About the Book
If, as Wallace Stegner said, the national park is “the best idea we ever had,” the rail-trail is certainly a close runner-up. Part transportation corridor, part park, the rail-trail has revolutionized the way America creates high-quality, car-free pathways for bicyclists, runners, walkers, equestrians, and more.
It was only a few decades after railroad barons had run roughshod over America’s economy and politics that they began to shed nearly one hundred thousand miles of unneeded railroad corridor. At the same time, bicyclists were being so thoroughly pushed off ever-more-intimidating roadways they came close to extinction. Through political organizing and lawyerly grit, an unlikely, formerly marginalized advocacy arose, seized on seemingly worthless strips of land, and created a resource that is treasured by millions of Americans today for recreation, purposeful travel, tourism, conservation, and historical interpretation.
From Rails to Trails is the fascinating tale of the rails-to-trails movement as well as a consideration of what the continued creation of rail-trails means for the future of Americans’ health, nonmotorized transportation networks, and communities across the country.
Peter Harnik is cofounder of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and founder of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land. He is the author of Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities and Inside City Parks as well as a former editor of both Environmental Action magazine and Trailblazer quarterly.
“A spellbinding tale of the history of the rails-to trails movement, . . . Harnik’s book gives us the inspiring story of local grit overcoming great odds for the changing benefit of all.”—Charles N. Marshall, former officer of Conrail and Genesee & Wyoming railroads
“Peter Harnik captures the history of a movement that has provided so many pathways for people to commute, recreate, and enjoy nature. . . . I hope this story will inspire emerging generations to recognize the rights-of-way for future projects that benefit our communities.”—Sally Jewell, former U.S. secretary of the interior and former CEO of REI
“A marvelous history. . . . This book tells a unique American tale—from deep in the heartland to New York City and Seattle—that will surprise and astonish you.”—Ray LaHood, former U.S. secretary of transportation and former congressman
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. The Queen of Trails
2. Why Were There So Many Rail Corridors?
3. Meanwhile, the Bicycle
4. Dark Days and a Seismic Shift
5. Is This Idea for Real?
6. Congress Steps In
7. It’s Perfect! Who Could Be Against It?
8. The Movement Gels
9. Fighting for Rights in Court
10. Building the Political Base
11. Breaking into the Money Vault
12. City Trail, Country Trail
13. Bridges and Tunnels
14. Sharing the Corridor
15. Full Throttle Ahead
16. Filling the Gaps
17. Of Rail-Trails and Real Estate
18. If You Want to Count, You Have to Count