Trails and Greenways: Designing for the Future Workshop planned

by Sue Forde, Citizen Review Online


Now that trails exist in virtually every state across the United States, the question remains: what is the real purpose of these trails? Touted as "locally developed," the trails that have sprung up are funded primarily out of the federal coffers, and promoted by environmental organizations, rather than truly 'local' citizens. Citizens have often protested the creation of trails in their backyards, concerned about the welfare of children because of transients, and the costs of maintaining and policing the trails. Despite local voices, the trails have been pushed forward, at great expense to taxpayers both federally and locally.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has recently announced its "TrailLink 2003: Designing for the Future - the International Trails and Greenways Conference" to be held in Providence, Rhode Island from June 26-29, 2003.

According to its call for papers and submissions, the Conservancy states that "more than 800 trail and greenway 'experts' and 'advocates' will share ideas, reach new constituencies and build new partnerships" at the conference. "The international trails and greenways community will have the opportunity to create a global environment and advance the worldwide development of trails and greenways," touts the announcement.

The Conservancy's website invites interested parties to "link up with the world's experts and examine how trails and greenways have gained global momentum as tools for addressing smart growth, livable communities, brownfields restoration and public health."

In addition, the organization says that "In addition, participants can take inspiration from global success stories, learn new tools for motivating staff and board, local advocates and community leaders, and be reenergized by the power of trails on our everyday lives."

It would appear from the theme of the event that communities have only seen the beginning of the trails and how they will play a role in their lives. Trails are promoted as creating "more livable communities," and will possibly be governed by "trail managers".

The question remains as to who will pay for the maintenance and policing of the trails, as well as potential lawsuits from loss of life and accidents or illegal activities from dealing drugs to muggings or worse.

Workshop themes have already been developed, including:

  • Smart Systems - Combining smart growth and regional trail systems to create more livable communities.

  • Trails for All - Learning to invite new and diverse partners into trail-building processes everywhere.

  • The Mature Trail - The trail is built. Now what? Addressing issues faced by trail managers and advocacy groups the world over.

  • Making the Case - Helping trail advocates promote trails as transportation, economic stimulants, health and wellness facilities, and as environmental investments.

  • Designing Communities - Facilitating better, safer, more innovative trails, and recognizing today's outstanding examples with the Rail-Trail Design Recognition Awards.

  • Linking with Health - Providing concrete examples of how trails are proven tools in the public's battle against sedentary lifestyles and chronic diseases.

  • Policy and Legal Issues - Examining national, state and international examples with particular emphasis on TEA-21 reauthorization.

Suggested U.S. and International Topics for Discussion:

  • Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century and other local, state and national policies that affect trail funding mechanisms, bicycling and walking opportunities, and inclusion in trails in overall transportation planning.

  • Legal issues, such as liability, railbanking, corridor acquisition, etc.

  • Urban development of trails, trail networks, links between trails and mass transit, etc.

  • Multi-use trail designs that showcase innovative use of materials, creative approaches to difficult design problems, art, accessibility, etc.

  • Smart growth and trail development.

  • Partnership programs between the health and trail communities; physical activity promotion and safe routes to schools.

  • Research and case studies that makes the case for trails for transportation, economic development, health promotion, etc.

  • Trail management issues, including demand management, safety, etc.

  • Advocacy organizing issues, such as trail promotions, reenergizing members, fundraising strategies, etc.

  • Case studies and strategies for reaching out to diverse communities, including ethnic minorities, low income populations, religious organizations, people with motor or visual impediments, etc. and

  • Best practices that exemplify one or a combination of the above concepts.

The invitation to submit proposals for the workshops is limited to 'experts' and 'planners', including U.S. and international professionals, academics and advocates with experience working on trails and greenways.


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