HEALTH COMMUNITY: What
You Should Know About Trail Building
As we seek ways to improve
public health, trails are receiving more attention as a way to increase
SPONSORED BY THE ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION
| "The development of a trail
in a neighborhood makes it easier for people to incorporate exercise
into their daily routines."
WHY BUILD TRAILS?
Individuals must choose to be active, but the way a community develops
its built environment can ease or impede the desire to be active. Lack
of time or access to convenient outlets for human-powered transportation
and recreation opportunities are reasons commonly cited by all populations
as barriers to regular exercise.
The development of a trail in a neighborhood makes it easier for people
to incorporate exercise into their daily routines, whether for recreation
or non-motorized transportation. This is particularly true if the trail
is developed and designed so that it connects people to places they
want to go, such as schools, transit centers, businesses and neighborhoods.
TRAILS MUST BE COMMUNITY BASED
The most popular trail and greenway projects are those that grow
out of community desire and effort rather than those that are imposed
on a community. Many trails have formed advocacy organizations, referred
to as "Friends of the Trail" groups. The most important functions of
a Friends organization are to promote it at all times and defend the
trail when necessary. Find out if your existing trail or trail project
has a Friends group by contacting the trail manager (if it is open for
use) or the developing agency (if the trail is still under development).
If no advocacy group exists, you might want to work with your local
commissions, bicycle/walking/equestrian organizations, and neighbors
to start one.
TRAIL SYSTEMS MUST ALSO HAVE STRONG COMMUNITY SUPPORT
In order to maximize the potential use of individual trails, they
need to connect to each other and should be part of 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. Regional
trail planning efforts are underway around the country including in
Detroit, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio and St.Louis, Missouri, just to name
a few. Like individual trails, trail systems need broad-based public
and private partnerships, which include the health community. Trail
systems are created through a planning process that includes community
input throughout each stage of development. This community involvement
generates support for the trails and ensures that the system will address
the community's needs.
The success of a trail is also dependent upon good design. Design
of a whole trail system as well as its compo-nent parts must meet the
needs of the anticipated users, which include people of all ages, socio-economic
status, abilities and activities (bicycling, walking, running, wheelchair,
equestrian, in-line skating). Design elements such as making trails
aesthetically pleasing and easily accessible, with multiple points of
entry, will also encourage use of the trail. More information about
trail design can be found in Trails for the 21st Century, Planning,
Design, and Management Manual for Multi-use Trails, by Charles A. Flink,
Kristine Olka, Robert M. Searns and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
WHAT TYPE OF OPPOSITION TO TRAILS EXISTS?
Just like any other public project, trails do run into some opposition,
especially NIMBY opposition (not in my backyard). The concerns shared
by many people include safety, vandalism and liability. Many studies
have examined these issues and 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.
There are three primary sources of federal funding for trails, Recreational
Trails Program, Transportation Enhancements (TE) and Congestion Mitigation
and Air Quality (CMAQ). All are derived from federal gas taxes, legally
administered through the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century
(TEA21, earlier ISTEA), but each has a specific purpose and criteria
for eligibility, which trails meet. Each state gets a certain allotment
based on a formula. Other federal agencies provide funding that may
address specific parts of your trail project, such as the Environmental
Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development and the Forest Service.
Many states provide funding through sources including state gas tax,
bonds, sales tax, license plates, lottery revenue. Learn more about
trail funding sources on the Trails and Greenways Clearinghouse Web
site and your state trail Web sites.
The RECREATIONAL TRAILS PROGRAM funds the development and maintenance
of recreational trails and trail facilities for both non-motorized and
motorized recreational trails. Trail uses include: hiking, bicycling,
in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling,
off-road motorcyling, all-terrain vehicle riding, four-wheel driving,
or using other off-road motorized vehicles. This program is administered
by your state's park and recreation department. Learn more on the Federal
Highway Administration's (FHWA) Web site: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/rectrail.htm.
TRANSPORTATION ENHANCEMENTS money can be used to fund twelve different
community focused transportation activities. Trail projects funded through
this program must be linked to surface transportation. In this case,
a scenic hiking trail leading you through pristine wilderness would
probably not qualify. However, if it serves as a place to recreate and
connects a neighborhood to a commuter station or business district,
then it may qualify for TE funding. In addition, project sponsors (usually
a unit of state or local government) must provide a local match of approximately
20% of these federal funds, depending on the state's requirements. This
program is administered by state departments of transportation. Learn
more from the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse at
CMAQ funding may be used for trails, however projects must meet certain
criteria for mitigating air pollution and areas with good air quality
are not eligible. When applying this to trails, think about how your
trail might help reduce automobile trips in your community. For example,
children could use the trail to get to school instead of being driven.
The CMAQ program is managed by your state's department of transportation
or local air quality management office. Learn more on FHWA's Web site
WHO ARE THE MAIN CONTACTS FOR TRAIL BUILDING ACTIVITIES IN YOUR
Each state has a state trail coordinator, within the state parks
and recreation department, who administers the Recreational Trails Program
and who can help with general information about building and managing
trails in your state. The state transportation enhancements coordinator
works within the state transportation department. The state 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. Town/city
planners are good local contacts, make good partners for projects, and
can lead you to additional partners for your project. See your state
contacts at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/rectrails/rtpstate.htm.
Start by contacting your state trail coordinator. Many state recreational
departments have information available on their websites, which can
be found at . In addition, non-profit trail organizations keep track
of trail locations. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has an on-line database
of all open rail-trails in the United States. American Trails also has
links to trail Web sites. You may want to provide links from your Web
site to these others to help people who are looking for trail information.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO WORK WITH YOUR TRAIL COMMUNITY?
Partnerships between the health and trail communities are forming
around the country. Partnerships include promoting the location of trails,
promoting exercise along trails, encouraging businesses to promote the
use of trails for commuting, conducting studies about the relationship
between health and the existence of trails, building trails, and sponsoring
programs such as safe routes to school. A few examples include the Texas
Department of Health Trail Registry (www.tdh.state.tx.us/trails), Redding
Walkabout for Wellness, California Trail Connection (www.caltrails.org)
and Indiana Walk to School Day (www.indygreenways.org/volunteers/walk2school_oct00.htm).
HELPFUL TRAIL WEB SITES AND RESOURCES
Backcountry Horsemen of America
National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program
Land Trust Alliance
International Mountain Biking Association
Trails and Greenways
National Center for Bicycling and Walking
Alliance for Biking & Walking
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