From Rhonda Romano, director, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Midwest Regional Office, Canal Winchester, Ohio:
It was terrific to read in the Spinal Column Newsweekly recently that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has approved a grant for the acquisition of a section of out-of-service Coe Rail Line in Oakland County, for conversion to a rail-trail (“NRTF board OK’s $3.75M for trail’s land acquisition,” Dec. 14).
From us here at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a hearty congratulations to the Commerce, Walled Lake and Wixom Trailway Management Council and everyone who has been involved in pursuing funding for this project of enormous potential. Though the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a national organization, with offices across the country, we consistently see that successful rail-trail projects depend on strong local leaders and committed residents and businesspeople. It looks like Oakland County has its fair share of those. Their commitment to building trails connections throughout the region will benefit the community for years to come.
We have seen many rail-trail projects like this one bring a vast array of benefits to communities large and small. Trails are, most obviously, fantastic venues for recreation. Whether it’s a long stretch of jogging track, or a quiet and safe place for a leisurely walk with friends, the value of a multi-use community space separated from cars and traffic far outweighs its cost.
Recycling a space which until recently was underutilized will increase walking and biking in the area, whether for simply getting from A to B, or for leisure and exercise.
The health benefits that result from such activity are well documented. Doctors across America prescribe regular short walks or rides as effective preventative treatments of arthritis, dementia and Alzheimer’s, obesity-related illnesses and depression, to name but a few.
But trails systems also play a crucial role in strengthening the local economy. The outdoor recreation market is experiencing a historic boom, as Americans increasingly seek vacation and recreation options closer to home. Businesses in rural centers across the country are capitalizing on their location next to trails. Connecting Commerce, Walled Lake and Wixom to a trail system that could stretch right across the state would tap local businesses into an economy that is both sustainable and growing.
Options for walking and biking also boost the local real estate market. Research by the National Association of Homebuilders found that trails were the No. 1 amenity desired by potential new home buyers.
Anyone interested in resources about funding, building and maintaining rail-trails, or in learning more about rail-trail projects across America, is encouraged to get in touch with myself or any of our experienced staff.