What’s Happening: Rail-Trail Roundup – March 2015

Posted 03/16/15 by Gene Bisbee in Building Trails, America's Trails

On the Klickitat Trail | Photo courtesy Patrick M | CC by 2.0

Read this, and amaze your friends by your up-to-date knowledge of the rail-trail news front. We’ve got (in no particular order) rail-trail extensions, connections and completions, as well as other items from the bicycle and pedestrian world. Enjoy!

A sandstone rock formation on the White Pine Trail | Photo courtesy James Marvin Phelps | CC by 2.0

1Pop the Corks (Mich.)

There’s reason to celebrate in Michigan; the 92-mile White Pine Trail—20 years in the making—should be completed as the state’s second-longest rail-trail by the end of 2015. By then, the corridor’s remaining 40 miles of ballast, gravel or grass will be cleared away and replaced with crushed limestone. As the remaining miles had previously been paved with asphalt, the new surface will allow people to travel the entire length from Grand Rapids to Cadillac on any type of bike.

2First Project (Mich.)

Elsewhere in Michigan, preparations are beginning in the Saginaw Bay area for an 8.5-mile hiking and biking trail linking Gladwin and Beaverton. Gladwin County recently formed a recreation authority to build trails that will serve local communities as well as connect to the wider trail network. The Gladwin-Beaverton trail, for instance, will eventually head south to hook up with the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail that rolls east-west for 88 miles from Midland to Baldwin.

3Good Tidings for Badlands (S.D.)

The West River Trail Coalition in Rapid City says that converting a 100-mile railbanked railroad bed into a hiking and biking trail to the Buffalo Gap National Grassland and Badlands National Park is a good thing. The first short segment of the Mako Sico Trail—mako sico means “land bad” in the Lakota language—will begin construction within the city limits in 2016. The $20 million price tag and opposition from ranchers along the corridor could delay further progress for years. Supporters point to the success of the nearby 109-mile Mickelson Trail as a reason to press ahead.

On the Klickitat Trail | Photo courtesy Gabriel Amadeus | CC by 2.0

4Eagle Eyes on the Trail (Wash.)

People who indulge their pastime of watching birds—big, big birds—flock to the Klickitat Trail near Lyle every winter to view bald eagles that gather from across the Pacific Northwest. As many as 60 bald eagles have been seen from the trail at the lower end of the Klickitat River, near its confluence with the Columbia River. Biologists say the bald eagles arrive in December to feast on salmon and waterfowl and are gone by March.

5An Oasis for Bicycles (Ohio)

A battle is brewing along the Ohio River where Cincinnati officials want to convert one set of parallel-running railroad tracks—known as the Oasis Line—into a 4.5-mile trail. The proposed bike trail would run between downtown and Lunken Airport, offering access to several eastside parks, neighborhoods and trails, including the Ohio River Trail. The mayor and city council, two U.S. senators, and a citizen’s committee favor the project, which would be built largely with private funds. The Indiana and Ohio Railway runs freight trains on the other set of tracks and cites safety concerns in its opposition.

6Step-by-Step (Mass.)

The piece-by-piece construction of the Upper Charles Trail is moving ahead. Now stretching about 11 miles from Holliston to Milford, the trail will one day extend an additional eight or nine miles. The Upper Charles Rail Trail Committee has hired a landscape design outfit to find a route through Hopkinton to connect Milford with Ashland. A 0.6-mile trail segment opened in Hopkinton in October, but much of the remaining rail bed is in private hands.

7Corralling Bikes in Brownsville (Texas)

Given the ranching heritage of South Texas, it’s no surprise to hear that downtown Brownsville has unveiled a corral. This one is for bicycles, however, and 14 of them can fit in the space of one parked car. The city installed the rack after local bicycle advocate Fernando Martinez noticed that grocery store customers didn’t have anywhere to lock up their bikes. He’s also responsible for improvements along the Historic Battlefield Trail, which rolls from downtown to Palo Alto National Battlefield Historic Park.

Walkway Over the Hudson | Photo courtesy Shinya Suzuki | CC by 2.0

8Closing a Gap (N.Y.)

Communities are tying up some loose ends in the Hudson River Valley to complete what one official calls a “necklace of trails.” Ulster County is taking on the latest project to extend the western end of the 3.6-mile Hudson Valley Rail Trail by about a mile. The goal is to close a three-mile gap to New Paltz and connect to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which rolls 21 miles from Gardiner in the south to near Kingston in the north. The Hudson Valley Rail Trail already connects to the Walkway Over the Hudson and 13-mile Willaim R. Steinhaus Dutchess County Rail Trail to the east.

9Cave Exploring (Ken.)

The four counties around Mammoth Cave National Park in western Kentucky boast a number of trails—among them the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail, the Barren River Lake Trail and a trail network in Bowling Green. Now officials in the region want to connect those trails to draw more tourists to the area and promote a more physically fit lifestyle among locals. Several dozen of them met last month to learn how to win state and federal funding for the hiking and biking plan. The first step will be the formation of a Cave Region Trail Planning Initiative.

10Freedom to Bike (Pa.)

If the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia gets it way, the spin at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 won’t just be happening on the convention floor. The coalition is suggesting the city bump up three bike-friendly infrastructure projects already on the books so delegates can safely spin their wheels around town next summer. The coalition says the projects, including a protected bike lane, neighborhood bikeway and multi-use side path, could deliver politicos to the front door of the Wells Fargo Center and “show the world that the city cares about its citizens’ and visitors’ safety.”

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