Milwaukee Road Corridor
Idaho and Montana
Anonymous private foundation
Montana (PDF) and Idaho (PDF) Assessments and Feasibility Studies; Technical Assistance; Fact Sheets; Community Organizing; Training Workshops
In 1910, the railroad known as the "Milwaukee Road" stretched more than 1,000 miles from Chicago to Seattle; yet by 1980, most of the corridor had become abandoned. Washington State purchased their portion of the corridor at the time of abandonment and today it is known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. The Washington State Parks and Recreation Department is working to fill the gaps along the Milwaukee Road within its own borders by 2013.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) worked hands-on with communities along the Milwaukee Road's core 500-mile path in Idaho, Montana and Washington that were grappling with similar hurdles, including property acquisition, soil contamination and the challenges of creating a connected network of trails. Until recently, though, many of these advocates were operating in relative isolation. So RTC saw an opportunity, by convening the inaugural Milwaukee Road and Connecting Trails Symposium on June 16, 2007, to bring cross-state representatives together in one place to share their successes and develop solutions collaboratively.
The day-and-a-half symposium, held in Wallace, Idaho, included presentations by trail developers along the route, training sessions for participants, and a bike ride on the 15-mile Route of the Hiawatha, a popular, already completed section of the Milwaukee Road corridor. RTC hopes to capitalize on these new relationships and further trail-building momentum, as new miles of rail-trail open each year.
he Northwest trail system is one of the best in the country and would likely be the best in the world if key connections can be made," says Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trails program manager for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. "This symposium identified those connections and motivated those in attendance to pursue the ultimate [goal]—a fully connected rail-trail network from the Pacific Ocean to Montana."
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy performed historical research, conducted state legal reviews, and gathered funding information as part of extensive assessment and feasibility studies. We have also organized trail groups, conducted training sessions, and provided technical assistance which has catalyzed additional rail-trail projects in the state. In 2007, 35 new miles of trail opened to the public with other sections scheduled for completion in the near future.