Green Issue 2023

Equity and Experience: Celebrating Joy and Connections in America’s Neighborhoods

Across America, there is growing recognition that everyone deserves to be able to safely walk, bike and be active outside right where they live—and that close-to-home access to the outdoors is fundamental to our well-being.

In neighborhoods nationwide, community leaders, residents and trail advocates are coming together to envision brighter futures, and trails are at the heart of those plans. They’re working to deliver trails to more people, while reconnecting residents to new opportunities for joy, healthy living and economic vitality.

In this all-multimedia issue, Rails to Trails magazine takes a closer look at the leadership, public investment and community collaboration that is fueling efforts to create and connect trails—and bring this essential infrastructure to communities that have long been disinvested and under-resourced. Through these stories, we’ll celebrate the impact that these trail systems have, inspiring deeper connections between neighbors and to the outdoors.

Ryan Chao, President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy | Photo by Eric Kayne/AP Images
Ryan Chao, President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy | Photo by Eric Kayne/AP Images

Capturing Once-in-a-Generation Opportunities for Trails, Walking and Biking

After decades of work, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and the trails movement stand at a critical moment for trails and trail networks to be embraced as fundamental. This year was game-changing for trails—as the demand, new funding opportunities and participation we experienced has brought unprecedented momentum to our mission to connect the nation by trail.

Learn More About Our Impact in FY 2022



Milwaukee’s 30th Street Corridor: Creating New Connections by Trail

In Milwaukee, local leaders and trail advocates are working together to revitalize the 30th Street Corridor, once one of America’s most vibrant and prodigious manufacturing areas. Learn about the community’s vision to reignite the corridor and create new and vibrant prospects for commerce, economic development, recreation and active transportation—within the corridor and beyond. The corridor is a key segment of the developing 700-mile Route of the Badger, an RTC TrailNation™ project.

Produced by Rails to Trails magazine and Johnson Media Consulting.

Featuring Willie Smith, Northwest Side CDC; Danitra Jones, Northwest Side CDC; Ammar Nsoroma, Red, Bike & Green-Milwaukee; and Willie Karidis, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


Investing in Trail Network Projects That Heal, Connect and Inspire in the Bay Area

In California, billions of dollars are being invested through the state’s Active Transportation Program (ATP) to create equitable access to trails in under-resourced communities and generate new economic, health, climate and active transportation benefits. Here, we explore two projects in the Bay Area regional trail network—the Richmond Greenway and the developing West Oakland Link—with a focus on their impact for residents, neighborhoods and the region.

Produced by Rails to Trails magazine and DS Simon Media.

Najari Smith, Rich City Rides; Toody Maher, Pogo Park; Gavin Lohry, Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Ms. Margaret Gordon, West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project; and Laura Cohen, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy


REI Co-op: Outside in 5 - Anacostia Park, Washington, D.C.

Over 100 million of us don’t have outdoor spaces close to home. REI Co-op is partnering with community-led organizations around the country to help get everyone Outside in 5 minutes or less. In this video, learn how REI and Friends of Anacostia Park are collaborating to connect community members to outdoor spaces and opportunities within the footprint of the developing 800-mile Capital Trails Coalition network.

Produced by REI, Friends of Anacostia Park and Wondercamp. Used with permission.


TrailNation Collaborative: An Unprecedented Opportunity Moment for Trails

In January 2023, RTC launched the TrailNation™ Collaborative—a learning community where advocates, public leaders and professionals can come together to share their experiences, their challenges and their strategies for accelerating the pace of connecting trails and active transportation infrastructure. Find out more about this innovative, multidisciplinary learning community.

Produced by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.



Interview With 2023 Rail-Trail Champion Governor Jay Inslee

Congratulations to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, recipient of the 2023 Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions Award. In this one-on-one interview with Rails to Trails staffer Brandi Horton from June 2023, Gov. Inslee talks about the joy of trails in Washington, their connectivity, and connections with the developing 3,700-mile Great American Rail-Trail®.

The Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions Award honors those who have made significant contributions to the rail-trail movement through their work, volunteerism or support.

Produced by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.


Chattahoochee RiverLands Connects the River to Its Region

Georgia’s Chattahoochee RiverLands project, which is spearheaded by the Trust for Public Land, will connect nearly 1 million residents of the Greater Atlanta region to the outdoors through a 100-mile stretch of parks, paths and paddling trails. Traversing 19 cities and seven counties, this expansive corridor will preserve the riverfront for public use and include dozens of new water access points and campsites.

Produced by the Trust for Public Land. Used with permission.


Good Moments With Ian Mackay

“Now is precious and will never happen again, and it’s important to cherish every moment, because nothing is guaranteed.”

That’s the message of Guinness World Record holder, outdoor enthusiast and accessibility advocate Ian Mackay, who uses trails daily in his home state of Washington. In this series, Mackay spends 5 to 10 minutes each week addressing topics he receives on trail use, while highlighting beautiful places on the trail. Here are a few of our favorites. For more from Mackay—check out his “Good Moments With Ian Mackay” Youtube Gallery.


Trail Moments | Tips for Outdoor Outings With Your Kids

“Adventure Mom” Chelsea Murphy of She Colors Nature is an avid hiker, bicyclist, skier, climber and all-around nature lover who has had many experiences out on America’s trails with her children in Washington State. Learn these tips from Murphy on making the outdoors an everyday part of your family’s lives.

Read Chelsea Murphy's Blog

Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail | Photo courtesy Chelsea Murphy
Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail | Photo courtesy Chelsea Murphy



Veterans Launch Therapeutic Bike Ride on Great American Rail-Trail

On May 16, 2023, six wartime veterans—joined by RTC and members of Congress—departed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for a cross-country bike ride on the developing 3,700-mile Great American Rail-Trail® to seek healing and the mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors. Their journey began on the Great American’s eastern endpoint and will culminate in La Push, Washington.

Produced by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.


Tucson’s Chuck Huckelberry Loop

With 155 miles of paved pathways and bike lanes, six distinct sections and four communities to choose from, the Chuck Huckelberry Loop offers a plethora of options for exploring not just Tucson’s singular desert/mountain vibe, but also its historic city center, its sandy washes sometimes flowing with water, numerous pocket parks and its quiet neighborhoods.


For more information, read our companion Rails to Trails magazine article about the trail from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue.

Produced by Rails to Trails magazine. Story and photos by Cindy Barks.

Views of the surrounding Santa Catalina Mountains serve as a backdrop along much of the Cañada del Oro River Park Trail in Oro Valley. The 11-mile route makes up one section of the Chuck Huckelberry Loop in Tucson. | Photo by Cindy Barks
Views of the surrounding Santa Catalina Mountains serve as a backdrop along much of the Cañada del Oro River Park Trail in Oro Valley. The 11-mile route makes up one section of the Chuck Huckelberry Loop in Tucson. | Photo by Cindy Barks


History and Pre-History Along the Illinois Prairie Path

Covering 61 miles, the Illinois Prairie Path connects three counties—Cook, DuPage and Kane—in the western suburbs of Chicago. Following the former route of the electric Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad, which began operating in the late 19th century, the trail has numerous historical sites that can be explored along the way, from this time period and long before.

Produced by BeHistoric. Used with permission.



Voting is officially open for the 2023 Hall of Fame!

Each year, we honor an exemplary multiuse trail in the United States with induction into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame, chosen by national public vote. We’ve narrowed down the list for this year’s national vote to three stellar nominees, all of which serve as assets for their regional walking and bicycling connectivity and access.

We’re relying on you to help us choose just ONE (we know—it’s tough with these spectacular trails)! Get to know the nominees here—and cast your vote!



Trail Moments Make Our Everyday Lives Even Better

This summer, we’re calling on people across the country to make trails part of their everyday lives—building joy, exploration, connection and self-care into our day-to-day routines! From July 31 through Sept. 30, share your favorite photos, videos and/or written stories inspired by your time on the trail—your Trail Moments—with us. Along the way, stay tuned for updates that will help keep you motivated, including opportunities to win prizes and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy gear for participating!

Produced by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.


Southeast Guidebook Sneak Peek

A new edition of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s “Rail-Trails: Southeast” guidebook is underway, highlighting dozens of top rail-trails and other multiuse pathways in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Enjoy a sneak peek at the coastal dunes, wildlife-rich wetlands, pine forests, Appalachian towns and vibrant cities that you’ll find within the guidebook’s pages—and stay tuned for its release in spring 2024.


The actively growing Five Mile Creek Greenway will eventually extend over 27 miles, connecting a half dozen communities north of Birmingham. Already, the crushed-stone path connects natural greenspace and a popular park through a well-shaded corridor. | Photo by Meg McKinney, courtesy Freshwater Land Trust
The actively growing Five Mile Creek Greenway will eventually extend over 27 miles, connecting a half dozen communities north of Birmingham. Already, the crushed-stone path connects natural greenspace and a popular park through a well-shaded corridor. | Photo by Meg McKinney, courtesy Freshwater Land Trust


Here’s a look at four trails and connected trail networks that are creating access to joyful, vibrant public spaces to spend time with family and friends, stay healthy and active, travel through our communities safely, and discover new attractions, natural wonders and historical connections.

Experience the Mendota Trail

In southwestern Virginia, the communities of Mendota and Bristol are connected by the 12.5-mile Mendota Trail traversing tranquil countryside and forests on gentle grades. Currently, 10.5 miles of pathway are open for public use, primarily with a natural surface best suited for hiking and mountain biking. The route includes 15 restored trestles, with the remaining two trestles slated for completion in September 2023.

Produced by the Mendota Trail Conservancy. Used with permission.

Riding Idaho

Take in the sweeping views of the Route of the Hiawatha, exploring its stunning trestles, expansive tunnels and the forested slopes of the Bitterroot Mountains. The 15-mile gravel pathway connects the historical communities of Taft, Roland and Pearson through the rugged terrain of Idaho’s Panhandle. In nearby Mullan, adventurers can pick up the 73-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which was inducted, along with the Route of the Hiawatha, into the Hall of Fame in 2010. 

Produced by Peak Media. Used with permission.

Miles and Memories on the Virtual Great American Ride

In the spring of 2023, a team of cyclists called the “SpokesPeople” took part in the fourth annual Great American Ride, a virtual group ride organized by Sports Backers and following the 3,700-mile route of the Great American Rail-Trail®, designed to raise awareness and financial support for the iconic project. The video documents the team’s journey to reach their collective mileage goal between April 1 and May 31 on their own local trails and backcountry roads, and through cross-country travel experiences.

Produced by GreenShorts. Used with permission.

Stevens Creek Trail Virtual Tour

Explore California’s developing Stevens Creek Trail, which will one day span 25 miles between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the San Francisco Bay. With 14 miles open, the paved pathway already links several Santa Clara County communities and, when complete, will provide access to 30 parks and natural open spaces nestled within a bustling urban corridor. The trail is also part of the 2,600-miles-plus Bay Area regional trail network, an RTC TrailNation project.

Produced by Ross Heitkamp, courtesy Friends of Stevens Creek Trail. Used with permission.

Rails to Trails Magazine

Explore America's remarkable trails and trail networks and learn about their impacts on communities across the nation with your year-long subscription to Rails to Trails magazine—a benefit of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy membership. As a member, you'll also support the pathways you love and create a nation connected by trails.


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Green Issue Staff

Vice President of Communications: Brandi Horton
Editor-in-Chief: Amy Kapp
Digital Content Editor: Laura Stark
Video Production: Anthony Le
Graphics/Web Design: Anthony Le
Distribution: Ryan Cree, Suzanne Matyas, Monica Msechu

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Rails to Trails magazine is dedicated to exploring America’s remarkable rail-trails and trail-networks, with a focus on the opportunities they provide and the impact they have in communities nationwide.