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Thoughts on the dedication of the Sundial Trail Bridge

Work of art inspires as it carries trail users across Sacramento River in Redding, California

From the Fall 2004 issue of Trail Tracks, the national newsletter of American Trails

By Hulet Hornbeck

photo of bridge
Hulet Hornbeck at the opening of the Sundial Bridge in Redding on July 4, 2004

This is a recreational, health-promoting, habitat-intense, spirit-challenging experience of unsurpassed joy in my life. Never did one dream that an event of this magnitude could be in place, when, 33 years ago, the first national trail voluntary trail entity was formed. That organization, by wonderful serendipity, home officed in Redding— is American Trails.

Nor did President Lyndon B. Johnson or Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall, who together pushed through Congress the first National Trails legislation in 1968, possibly realize the future of the new concept: trails are now of national concern and in the public interest to acquire, develop, and maintain.

Trails are the firestorm of the last two generations— from coast to coast and border to border. There are thousands of trails: federally designated National Recreation, National Scenic, National Historic, Wilderness and state, regional, and local. The Sundial Bridge is on the Sacramento River Trail, designated a National Recreation Trail in 2002.

"Trails are the firestorm of the last two generations— from coast to coast and border to border."

Our trails are diversified: snowmobile, canoe, bicycle, mountain bike, hiking, off-road, jogging, horse, all terrain, and dog walking. Some are greenways, tracks, bridges and boardwalks. The uses and users proliferate thousands of trail organizations and implement this network.

The efforts as shown here today can't stop. Mostly still volunteer, our elected and appointed officials have responded with federal, state, and local laws and money. Groups like The McConnell Foundation in Redding, recognize the benefits of trails to a community and are committing major funds to projects like the Redding Sundial Bridge. College courses and degrees are now in place. The cultural change is massive.

Bridges, such as the Santiago Calatrava designed Sundial Bridge, are trail jewels allowing the traverse of rivers, railroads, interstate highways, marshes, canyons, and at times, sufficient in width to allow wildlife to pass safely from wild area to wild area. Today, the trail dedication participants also dream and vision for tomorrow as they look on this new jewel: the Sundial Bridge.

I see a bright future for trails, yet as unknown and unknowable as was the experience two generations ago of the founders of the new national trails organization, American Trails, and the first federal trail authors, President Johnson and Secretary Udall.

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