail development.

    Although Jewell's conservation credentials and support of outdoor recreation opportunities are well known, as Secretary of the Department of Interior (often referred to as "the Department of Everything Else" because of its broad range of responsibilities) she will have to balance the needs and demands of a wide range of interests, notably energy.

    The third leg of the trinity in terms of national trail development is the Department of Health and Human Services. With a relatively large pot of money to spend, the HHS, directed by secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has been in the forefront of promoting that the built environment encourage physical activity through its Community Transformation Grants program. Administered by the rock star of health agencies, the Centers for Disease Control, this stream of funding is recognition of the importance of providing safe, practical and attractive places to be active in daily routines. Trail networks within communities are a key part of the solution. Ensuring the leadership of the HHS can make the most of the role that trails, biking and walking play in the nation's public health strategy should also be a focus of active transportation advocates.

    It's certainly a focus of ours. As is ensuring that policies and programs that allow for the development of trails is firmly in Sally Jewell's mind as she heads to Washington. Keeping a dialogue open with all these agencies, not just the DOT, is how Rails-to-Trails Conservancy aims to lead from the front in promoting active transportation as a key part of America's future.

     

     

  • 'Big Stinky,' Trail Enemy

    Since it opened in 2008, the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) has become a key part of the D.C.-area's bike commuter network and urban trail system. Following an active freight and Metro train line from neighborhoods in the northeast right into downtown D.C., Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has worked hard on developing and promoting the trail, and we are proud of its success.

    But the MBT is not yet complete. A number of on-road sections today interrupt what will one day be a safe and convenient paved rail-trail all the way from the Silver Spring Metro and MARC stations to Union Station in the heart of the capital. People living in the burgeoning Maryland cities and neighborhoods in northeast D.C. will hopefully soon be able to pedal to work or school downtown, providing a critical transportation option and relieving the area's notorious congestion. It's going to be great.

    Our good friends at BicycleSPACE are one of the local groups keeping the pressure on the city to move ahead with their plans to complete the MBT.

    On Saturday, March 16, they are rallying the troops for "The Big Stinky Hill Climb Challenge" - a section of the trail route still awaiting development where riders, joggers and walkers are forced to climb an on-road hill that runs alongside the city dump. Both the smell (you can imagine what it's like in the summer) and the volume of trucks and other traffic, make Big Stinky particularly unsafe and unpleasant for residents hoping for another local transportation option. 

    "We remain encouraged that the District Department of Transportation can make completing the MBT a high priority and will find a way to get through the final red tape," BicycleSPACE says. "To show our support and highlight the importance of moving forward with this project, The Assembly is hosting a fun community event that will pit bike riders against Big Stinky to compete for a coveted trophy, the Golden Garbage Pail."

    This ought to be fun! Join a great group of local riders and trail advocates at The Big Stinky Hill Climb Challenge next month. More info at www.bicyclespacedc.com

     

     

  • Rail-Trail Fears Fail to Materialize, Support Grows for Phase 2

    The highlights of this news story courtesy of the Leader Herald out of upper New York state speak volumes by themselves, so let's just have at it, bullet-point style:

    • Fifteen years after the completion of the first stage of the Fonda, Johnstown & Gloversville (FJ&G) Rail-Trail in Fulton County, officials are working to build the rest of what will be a 22-mile pathway. 
    • When the first phase of the rail-trail project was being constructed, local land owners blocked the extension because of fears of negative impacts. After 15 years of the heavy use on the first section, that opposition has vanished. "I think the attitude has changed," says Mayfield Supervisor Rick Argotsinger. "From the feelers that have been put out, I think there is support to get the trail done." 
    • Gloversville Supervisor Marie Born says landowners may be more willing to negotiate now that the first phase of the trail has been built, and its utility proven.
    • The trail has been a large recreational draw, says county administrative officer Jon Stead, noting visitors frequently park at the county's tourism information booth in Vail Mills just to use the 2-mile stretch between Broadalbin and Vail Mills. 
    • Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, tourism director of the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, says she's excited about the potential a finished rail-trail could bring to the region. The trail would allow cyclists to easily link up with the Erie Canalway Trail and the Path Through History initiatives, she said, hopefully drawing tourists. "With trails like that it's easier to bring people into Fulton County to ride their bicycles and stop at attractions and spend their money," she says.

    Despite the evidence of hundreds of rail-trail projects across the country, we do still see communities' trail ambitions stalled by the fears of local landowners that a trail will bring crime and public safety issues, reduce property values and negatively impact quality of living. While we have not seen these fears come to fruition, what we do consistently see is opponents later becoming supporters, neglected, underused areas becoming vibrant, valuable public spaces, and property values and quality of life indicators increasing. And so it goes. 

     

     

  • Wasson Way Rail-Trail a Key to Cincinnati's Future

    There was terrific news for the people and businesses of Cincinnati last week with city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiling a proposal to fund a number of innovative and much-needed development projects in the city by raising downtown car parking rates, currently among the lowest in the country.

    The plan is a clear indication that Cincinnati wants to change the way it moves. One of the significant projects that the suggested parking-rate rise would fund is the Wasson Way Trail, a citizen-driven proposal to make the most of a disused railroad corridor connecting neighborhoods and businesses with Xavier University and other hubs.

    Supported from the very beginning by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Midwest Regional Office, the Wasson Way Trail is now gathering widespread support from city leaders. They see it as a key piece of a new active transportation system that helps Cincinnati leave behind the congestion, commercial stagnation and population drain of recent times.

    The city manager's plan recommends the allocation of $3 million of car parking revenue for the purchase of the Wasson line right-of-way, the development of which he says will "positively impact" a number of local neighborhoods and "link several commercial, educational, recreational and residential centers."

    Among the many fans of the city manager's plan to make Cincinnati a more attractive place to live and do business is Cincinnati City Councilmember Laure Quinlivan. In an email to constituents last week, she wrote that "the Wasson Way Bike Trail will increase business opportunities, property values, healthy living, and recreation opportunities and help retain 'the creative class' in Cincinnati."

    I am really excited to continue to provide technical assistance and support to the Wasson Way project. Keep it moving, Cincy!

    Map courtesy wassonway.org

     

     

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Etowah County, Alabama

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about February 13, 2013, Alabama Great Southern Railway Company (AGS) and Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia Railway Company (TAG) -- both wholly-owned subsidiaries of Norfolk Southern Railway Company -- jointly filed for the abandonment of 4.25 miles of interconnected track in Gadsden, Etowah County, Alabama. 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 these corridors are 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 railroads using STB docket numbers AB-290 (sub-no. 335x) and AB-290 (sub-no. 340x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridors; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroads. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is March 15, 2013. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroads may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridors. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for these two corridors. More information on the rail corridors, including several maps, 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 railroads 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.

  • Rail-Trail an Asset for Eco-Tourism in the Berkshires

    We see it more and more these days - rail-trails as economic development assets. Cities and towns across America are developing rail-trail networks in order to make their area more attractive, drawing new residents and businesses and providing an environment where people want to live.

    We are also seeing entrepreneurs finding business opportunities connected to destination rail-trails - lodging, services and other operations are launching next to rail-trails from Maine to California.

    Like this one: Paolo Cugnasca, CEO of Feronia Forests is planning to invest about $1.5 million in building an aerial adventure park in Berkshire County, Mass., where the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail attracts thousands of visitors a year. According to the Boston Business Journal, the New York-based company plans on developing an eco-tourism attraction on Brodie Mountain, that was home to a ski resort until 2002.

    Nestled in the Hoosic River Valley in Berkshire County, the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail takes its name from a Native American word meaning "the pleasant river between the hills." Amazing views of the mountains, lakes and river, and well-developed rest areas and amenities, have made the trail one of the Berkshire's most population draws.

    Photo by RTC

     

  • New Faces at RTC Lend New Perspective in Changing Times

    Never an organization to rest on its laurels, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is always looking to bring new energy and ideas to the work we do - to reinvigorate our mission and keep it relevant in a changing world.

    One of the ways we do that is by keeping our volunteer Board of Directors fresh, injecting the skills and perspectives of new people on a regular basis and broadening the professions, regions and backgrounds we tap into.

    So when our board all flew into Washington, D.C. the week before last for one of its tri-annual meetings, it was great to welcome a couple of new faces.

    Mike Cannon comes to us from the outdoor recreation mecca that is REI's company headquarters in Seattle. Mike is the VP of Merchandising at REI, which has been an integral part of the continued boom in outdoor recreation in America in recent times.

    As RTC continues to grow from its humble roots almost 30 years ago at the birth of the rail-trail movement to now overseeing a critical and significant shift in how we, as a nation, move, play and develop, we look forward to tapping into Mike's corporate nous and understanding of what inspires people to lead active lives.

    We also recently welcomed another new board member from the West Coast, Rue Mapp (right). As a youngster, Rue split her time between urban Oakland, Calif., and her families' working ranch in the Northern woodlands. It was here she cultivated a passion for wilderness, open spaces, and interacting with and learning about the natural world.

    However as she grew older and her passion for the outdoors grew, Rue became troubled by the fact that she saw relatively few fellow African Americans out there with her, being active and reaping the many benefits of enjoying nature.

    So in 2009 she started the (excellently named) Outdoor Afro, which now uses social media and energetic engagement to encourage people of color to connect to the natural world through fun and relevant outdoor experiences. It's exactly the kind of new approach to connecting with people we hope to bring to RTC.

    So, welcome aboard Rue and Mike. And we'd like to welcome you, too, to the ever-expanding RTC family. Connect with us today, say hello, get the t-shirt or just explore trails near you at www.railstotrails.org/getInvolved, or www.facebook.com/railstotrails.

     

     

  • From the Northeast - the Story of a Man and His Hound Fit for Hollywood

    Great to return from the long weekend to some good rail-trail news. Here's a few things out of the Northeast that were in my email box this morning...

    The city of Oneida in upstate New York is making great strides in its plan to convert more miles of disused rail-line and expand its city-wide rail-trail network. The Oneida Improvement Committee is currently raising money and support to improve 10.75 miles of existing rail-trails and connect them through additional miles of rail corridor to form a triangular loop.

    "The rails were a big part of our history; they pretty much developed Oneida into what it is now," Recreation Director Luke Griff told the Utica Observer Dispatch. "So we're kind of bringing back the past a little bit."

     

    To the east, planners have been able to put an approximate timeline on an eagerly awaited extension of the Cape Cod Rail-Trail in Massachusetts. Currently running 22 miles along former Old Colony Railroad right-of-way on the Cape Cod peninsula, for many years communities to the west have been eager to connect to this remarkable rail-trail that has attracted visitors to the area for decades.

    According to an article in Barnstable's The Register, if the Cape Cod Bike Path Task Force can secure the funding and planning approvals it needs, construction on the first section of an eastward extension could start as early as 2014.

     

    And finally, a terrific yarn that comes to its lovely conclusion along the Heritage Rail Trail County Park in York, Pennsylvania. The friendship between Arthur Glatfelter Jr. and his dog, Pal, survived years of World War and separation. Their surprise reunion on a beach in the South Pacific puts Hollywood screenwriters to shame.

    More than 60 years later, the City of York and local residents unveiled a sculpture of Pal alongside the Heritage Rail-Trail (right), to honor local veterans and the special contribution Glatfelter had made to his community.

    Glatfelter passed away last week. In honoring the prominent citizen, the York Daily Record reflected on the statue of Pal that has become a local landmark. (Reminds me of the Dog on the Tuckerbox statue I used to love visiting as a kid back in Australia).

    Photo courtesy York Daily Record

     

     

  • In South Carolina, Rail-Trail Part of Picken's Plan for Success

    The people of Pickens, S.C., could see what was happening in the city of Greenville, just 20 miles to the east. And they saw that it was good.

    There, the development of the Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail (below, right), along a disused railroad line, was at the heart of the city's effort to revitalize its main street and downtown commercial district, and provide free and accessible outdoor recreation options to residents in an effort to combat a rising obesity rate.

    I read on GreenvilleOnline this morning that, eager to replicate Greenville's success, city leaders in Pickens have allotted money and awarded contracts for several projects that will improve local bike/ped infrastructure and create recreation outlets and tourism attractions.

    One of these projects is the second and third phases of the Appalachian Lumber Greenway Trail, a paved, multi-use trail along the old Appalachian Lumber Company's rail corridor.

    The city is also investing in the construction of an off-road bike park - a skateboard park for bicycles - which would include 3,500-foot loop on a timber frame with jumps, obstacles and challenges for off-road cyclists. Similar parks across America have been shown to not only increase local interest in biking but also draw experienced bikers from hundreds of miles away.

    "We really want to make Pickens a destination for tourists to come instead of just a drive-through on their way to the lakes and the mountains," says city administrator Katherine Brackett.

    "We want to take advantage of the traffic that's in our town, and we want to have somewhere for them to go that creates a long enough experience that they'll want to stop and go through our downtown and come back here, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores."

    Congratulations, Pickens. You're on to a good thing.

    Photo courtesy TrailLink.com

     

     

  • RTC Opens the Door to a Bold New World

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is an innovator. It began with our leadership and trailblazing support of the rail-trail movement in its infancy in the 1980s. It continues today through our connection of rail-trail development to a broader system of pathways that encourage walking and biking, improve traffic capacity in overloaded cities, boost local economies and real estate markets, and increase the independence and mobility of all Americans.

    Our newest work of innovation is the Partnership for Active Transportation. For the first time, RTC has reached beyond the traditional advocates of biking, walking and trails systems, and mobilized a large and diverse group that will, over the coming decades, be a constant voice in support of better investment that encourage and facilitate active transportation.

    This Partnership for Active Transportation includes public health organizations, real estate companies, tourism agencies and business representatives. It brings together organizations that support walking and biking because of its health benefits with organizations that are interested in walking and biking because of its impact on commercial development.

    The innovation in this is the breadth of support RTC is generating, the weight of our advocacy. As the benefits of active transportation infrastructure reach a broader range of sectors and interests, we are bringing those interests together, in one organization, to make sure active transportation is an even bigger part of America's future.

    Are you part of an organization that is fit, fast, healthy and mobile, and that wants the same for America? Join us. www.partnership4at.org

     

     

  • RTC Brings Trail Benefits Message to House of Representatives

    Earlier this morning, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Pat Tomes addressed a United States House of Representatives legislative briefing in Washington, D.C. on the economic benefits of rail-trails and trail development across America.

    RTC's user survey and economic impact data work, which has put hard numbers behind otherwise anecdotal evidence that destination rail-trail do support and boost local economies, continues to grow in significance as trails advocates ramp up efforts to make sure the nation's elected officials and leaders understand the true value of investing in trails.

    Tomes presentation on Capitol Hill today was part of the American Hiking Society's "Hike the Hill" event, which aims to bring trail development issues to the attention of federal lawmakers. American Hiking Society tapped RTC to lead the presentation as the only national trail organization with a long history of recording and studying the impact of trails tourism and local trail use.

    "The reason we began concentrating on gathering trail user data and calculating the fiscal impacts of trail tourism years ago was exactly for moments like this," Tomes said. "When our senators and representatives, and governors and officials at the state level too, begin making decisions about the value of the Recreational Trails Program and Transportation Alternatives, and whether to make room in their budgets for trail development, they need understand the real equation. Communities all over America will tell you these trails are not frivolous things. There are thousands of main street businesses, small communities, local entrepreneurs, who are making a go of it only because of their local rail-trail or trail system. That is what federal investment in trails really means, before you even start considering the health benefits, the transportation capacity, and the environmental benefits."

    For more on RTC's trail user surveys and economic impact data, visit http://community.railstotrails.org/media/tags/economic+impact/default.aspx

     

     

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Calhoun County, Alabama

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    On or about January 30, 2013, Norfolk Southern Railway Company filed for the abandonment of 1.81 miles of track in Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama. 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-290 (sub-no. 334x). 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. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is March 1, 2013. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, 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.

     

  • New Round of Transportation Grants a Great Investment in Illinois

    There was some wonderful news for rail-trail advocates and planners in Illinois last week, with Governor Pat Quinn announcing tens of millions of dollars would be invested in trails throughout the state.

    The grant funding was provided by the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program, now known as Transportation Alternatives (TA), and was part of a package of nearly $50 million for active transportation works throughout Illinois, that is expected to support more than 400 jobs across 54 projects.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Director of Policy Outreach, Dan Persky, who spent many years working on active transportation projects in Illinois, said that the strong focus on trails in this round of grant funding represents a significant shift in the state's transportation focus.

    "In recent years, Illinois has often dedicated a majority of TE funds to streetscape projects," Dan said. "To see the governor's office directing such significant support for projects like the Calumet-Sag Trail and the Grand Illinois Trail is recognition that these facilities are vitally important transportation and recreational assets, and that they represent a smart investment in the state."

    In addition to the Calumet-Sag Trail (a regional trail southwest of Chicago), and the Grand Illinois Trail (a planned loop of more than 500 miles between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River), other noteworthy projects to receive funding include the Millennium Trail, the North Shore Channel Trail, the DeKalb-Sycamore Bikeways, and the Historic Route 66 Bikeway.

    Local groups such as Trails for Illinois and the League of Illinois Bicyclists deserve a lot of credit for many years of advocating for appropriate investment in trails and active transportation infrastructure.

    That job is about the get a little easier. A new partnership between RTC and Trails for Illinois will soon produce the first ever comprehensive study of trail usage in that state.

    Late last year, I spent a week visiting a wide variety of trails across Illinois, including the Tunnel Hill Trail, the Rock Island Trail and the Old Plank Road Trail, retrieving automated trail counter equipment which had been tracking user activity over the previous months. At the same time, teams of local volunteers were distributing and collecting trail user surveys, which included questions about spending patterns.

    It's part of Trails for Illinois' 'Make Trails Count' push. "We want to show Illinois and its communities the triple bottom line benefits-economic growth, improved health and environmental stewardship-that trails are creating," says Executive Director Steve Buchtel. "We want to put a number on those benefits so decision makers take them seriously."

    The results of those surveys are now being analyzed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the University of Illinois. In terms of trail development and trail use, so much has happened in Illinois over the past few years, but we really know very little about it. This survey is the first of its kind for the state, and will go a long way to demonstrating the significance of these trails to the people and businesses of Illinois.

    That report on trail-usage patterns and the economic impact of trails tourism in Illinois comes out in the spring. Stay tuned. 

    Photo courtesy Trails for Illinois

     

     

  • Obama Must Replace LaHood With Worthy Successor at USDOT

    When U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stood on a table at the National Bike Summit in 2010 and said "People do want alternatives -- they want out of their cars, they want out of congestion, they want to live in livable neighborhoods," it marked a significant moment in the evolution of American transportation.

    Here was a politician and a bureaucrat, a guy in a suit, the person in charge, talking about being inspired by long walks on a rail-trail and the importance of pathways for families to "hang out and have fun." In the words of Vince Vaughn, here was one enlightened cat.

    With Sec. LaHood announcing last week he would step down from the role of the nation's top transportation official he has filled since 2009, the urgency is building for supporters of trails and active transportation to find a worthy replacement. 

    Marianne Fowler, RTC's senior vice president of federal relations, says LaHood championed federal programs that supported investments in active transportation infrastructure, often despite significant political pressure. "Secretary LaHood was very much a leader of the movement, rather than a follower," she says. "He'll leave behind a legacy of unprecedented support for biking, walking and other active modes as legitimate forms of transportation." It was for that reason that Sec. LaHood was honored, with rail-trail advocates and pioneers from across the country, as one of RTC's 25 Rail-Trail Champions as part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations in 2011.

    A former high school teacher, LaHood's great affection for trails was born from many hours spent on the Rock Island Trail in his hometown of Peoria, Ill. He became a staunch supporter of rail-trail programs during a critical time for transportation funding, and his impassioned speech before Congress in 2003 defending Transportation Enhancements earned him great respect from active transportation advocates and provided one of the highest-profile statements in defense of trails, walking and bicycling.

    "I know it is probably not fashionable for me to be up here talking in favor of this amendment, but I feel strongly about it," he said. "If we really want Americans to be fit and healthy and get in good shape, the way to do it is to allow for the enhancement program that has worked so well, that allows people to get outdoors, to ride their bikes, to jog, to walk. What better way to bring people in a community together."

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is leading a coalition of groups from across America in urging President Obama to nominate a successor as transportation secretary who understands the importance of trails, active transportation and healthy communities.

    Please take a quick minute to sign our petition asking the president to continue the nation's progress toward a more modern, healthier and sustainable transportation system - the America of the future will thank you!

    Photo of Sec. LaHood at RTC's 25th Anniversary celebration in 2011 by RTC

     

     

  • Canton, Illinois Moves Quickly to Reuse Vacant Rail Corridor

    One of the most important services Rails-to-Trails Conservancy provides is letting the general public know when a railroad company is looking to abandon a section of rail corridor, providing an opportunity for that corridor to be preserved intact and reused as a public pathway.

    This service, which we call our Early Warning System, is the very engine room of the rail-trail movement in America, and has inspired and enabled local citizens, trail advocates and municipal planners to build rail-trails in their community.

    Earlier this year we sent out a notice that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway Company had filed for the abandonment of 14.5 miles of track between Farmington and Dunfermline in Fulton County, Illinois. People in this part of the world are familiar with great rail-trails, including the Constitution Trail system, the River Trail of Illinois, and, most famously, the Rock Island Trail.

    Matter of fact, it was the Rock Island Trail (below) in nearby Peoria that inspired a young school teacher by the name of Ray LaHood in his belief that trails were good for America and good for the American people. Years later, as the Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, LaHood's experiences on the Rock Island Trail would inform his tremendous support of trail development, biking and walking.

    So it was great to see the people of Canton act quickly to secure the opportunity to convert the disused corridor into a rail-trail and an asset for the local community. Last month the Canton City Council passed a resolution supporting moves to acquire the 14.5-mile corridor, with a view to building a trail.

    According to this article in the Journal Star, the line has been inactive for more than 20 years. The disused corridor would complement the Canton Park District's existing plans for a more extensive local trail system, which has been funded by a sizable grant under the Federal Transportation Enhancements Program, now called Transportation Alternatives (TA).

    Make sure you don't miss an opportunity to develop a rail-trail in your community: sign up for our Early Warning System now.

    Photo of revelers on the Rock Island Trail courtesy www.traillink.com

     

     

 

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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