Summer 2021, we barely knew you! Your guess is as good as mine as how the sun and sizzle season has passed so quickly, but fall is here, and October is upon us. At least we have plenty of warnings ahead of time that fall is coming, with the barrage of every food and drink option imaginable converted to a pumpkin and spice flavored version starting in September.
As much as we all love a good pumpkin spice seltzer followed by a quick brushing with pumpkin spice toothpaste (real products!), Maybe the best part of early fall is the cool, chilly weather that can make it one of the most attractive times of the year for outdoor exercise.
In particular, it’s an incredibly great time to cycle, run, or walk your local railroad track. Whether you are a frequent visitor to a rail trail or have never set foot on one in your life, the trail system is a remarkable resource that we have across the United States and well worth the trip. worth knowing more.
If you are a railroad veteran, you may already be aware of some of the information below, but there are also some facts that you may not be aware of. (First railroad track? 1965 in Wisconsin… boom!)
To begin with, in 1976, the first law was passed to deregulate the US rail industry.
It didn’t take long for the railways to start abandoning unused lines, and Congress was concerned about the many miles of railroad tracks that crisscrossed the country that suddenly went to naught. In 1980, the National Trails System Act was amended and “rail banking” was created.
Essentially, this made it relatively straightforward to convert sections of a railway line in any state into a ‘railroad’, as the process went with the agreement that no change in ownership. actual took place.
In 1986, the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy (RTC) was founded by Peter Harnik and David Burwell. They had the support of the National Wildlife Federation and the connections that went with the relationship: legal, political and financial. The main goal of the RTC was to help people across the country turn their unused local railroad line into a trail that the community could use to enjoy the outdoors while exercising.
RTC knew the steps and the process to get the approvals and get things done. The group was also ready, willing and able to help people who reached out from anywhere in the country.
Word got around, membership grew, and great things happened. Concretely, progress with lots of new trails!
1988 was a big year for rail trails. President Ronald Reagan signed the National Trail System Improvement Act, the RTC had up to 7,000 members, and the 200th trail was about to be opened. Figuratively speaking, this RTC train was on track and picking up speed! In 1995, the 600th trail was open and the membership was approximately 67,000.
Many milestones occurred over the following decades, but moving forward until the RTC’s 30th anniversary in 2016, membership grew to 160,000 and 22,000 miles of trails in the United States were enjoyed. .
If we zoom in on the state of Pennsylvania only, there are currently 194 rail tracks totaling 2,135 miles and 82 rail-to-track projects underway. The RTC has a ranking of the top ten trails by state, and of the 194 in Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley makes the list along with the D&L Trail and its over 140 miles of scenery and many ties to the industrial history of the states. -United.
As impressive as the D&L Trail is, we don’t need to look any further than our own local Saucon Rail Trail (SRT) to fully experience these trails. Until recently, the SRT stretched 6.9 miles from Bachman Street – north of Water Street Park in Hellertown – to Southern Lehigh Living Memorial Park in Coopersburg. In November 2020, the highly anticipated Upper Bucks Rail Trail opened, connecting the SRT in Coopersburg to the Veterans Park in Richland Township, just north of the Borough of Quakertown. This added 3.2 miles to create a trail that stretches over 10 miles from Hellertown to Quakertown.
Granted, I’m biased, as I run on the SRT almost every day (or night), and it’s close and dear to my heart. Nonetheless, I’ll also point out that there is a handy app that the RTC has created called TrailLink, which opens up possibilities for a long list of trails that you may never have experienced. The two the website and the app will tell you where the nearest railroad tracks are, no matter where you are in the US
Of course with the location of the trail it gives you all the information. you need with the appropriate activities, the type of surface, a trail map and reviews.
During my travels in the United States (more than one pre-covid thing) I have used this app often and have had the pleasure of discovering rail trails that I probably wouldn’t have known existed in various States. All unique and some better maintained than others, but each offering the possibility of traveling kilometers in the open air that would not have existed without the initiatives of the RTC.
If you’d like to learn more about this fantastic, ever-expanding resource of outdoor fun that RTC is helping to create, check out their site at TrailLink.com. Who knows, you might be so intrigued by the program that you’ll end up showing your support with the PA Rails-to-Trails Specialty License Plate from PennDOT! (Says the guy with a railroad license plate.)
Hope to see you on the track soon, and if you want to join the BAR40 group’s next fun run, sign up for the mailing list at BAR40.org, and you will be kept informed of upcoming dates.
Eric Bartosz is the founder of BAR40 and the author of the internationally renowned and bestselling book ‘BAR40: Achieve personal excellence. ‘ He lives in Center Valley with his wife Trish, daughter Riley and pug Piper, is an assistant professor of MBA at DeSales University and serves the community as an Upper Saucon firefighter, a member of the Big Brothers board of directors. Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley and a local race. organizer. Eric is a runner and runner for over 20 years and can often be found covering miles on the Saucon Rail Trail.