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New National Recreation Trails Open to Explorers

WASHINGTON, DC, June 9, 2008 (ENS) – Hikers, cyclists, skaters, equestrians and paddlers will have more territory to explore this season. To mark the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has designated 24 trails in 16 states as new National Recreation Trails, adding more than 1,100 miles of trails to the National Trails System.

“The National Trails System, including these additions, provides an excellent link to the outdoors, particularly for children,” Kempthorne said. “National Recreation Trails exemplify partnerships and are providing a path to fitness and stewardship for Americans of all ages.”

The announcement coincides with the 16th annual celebration of National Trails Day that took place on Saturday, June 7. The theme for this year, “Join Us on the Trail,” encourages people to get outside and use trails for exercise and exploration.

Thousands people participated in hikes, educational programs, bike rides, volunteer repair projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications across the country.

“There is no better way than through hiking and other human-powered activities to build the human spirit, improve our health and increase environmental awareness and public support for trails,” said Greg Miller, American Hiking Society president.

The first National Recreational Trails were designated in 1971. The National Recreation Trails recognize existing trails that connect people to local resources and improve their quality of life. The design of these trails and their links with other amenities is limited only by imagination.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, for instance, two dozen physicians with the state’s largest cardiology clinic, Heart Clinic Arkansas, five years ago agreed to support completion of the Arkansas River Trail by fundraising $350,000 over two years to create a “Medical Mile” of trail in the core of downtown Little Rock.


Murals on the Medical Mile trail in
downtown Little Rock, Arkansas
(Photo courtesy American Trails)

Supported by major hospitals, coalitions, the Arkansas Department of Health, and many individual physicians and medical practices, the fundraising program exceeded the $350,000 goal in the first three months of the campaign. By the end of the two year target period, the project had raised $2.1 million.

The inspiration was born of a collaboration between the National Park Service Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, Heart Clinic Arkansas and Little Rock Parks and Recreation, and it has resulted in the nation’s first outdoor linear health museum.

“Our participation in this project is a way of saying ‘thank you’ and represents an effort to give back to the community by offering our citizens a safe and accessible place to exercise and by encouraging a more healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Eleanor Kennedy of the Heart Clinic Arkansas

Dedicated in November 2006, the Medical Mile in downtown Little Rock’s Riverfront Park includes a 1,300 foot three-dimensional mural wall, a wellness promenade with artful displays, as well as, a Body-Mind-Spirit entry plaza that encourages trail users to remember that a healthy mind and spirit are the key steps toward a healthy body.

The park is adjacent to the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library and numerous other venues like the Arkansas Statehouse Convention Center.

The Medical Mile is only one piece of the Arkansas River Trail. Making a fourteen mile loop with an additional 10 mile extension to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, the trail will eventually connect with the 225 mile Ouachita Wilderness trail.

Each of the 24 new trails designated this year will receive a certificate of designation and trail markers. They join a network of more than 1,000 trails encompassing more than 12,000 miles.

Secretary Kempthorne designated these 24 trails as National Recreation Trails:

* Alabama
Alabama Scenic River Trail – Recognized as the nation’s longest one-state river trail, this scenic water trail stretches 631 miles from the Coosa River to the Gulf of Mexico, offering paddling, camping, hiking, and birdwatching opportunities.


Whitewater paddling on the Coosa River,
Alabama (Photo by McDowell Crook)

The trail is a lifelong dream of Fred Couch, an Anniston jeweler and longtime canoe enthusiast. When Couch paddled a river trail that traced a portion of the Lewis and Clark expedition, he began to imagine creating a similar trail in his home state.

He won the support of Alabama Power Company, which operates the six Coosa River dams and lakes above Montgomery; and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the three river lakes and dams south of Montgomery. There are portages around all six Alabama Power dams on the trail.

The official launch of the Alabama Scenic River Trail took place on Friday, June 6 with a flotilla of boats in Montgomery.

“The Alabama Scenic River Trail can be to canoeing and kayaking what the Appalachian Trail is to hiking and backpacking,” said Tom Chesnutt, a tourism specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
* Arizona
Black Canyon Trail – Located in the Bradshaw Mountain foothills of central Arizona and managed by a partnership led by the Bureau of Land Management, this world-class hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trail system stretches over 62 miles through the Black Canyon Corridor. It is accessible to visitors from metropolitan Phoenix.

* Florida
Apalachicola River Paddling Trail System – Stretching through the panhandle of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, this nationally recognized water trail system offers 100 miles of scenic paddling trails for canoeists and kayakers of all abilities.

* Illinois
Rend Lake Bike Trail – In addition to providing hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities, this meandering trail extends over 19 miles through some of the most diverse and scenic habitat that Southern Illinois has to offer.

* Indiana
Burdette Park/University of Southern Indiana Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Nature Trail – This scenic .6-mile segment is the result of a visionary partnership to eventually provide a two mile non-motorized trail connection between popular Burdette Park in Vanderburgh County and the University of Southern Indiana.

* Iowa
Great Western Trail – A key connection between urban Des Moines and the surrounding rural landscape, this 16.5 mile scenic rail-trail offers trail users the opportunity to journey through Iowa history while hiking, biking, or enjoying other recreational activities.

* Mines of Spain State Recreation Area Trails System – Located just south of Dubuque along the Mississippi River, this 20-mile trail system offers a wealth of opportunities for recreation, environmental education, human history interpretation, and wildlife observation.

* Summerset Trail – Stretching almost 12 miles through rolling hills, river bottom wetlands, and remnant prairies, this rail-trail allows for hiking, biking, or cross-country skiing through some of the best of central Iowa’s natural scenery.

* Michigan
Musketawa Trail – Providing a handicapped-accessible connection between Marne and Muskegon, Michigan, this 24.7 mile rail-trail and greenway allows a variety of trail users to enjoy a range of landscapes while biking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, or simply taking a stroll.

* Nebraska
Funk Peterson Wildlife Trail – Situated in Funk Waterfowl Production Area, this three mile backcountry loop trail is a bird watcher’s paradise, providing habitat for millions of birds, including endangered whooping cranes and least terns that migrate biannually through the area.

* New Mexico
Canyon Trail – Located in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, this 2.2 mile interpretive trail offers school groups and visitors year-round the ability to study tracks in the shifting sands, finding evidence of kangaroo rats, box turtles, and other wildlife.

* Chupadera Wilderness Trail – Traversing the Chupadera Wilderness Area of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, this 9.5 mile backcountry trail is rich in wildlife and wildflowers, and takes hikers through a range of landscapes culminating in a 360-degree view of several mountain ranges.

* North Carolina
Dismal Swamp Canal Trail – Recognized as part of the East Coast Greenway, this 4.5 mile multi-use trail features historic sites, abundant wildlife, and opportunities for biking, fishing, and canoeing.

* Little Tennessee River Greenway – This 4.5 mile hiking and biking trail parallels the Little Tennessee River and Cartoogechaye Creek and features three bridges and a variety of recreational facilities.

* North Dakota
Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge Leg of the Historic Fort Totten Trail – This nine mile backcountry trail is undergoing improvements to provide enhanced wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities and offers hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

* Scout’s Trail – Situated within Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, this 4.6 mile multi-use trail offers environmental education and interpretive opportunities, scenic vistas and native prairie.

* Sullys Hill Nature Trail – Located in one of four units of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managed to preserve bison, this 1.5 mile scenic loop trail provides visitors the opportunity to observe a diverse sampling of native wildlife whether jogging or snowshoeing.

* Ohio
Congressman Ralph Regula Towpath Trail – Also known as the Ohio and Erie Canalway Towpath Trail, this 25 mile multi-use trail serves as the western spine of a planned 300 mile trail system throughout Stark County.

* Pennsylvania
Heritage Rail Trail County Park – Traversing York County to the Maryland border, this 19 mile multi-use trail provides a link in a statewide trails system and epitomizes the concept of a close-to-home trail experience, and has regional, state, and national significance.

* Susquehanna River Water Trail – Middle and Lower Sections – Flowing from Sunbury to the Maryland border, this 103 mile segment offers paddlers an exciting array of experiences, from observing great blue herons to learning about the Underground Railroad.

* South Carolina
Congaree River Blue Trail – Starting near Columbia, this 50 mile water trail and greenway offers an urban adventure featuring prehistoric Native American sites, sandbars, high bluffs, and Congaree National Park, which encompasses the largest continuous tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States.

* Texas
Heritage Trail Loop – Serving as the backbone of the city’s trail system, this 3.1 mile rail-trail and bikeway links area residents to numerous recreational facilities, historical sites, and a local renewable energy demonstration project.

* Lions Park Nature Trail – Given its artistic features, hilltop vistas, and recreational facilities, it is easy to see why this two mile walking trail is so popular with Temple residents of all ages.

* West Virginia
Canaan Valley Institute Trail System – Located near the town of Davis, this 6.5 mile privately-owned multi-use trail system offers the public a variety of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, with additional connections planned to link to neighboring state and federal lands.

Find the National Trails Partnership online at: www.nationaltrailspartnership.org

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