Building a Trail Town from Scratch
How to initiate grassroots development of a trail network in your hometown
A volunteer trail-work party. Photo by Adam Reitz.
You hop on Facebook and see posts from your running pals in other towns out hitting the trails—photos of stunning singletrack and endless miles of forest with poster-worthy sunrises and sunsets. Later, you sigh, lace up your road shoes and hit the asphalt to fight traffic, hecklers and stoplights—all the while thinking,"How do I get trails like those in my town?"
My town of Rochester, New York, was not always a hot bed for trails. There was a time—as recent as the 1980s—when the runners of Rochester, like so many runners of other cities that lack quality trails, had no choice but to hit the roads. But, over the past 40 years, the county parks department and private trail organizations have worked together to change that. Master plans were created and trail lovers began to lay the groundwork for nearly 500 miles of well-maintained trail systems.
Today, Rochester boasts 21 county parks, almost all with runnable trails. Numerous private systems are now open to the public, including the Crescent Trail, a footpath in nearby Perinton with over 46 miles of singletrack, and the Victor Hiking Trails, a system of 12 trails with singletrack, doubletrack and bike paths.
With all of these new trails open and in use, I helped start an organization in 2012 called #TrailsRoc. It serves as a resource to bring the 21 county parks and multitude of private systems together in one place. #TrailsRoc leads runners on weekly runs on different trails, helping them learn the systems and gain confidence to explore on their own. In addition to the trail runs, #TrailsRoc hosts trail-work days and keeps an eye out for undeveloped areas in which new, sustainable trails might be built.
How can you make the same thing happen for the town where you live? Read on.