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Connection Concerto

Dear Friend of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy,

Building a trail is like writing a song: Miles are strung together as notes, contours in the landscape provide rhythm and the nature and the history of the corridor entwine to tell a story. The finished composition possesses the power to move people.

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we are moved by the notion that trail systems—the linking of our trails, greenways and parks—are lyrical works of art stretching across the American landscape. Trail systems are at the core of RTC's goal of providing more people each year with access to recreation and transportation resources.

To realize a nationwide network of interconnected trails, though, we must first improve the development of systems at the local and regional level. This issue of Rails to Trails explores some of the finest examples of trail networks on the ground now, from Flagstaff, Ariz. (page 8), to the systems found in Seattle, Chicago and the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (page 16). RTC chose Minneapolis and St. Paul as the site of our international conference, TrailLink 2005, to showcase their excellence in connected open spaces.

But even these model systems routinely face orchestration challenges, struggling with jurisdictional cooperation and the complexity of land acquisition and funding sources. Every day, RTC fields requests from communities seeking our trail-building technical assistance, funding information and policy expertise. This is why we are excited about RTC's own, internal expanding network. To more deliberately focus our trail-building efforts and better reach our goal of a nationwide network of trails, RTC is restructuring its field operations.

Our focus will shift from a state-based to a regional facilitation of the trails movement. In late 2004, RTC's field offices in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania united to form the Northeast Regional Office. And by October 2005, our Ohio field office will become headquarters for RTC's Midwest Regional Office. RTC's Southeast and Western regional offices will be rolled out in 2006.

Lastly, our Michigan field office will embark on another, equally exciting journey, forming the independent, state-focused Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA). I hope you are as enthused as I am about the chorus of trails we hope to create by embracing more states in our regional offices and connecting trails across the country. Perhaps, as more of these systems unfold across our American landscape, we'll all have something to sing about.

Happy Trails!

Keith Laughlin

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037