shop   |   eNews   |   find a trail Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity
Share this page:

A rail-trail in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, near Brussels, Belgium, is home to a sculpture by artists Daniel Steenhaut and Francoise Geeraerd, entitled "Calligraphie Ferroviaire" (in English, "Calligraphy Railway"). Installed in 2002, it takes two tracks heading toward each other, gradually bending until they shape a man and woman meeting in the middle.


Graffiti — Any writing, printing, marks, signs, symbols, figures, designs, inscriptions, or other drawings that are scratched, scrawled, painted, drawn, or otherwise placed on any surface of a building, wall, fence, trail tread, or other structure on trails or greenways and which have the effect of defacing the property.

Adopt-A-Trail — A program in which groups or businesses "adopt" trails, providing volunteer work parties at periodic intervals to help maintain the trail. Though no special trail privileges are granted, the trail manager generally acknowledges that a trail has been "adopted" by erecting signs that indicate the trail is part of an Adopt-A-Trail program and include the name of the adopter.

Trails glossary and acronyms .


RTC Resources

Urban Pathways Initiative: Connect with advocates and professionals working on the challenges of obesity, congestion and scarcity of open space in low-income urban neighborhoods. The initiative provides a space to share innovative resources and best practices that encourage physical activity through trail use in America's cities. Interested? Sign up to participate!

Ask Our Listserv: Learn about trail development from the experts! Join our listserv to be connected to more than 1,000 trail managers, advocates and builders across the country.

Go to RTC's Trails and Greenways Publication Library

For more information, please contact the appropriate regional or national office.


Additional Resources

Americans for the Arts

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Western States Arts Federation

National Sculptor Society

Midtown Greenway Public Art

Clipper City Rail Trail Public Art

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Public Art

Legacy Rail Trail Public Art Master Plan


Plan, Design, Build

Public Art

Explore the latest resources on this topic:

Public Art in RTC TrailBlog
Public Art in the Library

Public art can help elevate a rail-trail from practical infrastructure to a space cherished by the community. Art establishes the trail as a community asset and encourages public engagement and stewardship.

Art on a rail-trail can serve a variety of purposes. It can illustrate both the identity of the trail itself and the identity of the communities through which it winds. It can stimulate the mind and the senses, allow for rest or contemplation, or encourage participation. Public art can cultivate vision and inspire change in the surrounding community.

Trail Identity

Trail identity can be established with a variety of artistic and functional pieces. Continuity and repetition in benches, drinking fountains and signage serve to "brand" the trail and provide a rhythm to the journey. Artistic ramps and railings, sculptures or winding work on the pathway mimic and reveal the flowing movement of the trail. Transitions like street crossings, turns or landscape changes can be illustrated with trail markers.

Community Identity

Rail corridors themselves can say a lot about the community's identity, as the identity of an area often stems from its industrial history. Historical art can take the form of murals or sculptures, or make use of old railroad vestiges like machinery, ties or signage. Sculptor Jeff Sanders secured more than 100 painted cast bronze oranges for the Ventura River Trail in his sculpture "Orange Trace." The oranges were to make it look as if they had just spilled from the train that historically shipped produce in the area.

Sensory Engagement

Most art is visually or mentally stimulating, but some art is intended to animate other senses as well. The Fairfield Heritage Trail in Lancaster, Ohio, includes a "sensory trail" with herb pots, bird feeders, a tactile bark display and outdoor musical instruments. Changing seasons on a rail-trail make it a great backdrop for the changeable sensory elements found in a garden. The Alchemical Garden on Newburyport's Clipper City Rail-Trail includes edible plants, fruits and berries, as well as two couches made from living grass, encouraging participants to pause and rest in their surroundings.

Participatory Art and Events

When channeled appropriately, graffiti art can be beautiful and relevant to a neighborhood's personality. Programs in Washington, D.C., and Detroit have simultaneously engaged local youth, discouraged vandalism and beautified the corridor by commissioning local graffiti artists to work in spaces set aside for their art.

Rail-trails are also great venues for artistic events. These gatherings help form partnerships among art, conservation and community groups, and they introduce new visitors to the rail-trail. Artistic events can also cultivate a common vision and inspire change. Citizens of Memphis, Tenn., turned badly degraded Broad Avenue, which connects to a local rail-trail, into a temporary complete street for a weekend. The event included temporary crosswalks, bike lanes and businesses and restaurants setting up shop in abandoned buildings. The project was attended by an estimated 13,000 people, contributed to the recent revitalization of the area and brought new users to the adjacent rail-trail.

Return to Toolbox >>

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