Overview: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

I had been looking at possibilities for routing dangerous on-road sections of the Buckeye Trail in northern Pike County, OH, to safer ground and when I realized that there was an organization dedicated to reusing old railroad beds as hiking and biking trails, I was intrigued. I joined the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy earlier this year in with the hope that I would gain some knowledge on how to go about acquiring permission to use old railroads for new hiking trails. In 1982 the old Detroit-Toledo-Ironton (DT&I) Railroad abandoned the track between Washington CH, OH and Ironton, OH. Its path runs near a portion of the Buckeye Trail here in Pike County, OH. Unfortunately in the intervening 25 years much of the rail bed has been claimed, mostly by home owners whose dwellings were as close as 100 feet to the track. Yet, there are still some possibilities and I haven’t given up hope on this idea.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (R2T) publishes a small quarterly newsletter. It is mostly a PR vehicle with fantastic photos on nearly every single glossy page. It seems the conservancy is more focused on urban railroads than rural. At first this annoyed me, but I have come to realize that this is a very good thing. Not only does it give a trail for urbanites to exercise, but in many cases it solves logistical and safety problems. For example a past newsletter described how grade school students could now walk to the local library on the rail-trail that passes the school and the library. This eliminated the need for either a dangerous road walk or an expensive, yet short, school bus trip. The grade school now allows frequent trips to the library. In this quarter’s newsletter there is coverage of the rail-trail that connects North Little Rock with Little Rock, AR. Several years ago when I was on a business trip in North Little Rock I bemoaned the fact that there was no way for pedestrians to safely cross the Arkansas River into Little Rock. That is no longer the case. Two pedestrian crossings are now available and two more that use abandoned railroad bridges will soon join them.

To be fair there are rural rail-trails, they just don’t get the good PR. Here in Ohio the Tri-County Triangle Trail connects Greenfield, Frankfort, Washington CH, and Chillicothe. Based on where the trail runs between Washington CH, and Chillicothe, I would say that they are using the DT&I rail bed.