Many organizations, one goal — creating a robust trail system.
“I’m reminded of the tagline, ‘trails create thriving, healthy communities,’ and that requires a really collaborative effort,” said Brian Housh, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Midwest policy manager. “You can’t get trail networks built without a pretty broad, inclusive coalition.”
The local coalition — which includes the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Five Rivers MetroParks, Bike Miami Valley, Miami Valley Conservancy District, Ohio Trails Partnership, Great Miami Riverway and Buckeye Trail Association — will host the Opening Day for Trails on Saturday, April 13, at RiverScape MetroPark. The fun, free, family event, in its seventh year, includes opportunities to participate in a group hike or bike ride, get a bike safety check and learn more about a variety of community partners.
“Even though, for the most part, our trails are open year-round, this is an opportunity to celebrate them,” Housh said.
And the Miami Valley has a lot to celebrate when it come to trails as it is home to the nation’s largest paved trail network with more than 340 miles. The Buckeye Trail and North Country Trail also meander through Dayton.
“The existing trail infrastructure in Dayton, and throughout Ohio, is really great,” Housh said. “We have a lot to offer.”
The area will soon have even more to offer, as the Great American Rail-Trail will also cross the Miami Valley. The Great American Rail-Trail will span the country — coast to coast — from Washington, D.C., to Washington state, serving more than 50 million people within 50 miles of the route. The full route will connect more than 125 rail-trails, greenways and other multi-use paths, spanning close to 4,000 miles in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
“It will use existing trails where we have them, so we are probably about 50 percent there, but there are some big gaps, so it’s definitely a work in progress,” Housh said. “It’s a huge effort, but one of the cool things is that it really engages our elected officials who see the incredible economic development potential.”
While the future of the trails in the area and across the country is bright, the current fun-factor is not to be forgotten.
“We have lots of amenities, so many reasons to get on the trails,” said Laura Estandia, Bike Miami Valley executive director. “Opening day is a way to encourage everyone to get out and about and see for themselves.”