Everywhere you go you hear that times are tough. Particularly in the world of trail-building, resources for development and maintenance are limited or nonexistent, and it can be disheartening for volunteers and advocates who face seemingly insurmountable planning challenges and multi-million dollar estimates.
But Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's report, Community Built: Stories of Volunteers Creating and Caring for Their Trails, contains inspiring examples of everyday Americans across the country using their community strength to create incredible trails. It gives trail champions a reason to take heart, because across the country, stories abound of trails getting developed, extended and cared for with minimal resources.
Reedley Community Parkway in California is one of those. Built along a railbanked right-of-way next to existing tracks, the 2.6-mile trail provides an alternate route to access some of Reedley's busiest arterial streets. Hundreds of walkers, cyclists and runners use the Reedley Parkway daily.
From its inception, the trail-building process was driven by a coalition of citizens and volunteers who had a dream of a non-motorized trail in the heart of Reedley that could be used for commuting and recreation. At the time of abandonment, the city had possession of the downtown right-of-way, which they planned to relinquish to adjacent landowners. However, a grassroots coalition of citizens approached the city government and asked for it to be transformed into a trail. A Rails to Trails Committee was formed to engage in fundraising, organize volunteers to help with the construction process, and act as a forum for public input into the design of the trail. The Trails Committee has been the driving force in maintaining the trail and incorporating new amenities into it.
The Trails Committee's success in engaging the community has been stunning: more than 75 different organizations have been involved with the trail. Volunteers have planted more than 840 trees and 150 shrubs, and the Trails Committee was given significant autonomy by the city council to utilize volunteers as needed for the beautification of the parkway, reducing costs for the city and enabling continued improvements to be made.
While construction of the trail was funded by various federal government grants, $63,000 in donations from local businesses and citizens have provided the necessary amenities. Twenty-three benches were donated. Two drinking fountains, two bicycle racks, a kiosk for posting community events, three picnic tables, two donor boards with more than 100 tiles, and one art sculpture were all paid for by the community. An ornamental fountain was donated by Buttonwillow Nursery, and the brick foundation surrounding the fountain was donated by Reedley Lumber. Three dog waste dispensers were donated by the Reedley Veterinary Hospital. The Fresno County Workforce Investment Board Youth Commission painted a mural celebrating the town's history, and a gazebo was built by Beckenhauer Construction, using materials the city government had purchased with a grant. Landscaping was completed by student volunteers from Reedley College.
The incredible amount of time and money contributed to the Reedley Parkway by volunteers is a great example of the benefits that can accrue when a tightly knit community "buys in" to the vision of a trail. Reedley Parkway is the only non-motorized trail running through the small town of Reedley, and it connects the entire town from northwest to southeast. These factors have made the residents proud of their trail and instilled in them this sense of ownership.
To learn more about the community that has grown around the Reedley Parkway, and similar inspiring local efforts, read and download Community Built at www.railstotrails.org.