Great American Rail-Trail

The U.S. Is Building a Bike Trail That Runs Coast-to-Coast Across 12 States

Lehigh Gorge State Park with River and cyclist on Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail path, Poconos Mountains, near Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Jumping Rocks / Universal Images Group / Getty ImagesBy Natalie Marchant

Thanks to Natalie Marchant for this news posted on EcoWatch:

The U.S. Is Building a Bike Trail That Runs Coast-to-Coast Across 12 States

The Great American Rail-Trail will be almost 6,000km when complete, and will serve 50 million people within 80km of the route. Continue reading

Rail-Trail Expansions

Rail-Trail.jpg

Thanks to Lorraine Chow at EcoWatch for this update on the longest rail-trail conversion in the USA, linking St. Louis to Kansas City:

You can now walk or cycle across most of the state of Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon has opened a 47.5-mile extension to the Katy Trail, effectively creating one continuous hike-and-bike path from the St. Louis area to the outskirts of Kansas City.

rail-trail2“You’ll be able to go 287 miles on an incredible asset,” Nixon told the Kansas City Star at the ribbon-cutting on Dec. 10 in Pleasant Hill, a suburb just south of Kansas City.

According to the governor’s office, the new section of the trail follows the corridor of the old Rock Island Railroad for 47.5 miles from Pleasant Hill to Windsor, where a junction connects to the rest of the Katy Trail State Park. Continue reading

High Line Skyline

An aerial shot looking down on the Washington Grasslands section of the park, with Rashid Johnson’s artwork Blocks and Yutaka Sone’s Little Manhattan visible, both 2015 Commissions.

Railroads were one of the most significant early forces of change to the landscape of North America.  They not only moved freight and people but they participated in opening up the newly formed National Parks to visitors with the creation of the now iconic grand hotels.

Some of the railway’s original train tracks were marked and put back in their original locations. You’ll see them throughout the park today. Photo by Rick Darke

But as roads began to rival rails the network underwent a steady decline, and fewer and fewer resources were being put into their maintenance.

Fast forward a century–give or take a decade–and we find railroads, or at least rail corridors, going back to one of their greatest historical traits; as a pathway to nature.

In the 1980s the U.S. Congress passed an amendment allowing the use of soon-to-be-abandoned rail lines for hiking and biking trails.The highly successful “Rails-to-Trails” program has lead to nearly 1,012 rail-trails in the U.S. with a total trail mileage of more than 11,000.

Not just a U.S. phenomenon, there are similar programs in Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia, to name a few.  (Tasmanian Trail anyone?) Continue reading