21,000 Miles Later: The History of Rails-to-Trails

CityLab presents a feature extravaganza about the nation's 21,000-mile-long network of trails converted from former rail lines.

1 minute read

July 15, 2015, 2:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Sarah Goodyear introduces a magazine style feature on "The Rails to Trails Legacy":

"The High Line, New York City’s famed linear park, made a huge splash when the first section of it opened in 2009. But the underlying concept behind it—the conversion of a disused rail corridor into a welcoming public space—didn’t come out of nowhere. The decades-old Rails-to-Trails movement had a major influence on the project, along with dozens more like it across the United States and around the world."

The feature moves along a timeline, starting in 1965, with the ebbing of the nation's widespread use of trains, and 1968, when the National Trails System Act gave Rails-to-Trails its first legislative support. The feature goes on to highlight some of the most famous examples of Rails-to-Trails conversions, all the way up to Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail, which opened earlier this summer.

Absent from the feature, however, is a mention of a controversial Supreme Court ruling from 2014 that undermined the legality of large portions of the national Rails-to-Trails network.

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