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Promoting Equity in Trail Use and Programming

Delaware & Lehigh Trail | Photo by Thom Carroll

It’s not enough to build a trail and hope that it gets used. For people to use a trail, they must feel that they understand how to use it, that the trail is safe and that they are welcomed. Well thought-out events and programming can help trails feel more inviting for everyone.

In her speech at the 2018 TrailNation Summit, Vanessa Garrison stressed the need for public officials and trail and active transportation advocates to go into communities seeking to understand the cultural values of the people they wish to serve, rather than pushing their own assumptions about what those communities needed. This is how they would successfully inspire people to action. She spoke about how her organization, GirlTrek, mobilizes Black women and girls across the country to take charge of their health through walking. They do this by meeting women where they are and communicating in a space of understanding and shared cultural values. The organization further provides opportunities for women to join and form enriching social networks and to become trained advocates for demanding safer and better-quality walking facilities within their communities.

The Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition has been working with city residents in a variety of neighborhoods to address barriers that have historically prevented them from safely accessing parks and trails. In one instance, the coalition partnered with neighborhood groups to create a pop-up mural crosswalk at a busy intersection of the street that separated residents from Druid Hill Park and the Jones Falls Trail. The demonstration helped raise awareness of the positive impact and value that permanent improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure could have in that specific location and across the city. Learn more about the Baltimore Greenway Trails Coalition’s ongoing work to create an inclusive trail network.

Pogo Park is a nonprofit that transforms neglected lots into vibrant play spaces and community gathering spots. Along the Richmond Greenway, Pogo Park has collaborated with partners to create Unity Park and Harbour-8 Park. The staff of Pogo Park come directly from the majority Black and Latino Iron Triangle neighborhood in which they work.

The Urban Pathways Initiative was a program of RTC that sought to promote the environmental benefits of trail use. The initiative was based on the recognition of the health disparities and barriers to physical activity prevalent in low-income Communities of Color. RTC provided technical assistance to community groups in different cities to develop programs and improvements that would increase trail use.


‣ Webinar – Accessible and Inclusive Events on Multiuse Trails

‣ Report – Urban Pathways to Healthy Neighborhoods

‣ Report– Urban Pathways Initiative: Promotion & Programs

‣ Factsheet – Glossary of Terms Relating to Equitable Trail Development

TrailNation Collaborative

TrailNation Collaborative is a nationwide peer learning community from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy that brings together advocates, leaders and professionals from across disciplines to establish and accelerate trail networks across America. The collaborative provides proven tools, methods and resources, combined with RTC’s expertise and network of partners across the country, to accelerate the development of connected trail systems. When trails are connected across regions and states, trail networks have a proven transformative impact—they are essential infrastructure that creates thriving, healthier communities.

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