At one time, railroad lines ran on a network of tracks 270,000 miles long. Through countryside and residential areas they ran to connect America. But then highways came along and many railroad lines were abandoned, disconnecting neighborhoods and people. Now, those abandoned lines are being used to reconnect in an engaging way not all that different than how today’s electronic social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are connecting people, families and business.
Rail-trails are former railroad lines used to create a multi-use path, typically for walking, hiking or cycling. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making that happen.
“Railroads had such a pivotal role in the development of the country, especially in the opening of the West. Many communities’ identity sprang up around the railroads, so [preserving rail trails] preserves an important piece of American history” said Laura Cohen, the Western regional director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reports the LA Times. “We look at rail trails as a way to reconnect neighborhoods and reconnect people.”
There are 19,000 miles of rail trails reconnecting America, up from a mere 100 miles when Rails-to-Trails was founded in 1986 but 9,000 miles of potential rail-trails are waiting to be built.
“We have supported the tremendous growth and development of rail-trails since opening our doors February 1, 1986. Then, there were fewer than 200 known rail-trails. Today, there are more than 1,600 preserved pathways that form the backbone of a growing trail system that spans communities, regions, states and, indeed, the entire country.” says Rails-to-Trails on their web site.
Is there a rail trail in your area? TrailLink.com can tell you. A free service of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, TrailLink.com offers more than 30,000 miles of bike trails, walking trails, equestrian trails, and hiking and running trails including interactive trail maps, trail descriptions, photos, reviews and more.
A non-profit organization, based in Washington D.C., Rails-To-Trails invites us to get involved in a number of ways.
- A donation will help build, protect and enhance the rail-trail movement.
- Register to be a member and get periodic e-mail updates and alerts on important legislative issues and RTC-related news. This is an ideal opportunity to become directly involved in RTC’s mission of providing communities with the multi-faceted benefits rail-trails provide.
- They also put out a monthly newsletter we can sign up for and offer cycling gear, athletic apparel, gifts and more on their website.
Flickr photo by Napalm filled tires