In the early part of the century, the Atchison-Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF) helped make the San Francisco Bay Area-community of Richmond a thriving hub of industry. But the decline of the railroad and the industries that supported it saw Richmond fall on hard times, and in recent decades the city has been beset by the familiar problems of crime, low real estate values, lack of access to services and poor community health that afflict many urban communities across the country.
In the late 1990s, RTC saw an opportunity to bring life and movement back to Richmond by turning the disused AT&SF corridor into a public greenway, a much-needed resource in an area suffering a chronic lack of green space and little provision for nonmotorized transportation. One of the key first steps was the creation of a local stewardship group, Friends of the Richmond Greenway. Years later, not only has the Richmond Greenway become a critical active transportation link and a place of recreation, but, just as importantly, it has fostered a new community of residents around caring for and maintaining the trail and its surrounds.
That was evident last week during a Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. RTC's Laura Cohen and Barry Bergman from the Western region office (left) bicycled out to the Richmond Greenway and joined more than 500 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and pitched in, planting trees and edible plants, weeding, and decorating litter cans with mosaics. Amateur painters helped a professional muralist complete a mural depicting some of the community volunteers who have made significant contributions to create and beautify the greenway.
Organized by Urban Tilth, in partnership with the City of Richmond and local partners, this day of service has become a cherished and well-attended annual event.
"It's so rewarding to be back on the Greenway, more than a decade after RTC began here, and see how it has grown into such an amazing community resource, for artists, gardeners, teachers, bicyclists, dog walkers - everyone has a place here," Cohen says. "That's the beauty of a rail-trail like this one: everyone has their own connection to it, and can bring their own passion and contribution."
View a slideshow of more images from the event.