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America's New Long-Distance Trails

A variety of long trails running to hundreds of miles are under development in several locations across America.

From Trail Tracks, the newsletter of American Trails, Spring 2003; edited by Stuart Macdonald

Trail across New Jersey started with a vision

Like every grand vision, the Liberty-Water Gap Trail has been in the works for years. Over 20 years ago Al Kent started pursuing the idea of a trail across the state of New Jersey when he retired from his job in the fuel-oil industry. The 156-mile trail is expected to be completed in a few years. It begins at Liberty State Park directly across from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and runs west to the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area. Along the way the trail provides a look at the diversity of the state: scenic rivers and dense forests, historic parks and neighborhoods of Jersey City and Newark, and smaller communities.

Most of the route is on existing trails, including some designated sidewalks in cities. Kent's plan links several major existing trails, such as the Lenape Trail in Essex County, which includes abandoned rail lines, aqueducts, and parcels of undeveloped land.

Last year a reporter for The Record (Hackensack, NJ) spent 11 days walking the route and filed several stories to publicize the trail. Even in one of America's most densely populated states, the trail provides a place for long treks to explore and enjoy the outdoors.

For information about the trail contact Jerry Willis at jerry_willis@partner.nps.gov or (212) 360-3327.

Effort would extend Appalachian Trail north

Hikers looking to extend the challenge of the Appalachian Trail have a new optionÑ the International Appalachian Trail (IAT). The route heads north from the present trail terminus atop Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine into New Brunswick. The Canadian extension would add another 690 miles to lead the trail to Forillon National Park at the tip of the GaspeĞ Peninsula.

The IAT extension began as the personal campaign of Dick Anderson, a former commissioner of the Maine Dept. of Conservation. It was his vision that since the landscape continues on to the north, the trail should too.

There are numerous challenges to building a continuous trail, but is would traverse a vast area of scenic, undeveloped land. Logging roads and other existing routes make up part of the path, while parks on the Canadian provide spectacular hiking trails.

For more information on extending the Appalachian Trail north into Canada visit www.internationalat.org.

Canal trail planned to cross Arizona

A big concept in the planning stages would use the right-of-way of the Central Arizona Project from the California state line to Tucson. The 336-mile route is a major water supply from the Colorado River near Lake Havasu to farms and homes across urban Arizona.

The canal is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Officials in Pima County have begun work on a master plan for a 55-mile section of the CAP Trail. Other jurisdictions will be looking at the plan as a model for their own stretches of the trail. Recently the City of Scottsdale held a public meeting to discuss the trail system, bringing together representatives of several cities, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Arizona Dept. of Transportation, and Maricopa and Pima Counties.

Adjacent land uses have also been cooperators in developing the CAP Trail. For instance the Sanctuary Golf Course in Scottsdale has developed a multiuse trail system along the golf course which borders the CAP canal. Pathways totaling three miles are maintained by the golf course staff and regulated by the city's trails department.

For more information on the CAP Trail, contact Steve Anderson, Pima County Parks & Recreation Dept. at desertrls@aol.com.

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