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Celebrating one of Redlands’ new trails

By Roger Bell

The Redlands Conservancy recently held the first of this spring’s “Trails at Ten” events.  Over 100 people, including a lot of kids, attended to learn more about the flora and fauna of Oakmont Park and Trail, hear about the importance of “leave no trace” from an Eagle Scout, and to hike several miles on a beautiful day in a scenic, preserved environment.

It was a special day indeed.  As a Board member of the Conservancy and one of the founders of the Redlands Sustainability Network, I came back from the event asking myself a pertinent question:  just how do our trails and open spaces contribute to sustainability?

Land Conservation is one of the topic groups created by our Network and that group, headed up by Sherli Leonard, has offered up a number of key ideas, which will be written about in a future article in this series.  The Emerald Necklace concept, envisioned as a greenbelt around the City of open spaces and connecting trails, has been one strong focus of the Conservancy and something fondly endorsed by our citizens.

Studies have shown that getting into the natural environment in a convenient way nearby where one lives contributes to community health by offering a recreational opportunity, tends to reduce what Richard Louv has called “nature deficit disorder” (Last Child in the Woods), and builds a sense of stewardship in which citizens want to preserve special places where nature is celebrated.  That commitment helps create an ethos of sustainability, pride in our special character, so Redlands doesn’t just meld into surrounding communities where the automobile is king, development overrides quality of life, and a sense of place is diminished.

As a retired trailbuilder, I know the value of creating pathways that lie gentle on the land, are built in such a way as to reduce erosion by providing good drainage and keeping grades less than 10% so they are fun to use and don’t degrade the land.  It is also important to build and interpret trails such that endangered plants are protected, wildlife is not disturbed, and where the opportunity for aesthetic appreciation and historical connections are highlighted.

Too often we have allowed urban sprawl to squander open spaces in the short-sighted rush to develop and expand housing into pristine hillsides. I like the Oakmont approach where, even in a hillside community, the houses are clustered rather than made into large scale properties that fence off and privatize all the land, where, instead, developers are required to preserve significant open space and enable public access with adequately funded and well constructed trails.  I see that as a win/win solution that recognizes and makes clear the community value of sustainability.

For more information about Redlands Sustainability Network, go to http://www.sustainableredlands.com

Roger Bell, PhD, a former college administrator and retired trail contractor, has lived in Redlands for over 40 years.

Foreign students on new Zhongshan Greenway in Guangdong Province, China

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.

Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, Forgotten World Highway, New Plymouth, New Zealand (photo: Kennett Brothers)

Asian and Pacific countries are also finding that trails benefit both tourism and transportation. In the upcoming Spring 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.

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.

Visit our International Trails page for articles, projects, studies, organizations, and links to trails around the world. We welcome your suggestions for trails and resources to add to our international collection.

– Stuart Macdonald, Editor, AmericanTrails.org

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A man, a bike, a camera: Jonathan Voelz on Tunnel Hill Trail, IL

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Rolling on the Richard Martin Trail, AL - photo by Beth McCreless

In 2003 somebody came up with the idea of a photo contest for pictures of National Recreation Trails. It has become a fascinating annual event for those of us who watch the entries come in, and then try to sort out some winners from the remarkable collection of images.

Because American Trails is the lead nonprofit for promoting and nurturing the NRT recognition program, we’re always looking for ways to make more people aware of these great trails. We’re also involved because of our role in representing ALL trails interests, from urban to Wilderness to motorized to water trails. The National Recreation Trails include the same variety of activities among the roster of designated trails.

Since these trails are so different and cover the entire country, we came up with 19 categories for our winning pictures. We’d like to recognize Rob Grant, State Trails Coordinator for Alabama. Because he has made a point of promoting the NRT program as well as the contest in his state, close to 100 of the 275 photos show trails in Alabama.

A special thanks also goes out to our friend and star volunteer John Ansbro, who has pored over every one of the contest photos since the first year. John, a city planner in Evansville, IN, cheerfully finds ways to complicate the process while making it all more fun.

See this year’s great photos at Winners of 2011 National Recreation Trails photo contest…
If you haven’t glanced through all the entries, they are displayed in 14 galleries with information about the trails…

We’d like to see some new trails, so check out the NRTs when you’re heading outdoors, and bring your camera!

– Stuart Macdonald, National Recreation Trails program manager for American Trails

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A man, a bike, a camera: Jonathan Voelz on Tunnel Hill Trail, IL

In 2003 somebody came up with the idea of a photo contest for pictures of National Recreation Trails. It has become a fascinating annual event for those of us who watch the entries come in, and then try to sort out some winners from the remarkable collection of images.

Because American Trails is the lead nonprofit for promoting and nurturing the NRT recognition program, we’re always looking for ways to make more people aware of these great trails. We’re also involved because of our role in representing ALL trails interests, from urban to Wilderness to motorized to water trails. The National Recreation Trails include the same variety of activities among the roster of designated trails.

Image

Rolling on the Richard Martin Trail, AL - photo by Beth McCreless

 

Since these trails are so different and cover the entire country, we came up with 19 categories for our winning pictures. We’d like to recognize Rob Grant, State Trails Coordinator for Alabama. Because he has made a point of promoting the NRT program as well as the contest in his state, close to 100 of the 275 photos show trails in Alabama.

A special thanks also goes out to our friend and star volunteer John Ansbro, who has pored over every one of the contest photos since the first year. John, a city planner in Evansville, IN, cheerfully finds ways to complicate the process while making it all more fun.

See this year’s great photos at Winners of 2011 National Recreation Trails photo contest…
If you haven’t glanced through all the entries, they are displayed in 14 galleries with information about the trails…

We’d like to see some new trails, so check out the NRTs when you’re heading outdoors, and bring your camera!

– Stuart Macdonald, National Recreation Trails program manager for American Trails

 

http://www.americantrails.org/photoGalleries/photocontest2011/11photowins.html

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A man, a bike, a camera: Jonathan Voelz on the Tunnel Hill Trail, IL

Image

Rolling on the Richard Martin Trail, AL - photo by Beth McCreless

In 2003 somebody came up with the idea of a photo contest for pictures of National Recreation Trails. It has become a fascinating annual event for those of us who watch the entries come in, and then try to sort out some winners from the remarkable collection of images.

Because American Trails is the lead nonprofit for promoting and nurturing the NRT recognition program, we’re always looking for ways to make more people aware of these great trails. We’re also involved because of our role in representing ALL trails interests, from urban to Wilderness to motorized to water trails. The National Recreation Trails include the same variety of activities among the roster of designated trails.

Since these trails are so different and cover the entire country, we came up with 19 categories for our winning pictures. We’d like to recognize Rob Grant, State Trails Coordinator for Alabama. Because he has made a point of promoting the NRT program as well as the contest in his state, close to 100 of the 275 photos show trails in Alabama.

A special thanks also goes out to our friend and star volunteer John Ansbro, who has pored over every one of the contest photos since the first year. John, a city planner in Evansville, IN, cheerfully finds ways to complicate the process while making it all more fun.

See this year’s great photos at Winners of the 2011 NRT Photo Contest…
If you haven’t glanced through all the entries, they are displayed in 14 galleries with information about the trails: http://www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/photocon.html

We’d like to see some new trails, so check out the NRTs when you’re heading outdoors, and bring your camera!

– Stuart Macdonald, National Recreation Trails program manager for American Trails

It has been almost a year since the Department of Justice (DOJ) created a stir in the trails community about “other power-driven mobility devices” (OPDMD). While the rules had been open to public comment during the previous year, many of us shared the same thought: “do they really mean what I think they mean?” And yes, the DOJ rules mean that anything with a motor that can be driven, regardless of size or horsepower, is allowed on your trails and open areas if it is driven by a person who says they have a mobility related disability.

Segways are just one kind of device or vehicle that can be considered an OPDMD

You may not have noticed a sudden surge of electric ATVs or monster trucks on your nature trail. We have seen a rather modest number of trail assessment and policy documents, and I suspect many people are hoping that somebody, somewhere, will come up with “the right answer.” But trail managers who don’t address this issue are open to a very wide interpretation of what a mobility device can be.

American Trails hosted a webinar on OPDMD last spring with Janet Zeller of the U.S. Forest Service helping trail managers understand the rule. The result of 700 people listening and talking about this issue was a deluge of questions. With more help from Janet, we compiled a huge Q and A list. But there were still many questions that simply had no clear answer or precedent in other ADA law. So the DOJ received a list of the toughest problem areas, like animal-powered vehicles, federal funding implications, trail gates, requiring permits, and much more.

We have not yet heard answers from DOJ, who have also had inquiries from many other people concerning their own specific situations. However, part of their job is to help make sense out of what many would call “unintended consequences” of the OPDMD rule. So we have been assured that we’ll be hearing from DOJ in the form of some technical assistance in the not too distant future. When the DOJ issues that guidance we will alert you and make copies available. This is an opportunity for land managers to take a fresh look at their policies and decision-making processes on trail use in general– and to see how people with disabilities might be better accommodated.

Please keep this issue in mind. We’ve assembled the most complete guide to the rule, along with many questions and answers, and examples of local and state OPDMD policies. Here’s a good place to start: Introduction to DOJ rule on “other power-driven mobility devices” and their use on trails.

– Stuart Macdonald, National Trails Training Partnership program manager for American Trails

The current crisis in funding for trails and other bicycle-pedestrian programs has created another big partnership problem. Why is one trails program funded but Enhancements are not?

At American Trails our goal is to build common ground among a wide array of interests, even those who don’t have much to do with trails. Why? Because we believe we are all part of an important movement to create healthier communities, to improve accessibility, to reduce dependence on cars, to promote freedom as well as safety for children, and to conserve public lands and linear parks.

The new House transportation bill specifically attacks programs for bikeways, walking, state bike programs, rail trails, and safe routes to school. The reason the Recreational Trails Program seems to be spared (this week, anyway), is probably because it is tied to a specific aspect of the federal fuel tax: gas burned by OHVs, snowmobiles, hunters, and others driving off-highway on our public lands.

However, an important legacy of the Recreational Trails Program is that it brings both motorized and nonmotorized trails people together. It’s the recreational vehicles that fund the RTP, but most of that money is going to nonmotorized trails. It took the whole spectrum of trail enthusiasts to make the program politically viable. In the same way, we believe the long-term success of the other vital funding programs will be ensured only by maintaining the partnership among many diverse interests.

So we urge you to take the long view, to recognize that there is more strength in greater numbers. Please count yourself as part of the movement for a healthier planet. That’s why American Trails is supporting Safe Routes to School as well as Wilderness hiking; active transportation as well as rail trails; and bridges to public transit as well as preserving access to our public lands. Read more about supporting trails and bicycle/pedestrian programs…

– Stuart Macdonald, American Trails website and magazine editor

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