The Great American Rail-Trail

Rails-to-Trails is embarking on a coast-to-coast trail system!

by Kevin Belanger, Trail Planner, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Marianne Fowler, Rails to Trails Conservancy

Rails to Trails Conservancy is embarking on a mission to connect the United States with a coast-to-coast trail system - the Great American Rail-Trail. We will work with states, counties, and cities to fill in gaps between existing trails to create one continuous trail from Washington, DC to Washington. This presentation will highlight how this project originated and outline how we are identifying and planning to fill the trail gaps, as well as build excitement around the recreation, health, transportation, and economic opportunities the trail will offer!

Learning Objectives: Attendees will learn how they can get involved in the excitement behind the Great American Rail-Trail, including planning to fill trail gaps if they are involved in a project along the route, lobbying for the trail’s completion, or preparing to use the trail for a great adventure.

About the Authors

Kevin Belanger is a trail planner at Rails to Trails Conservancy, helping communities prepare the planning documentation they need to identify and build trails and trail networks. Before joining RTC in 2016, Kevin spent many years in the active-transportation world—first for the Student Conservation Association, building trails in Arkansas (which instilled in Kevin a major appreciation for the impact trails can have on personal and community growth), and then as the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for a suburb in Maryland. His educational background includes earning master’s degrees in both Environmental Studies and Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon, where he wrote his thesis on walking and biking habits in suburban multifamily housing.

Marianne Wesley Fowler is the Sr. Strategist for Policy Advocacy for Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC). Based in Washington, D.C., she has led RTC through five reauthorizations of the federal transportation bill. Ms. Fowler has nurtured the growth of the trails movement, for both recreational and transportation purposes, for over 25 years. She led the RTC team tasked with providing coordination and communication services to the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.

Marianne has presented at numerous conferences over the years, including the 2015 International Trails Symposium, speaking then about the role of Federal agencies and Congress in trail funding. She co-authored Trails and Trailways for the 21st Century and collaborated with faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health in researching and writing Factors Associated with Federal Transportation Funding for Local Pedestrian and Bicycle Programming and Facilities.

Ms. Fowler is also the 2nd Vice-Chair of the American Trails Board, co-chairs the Coalition for Recreational Trails, and is immediate past Vice President of America Bikes. Before joining RTC in 1988, she served as the Political Director for the National Women’s Political Caucus. She is a native daughter of Tennessee.

Contact: [email protected]

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