Feature Article - October 2008
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Hit The Trails

Building Active & Vital Communities

By Dana Carman

In North Carolina, the American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a 22-plus-mile rails-to-trails project located in the Triangle Region and crossing through Durham; Chatham, Durham and Wake counties; the planning jurisdictions of the towns of Carey and Apex; and the Lake Jordan project land of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bussey, as part of Triangle Trails Rails to Trails Conservancy, a volunteer advocacy group, said that when the ATT was constructed it was the only regional project going on in the Triangle except for the airport, bringing together many different planners, staff and government organizations. Each area is responsible for its part of the construction, but along the way there have been additional partnerships, such as Chatham County partnering with Wake County to do some engineering studies.

Portland Trails in Maine works with many different partners, such as city planners, developers, health organizations, schools and communities, to continue working toward its goal of 50 miles of trails. Executive Director Nan Cumming said these partnerships are mutually beneficial, and Portland Trails also counts numerous local businesses and residents among its supporters in large part because the 32 miles of trails at present "…ranks really highly with young professionals as what they want in their communities," Cumming said. "It attracts good employees to a lot of the businesses and brings in more people who want to settle here."

While each example of partnership differs slightly, what's worth noting is that when it comes to trails, various types of groups and organizations share a stake, from schools to insurance companies. Each member of any given community should be aware of trails' impact.

Paddle Away

Perhaps less commonly thought of when discussing trails but trails nonetheless are water trails. The American Canoe Association (ACA) maintains a database of water trails in the United States. Paul Sanford, director of Stewardship and Public Policy with the ACA, said there are more than 400 water trails nationally and the ACA's database lists about 90 percent of them.

One such trail is the Alabama Scenic Water Trail, a 631-mile trail in Alabama. "It is the longest water trail in any one state," said Thornton Clark, vice president. Clark said the trail was the brainchild of Fred Couch. There are campgrounds along the way as it follows seven rivers and two creeks through a wide variety of beautiful scenery. Clark characterizes the trail as flat water and easily paddled with the exception of six miles where there are three very brief stretches of white water, which he says can be paddled by an intermediate paddler. To date, many sections of the trail have been paddled but no one has done the whole thing. The first to do so will receive The 631 Prize, including $1,000. At press time, paddlers were not allowed to start before Oct. 1 and had to resister on the Web site at www.alabamascenicrivertrail.com. More information on the trail is also available on the Web site. To access the American Canoe Association's water trails database, visit www.americancanoe.org.