Searching for dedicated recreational trails is made easy with the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy interactive locator. Access the bicycle trail search tool by simply clicking the image above. You can search by City, State, or Zip and even further refine your query with keywords specific to the trail you are looking for. Give it a try, you might be surprised by what you find.
We’re proud to support the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy. This non-profit organization is dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting
corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.
Thankfully, they’re very good at what they do. The number of rail-trails in the United States has increased from less than 200 in 1986 when they opened their doors, to over 1,600 today. Their work is critical to transitioning our communities from car-only networks to healthier transportation-diverse neighborhoods that are happier places to be with better quality of life.
How Does It Work?
Specifically, the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy makes better use of space. Despite the growing importance of rail transportation in an energy squeezed-environment, there’s still thousands of miles of track that is not used. As industries change over time and populations shift, some rail networks become redundant or obsolete.
This organization works with track owners to purchase the land, coordinating at all levels of Government, and providing tools to communities to transform the space. It’s not all about bicycles either; the trails are generally designed for pedestrians, roller-bladers, horses, and others – anything but motorized vehicles.
The trails prove to be great additions to the community. People can simply enjoy the public space while exploring new recreational options. It’s also great for local economies. With multitudes of people drawn to a trail, new businesses spawn to cater to their needs. In fact, forward thinking local governments have embraced the rails-to-trails model to revive their communities by creating tourism hubs. Restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts do very well around bicycle hubs.
Rails-To-Trails In Action
My local recreation trail is a pretty good example of how the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy can transform a community. The Tammany Trace connects communities along the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish, south-eastern Louisiana. Purchased from the Illinois Railroad in 1992, the Trace now spans 31 miles and accommodates 300,000 recreational users per year.
It serves as a wildlife corridor and has been developed with a parallel equestrian trail. Perhaps the best result of this community investment is how the hubs are used to bring people together. The former train stations or depots have been turned into trailheads. Users can park their cars, off-load bikes, and utilize the trails safely. Other trailheads have community playgrounds. The Mandeville trailhead hosts a farmers market every Saturday, rain or shine and also serves as a performance venue for local artists. The town of Abita Springs, also on the Trace, offers some beautiful bed & breakfasts that specifically cater to the bicycle tourism market. Plus, each trailhead has a multitude of small businesses that provide refreshments and meals to active users.
Even with all the benefits of an active rails-to-trails network, inevitably there are some detractors that simply don’t want to see their tax dollars spent on infrastructure that they won’t use. In reality we all benefit from dedicated recreation corridors. Trails help to keep bicycles from congesting roads that probably weren’t designed for any other user group than motorists. As well as the economic benefits outlined above, rail-trail expansion ultimately elevates our fitness – directly improving quality of life and affording us the opportunity to be more proactive about our health.
Please follow this link for more information on the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy. Their Trailbuilding tool-box could transform your community.