All Hail the Rail Trail!

When my body and spirit grow restless, I like to walk. A 30-60 minute ramble loosens the kinks from head to toe. I am fortunate to live close to the Manhan Rail Trail, which is my favorite local spot for perambulation. (That’s right. I said, “perambulation.” I like to trot out the fancy words once in a while, lest they feel neglected.)

I am rather fond of rail trails. Like urban community gardens sprouting upon abandoned lots, they are a fine example of reclaimed space. Everyone benefits from their presence. To show my support for such ventures, I contribute to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an organization “whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.” It’s a great cause and generally free of political controversy, which is a plus. (Of course, I’m sure there are some conservative wingnuts somewhere who believe that the reclamation of abandoned rail corridors is further evidence of a communist plot perpetrated by our socialist president to create a Muslim theocracy and destroy our way of life as we know it.)

In the summer, the best times to stroll the Manhan Rail Trail are early morning and early evening, when the temperatures are more moderate and the critters are out and about. Yesterday evening, I thought I spotted a fox dashing across the trail and did see a rabbit, which kindly posed for pictures. Here are a few photographs from yesterday’s jaunt:

Rabbit on the rail trail
Long-legged spider along the rail trail
Canoers on Lower Mill Pond
Drunes from a Staghorn Sumac
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9 thoughts on “All Hail the Rail Trail!

  1. This is a nice tribute to rail-trails and the national Rails to Trails Conservancy. But where is the Manhan trail?

    In Rhode Island, the East Bay, West Bay (Washington Secondary) and South County bike paths are all rail-trails, but we even have a trail-with-rail (the Providence and Worcester Rairoad) in the Blackstone Valley that uses some right-of-way that was once a canal towpath. All equally enjoyable for bikers, walkers, skaters etc.

    It should be noted that especially the first two bike paths above were especially contentious with abutters encroaching the rail right of way often opposed and the paths would not exist today if not for determined citizen advocacy. Indeed there are potential rail-trails in Smithfield and North Kingstown, but without the needed local advocacy, they don’t exist, yet.

    Those interested in Rhode Island rail-trail issues might check out the Rhode Island Bicyce Coalition web-site http://www.ribike.org for more information.

  2. The Manhan Rail Trail is in Easthampton, a town in Western Massachusetts that lies in the Connecticut River valley.

  3. My mother says that Blackstone Blvd. walking path used to be trolley tracks, and the field stone shelter was a station.

  4. Great pics my friend. Lower mill pond? Where is that? By the way, Michael would note that the 3rd picture should be “paddlers….” :-). The other day we peddled (not paddled) all the way to the end of all of the new tendrils of the N’ton bike path, Leeds, Route 10 that will soon be connected to the E’ton path, and the one in town. Very exciting. I’ll have to figure out how to advocate to have it go all the way to S. Hadley, then we can meet in the middle.

  5. I endorse Kiersten’s remarks, the photographs are Great.
    David, can you explain to this ignorant British/Australian what exactly a rail trail is? I am assuming that it is the area on each side of the track cleared by the construction teams.

  6. To answer your question, Don, I believe that most of the rail trails are built on abandoned rail lines. As such, the rails and tracks and other remnants are most often removed and then a trail is created on the rail bed. The Manhan Rail Trail now looks like any paved bicycle trail. You can find more information by clicking on the link in the post for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Thanks for your interest.

  7. Thanks David. As an addition to this, apparently there was a proposal in the 1950′s in Britain that some of the lines that had been closed could be treated as you describe. Needless to say, it did not meet with any support!!
    In Australia we are still building new tracks in order to connect long distant and remote areas, so its unlikely there will be disused tarck for some time.

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