The rail-trail movement is global. Though the United States boasts the most extensive network of developed rail-trails, as well as rail-trail organizations and advocates, all over the world citizens are recycling underused rail corridors into vibrant places of recreation and transportation.
Australasia has been a hotbed of rail-trail development of late. Particularly New Zealand, where the 150-kilometer Otago Central Rail Trail is drawing rave reviews as a must-do tourism destination and single-handedly reviving a number of rural communities along its route.
So it was great to host a visit by some of our rail-trail brethren from neighboring Australia earlier this month. RailTrails Australia committee member Vince Aitken and organization volunteer Margaret Holt stopped by our Washington, D.C., headquarters to meet with staff and share lessons and challenges about rail-trail development at opposite ends of the globe.
Vince and Margaret had the opportunity to experience the fruits of good rail-trail development firsthand, with a ride along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal National Historic Park, one of America's most popular rail-trail destinations and a model for such projects around the world.
Vince noted that due to the expansive and relatively unpopulated landscape, most rail-trails in Australia feature great distances between townships, and so there remains a tremendous opportunity to provide amenities for long-distance travelers.
Learn more about RailTrails Australia at www.railtrails.org.au.