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Title: health and fitness
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HEALTH COMMUNITY: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT TRAIL BUILDING

Trails advocates: get a copy of this article to your state health agency, local hospitals and HMOs, and health organizations.

"The most popular trail and greenways are those that grow out of community desire and effort rather than imposed by transportation or parks agencies."

Why Build Trails?

Trails in a neighborhood makes it easier for people to incorporate exercise into their daily routines, whether for recreation or non-motorized transportation. Trails by another name are "linear parks"-- safe havens for walking and jogging, bicycling, family and social outings that connect people to places they want to go, such as schools, transit centers, businesses and neighborhoods. Communities need trails along streets as well as off the roadways, giving people of all skills and abilities the option to be active. The goal of Healthy People 2000 is to increase the miles of trails available to the general public. In all but a few locations, trail-miles per person are much below accepted standards.

Designing Trails for People

The success of a trail is also dependent upon design elements which make trails safe, aesthetically pleasing and easily accessible. Design of a trail system must also meet the needs of the anticipated users as well as people who health professionals are 'prescribing' physically active lifestyles. Trail builders and managers are either transportation agencies or parks departments. With the help of trails advocates, they understand the importance of including people of all ages, socio-economic status, abilities and activities, in the development and planning of trail systems.

Trails Must Be Community Based

The most popular trail and greenways are those that grow out of community desire and effort rather than those that are imposed on a community by transportation or parks agencies. Many trails have advocacy organizations, referred to as "Friends of the Trail" groups. They are similar in many respects to community-based health promotion coalitions. Friends organizations promote their trails at all times and defend them when necessary. These advocacy groups would benefit from public health's expertise with health data as well as community mobilization strategies. Contact your trail manager (if it is open for use) or the developing agency (if the trail is still under development) to support with your local Friends group. If no advocacy group exists, consider inviting representatives from local bicycle/walking/equestrian organizations to join your own agency's physical activity coalition.

Trail Systems Must also Have Strong Community Support

To maximize the potential use of individual trails, they need to inter-connect, creating a larger network of on-road and off-road bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems. Just as roads are useful because they connect, so too with trails. Advocacy groups for regional trail planning are greatly needed. Like individual trails, trail systems need broad-based public and private partnerships, which include the health community. Public health's credibility and expertise are vital and valued contributions to these trail-building efforts.

What Type of Opposition Exists?

Just like any other public project, trails encounter opposition, especially NIMBY opposition ("not in my backyard"). The concerns typically raised by people include safety, vandalism and liability. However, many studies have found that these concerns rarely materialize and can be addressed by creating a solid design and management plan. It is also important to build a strong support coalition from the outset, inform the public about the trail project, listen to their concerns and keep them involved in the planning process. Cite reference to RTC report here. Funding Sources

There are three primary sources of federal funding for trails, all derived from federal gasoline taxes administered through the Transportation Equity Act of the 21 st Century (TEA21) and many states provide funding through sources including state gas tax, bonds, sales tax, license plates, lottery revenue. A 'typical' trail project may have several sources of funding. Learn more about funding from the Trails and Greenways Clearinghouse website, citation. Each state receives an allotment of TEA-21 funding that can be used for trail projects:

  • The Recreational Trails Program funds the development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail facilities for both non-motorized and motorized recreational trails.This program is administered by your state's park and recreation department.

  • Transportation Enhancements money can be used for trails that serve as transportation corridors, such as those connecting a neighborhood to a commuter station or business district, This program is administered by state departments of transportation.

  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding may be used for trails in areas with poor air quality. Public health's surveillance data for air quality and its impact on population health could enable your community to acquire this funding. The CMAQ program is managed by your state's department of transportation or local air quality management office.

Your State's Trail Building Contacts

  • A state trail coordinator, within the state parks and recreation department administers the Recreational Trails Program and can help with general information about building and managing trails in your state. The Transportation Enhancements Coordinator works within the state transportation department.

  • The Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator also works for the state transportation department and is the point person for on-road bicycle facilities (such as bicycle lanes) as well as pedestrian facilities such as sidewalks.

City and county planners are good local contacts, and can lead you to additional partners for your project

How Can I Find Out Where The Trails Are?

Contact your state trail coordinator or check the website at your state's recreation department to locate trails (on www.americantrails.org) and for rail-trails in the United States.

What Can You Do To Work With Your Trail Community?

  • Provide links from your own web site to help people who are looking for trail information.
  • Maps of activity-friendly sites, including trails and greenways, are an educational tool developed and distributed by a number of public health agencies.
  • Link your staff and health data with other agencies and advocates who are promoting trails.
  • Encourage businesses to promote the use of trails for commuting.
  • Conduct studies about the relationship between your community's health and the existence of your trails
  • Sponsor programs such as safe routes to school.
  • Get familiar with best practice for public health~transportation~trails partnerships:
  • Texas Department of Health Trail Registry (www.tdh.state.tx.us/trails)
  • Redding Walkabout for Wellness
  • California Trail Connection (www.caltrails.org)
  • Indiana Walk to School Day (www.indygreenways.org/volunteers/ walk2school_oct00.htm).
  • American Trails, www.americantrails.org

 

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