Trails are Linking Our World

Trails are not just an American concept.

by Stuart Macdonald, Trail Consultant, American Trails

We usually think of trails as an American concept, an outgrowth of our vast landscape, mountains, and public lands. However, greenways and trail systems are a growing interest in many countries: from mountain bike trail systems to urban river corridors to long-distance pathways. Just as technology is shared around the world, we are exporting our trail concepts as well as learning from other countries.

As we have learned from the European tradition of footpaths and dedicated bikeways, other countries are learning from our explosion of community trails and rail trails. England has served as our example for public rights of way, and how canal towpaths could serve walkers and cyclists. Other countries have learned from the American experience with rail corridor preservation.

Asian and Pacific countries are also finding that trails benefit both tourism and transportation. In the upcoming Spring (Spring 2012) edition of American Trails Magazine, readers will find articles and photos of a remarkable new bicycle touring trail system in New Zealand, as well as a new and expansive greenway system for southeast China.

Te Rewa Rewa pedestrian/cycle bridge (the Whale Bridge) in New Plymouth, New Zealand

Te Rewa Rewa pedestrian/cycle bridge (the Whale Bridge) in New Plymouth, New Zealand

Americans should be proud of our contributions to world health, recreation, and conservation through our ambitious development of many concepts of trails. But we should also be eager to learn from the many ways trails are being re-invented and re-created throughout the world.

We welcome your suggestions for trails and resources to add to our international collection.

— Stuart Macdonald, Editor

About the Author

Stuart Macdonald spent 19 years as Colorado's State Trails Coordinator. He is the editor of American Trails Magazine. During 1998-99, he represented State Trail Administrators on the national committee that proposed regulations for accessible trails. He chaired the National Recreational Trails Committee, which advised the Federal Highway Administration in the first years of the Recreational Trails Program. Stuart grew up in San Diego and his main outdoor interest besides trails is surfing. He has a BA in English from San Francisco State and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Utah State.

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