Follow The Money: Making a Strong Case for Investing in Trails
ability to convince leaders and lawmakers of the economic justification of
investing in trails, biking and walking has become a critical part of trail
building in these fiscally-challenging times.
for those of us working toward more options for active transportation,
investments in this infrastructure produce remarkable returns and have
transformative effects on communities large and small, impressively out of
proportion to the comparatively small budgets involved.
borrow from boxing parlance, when it comes to value for money, trails punch
well above their weight.
example, the design, engineering and construction of walking and biking facilities
has been shown to create more jobs per dollar than any other type of
transportation infrastructure construction. And multi-year investments in destination
trail systems across America routinely recoup that investment in a short period
of time in the form of trails tourism spending.
fiscal arguments for why our state and federal governments should make investing
in biking and walking an economic priority are very strong. Which is why RTC
and the Partnership for Active Transportation put together this handy two-page
fact sheet on the economic impact of trails, to help advocates and trail
champions make the case in their local communities. (Click the page to the right to download the fact sheet).
hope you find it a useful tool. Be sure to share this, and other RTC economic
impact resources and stories,
with your peers and colleagues in trail building.
The Partnership for Active Transportation, of
which RTC is a member, is a collaboration of health, economic development and
transportation advocates working for greater investment in biking, walking and
trails. The Partnership helps local governments realize the economic benefits
of robust, inter-connected networks of trails and active transportation
facilities. You can learn more about the Partnership and endorse the
Declaration of Active Transportation at www.partnership4at.org.
In Michigan, Hart-Montague Trail to be Renamed for Bill Fields, Farmer and Rail-Trail Champion
The story of America's rail-trails is rich with characters
like the late Bill Field. The Michigan farmer is known and loved by people in this
state as the unstoppable force behind the creation of the Hart-Montague Trail
State Park, one of the America's great rural rail-trails.
A big man with a booming voice and a presence that always made
itself known in a room, Field visited the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin
in the late 1970s and returned to Michigan determined to develop a trail
through the abandoned railroad corridor that stretched from Hart to Montague,
tracks that he grew up around.
The project became known as "Field's Folly." When
Field (right) received no support from his fellow county officials for the rail-trail
project, he took matters into his own hands, buying the property himself and
donating the land, valued at $225,000, to the state.
Though many people laughed at "Field's Folly" then, no one
is laughing now. The Hart-Montague Trail State Park is renowned by trail
enthusiasts everywhere, and attracts thousands of visitors to the region each
So it is wonderful to see that the trail Field worked so
hard for will now bear his name. Thanks to the efforts of Michigan State
Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart.), legislation has been passed to rename the trail
the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park. It is a fitting
tribute to one of our nation's staunchest trail advocates, and a man who left a
terrific legacy for the people of Michigan.
To learn more about Field's early struggles to build the
trail, and the success it became, read Laura Stark's wonderful story on the Hart-Montague
Trail State Park which was RTC's Trail of the Month for April.
Photo of Bill Field courtesy Joel Mikkelsen
TrailLink.com a Driver of the Booming Trails Movement
The incredible growth in popularity of Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy's free trail-finder website, TrailLink.com, is testimony to the
fact that people everywhere are bursting at the seams for opportunities to
ride, walk, skate or run for recreation or transportation. The great challenge
we face is in making sure we can develop trails fast enough to keep up with
With 24,169 miles of accurate GIS trail maps now vetted and available,
TrailLink.com is playing a critical role in both encouraging and satisfying
that demand. By helping connect people with trails near them, it is directly
boosting trail users numbers and an awareness of options for biking and
walking, which in turn boosts the level of support for continued investment in
this infrastructure. Incidentally, it also draws attention to those regions
that are not providing trail options. No one wants to be left off the map!
So it was great to see TrailLink.com recognized for its
overall excellence at the California Trails and Greenways Conference earlier
this month. The award gave credit to TrailLink.com as a powerful resource for
providing useful, up-to-date information about trails around the country.
From us here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we greatly
appreciate the TrailLink.com users who have contributed content, photos, and
reviews to this rapidly growing database!
Here's an idea of just how often people turn to
TrailLink.com for free information and advice on trails across the country: in
the past 12 months, TrailLink.com has seen more than 4.1 million visitors viewing more than 28 million pages.
Some more good news for trail users -- we are putting the
finishing touches on a mobile TrailLink iOS app, which should be ready by
summer of this year!
Inspired by Beloved City Rail-Trail, Kansas Keeps on Rolling
Another Midwestern metropolis doing great things to improve
its bike- and walkability - Kansas City.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was contacted recently by the
office of newly-elected Mayor Mark Holland, who, just a few short weeks into
the job has expressed an interest in continuing the development of KC's
burgeoning trail system.
At the heart of that system is the Riverfront
Heritage Trail, a 10-mile paved rail-trail and bike and pedestrian pathway
that begins at the riverfront and winds through Kansas City on both sides of
the border. Its utility has so impressed community leaders in KC that there is
energy to expand the Riverfront Heritage Trail, and its value to the community
has inspired the completion of a number of other trail projects in the state,
some of which are set to open in the coming months.
Trail has been in development since the 1990s, but it looks like it's finally
set to open after nearly two decades of work. The corridor was railbanked
in 1997 by Central
Kansas Conservancy, which has been negotiating with local landowners on the
trail's construction since that time.
The Meadowlark Trail will connect with the existing Valkommen
Trail (right) in Lindsborg, which occupies another rail corridor which was
preserved for trail development by the railbanking
process. In the future, the Meadowlark Trail will connect with the planned Sunflower
to Santa Fe Trail in McPherson, which when complete will run for more than 30
miles west to Marion.
As if this isn't enough, the Southwind Rail
Trail is also set to open in June. The Southwind Rail Trail runs for about
6.5 miles between Iola and Humboldt, and is being worked on by the Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy,
which railbanked the corridor in 2011. In Iola, the trail will connect directly
to the existing 50-mile Prairie
Not only is it terrific to see Kansas' leaders supportive of
investing in bike and pedestrian infrastructure which makes the region a more
attractive place to live and do business, it is also great to witness the railbanking
process in action - preserving America's disused rail corridors as assets
for the American people.
Photo courtesy www.traillink.com
California: Gov. Brown Threatening to Erode Funding for Trails, Biking and Walking
For more than 25 years, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has
fought for dedicated funding for trail development. We secured this funding
back in 1991 with the creation of the Transportation Enhancements program,
(which was renamed Transportation Alternatives in the recent federal bill) and
the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Now, that funding is in jeopardy in
RTP may be eliminated. Governor Jerry Brown's administration
has indicated they plan to opt out of the RTP, which means elimination of the
program in California. RTP is the only dedicated and sustainable source of
funding for trail development, and also the only funding source available for
RTP is essential to enhancing California's outdoor
recreation industry. Please don't let the Governor eliminate this program
which has been so successful for our state and many others.
The Governor has proposed consolidating
multiple programs that fund trails into a new Active Transportation Program. We
need to ensure that trail projects will continue to be a priority in this new
Our ask is simple: send a letter to Gov. Brown and your
state legislators to keep the RTP as a distinct, successful program
administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and ensure
that bicycle and pedestrian trails and pathways are a priority in the proposed
Active Transportation Program.
Here are all the resources you need to make this important
A sample letter to Governor Brown: (Please visit the site to view this media)
A link to find your state legislator.
Background information about RTP: (Please visit the site to view this media)
The local projects it has funded: (Please visit the site to view this media)
For more information, or to get involved, please email me at
our Western Regional Office, or call 415-814-1100.
Thank you for your support of trails and active transportation in California.