Feature Article - July 2016
Find a printable version here

A Beautiful Vision

Funding & Planning Are Keys to Success With Trails & Greenways

By Deborah L. Vence


As each project is unique, another important factor is for communities to have a vision, Searns said.

Many times, it begins when citizens get together and travel somewhere to see what other communities, like Minneapolis, have accomplished. With others' successes in mind, these groups then want to incorporate that into their own communities. "It starts with community activists getting together and working with political leaders to get something started," Searns said.

Liz Thorstensen, vice president of trail development at Washington, D.C.-based Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an American nonprofit organization that works with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into rail-trails within the United States, suggested that often the best step that a community member can take is to get organized and get other people excited about the vision for a future trail.

"Friends-of-the trail groups have been the driving force behind countless successful rail-trails, particularly those projects that have encountered obstacles or opposition and needed steadfast advocates," she said.

"When you have compiled a master list of potentially interested organizations and individuals, you are ready to hold an organizing meeting," she added. "This meeting will help identify the core group of strong supporters who are willing to participate in a friends group. Afterward, you can meet with these core supporters to discuss formalizing the group's organization and purpose."

She said that the things you need to discuss include the following:

  • o Choosing a name for your organization that relates to the trail, such as Friends of the Coventry Greenway or Friends of the Rock Island Trail.
  • o Drafting a mission statement, a set of objectives and a timeline.
  • o Creating a website, brochure and other materials that identify the project and purpose of the organization, a map of the proposed trail and a membership form for other prospective "friends."
  • o Maintaining a newsletter to keep members informed about the progress of the trail.
  • o Finding out what your members' skills are, such as writing, graph design, business connections or meeting organization, and matching their strengths with your group's needs.