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America’s Trails

Greet the New Rail-Trails of 2019

By: Laura Stark
December 16, 2019

Encinitas Coastal Rail Trail | Photo courtesy San Diego Association of Governments
Encinitas Coastal Rail Trail | Photo courtesy San Diego Association of Governments

On the cusp of a new decade—hello 2020!—the rail-trail movement continues to thrive and bring benefits to millions of people across the country. For more than 30 years, RTC has stood shoulder to shoulder with local and state trail partners to grow the nation’s trails, preserving America’s heritage and inspiring movement in its communities. Today, more than 24,000 miles of completed rail-trails traverse the nation, often serving as backbones for regional trail systems that are transforming the places where we live, work and play. Here are just a few of the exciting new rail-trails added to the ranks in 2019.

Schrader Connection (Wisconsin)

Schrader Connection | Photo courtesy Green Circle Trail, Wisconsin
Schrader Connection | Photo courtesy Green Circle Trail, Wisconsin

Lucky residents of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, have a phenomenal transportation and recreation asset in their backyard: the city’s Green Circle, which forms a 27-mile trail loop around the community, connecting neighborhoods, workplaces and parks, while also providing a scenic and relaxing experience and access to the Wisconsin and Plover rivers. The Schrader Connection, which opened in 2019, provides a quick 1.7-mile connection between the southern end of the Green Circle and the neighboring Village of Whiting. The hard-packed, crushed-granite pathway was named for Tom Schrader, a former Stevens Point parks director and co-founder of the Green Circle who worked to establish the rail-trail.

Encinitas Coastal Rail Trail (California)

Encinitas Coastal Rail Trail | Photo courtesy San Diego Association of Governments
Encinitas Coastal Rail Trail | Photo courtesy San Diego Association of Governments

An impressive rail-with-trail project is taking shape along the southern coast of California. A handful of miles of the Coastal Rail Trail have already opened in what will be a 44-mile route between San Diego and Oceanside along the Coaster commuter rail line. This summer, another 1.3 miles of the pathway was laid down between Encinitas and Cardiff-by-the-Sea, safely connecting residents to the vibrant centers of both communities, to parks and to the beach.

Kingston Point Rail Trail (New York)

Kingston Point Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Kingston Land Trust
Kingston Point Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Kingston Land Trust

New York’s Ulster County has been abuzz with new rail-trail openings in 2019. The first phase of the Kingston Point Rail Trail opened in September, and the Ashokan Rail Trail followed suit in October. (Read more about the latter in RTC’s December Trail of the Month feature.) The Kingston trail takes a serpentine route of just over a mile from a neighborhood along Rondout Creek, up past Hasbrouck Park, and on to the Broadway business district, where it’s within easy reach of City Hall and several shops and restaurants. The rail-trail is also part of the larger Kingston Greenline network, which aims to connect rail-trails and other bike- and pedestrian-friendly routes throughout the county.

Tri-Community Greenway (Massachusetts)

Tri-Community Greenway entrance on Pleasant Street | Photo courtesy Friends of the Tri-Community Greenway
Tri-Community Greenway entrance on Pleasant Street | Photo courtesy Friends of the Tri-Community Greenway

In the Greater Boston region, the three towns alluded to in the name of the Tri-Community Greenway—Stoneham, Woburn and Winchester—are thrilled by the opening of the new rail-trail. The paved pathway provides residents with a safe, healthy and enjoyable route to reach business districts, schools, a senior center, a Boys & Girls Club, several parks and an MBTA commuter rail station. The area’s natural beauty is also on display with the trail’s connections to the Aberjona River, Horn Pond and Mystic Lake. Over 20 years in the making, the rail-trail was dedicated to Cameron Bain, who first proposed the idea.

Limestone Greenway (Indiana)

Limestone Greenway | Photo by John Robertson, courtesy Monroe County Parks and Recreation
Limestone Greenway | Photo by John Robertson, courtesy Monroe County Parks and Recreation

In Indiana’s Monroe County, Bloomington is at the literal center of a visionary multiuse trail system planned to stretch nearly across the county north to south. The newly opened Limestone Greenway is one of the southern tendrils of the blossoming trail network that offers valuable transportation and quality-of-life benefits to residents. True to its name, the greenway is surrounded by lush woodlands and offers an easy, paved experience following the former Illinois Central Railroad route. Although just shy of 2 miles, longer rides are possible from connections at the trail’s northern end at W. Church Lane; from there, travelers can continue on to points north or northwest via the Bloomington Rail Trail and Clear Creek Trail, respectively.

Norway Branch Rail Trail (Maine)

Norway Rail Trail | Photo by Dennis Lajoie
Norway Rail Trail | Photo by Dennis Lajoie

Spanning a half mile, the Norway Branch Rail Trail is part of a larger bike- and pedestrian-friendly route of nearly 5 miles that connects two charming small towns in western Maine: Norway and Paris, both settled in the late 1700s. Running through the corridor of the eponymous Norway Branch Railroad, the rail-trail provides great opportunities for a quick walk or jog in town, or part of a longer exploration into the surrounding area by bike. Enthusiastic volunteers helped clear the corridor of brush for its development, and funding was provided by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land, and supportive local groups like the Davis Conservation Foundation.

Goodsprings Trail (Nevada)

Goodsprings Trail | Photo by Richard McCreedy, courtesy The WLB Group, Inc.
Goodsprings Trail | Photo by Richard McCreedy, courtesy The WLB Group, Inc.

For history buffs, the Goodsprings Trail, about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas, is a sure bet. Sin City was just getting settled when Goodsprings was a booming mining town, and the new rail-trail shows off this rich history. The natural-surface pathway begins on the northwest end of town and forms a 2.2-mile loop through the beautiful desert landscape of southern Nevada. A section called the Yellow Pine Mine Railroad Trail offers signage that delves into the town’s history with the Yellow Pine Mine, and other interpretative signage details the area’s ecology, plants and animal life.

Lenox Rail Trail (New York)

Lenox Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Madison County
Lenox Rail Trail | Photo courtesy Madison County

In Upstate New York, the Lenox Rail Trail links the villages of Canastota and Wampsville within the Town of Lenox. On its east end, the paved pathway will also one day connect with the neighboring community of Oneida via the developing Oneida Rail Trail, which will span nearly a dozen miles when complete. On its west end, the Lenox trail is anchored by the popular Lenox Skate Park, and across its 2.2 miles, the route provides easy access to nature and outdoor recreation within just a few blocks of businesses and residential neighborhoods. Deer, ducks and minks are just some of the wildlife that have been seen along this scenic corridor.

Laura Stark | Photo courtesy Laura Stark
Laura Stark

Laura Stark is the senior editor for Rails to Trails magazine, responsible for highlighting trails and the people working hard to support them across America.

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