It's been a wild 18 months, weather-wise, on America's rail-trails. From snowstorms in Vermont to flooding in Iowa (right) and tornados in Alabama, severe weather events across the country wrought havoc on trails, bridges, woodlands and watersheds, and stretched to the limit the resources and resilience of the people who manage and maintain them.
And, my, how they responded. Here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) we have been hearing of whole communities rallying behind fundraising campaigns, emergency work crews and volunteer round-ups. Not only do residents and businesspeople feel personally connected to these local assets, they also understand their importance. With the rail-trail out of action visitor numbers dried up, community celebrations were cancelled, and all of a sudden that favorite place for a jog or morning walk wasn't there anymore.
So it was great to see Friends of the Little Miami State Park (FLMSP) in Ohio recognized for its rapid response after severe weather closed the Little Miami Scenic Trail (below) in June. Ohio State Parks this month honored the non-profit organization with a certificate heralding the trail groups' "outstanding assistance" after the derecho storm of June 29 brought down trees across much of this RTC Hall of Fame rail-trail.
According to an article at cincinatti.com, the wide range of groups which had "adopted" a section of the trail were summoned first thing the following morning and labored as a coordinated team throughout the weekend. In spite of the extensive deadfall throughout the trail, segment adopters had cleared 20 of 24 segments by the end of Saturday. Ohio State Parks then moved in after the weekend to pulverize and remove the remaining debris.
The certificate cites the "outstanding assistance to Ohio State Parks staff in clearing the trail," and emphasizes the "true partnership between the friends' group and Ohio State Parks for the benefit of trail users."
Ohio State Parks Community Partnerships Manager Jim Henahan said the effort of FLMSP is an example of how Ohio State Parks has come to rely on the efforts of 57 friends groups in Ohio. About 7,000 volunteers across the state gave 400,000 hours of service to the Ohio parks in 2011.
To find the "friends of" your local rail-trail, contact the RTC office in your region:
Florida and the Southeast: email@example.com
The West: firstname.lastname@example.org
Everywhere else: email@example.com