The Doppelt Family
Rail-Trail Champions Award Recipients
Fred Schaeffer of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. was named Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion for 2013, recognition of his pivotal role in moving the Walkway Over the Hudson from an unlikely hope to a spectacular success.
Though there were a number of people who worked hard, and often behind the scenes, to bring the Walkway to fruition, Schaeffer was an enduring, vital presence throughout its development. When he first learned of the fledgling idea to convert the neglected Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge into a public pathway, the plan was little more than a pipe dream. With many doubters and cynics looking on, Schaeffer proceeded to build a community of support, funders and believers for an ambitious project that he knew would one day be a tremendous asset for the region.
Supported by the nonprofit Walkway Over the Hudson organization, Schaeffer spearheaded the fundraising, advocacy and planning efforts that led to the opening of the Walkway in 2009, and its continued promotion as a regional and national attraction.
The Walkway Over the Hudson now attracts hundreds of thousands of users each year. In addition to boosting the region's tourism economy, the Walkway has also been the catalyst for a booming health and wellness movement among locals who walk, jog or ride this spectacular rail-trail from sun up to sundown.
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May Theilgaard Watts
Highland Park, Ill.
May Theilgaard Watts was a writer, illustrator, naturalist, scientist and teacher. Her determination that Americans stay connected to their natural landscape in a time of increasing urbanization was the catalyst that led to the formation of the Illinois Prairie Path.
Watts' vision of recycling out-of-service rail lines for recreational use was remarkable for being far ahead of its time. Heralded as one of the first successful rail-trail conversions in the United States, the Prairie Path laid the blueprint for thousands of rail-trails that would follow.
Inspired by the public footpaths of Britain, and the Appalachian Trail here in America, Watts believed Midwestern residents needed similar recreational corridors. Her 1963 letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune implored, "if we have courage and foresight... we can create from this strip a proud resource."
"We are human beings," she wrote. "We are able to walk upright on two feet. We need a footpath. Right now there is a chance for Chicago and its suburbs to have a footpath, a long one."
After eight years of contentious meetings between Watts and the towns of Wheaton and Glen Ellyn (which sought the right-of-way as valuable parking space), U.S. Secretary of the Interior Rogers C.B. Morton designated the Illinois Prairie Path as the second of 27 new National Recreation Trails. In the designation, Watts was honored "for her outstanding efforts toward establishment of the Illinois Prairie Path."
The daughter of Danish immigrants, Watts grew up in Chicago. She would find her life's calling in protecting and promoting nature. In addition to her work at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill., Watts authored several books and scientific studies that helped nonscientists interpret the landscape. Her 1957 Reading the Landscape was widely read and used by educators for decades. Watts described places ranging from backyard gardens to the Indiana Dunes and the Rocky Mountains. Her writing and her legacy remain loved and revered today, 36 years after her death.
Grant recipient: The pass-through grant in Watts' honor will be awarded to the trail she helped inspire and build: the Illinois Prairie Path. The funds will assist the nonprofit Illinois Prairie Path corporation and its volunteers in working to maintain, protect, enhance and promote the trail, which spans approximately 61 miles in Cook, DuPage and Kane Counties in northeastern Illinois.
We are human beings. We are able to walk upright on two feet. We need a footpath. Right now there is a chance for Chicago and its suburbs to have a footpath, a long one. The right-of-way of the Aurora electric road lies waiting. If we have courage and foresight, such as made possible the Long Trail in Vermont and the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, and the network of public footpaths in Britain, then we can create from this strip a proud resource.
Look ahead some years into the future. Imagine yourself going for a walk on an autumn day. Choose some part of the famed Illinois footpath. Where the highway crosses it, you enter over a stile. The path lies ahead, curving around a hawthorn tree, then proceeding under the shade of a forest of sugar maple trees, dipping into a hollow with ferns, then skirting a thicket of wild plum, to straighten out for a long stretch of prairie, tall grass prairie, with big blue stem and blazing star and silphium and goldenrod.
You must go over a stile again, to cross a highway to another stile. This section is different.
The grass is cut and garden flowers bloom in great beds. This part, you may learn, is maintained by the Chicago Horticultural Society. Beyond the garden you enter a forest again, maintained by the Morton Arboretum. At its edge begins a long stretch of water with mud banks, maintained for water birds and waders, by the Chicago Ornithological Society. You notice an abundance of red-fruited shrubs. The birds have the Audubon Societies to thank for those. You rest on one of the stout benches provided by the Prairie Club, beside a thicket of wild crab apple trees planted by the Garden Club of Illinois.
Then you walk through prairie again. Four Boy Scouts pass. They are hiking the entire length of the trail. This fulfills a requirement for some merit badge. A troop of Scouts is planting acorns in a grove of cottonwood trees. Most of the time you find yourself in prairie or woodland of native Illinois plants. These stretches of trail need little or no upkeep. You come to one stretch, a long stretch, where nothing at all has been done. But university students are identifying and listing plants. The University of Chicago ecology department is in charge of this strip. They are watching to see what time and nature will do.
You catch occasional glimpses of bicycles flying past, along one side. The bicycles entered through a special stile admitting them to the bicycle strip. They cannot enter the path where you walk, but they can ride far and fast without being endangered by cars, and without endangering those who walk.
That is all in the future, the possible future. Right now the right-of-way lies waiting, and many hands are itching for it. Many bulldozers are drooling.
May Theilgaard Watts
September 25, 1963
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David and Barbara Burwell
The history of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy begins with David Burwell. When he and Peter Harnik founded RTC in 1986, there were just a few dozen rail-trails in the country. But during the 15 years he led the remarkable nonprofit he helped create, rail-trails became a much-loved part of the American landscape, and an integral part of our recreation and transportation vernacular.
As a young man, Burwell was fortunate to have an excellent role model in trails advocacy. His mother, Barbara Burwell, championed the creation of the Shining Sea Bikeway in Massachusetts and worked for many years to see it to completion. Today, the 10.8-mile rail-trail runs from the ferry docks in Woods Hole to North Falmouth, Mass.
A lawyer by training, Burwell's thorough knowledge of railbanking legislation and understanding of the role of the courts in advancing the development of rail-trails was a key to the continued success of RTC. In 1990, he was the founding co-chair of the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP), a national transportation policy reform coalition. After his time at RTC, Burwell became STPP's president. He also served as the director of the National Wildlife Federation's Transportation and Infrastructure Program, and the first chair of the National Research Council's Transportation and Sustainability Committee, among many other roles.
Burwell is currently the director of the Energy and Climate Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his work focuses on the intersection between energy, transportation and climate issues.
Grant recipient: Burwell has selected the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, which directs maintenance of the Shining Sea Bikeway. Burwell chose the Shining Sea Bikeway as a tribute to his mother, Barbara Burwell, who was a leading figure in its creation, and to all rail-trail champions who face great obstacles in their efforts to create a coast-to-coast trail network.
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Peter Harnik's name is inextricably connected with the formation of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. A self-described "bicycle enthusiast and cockeyed optimist," Harnik's first introduction to rail-trails came during a failed quest to close Wisconsin Avenue in Washington, D.C., to automobiles.
Still determined to build a landscape more open to cycling and walking, Harnik began researching Seattle's Burke-Gilman Trail and the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in Wisconsin. His subsequent article for Environmental Action magazine, "I've Been Walking on the Railroad," in 1982, is one of the key treatises in the formation of a rail-trail movement in America.
Three years later, Harnik joined David Burwell in founding RTC.
At that same time he co-founded the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail. After 10 years as RTC program director and vice president for programs, during which time he walked 137 different rail-trails, he left to become director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land.
As a published author and speaker, Harnik continues to advocate for the benefits of trails and green spaces to modern communities. His latest book, Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities, features a chapter on rail-trails, and a photo of New York's High Line graces the cover. Harnik is currently at work on a book blending rail-trails, railroads and bicycling.
Grant recipient: Harnik selected the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) Committee of the Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association. The MBT is one of the region's most heavily used commuter and recreational trails, connecting neighborhoods to the north with downtown Washington, D.C. The Brookland Civic Association is working to build a strong culture of community ownership around the trail.
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Mark C. Ackelson
Pleasant Hill, Iowa
Mark Ackelson's life has focused on protecting and restoring important natural, wildlife, recreational and cultural resource lands in his native Iowa. He has worked for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) since 1980 and became president of this member-supported, statewide land trust in 1994.
The INHF has been instrumental in protecting more than 120,000 acres of Iowa's wild places, including the conversion of more than 650 miles of former railroad corridors for conservation and recreation purposes.
Ackelson's experience in Iowa soon led to a more national role in the promotion and development of rail-trails, and he has served as chairman of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's board of directors.
Ackelson was also a founder of the Land Trust Alliance, a national association of land trusts, and served as chair for three years. His experience in leading multi-regional efforts led to the creation of the Mississippi River Trail, Inc., which is creating a trail the length of the Mississippi River, involving 10 states.
He helped secure Iowa's trails and recreation future by creating the Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP), providing $15 to 20 million annually for conservation and recreation. Ackelson also helped establish the State Recreation Trail Fund and the Iowa Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.
Grant recipient: Ackelson has selected the Wabash Trace Nature Trail in Iowa. Completed in 1997, this trail follows the former Iowa Southern Railroad, connecting eight communities and some of the state's most scenic countryside along its 63-mile route. The development of the Wabash Trace Nature Trail is credit to an extensive volunteer effort by members of the Southwest Iowa Nature Trail during more than two decades.
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David Brickley is president of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, which is promoting the development of a 1,130-mile trail and greenway connecting the three memorial sites of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States: the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., the Pentagon Memorial and New York City's National September 11 Memorial.
Under Brickley's leadership as the director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation from 1998 to 2002, Virginia was awarded the national gold medal award for the "Best Managed State Park System in America." Brickley previously was an elected member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1976 through 1998, and he was the legislative sponsor, co-founder and chairman of the Virginia Railway Express, Virginia's commuter rail system. Brickley has also served as an officer and trustee of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, and as the Virginia State Committee Chair. Additionally, Brickley personally purchased a 16-mile out-of-service railroad corridor in King George County, Va., to protect it from being lost to development. As president of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail Alliance, his goal is to work with other volunteers to make this rail-trail project a part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
Brickley was born in Albany, N.Y., and graduated from Pennsylvania State University and the George Mason University School of Law. He previously served in the United States Air Force with a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he received the Bronze Star. He and his wife, Lori, reside in Woodbridge, Va., and have three children and four grandchildren.
Grant recipient: Brickley has selected the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. It is based on the connectivity of existing trails, greenways and roads wherever possible to include the C&O Canal,Great Allegheny Passage, the Liberty Water Gap Trail and the East Coast Greenway.
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Linda McKenna Boxx
Linda Boxx has been the driving force behind the Allegheny Trail Alliance since its inception in 1995. She pulled several trail groups together so the most difficult sections of the trail—renamed the Great Allegheny Passage—could be completed to make the link from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., and then connect to the C&O Canal towpath. Boxx has served as board president and volunteer executive director and raised more than $30 million for construction. In addition, she has helped with marketing the trail, design and project management of several of the missing links.
Boxx also serves as chairman of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, based in Latrobe, Pa. She has served on many boards, including the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Fallingwater Advisory Committee, Pennsylvania Pedalcycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, the Gettysburg Foundation and Saint Vincent College. She worked in state government in Pennsylvania from 1975 to 1978, and in Arkansas from 1978 to 1981, before returning to western Pennsylvania to work for the family foundation.
Boxx is a graduate of Bucknell University and has two sons, Nathan (Pittsburgh) and Peter (Baltimore).
Grant recipient: Boxx has selected the Great Allegheny Passage, a 141-mile (and growing) trail between Pittsburgh, Pa., and Cumberland, Md., that connects to the C&O Canal towpath, making an off-road, nearly level trail connection from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. The GAP has visitors from near and far who pump into the trail towns on bikes and pump money into the local economies. The first nine-mile section of this trail system was opened 25 years ago. The pass-through grant will be used to help build the final mile left to complete.
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The Honorable Tom Murphy
For the last 30 years, Tom Murphy has been a highly active and influential supporter of rail-trails. As an elected official, his promotion of trails and urban green space has transformed the landscape of Pittsburgh and helped make Pennsylvania one of the nation's most trail-friendly states. From 1979 through 1993 Murphy served eight terms in the Pennsylvania State General Assembly House of Representatives. The legislation Murphy authored during this time to encourage industrial land reuse and transform unused railroad rights-of-way into trails and greenspace went a long way toward building a sustainable economy around trails tourism and outdoor recreation.
Murphy led the passage of the Pennsylvania Rail Trail Act in 1989, as well as the state's purchase of what is now the 64-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail. He went on to serve three terms as mayor of Pittsburgh from 1994 to 2005. During this time, he oversaw the development of more than 20 miles of new riverfront trails and urban greenspace, and he developed strategic partnerships to transform more than 1,000 acres of blighted, unused industrial properties into new commercial, residential, retail and public uses. Murphy's legacy in Pittsburgh is evident today in the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System, which attracts millions of recreational and commuter users.
"Tom understood what trails and biking could do for the city, at a time when nobody was talking about it," says RTC's Tom Sexton. "Beyond his role in Pittsburgh, Tom was a cheerleader for trails right throughout the southwest part of the state. Now that we have all these great trails, people forget there was a time when people weren't interested in this stuff. But Tom was a visionary; he was out on the stump."
Grant recipient: Murphy has dedicated his grant to Friends of the Riverfront, which has worked for 20 years to reclaim Pittsburgh's riverfronts for public access and recreational use.
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George M. Burrier, Jr.
George Burrier was born in Chicago, Ill., but spent most of his childhood in Pennsylvania. He received a B.S. in psychology from Northern Illinois University in 1967. After serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, he finished his law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in the evenings in 1973 while working for Pullman, Inc.
Shortly after 1983, William Rutherford, former director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), flew Burrier over the abandoned Peoria, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, where rail traffic had ceased in 1963. Rutherford asked Burrier to help make his trail plan come true. The Forest Park Foundation directed by Rutherford acquired the line in 1965. The IDNR received the land in 1968, it became a state park in 1973—and then commenced a 17-year battle to develop the 31-mile Rock Island Trail State Park.
Working with an initial annual state budget of $1 a year, Burrier and other volunteers began piecing together the trail, from restoring bridges and acquiring former railroad depots along the route to finding donors and new supporters for the project. Burrier provided legal work pro bono throughout this process, helping the friends group negotiate through local landowner and political opposition. Finally, on May 12, 1990, Secretary of State Jim Edgar officially dedicated the trail.
Burrier and his family began cycling adventures in 1983 by going on a six-day ride from Fish Creek, Wis., to Milwaukee. Since then, the Burriers have traveled in 45 states, three Canadian provinces, Belgium, France, Iceland and The Netherlands.
Grant recipient: Burrier has selected the Friends of the Rock Island Trail, Inc. The nonprofit continues to promote the rail-trail Burrier spent so many years seeing to completion.
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The Honorable Ray LaHood
As a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives and the current United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood has been a vigorous champion of rail-trails, and one of the most high-profile figures in the political effort to retain and grow funding for non-motorized transportation.
A former high school teacher, LaHood's great affection for trails was born from many hours spent on the Rock Island Trail State Park in his hometown of Peoria, Ill. He became a staunch supporter of rail-trail programs during a critical time for transportation funding. His impassioned speech before Congress in 2003 defending Transportation Enhancements earned him great respect from active transportation advocates and provided one of the highest-profile statements in defense of trails, walking and bicycling.
"I know it is probably not fashionable for me to be up here talking in favor of this amendment, but I feel strongly about it," he said. "If we really want Americans to be fit and healthy and get in good shape, the way to do it is to allow for the enhancement program that has worked so well, that allows people to get outdoors, to ride their bikes, to jog, to walk. What better way to bring people in a community together."
As Secretary of Transportation, LaHood continues to stress the importance of non-motorized modes in our transportation planning. Under his guidance, USDOT started the extremely popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to fund transportation projects—including trails, walking or bicycling—that make communities more livable and sustainable.
Marianne Fowler, RTC's senior vice president of federal relations, says LaHood has long championed active transportation and the Transportation Enhancements program, often despite significant political pressure. "Secretary LaHood was very much a leader of the movement, rather than a follower."
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Supervisor Greg Cox
San Diego, Calif.
The rail-trail movement is fortunate to have a number of active supporters in positions of municipal leadership—men and women well-placed to convert an understanding of the benefits of trails and active transportation into actual projects and programs. Greg Cox is one such champion.
With a career in public service that began as a high school teacher, Cox went on to serve two terms as the mayor of Chula Vista, Calif., in the 1980s. He has served as a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors since 1995, overseeing a regional government providing services for more than 3 million people.
Thanks in large part to Cox, Chula Vista is a community with plenty of options for getting around. During his time as mayor, Cox led a groundbreaking regional effort to build to a 24-mile, class I bike path looping around San Diego Bay. Today, the Bayshore Bikeway connects five city jurisdictions and a number of parks and recreation facilities. Due to its stunning coastline setting and urban accessibility, the Bayshore Bikeway is a nationally renowned rail-trail often held up as an example of trails that serve a wide cross-section of the community.
Cox is respected by his fellow professionals and members of the public as a champion of the Safe Routes to School program. He continues to advocate for Complete Streets projects, and as president of the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities, brought together a bipartisan coalition to consider active transportation as an integral component of smart growth.
Grant recipient: Cox has selected the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. SDCBC is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the bicycling experience in San Diego. They organize educational programs, promote awareness of bicyclists and bicycling issues, review infrastructure improvements and act as a voice for bicyclists to elected officials and decision-makers throughout the region.
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Supervisor Steve Kinsey
San Rafael, Calif.
Steve Kinsey is widely known and respected for his successful efforts to increase non-motorized mobility in the San Francisco Bay area. Currently in his fourth term on the Marin County Board of Supervisors, Kinsey's impact on the region is evident in a regionally connected bicycle network, a nationally recognized Safe Routes to School program, and a countywide Complete Streets policy. He helped get bike racks on all local buses, video stoplight triggers at major biking intersections, and bicycle and pedestrian master plans in every Marin County community.
In a district defined by its beautiful coastal parks, active family farms and distinct, compact neighborhoods, Kinsey's service for the county and the Bay Area Ridge Trail Board of Directors has helped close critical gaps in Marin County's multi-use trail system.
His knowledge of the local landscape goes far beyond a familiarity with maps and blueprints. In 2007, Kinsey spent seven days backpacking, biking and canoeing around his sprawling district to celebrate its beauty and diversity.
Grant recipient: Kinsey has selected the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC). Steve chose MCBC in recognition of its success in promoting non-motorized transportation throughout Marin County and the nation. MCBC's work ranges from national leadership in non-motorized school access programs to local policy advocacy and user education.
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Linda B. Crider
Dr. Linda Crider describes her advocacy of bicycling and trails as "one of her life's passions." From bicycling education programs in her native Florida to transportation planning in a remote Alaskan village, Crider's promotion of active transportation has spanned a number of decades, and many landscapes.
Crider's involvement in Florida's trails and cycling community began in the 1970s, first during her work in the governor's office, and then as an active member of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Florida Chapter (and later an RTC Florida advisory board member).
Crider was a founding board member of the Florida Bicycle Association in the 1980s. She later founded and served as executive director for Bike Florida, Inc., and for 18 years was director of the University of Florida's Bicycle and Traffic Safety Education Program. She directed a number of multi-modal research efforts and training programs for the Florida Department of Transportation, helping make bicycling and walking safer and a more integral part of communities.
In 1997, Crider launched one of the nation's first Safe Routes to School programs. In 2009, she was contracted to shape a plan to address the needs and opportunities for non-motorized transportation in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska, where she had spent a number of summers earlier in the decade. During Crider's time there in 2009, she helped the city of Cordova develop a Safe Routes to School program, and her work led to the nomination of the Copper River highway as a Scenic Byway.
Crider was recently recognized with a Lifetime Achievement award by the national Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.
Grant receipient: Crider has selected the Palatka to Lake Butler State Trail. RTC played a key role in preserving the corridor for conversion to a rail-trail, which Crider says has the potential to "redefine Palatka as the trail hub of northeast Florida."
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In his four decades in urban and regional planning, Brian Smith has witnessed firsthand the evolution of the role of trails in communities. During this time, planning professionals began to move the transportation focus away from traditional highway systems and toward bike and pedestrian facilities, a progression Smith refers to as a "maturing of the transportation system."
Combining his planning focus with an energetic service spirit, Smith was instrumental in the creation and expansion of the 34-mile Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, one of Florida's most popular and unique urban pathways—and a member of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Connecting the cities of St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs on Florida's Gulf Coast, the Pinellas Trail is a marvel of non-motorized urban connectivity in a state where such pathways are rare and sorely needed. Its success as a recreational facility and transportation corridor has made it a model for urban pathways across the nation, and the Pinellas Trail helped jumpstart the rail-trail movement in Florida. Smith is currently the planning director for Pinellas County and the executive director of the Pinellas County MPO.
Smith's experience with the Pinellas Trail and in planning at the regional level has made him a valuable member of the broader trails, bike and pedestrian community.
He has worked with many other areas to establish trails based on the successes of Pinellas County. Smith is nationally recognized as a generous technical resource for others planning pedestrian and bike trail projects, and as a passionate and knowledgeable advocate of urban pathways.
Grant recipient: Smith has selected the Pinellas Trail. One of the defining uses of the Pinellas Trail is as a connector to the many neighborhoods, workplaces and shopping and recreation areas along its route. Smith proposes the grant be used for signage marking the various communities along the trail, to make navigation even easier for new and existing users.
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Joshua David and Robert Hammond
New York, N.Y.
Since opening in 2009, the High Line—a pedestrian greenway and linear park built along a former elevated railbed through Manhattan—has become a game changer in the world of urban trails and community-driven adaptive reuse. It has been enormously popular with residents and visitors and has driven the reenergizing of a commercially stagnant area on Manhattan's west side.
Without the foresight and advocacy of Robert Hammond and Joshua David, there would be no High Line. Hammond and David founded Friends of the High Line in 1999, inspired at first by a desire to save the unique trestle structure from demolition, and later by the enormous possibility they saw in an elevated public greenway.
Friends of the High Line has raised more than $180 million in public and private funding and now manages the park under a licensing agreement with New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation. Hammond and David's work on behalf of the project has been recognized by civic and professional groups worldwide.
Before the High Line entered their lives, neither man had direct experience in anything resembling trails planning and management, or public projects of this magnitude. Hammond helped start several businesses and consulted with nonprofit organizations. A self-taught artist, he served as an ex-officio member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2005.
Before co-founding Friends of the High Line, David worked as a freelance magazine writer and editor for several publications, including Gourmet, Fortune, Travel + Leisure and Wallpaper.
Grant recipient: Hammond and David have selected the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail (FBT) in Chicago. The nonprofit FBT formed in 2003 to advocate for the conversion of the three-mile Bloomingdale rail embankment into an elevated, multi-use, linear park and trail in Chicago.
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Robert P. Thomas
Robert "Bob" Thomas is a widely recognized advocate for rail-trails and livable communities in his home state of Pennsylvania.
He is a long-time member and former president of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, where he has contributed more than 35 years of efforts to develop a seamless network of bicycle transportation in the state's southeast. In this role, Thomas has devoted years of work to open bridges and public transportation to people and bicycles.
He is also a long-time member and former chairman of the board of the Schuylkill River Greenway Association, developer of major portions of the Schuylkill River Trail in southeast Pennsylvania, one of America's most popular urban rail-trails.
As an architect, Thomas has focused on bringing the principles of conservation, preservation, greenways and active transportation into his work since 1969. A founding partner of Campbell Thomas & Co Architects, he has led the firm's work in the advocacy, planning, design and construction of numerous rail-trails and greenways.
Thomas is also a member of the East Coast Greenway, where he serves on the Pennsylvania Steering Committee.
Grant recipient: Thomas has selected the Valley-Forge to Heinz Refuge Trail (VF-HRT). The VF-HRT is currently in the planning stages, with the potential to link a series of isolated trails to two of the major regional trails in southeastern Pennsylvania: the East Coast Greenway and the Schuylkill River Trail. When complete, the trail will give access to people from three counties to downtown Philadelphia and to each other, strengthening a series of disparate communities.
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David Dionne is executive director of Red Mountain Park in Birmingham, Ala. Prior to joining Red Mountain Park, Dionne served as chief of trails and natural areas for Anne Arundel County in Maryland. He was selected to be the first park superintendent of the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail Park in 1987 and developed a park operations plan that included many innovative volunteer initiatives, trail operations practices and policies, and community-building programs. His programs and practices have been recognized nationally and internationally as models for trail operation and safety.
Dionne has been appointed to serve on a number of national committees and panels. In 1997, he was asked to be a member of the White House Millennium Council's Green Ribbon Panel on trails, where he helped set up the Millennium Trails Program. In 1999, he became a member of the National Endowment for the Arts' Committee for Art on Millennium Trails. From 2001 until 2005, Dionne was chairman of the National Board of Trustees for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, a nonprofit working to link local trail projects between Maine and Florida into a continuous 2,900-mile route. In 2005, Dionne was appointed by Governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr., to be the chairman of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, where he served until 2007.
Dionne has been a featured or keynote speaker at park and trail conferences more than 50 times throughout the county. He now lives in Hoover, Ala., with his two children, Natalie and Cameron.
Grant recipient: Dionne has selected the Friends of Anne Arundel County Trails, which continues to promote, protect and enhance the trails of Anne Arundel County in Maryland—where Dionne first took a leadership role in developing rail-trails.
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Ed McBrayer is a native Georgian and an Aerospace Engineering graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He worked on the NASA Skylab space program in support of the astronauts as a systems engineer in charge of stowage management. In the early 1970s, McBrayer built his own home and enjoyed building it so much he quit his job in aerospace and ultimately built more than 1,000 new homes in the Denver, Colo., area, where he became an avid recreational cyclist.
As chairman of the planning commission for the city of Englewood, Colo., McBrayer helped plan trails along the South Platte River through Englewood to promote alternative modes of transportation and recreational cycling.
In 1991, he returned to Atlanta to find no trails, no bike lanes, no bike routes and very few sidewalks. So when the Olympics were awarded to Atlanta, McBrayer and two of his friends reasoned that in order for Atlanta to be a "world-class city," provisions for bike riding and pedestrian travel were a must. He helped form the PATH Foundation with a mission to build a network of off-road trails for use during and after the Olympics.
A year later, McBrayer helped the Georgia Department of Transportation organize the Transportation Enhancement (TE) Advisory Committee to help prioritize TE projects in Georgia.
With the help of many supporters, PATH built more than 20 miles of trails in time for the Olympics. Now in its 20th year, PATH has raised more than $95 million dollars from public and private sources to build more than 160 miles of trails throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties, including work on the Silver Comet and the developing Atlanta Beltline Trail.
Grant recipient: McBrayer has designated the Arabia Mountain Trail, which is built partially on an out-of-service rail spur into a large granite quarry. A short drive east of Atlanta, the 12-mile trail winds through large granite outcrops, wildflowers and mountain-like streams.
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Ed Honton is being honored posthumously for his dedication to forging the Ohio to Erie Trail. His recognition as a Rail-Trail Champion adds to a long list of awards and honors Honton has received from the appreciative citizens and officials of Ohio, including the OBF Horace Huffman Award for his outstanding promotion of bicycling for recreation and transportation, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Cardinal Award for conservation achievement.
Though he is remembered as saying he was always more interested in the processes themselves rather than the results, it is hard to ignore the wonderful gifts Honton left to his state.
In 1991, he had an idea for a trail from Cincinnati to Cleveland using former railroad and canal corridors. During the next decade, Honton was the energetic force behind the realization of this vision, which attracted a strong and passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts who soon shared his dream. Though there are still some gaps in the trail, the community that Honton built around the Ohio to Erie Trail is working hard, inspired by his example, to build a trail stretching almost the entire width of the state.
Honton was also the first Ohio Department of Transportation Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, and co-founded the Ohio Bicycle Federation. An avid cyclist, he pedaled countless miles across the state, helped develop numerous other trails, and created trail maps and publications, including "36 Bike Routes in Central Ohio."
"I have met very few people as generous and as passionate about trails and biking as Ed," says RTC's Rhonda Boose. "What he achieved with the Ohio to Erie Trail is quite remarkable."
Grant recipient: The grant awarded in Honton's honor will go to the Ohio to Erie Trail Fund for supporters to continue working to complete Honton's vision for a complete off-road connection between Cincinnati and Cleveland.
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Sally Cope Jacobs
Born in New York City and transplanted to the Black Hills of South Dakota as a teenager, Sally Jacobs spent a number of years in northern Colorado and Iowa before settling in Orono, Maine.
Her diversity of experiences in America's urban and rural areas was the perfect background for the many decades she has since spent as an advocate for reshaping community landscapes to better serve riding and walking.
After a long and successful career in biochemistry, Jacobs was tapped in 1975 to chair a newly formed bicycle safety committee in Orono. One of her first actions in what would become a second career was securing grant funding from the Federal Highway Bikeway Demonstration Program to build bike lanes in Orono, and the first off-road paved bike path in Maine. The five-mile bike path connected Orono, Old Town and the University of Maine campus with sections of an old railbed.
Jacobs went on to become founding president of the Sunrise Trail Coalition, a position she held for 12 years. She has served on the Maine Department of Conservation Trails Advisory Committee and the Maine Department of Transportation Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee since their inceptions in 1992.
Her most recent dream-come-true was the opening of the 85-mile Down East Sunrise Trail, built on a railbanked corridor along the coast of Maine—the culmination of 25 years of rail-trail advocacy.
Grant recipient: Jacobs has chosen the Sunrise Trail Coalition (STC) in recognition of their outstanding work and need for ongoing funding. With the official opening of the Down East Sunrise Trail in September 2010, the scope of the STC has transitioned from advocacy to management and fundraising for trailhead amenities, promotional materials and maintenance.
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The Honorable Darwin Hindman
Darwin Hindman is a lifelong campaigner for active living, recreational opportunities for all citizens, and walkable, bikeable communities.
As a citizen activist in the 1980s, he helped convince then-Missouri Governor John Ashcroft and the state legislature to convert an unused rail line into what is now one of the most recognizable and successful rail-trails in the country: the 237-mile Katy Trail State Park.
Hindman said recently that having a father who was a professor of physical education instilled him with a belief in the importance of people being active and having recreation in their lives. However, as he grew older he began to see that often we were not building our cities and communities to provide those opportunities.
Rather than bemoan this landscape, Hindman set his mind to change it. As a five-term mayor in his hometown of Columbia, Mo., he worked tirelessly to expand that city's system of trails, bike lanes and parks. Hindman is credited with the construction of nearly 100 miles of side trails, pedways and bike paths that have made Columbia one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the nation.
He was also instrumental in securing a $25 million federal grant under the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program—for which RTC was the lead advocate and currently helps administer—to help Columbia develop a multi-modal transportation system. As a result of Hindman's efforts, Columbia is consistently rated one of America's most livable communities.
Hindman has been honored with the Leadership for Healthy Communities award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of American Bicyclists. In 2010 he was recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama for his efforts to build a bicycle-friendly community.
Grant recipient: Hindman has selected the Missouri State Parks Foundation in support of the Katy Trail State Park.
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Edward and Hilda P. Jones
Edward and Hilda "Pat" Jones are being honored for their support of Missouri's Katy Trail State Park, which, since their purchase of the out-of-service Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad corridor in the late 1980s, has gone on to become one this country's signature—and indeed longest—rail-trails at 237 miles.
When an idea to recycle the once-dilapidated rail corridor for recreational purpose began to gain momentum, Edward and Pat helped make the enormous leap from grand vision to concrete reality. They bought 200 miles of the corridor's right-of-way for $2.2 million and immediately donated it to the state to get the trail built.
In a profile in Rails to Trails magazine back in 2007, Pat recalled some of the opposition trail supporters faced. "The big opposition was mainly a lot of noise," she said. "Any change makes you worry. But a little sharing goes a long way."
The change the Jones' gift made possible includes introducing thousands of trail users each year to some of Missouri's most spectacular natural areas—the Missouri River and its entourage of hills and forested valleys, many of which retrace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark's westward exploration.
The Katy Trail has also brought new life into more than 40 rural communities along its route, where antique stores, bed-and-breakfasts, restaurants and even wineries have sprouted up in the newly thriving region.
Since Edward passed away in 1990, Pat has continued to be a strong supporter of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The Katy Trail is a legacy that speaks to both the Jones' generosity and their appreciation of Missouri's vast beauty.
Grant recipient: In Edward's memory, Pat has selected the Missouri State Parks Foundation for use in promoting and maintaining the Katy Trail State Park.
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Growing up on a farm in central Michigan in the 1940s and '50s, Carolyn Kane's childhood seems like a slice of American life from another time. Dad worked in a factory in nearby Lansing, while Mom and Carolyn stayed home and milked the cows. Kane remembers that when she and Dale, the man who would become her husband, started dating, the young man often had to wait until the cows were milked and put away before Carolyn could go out for the evening.
Later, Kane enjoyed a long career with General Telephone and Electronics, which become Verizon. When she retired in 1993, however, Kane was introduced to a passion that would remain a steady thread through the next three decades of her life.
Combining her corporate experience with a love of the outdoors in her native state, Kane joined and soon became a key member of the Friends of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. She served as the group's secretary for 14 years, a role that included crucial relationship building with the Meijer Foundation, which funded the purchase of this former rail corridor for recreational purposes.
Kane went on to spearhead the acquisition and development of 37.5 miles of rail-trail from Ionia to Greenville, raising $2.3 million dollars in the process. This addition connected with two other rail-trails and completed a 125-mile rail-trail network through some of the state's most scenic countryside.
She has also been a member of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance Board since 2001 and chair of the board from 2003 to 2008.
With three children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, Kane still finds time to indulge in her other interests, including snowmobiling, motorcycling, camping and scrapbooking.
Grant recipient: Kane has selected the Fred Meijer Mid-West Michigan Rail Trail Endowment Fund. This grant will contribute to the endowment fund's mission of maintaining the 125-mile corridor in perpetuity.
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Grand Rapids, Mich.
Fred Meijer's name is synonymous with trails and parkland philanthropy in his native state of Michigan. Born in 1919 to Dutch immigrant parents, at the age of 14 Meijer helped his family launch the first-ever Meijer operation: a grocery store in the small city of Greenville. Meijer went on to build one of the most successful retail companies in America, and one of the nation's largest family-owned businesses.
Meijer has two philanthropic passions—the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, and rail-trails. In the early 1990s, he funded the purchase of the first rail-trail right-of-way in Michigan. That purchase became the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail, a 43-mile rail-trail that unlocks some of Michigan's finest agricultural lands, woods, meadows, wetlands and small historical towns.
Meijer's generous philanthropy joined with a dedicated and active citizens group to form a strong and ambitious trail community. The original Heartland Trail is now the centerpiece of the Fred Meijer trails network, which connects a number of rural and urban areas in the Lower Peninsula.
As evident as his generosity is Meijer's pride in his native state and love for its open spaces. His belief in outdoor recreation as a key to satisfaction and happiness is at the core of his support of trails. "Ninety-five percent of folks live in the city," he says, "and never get to experience the rural areas surrounding them."
Thanks to the philanthropy and vision of Fred and his wife Lena, millions of Americans now have the opportunity to enjoy the respite that Michigan's trails system offers. He also created the first endowment fund in Michigan for the maintenance of trails.
Grant recipient: Fred Meijer selected the Fred Meijer Mid-West Michigan Rail Trail Endowment Fund. He established the endowment fund to provide for the continued maintenance necessary to ensure the trail system he created continues to be a valuable asset for generations of Americans to come.
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Terry McGaughey is being honored posthumously for the extraordinary dedication and vision he showed in bringing to fruition the 110-mile Paul Bunyan State Trail in Minnesota. Now one of the country's longest paved rail-rails, the Paul Bunyan succeeded in large part through the persistence, will and great passion of McGaughey, who is recognized by local trail supporters as the "Father" of this Hall of Fame rail-trail.
Since the first section opened in 1988, the Paul Bunyan State Trail has initiated a new sense of community and tourism on the edge of the Great Lakes region. The idea for the trail emerged in 1983 when the county lost its 90-year-old Burlington Northern rail service. McGaughey saw the potential of a trail along the corridor and committed himself to rallying local communities in support of the project.
He spent 25 years lobbying legislators, speaking in towns along the route and promoting the trail at every turn. When the state legislature authorized establishment of the trail, McGaughey served as the trail's first volunteer coordinator. Today, McGaughey's legacy continues to grow with the trail. The Paul Bunyan has become one of the most popular trails in the state and is enjoyed by some 650,000 visitors a year.
When he passed away in his Brainerd home in 2010, a large community mourned the loss. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., a biking enthusiast and trail advocate who had regularly ridden with McGaughey on the Paul Bunyan, described him as "a truly rare person who stood up to be counted and served his community any way he could. The world is a better place for his having been here."
In April, McGaughey was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota for his more than 25 years of supporting, lobbying and promoting the trail.
Grant recipient: Accepting on her father's behalf, Jill McGaughey is awarding the grant to the Paul Bunyan State Trail.
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The Honorable James L. Oberstar
For more than 20 years, James Oberstar was RTC's—and the rail-trail movement's—foremost champion in the United States Congress, where he served from 1975 until 2011.
Born and raised in the small Minnesota community of Chisholm, Oberstar discovered a passion for cycling later in life as an activity that brought his family together in a way that was both healthy and enjoyable. His personal experience of the benefits of cycling led him to promote a number of legislative initiatives that would change the landscape of America's cycling culture.
In 2003, Oberstar sponsored the groundbreaking Pedestrian and Cyclist's Equity (PACE) Act, which called for existing transportation funds to be used to create environments that enabled walking and biking as a form of transportation and recreation. A number of PACE's key initiatives eventually found their way into law through the federal transportation reauthorization, SAFETEA-LU, including funding for the Safe Routes to School Program and the pioneering $100 million federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.
These achievements alone would cement Obestar's place as a champion of active transportation. But as chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Oberstar regularly advocated converting the U.S.'s transportation system "from a hydrocarbon-based system to a carbohydrate-based system."
He staunchly defended the threatened Transportation Enhancements program in 2003, telling his fellow Congress members that "citizens have taken control of their destiny and the quality of life that they want to see in America. Enhancement programs make that possible."
"Mr. Oberstar advocated for cycling everywhere he went," says Marianne Fowler, RTC's senior vice president of federal relations. "He used his position in Congress to create and advance a multitude of vital programs. His legislative influence on the trails movement cannot be understated."
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Charles H. Montange
Few have been as vital to the enduring success of the rail-trail movement nationwide as Charles "Chuck" Montange.
Born in Kingsley, Iowa, Montange's professional life as an attorney brought him to Washington, D.C., in 1976. Almost a decade later, David Burwell, then at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), called Montange for assistance in preparing comments for NWF in connection with the Interstate Commerce Commission's initial rulemaking to implement the railbanking statute.
It was a timely phone call and would prove to be one of the key moments in RTC history. Just the week before, Montange had pedaled the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. He had witnessed firsthand the potential of rail-trails and was eager to help.
The comments Montange put together helped in the formation of RTC and were instrumental to the success of countless rail-trail efforts nationwide. His understanding of railbanking and abandonment legislation, and ability to win key legal battles as a pro bono attorney representing RTC and other rail-trail advocates, were the catalyst for the formation of America's best known and loved rail-trails, including D.C.'s Capital Crescent Trail, the Katy Trail State Park, the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska and South Dakota's George Mickelson Trail.
Montange now lives in Seattle, Wash., where he continues to work on behalf of rail-trails. Happily, he gets to enjoy his local rail-trail whenever he accompanies his wife on her daily bike commute to Children's Hospital in Seattle.
Grant recipient: Montange has selected the Klickitat Trail Conservancy in Washington. After local trail opponents barricaded the 31-mile Klickitat Trail in 2002, supporters mobilized to protect the route and formed the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, which today provides much of the maintenance of the trail. Chuck believes that diligent and prolonged effort on behalf of this beautiful trail—and in the face of threats and adversity—deserves recognition and reward.
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The Honorable Ron Sims
In his tenure as a councilmember and executive in King County, Wash., Ron Sims was heralded for his promotion of smart growth principals and a desire to combine urban development with the protection of environmental assets. During Sims' 20 years as a leader in his community, King County developed a trails system among the best in the nation, with nearly 200 miles of trails, many of them rail-trails, and a bike and pedestrian system that continues to attract residents and big business.
Inspired by the example of Seattle's famed Burke-Gilman Trail, Sims led the effort to bring the little-used Eastside Rail Corridor under public ownership for future conversion into a rail-trail. A trail along the Eastside corridor would pass through six suburban cities in King County and into the city of Snohomish—and would place a trail within a half-mile of 500,000 people.
A strong believer that trains and light-rail will play an important role in our transportation future, Sims has been a strong advocate for rail-with-trail projects.
"As active transportation advocates, robust regional trail systems that create seamless networks of accessible trails, sidewalks and on-road bike facilities is a goal that we can never lose sight of," he told those assembled at RTC's TrailLink Conference in 2007. "These are crucial elements of any healthy and sustainable community. In 21st century urban America, our challenge is to make a transformation from rails-to-trails to rails-and-trails."
Sims was named Leader of the Year by American City & County magazine in July 2008 and one of Governing magazine's Government Officials of the Year in 2007.
In 2009, Sims was named Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in recognition of his outstanding record in the promotion of smart growth, active transportation and the alleviation of homelessness. He stepped down from the position in 2011 in order to spend more time with his family.
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