Since the spread of the pandemic, RTC has worked to respond quickly to the needs of the community—from sharing early public-health guidance on ways to be active outdoors while practicing social distancing, to providing resources to support trail managers as they adapt to surges in trail use to keep people safe.
In honor of Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary this year, Rails to Trails magazine is highlighting four rail-trails that have had a transformative Cinderella story, going from industrial dumping grounds to beloved community assets.
In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act (1968), Rails to Trails magazine sat down with Ferster to talk about some of the cases that have shaped the movement—as well as the monumental importance of railbanking, which—born from the National Trails System Act in 1983—has helped facilitate the creation of thousands of miles of rail-trails to date.
It’s no secret that Michigan is a great trail state, hosting more than 2,400 miles of rail-trails, and exciting developing trail network projects like the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails, which is building momentum.
The P2P: It’s a small acronym that holds a world of promise. Extending from Parkersburg to Pittsburgh (P2P), the developing 238.5-mile route connecting northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania by trail would be a game changer for the dozens of small, rural Appalachian towns that have seen the Cinderella story of the highly successful Great Allegheny Passage so close at hand.
A motorized wheelchair powered by sip-and-puff inputs coupled with the ever-improving voice recognition capabilities of a smartphone offered Mackay a degree of independence, and allowed him to get outside without a caregiver at his side at all times. The Olympic Discovery Trail, a rail-trail that runs near his home, called to him. “That trail is where I found my solace,” Mackay said. “I was a field biologist before. I spent a ton of time outside.” Now, he said, “I could start exploring the Pacific Northwest on my own and appreciate those loves I had before I was injured.”
Thank you for welcoming me into your community. I’m delighted to join Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) as its third president and to partner with you in advancing our vital mission. While this joyous work is filled with personal rewards, I joined RTC because I know how well trails can connect each of us to the things we value most: our families, our friends and neighbors, our communities and our cultural heritage.
When complete, the Great American Rail-Trail will span more than 3,700 miles across 12 states and the District of Columbia—connecting Washington, D.C., and Washington
State, and highlighting some of America’s most pristine geography, iconic landmarks and renowned cultural treasures in hundreds of communities along the route.
Unique in makeup and geography, each trail that’s hosting the 3,700-miles-plus preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail has many stories to tell—some as old as, or far older than, our country itself. Both well known and lesser known, the histories found along the route demonstrate why the “Great American” is a true national treasure.
By the early 20th century, Butte, Montana, was already being called the richest hill on Earth, an acknowledgement of the nearly inconceivable amounts of ore being mined there. In 1910 alone, 284 million pounds of copper ore were extracted from the Butte area. “Butte electrified America,” said Dori Skrukrud, the community development coordinator for the City-County of Butte-Silver Bow. “Butte provided the metals to win world wars. But it paid a significant price.”