Since 1986, Rails to Trail Conservancy has worked to create, preserve and protect trails. The organization’s goal is to create a nationwide network of trails from old railways, that are no longer in use, to connect communities. The belief is, “ that communities are healthier and happier when trail networks are central to their design,”. As of today, there are 23,000 miles rail-trails on the ground and plans for more than 8,000 miles are ready to be built. This is through their three flagship initiatives, TrailLink.com, TrailNation™ and the Great American Rail-Trail™.
RTC has ties back to September 25th, 1963 when naturalist and writer May T. Watts sent a letter on the power trails to the editor of the Chicago Tribune. Watts introduced the transformation of a disused Chicago rail line into a multi-use pathway and sparks the creation of the Illinois Prairie Path. Two years later in 1965 the Elroy Sparta Trail was opened in Wisconsin. These two trails provide the blueprint for thousand of rail-trails to follow across the country. In 1968, the National Trail Systems Act was passed and moves to create a network of trails, grouped into four categories, scenic, historic, recreation and connecting/side.
Then in 1986, U.S. Founders Peter Harnik and David Burwell were credited with writing and acquiring funding for the proposal to create RTC. The proposal was supported by philanthropist Larry Rockefeller and the National Wildlife Federation. From there on out, RTC worked tirelessly petitioning and working to preserve and create rail-trails with the support of the government. Various conservancy policies and funding for the trails are passed because of the work RTC has done.
How can you support RTC?
The first way to support RTC and the trails is to sign the Great American Rail-Trail Pledge, find out more here. The second way to support is to donate money on the RTC website to fund building of trails and the organization. The most important ways to support the work is to get out on a trail near you and speak up about the importance of preserving these tracks for future trail use. Find a trail, here. And more ways to support Rails to Trails, here.