Trails advocates: get a copy of this article to your state health agency, local hospitals and HMOs, and health organizations.
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:
Your State's Trail Building Contacts
¥ 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?
What Can You Do To Work With Your Trail Community?
More help with Trails & Health:
Need trail skills and education? Do you provide training? Join the National Trails Training Partnership!
The NTTP Online Calendar connects you with courses, conferences, and trail-related training
Promote your trail through the National Recreation Trails Program
Some of our documents are in PDF format and require free Adobe Acrobat
Download Acrobat Reader
|American Trails and NTTP support accessibility with Section 508: read more.|
Updated August 22, 2011