Urban Living: Make the Most of Your City's Trail System

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

You are likely paying for your city and county trail systems – many are maintained with tax dollars – so why not USE them? Multi-use trail systems have much to offer but not everyone takes advantage of these smart, municipal park systems. This blog continues Ruoff’s series on urban living and will introduce you to several ways you can make the most of your city’s trail system.

HOW TO ENJOY TRAILS

Trail systems are not a new concept in urban living. They’ve been around since the first Woodstock. Their design hasn’t changed much over the decades, but their appeal and accessibility are on the rise. The basic design of a multi-use trail system is a linear park, often maintained by city or county employees, that weaves green space through areas inhabited by humans. Here are some of the ways you can enjoy the trails:

  • Take a hike. Modern trail systems are designed for both feet and wheels. Most are accessible to all forms of non-motorized transportation. You can travel at your own pace – slower patrons yield to the right – while scouting your city for wildlife.
  • Take the pets out for a stroll. City trail systems offer the opportunity to bond with your four-legged family members, since trail systems are essentially pet-friendly parks.

Now it’s time for an anecdote: This writer once observed a family walking their dog. The dog looked friendly, so she asked to approach. But wait! The animal was not a dog. It was the family’s adorable pet pig. And yes, it snorted. You never know what you’ll see on the trail.

  • Bike ride! City trail systems are perfect for biking. You can map your route ahead of time and will have minimal (if any) interaction with motorized traffic.
  • Train for a run. Do you have a 5K or some other ambitious footrace coming up? Consider your city’s trail system as an outdoor training oasis.
  • Date night (or day). Join your sweetie after work for a stroll through the trails. This is a great time to unplug and reconnect.
  • Take up an outdoor hobby. Multi-use trails offer ample opportunities for photography, bird watching, tree identification, and many other fun diversions.
  • Volunteer. Trail systems are usually funded in one of two ways: municipal taxes or private grants. The cities and counties that maintain the trails do not enjoy large budgets and often rely on volunteers to make ends meet. Consider volunteering the next time your city’s trail system hosts a cleanup day or requests help with landscaping.
  • Get Involved. Take advantage of programs and community events (see next section).

CITY PROGRAMMING IS INCREASING

City and county park systems offer all sorts of trail-based programming. Here are a few of the classes and events common to this style of park:

  • Organized runs and rides. Do you want to stay in shape by training for a 5K or bike race? Check your Parks Department’s website to find out if they have one on the calendar.
  • Duet bicycling. Also called wheelchair biking, many cities now offer programs to pair wheelchair riders with pedalers. The city will likely provide the proper bike for your excursion.
  • Guided community rides. These organized bike rides are led by a chaperone who knows your trail system well. They’re great for newcomers who want to learn the twists and turns of their city’s trails.

SPOTLIGHT ON FIVE TRAIL SYSTEMS

  • Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Rivergreenway is a 25-mile linear park system. It connects Fort Wayne’s growing downtown district with suburbia and also extends to nearby New Haven, Indiana. Much of the Rivergreenway runs adjacent to Fort Wayne’s three rivers.
  • Columbus, Ohio’s Blacklick Creek Greenway is a 12-mile winding trail system that connects two city parks: Portman and Three Creeks. The Blacklick Creek Greenway also features trail heads at two additional parks.
  • Chicago, Illinois’ Park District features 33 interconnected trail systems. Many are accessed directly from Chicago’s neighborhoods, like the Myrtle Grove Path and Trail located within the Northwood Park community.
  • Saint Clair, Michigan’s Bridge to Bay Trail is a collaborative effort between Saint Clair County and 13 local units of government. The trail, when all sections are complete, will glide through 50 miles of shoreline including part of Lake Huron.
  • Kissimmee, Florida's Shingle Creek Regional Multi-Use Trail is a newcomer to the Florida trail scene. It will eventually extend over 30 miles and connect to a larger, multi-county trail system. This wildlife-heavy trail runs along the Shingle Creek waterway through the Florida Everglades.

Access to municipal trail systems is a beautiful perk of urban living. Are you making the most of your city’s trail system? If so, tell us about it in the comments. If you haven’t discovered your nearby trail system yet, give it a try. Happy trails!

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