While the bid for the U.S. Presidency may be contentious, we’re instigating a friendly competition for the next Hall of Fame Rail-Trail. In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we’ll be conducting a public vote for the 30th entry into this prestigious group. Voting opens Monday, June 6!
When RTC opened its doors in 1986, we knew of fewer than 200 rail-trails around the country. Today, their numbers have grown tenfold. This achievement would not have been possible without the groundswell of goodwill and generosity we’ve received from our 160,000 members and active supporters over the years. That’s why we’re excited to hear from YOU about which rail-trail you think should enter the 2016 Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
Inductees are selected on merits such as scenic value, high use, trail and trailside amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, community connections and geographic distribution. Below, you’ll find (in no particular order) our five nominees—which we felt exemplify all of these qualifications—as well as input from local trail users about why their trail deserves our highest honor.
Banks-Vernonia State Trail (Oregon)
“It’s representative of Northwest Oregon,” says Rocky Houston, state trails coordinator for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “The trail shows off Tualatin Valley and transitions into the Coast Range. It’s well situated in the region for access to recreational amenities with a state park in the middle of it, and it has communities at either end to make it a world-class experience.”
Swamp Rabbit Trail (South Carolina)
“The trail is now the single most used recreational asset in Greenville County with more than 500,000 users per year,” says Carlton Owen, who played an instrumental role in the trail’s development. “The trail linked two towns and a university—Greenville, Furman University, Travelers Rest—as well as dozens of neighborhoods. The trail linked both county and city parks and recreation authorities behind a single vision. With our primary corporate sponsor—Greenville Health System—the Upstate [region] has a highly visible and cost effective way to get thousands of people to engage in more active lifestyles in one of the nation’s most health-challenged states.”
Hudson Valley Trail Network (New York)
“The trail system connects communities on both sides of the Hudson River via the magnificent Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian walkway in the world,” notes the Ulster County Planning Department. “This unique non-motorized connection across one of America’s most historic and iconic waterways has changed [how] the Hudson Valley region thinks about trail connections and has also inspired additional trail projects to build on the existing system. The trail system, and the Walkway in particular, have caught the imagination of community leaders, planners and outdoor recreation enthusiasts, who now envision and work towards a potential future rail-trail system running from New York City all the way to the peaks of the Catskill Park.”
Rio Grande Trail (Colorado)
“The corridor serves as a key link for the Roaring Fork Valley, connecting communities along its 42-mile length, and more than 420 acres of open space,” states the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. “It serves as both a current and future transportation corridor and as a major recreation amenity, drawing commuters who bypass congestion on the Highway 82 corridor between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. More than just a hard-surface commuter trail, the Rio Grande Trail offers world-class amenities for a wide range of non-motorized users: historical preservation, riparian habitat conservation, strategic wildlife corridors, quiet solitude, public health, multi-jurisdictional management, recreational access and alternative transportation uninhibited by motor vehicles.”
Shelby Farms Greenline (Tennessee)
“Shelby Farms Greenline has been instrumental in Memphis, Tennessee’s ongoing transformation into a fit community,” points out the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. “While Memphis has traditionally been recognized for its incredible food landscape, Shelby Farms Greenline has helped put Memphis on the map as a city that’s fitness-focused and that has been named one of America’s most-improved bike cities. The Greenline physically connects thousands cyclists and pedestrians of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to one of America’s biggest urban parks (Shelby Farms Park), and it connects trail and park visitors to each other.”