Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Coordinated Trail Network

I recently met with a representative for Senator Michael Bennet. I was scheduled to meet with Senator Udall in June, but was unable to make it to Washington D.C. as planned.

At my recent meeting with Representative Bennet's assistant, I asked him to deliver the following letter to Colorado Senators about assisting me in developing a coordinated network of trails in the United States:

Dear Senators Bennet and Udall,

Thank you for the opportunity to present you with my ideas. I am confident that you will find this information useful and worthwhile.

I am a retired public school teacher and currently produce a non-profit website and blog at As a lifelong bicyclist and trail-user, I believe that the United States has one of the most incredible and extensive systems of trails in the world. I also believe that this system is vastly under-utilized and often unheralded.

Thirteen years ago, I had the opportunity to ride the Trail of the Hiawatha in Idaho. It is easy for me to remember this event because my daughter was one year old and my father was in his mid-seventies. This was a pivotal moment in my life, because I had not realized that such trails existed that would allow three generations to explore history, nature, tunnels and trestles while sharing valuable time together and getting an abundance of fresh-air and exercise.

I began to research trails on the Internet and had a difficult time finding any information about the vast network of trails that I was starting to discover through travel, word-of-mouth, and extensive research. So I decided to develop my own website to help people find trails. I was especially interested in highlighting family-friendly trails that could be used for both recreation and transportation.

The more I researched, the more I discovered an abundance of such trails. Now, after thirteen years of trail sleuthing, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that there are not only thousands of great trails out there, but there are also a multitude of websites devoted to helping people find these trails. The bad news is that there is very little coordination of the various trail entities and websites. The other bad news is that there is still a lack of information (at least coordinated, comprehensive information) available to potential trail users. The trails exist, but most people do not know about the trails. And many of the websites devote the majority of their time and resources to mountain bike trails than the utility trails that are useful to most Americans. In fact, most of the trail websites still do not even have a special category dedicated to multi-use, accessible trails such as rail-trails and canal trails.

As I travel the country, riding and researching trails, I am constantly amazed that people aren’t aware of the wonderful trails located right in their back yards. Once these people are made aware of the trails, they love them and use them prodigiously. And think of what that means for our country. With increased trail use, comes decreased obesity, decreased traffic, decreased fossil fuel use, decreased sedentary lifestyles, decreased pollution…

What would it take to vastly increase the use of our American trails? Surprisingly, it would take very little. In a word, it would take coordination. The trails already exist in abundance. The organizations such as American Trails and Rails to Trails Conservancy already exist. The websites such as Traillink, Everytrail, and Alltrails already exist. The government agencies such as the Forest Service, National Park Service, and Department of Transportation already exist. What is missing is the coordination between these entities; and another missing link is any type of coordinated communication to the general public. There is no synchronizing body to bring these various agencies together.
It would not take a great deal of funding to provide the coordination needed to bring this issue to the forefront. In fact, it would take very little if any federal government funding. For a relatively small level of funding, we could educate Americans about the trails that are available. We could organize the systems that currently exist so that our trails are discovered and utilized to their maximum potential. We could help individuals take advantage of the health benefits of our trail system and small businesses take advantage of the economic benefits of nearby trails. Studies have shown that trails have a far-reaching and positive impact on the communities through which they pass, but many of these communities have no idea how to take advantage of such opportunities.

I would like to help develop a system that allows us to coordinate and make use of our current trail system to a much greater extent than it is currently being utilized. Whether this program is funded through state government, federal government, corporate sponsors (REI, Trek, Microsoft, etc.),  non-profits (Rails to Trails Conservancy, American Trails), website sponsors (Expedia,, Google) or private donations, it is time to introduce the American people to the incredible resources already located within their country, state, and community.

I would greatly appreciate your help in getting this initiative off the ground. Colorado has a rich history of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship. Wouldn’t it be great if Colorado’s elected representatives took the lead on this issue? It is one of those rare opportunities to make a substantial impact with very little government spending. And the impact would be far-reaching including: recreation, transportation, environmental responsibility, healthy lifestyles, and job creation.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this issue. I look forward to hearing from you about helping to create a new direction for one of America’s greatest yet most underutilized assets. Please contact me for further ideas, information, and suggestions. I greatly appreciate the leadership you two have provided for our state and country. I am proud to have you as Colorado’s elected representatives.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin L. Purdy



Barry said...

This is great and I wish you all the success with your venture. With you at the helm this can be nothing more that a huge success.

It would be great if the politicians/policy deciders could get their asses out of their offices and see this for themselves,maybe put their asses on a bike-seat and experience the beauty for themselves.

I look forward to regular updates. Have a great weekend.



trailsnet said...

I try to look at things from all points of view, & I can definitely see how the government would be reticent to spend any money on a new program right now.
However, billions of dollars have already been spent building trails. For a one time $150,000 investment, we could start a program/website that actually lets people know about those trails; because as it is, most people don't have a clue about what's out there.
After this was off the ground, it could easily be funded by corporate, public, & non-profit grants. Can you imagine how much traffic a website that has, literally, every trail in the United States on it would get. Now can you imagine how much businesses like REI, Trek, Kelty, etc. would like to have links on that site (by becoming corporate sponsors)?
If any readers have suggestions about getting this project off the ground, I'd love to hear them.