We Asked—You Answered: Rails-to-Trails Supporters’ Top Priority Picks for 2022 and Beyond
Over the past few weeks, we asked our members and supporters for feedback on the direction of our work this year via online survey. We were thrilled to receive more than 10,000 responses from passionate trail users, and we’ll be using what we learned to prioritize our efforts into the future.
Here’s a quick rundown of the results. Thanks to everyone who responded!
Last fall, trails and active transportation got a huge boost when the new federal transportation law was passed, authorizing nearly 70% more funding for trails and other walking and biking projects. This was a big win for communities across the country.
The top responses in our survey showed strong support for making sure that local communities can take advantage of this funding to connect and create more trails—and ensuring that everyone has access to safe places to be active outdoors.
And we’re making that happen. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is providing essential resources to our local trail partners across the country, including webinars, outreach, technical assistance and more. Keep an eye out, as we will soon be releasing an improved Trail-Building Toolbox to give trail experts nationwide the resources they need to connect and build more trails.
Although our signature $200 million grant program to help communities connect trail networks was included in the latest federal transportation law, funding was not included for the program. Our federal policy team is working to make sure this critical program is funded through the federal budget appropriations process.
Other top priorities for our supporters included connecting the Great American Rail-Trail®, which will be celebrating new milestones this May, including the recent grand opening of the Beverly Bridge, a major crossing over the Columbia River in Washington State.
Later this Spring , we’ll also be introducing a new report on the economic impact of the Great American for communities along the 3,700-mile cross-country route between Washington, D.C., and Washington State.
Our supporters expressed strong support for our online maps, guides and other resources to help people find their next great trail adventure and safely enjoy the outdoors. Our trail-finder website and app TrailLink.com™ continues to serve millions of people who want to find and learn more about great trails across the country.
Related: A Walk to Remember: Indiana’s Place as the Crucible of American Music
In addition, our Top 10 Trails feature has become a popular online destination to find top local trails—and stay tuned later this spring for a new edition of our Mid-Atlantic Guidebook, with updates to some of the top trail destinations in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.
Cuts to state and local funding sources for trails remains a top concern amongst our supporters—and our policy team has been keeping a close eye on the happenings in state legislatures nationwide. We’ve been able to help defend and expand funding for trails in key states like Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio.
In states like Indiana, Wisconsin and West Virginia, we’re working with our local partners to build coalitions of lawmakers. These bipartisan caucuses have proven to be a powerful force to provide thriving, ongoing support for trails at the state and local level.
Related: New Guidance for Transportation Alternatives: Transformative for Funding Trails, Walking and Biking
Some Love From Our Supporters
Our members and supporters are the best—you’re a group of dedicated and passionate people who are key to the success of the growing trails movement. While many people assume trail use is just on bicycle and on foot (walking, hiking, running), our supporters use trails in a variety of ways—from wheelchairs and other assisted devices to horseback riding and seasonal activities, including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The reasons you support trails and our work are as diverse as they way you use them—and we received thousands of heartfelt responses. Here are just a few:
“During [the] COVID-19 pandemic, our family spent a lot of time outdoors. Looked for rail-trails in and around our area. Love finding new ones. Relaxing and enjoyable. Thank you.”
“[Rail-trail] access allowed me and my family to do a charity ride together that raised money for my Mom and brought me closer with my Dad. I am forever indebted to trail access.”
“I love the outdoors and exploring new trails. I want to make sure my grandchildren have even more access to trails as they do now.”
“It is important for me and my family to access the outdoors for exercise and recreation and stress relief.”
As a member-driven organization, RTC relies on the support of trail lovers like you—and your thoughts on our priorities are important to shaping our work.
Thank you again to everyone who filled out our latest survey. We are grateful for the thoughtful and insightful responses.