Saturday, April 16, 2011

The magic of bike trails

A new bike trail brings new life to a neighborhood. A good example is the asphalt bike trail built and completed on the path of an old railroad track in 1989 to and from Lanesboro, Minnesota. This is a very small town of just over 700 people—a Midwest town, which had more than twice as many people during its heydays [1]. And today, thanks to the connecting bike trail, the population can swell to 5,000 weekenders enjoying this kind of place that now features several campgrounds, restaurants, theaters and an annual Rhubarb Festival.

Looking for a river canyon bike trail? What about the high-altitude Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail of Susanville in California [2]. This scenic trail winds through the rugged Susan River Canyon along the track of a Southern Pacific Railroad line that was abandoned in 1978. This trail is also frequented by hikers, horseback riders, and—as I was told by visitors and locals—crossed by mountain lions.

Yet another bike path, following an old railroad line, is the Bremen-Tarmstedt Kleinbahn, once with trains on narrow-track-gauge rails connecting the city of Bremen with the small town of Tarmstedt in Northern Germany [3]. Locally known as “Jan Reiners,” after Johann Reiners (1825-1908), who initiated its construction for the commercial development of the wetlands and peat-bog locations east of Bremen. The magic here: no canyon walls, no mountain lions, but maybe rhubarb and certainly off-track coffee and beer gardens.  

This is just a random sample of  track-to-trail bike paths. There is a resourceful website dedicated to rails-to-trails conservation [4]. The magic continues to roll: new trails are going to connect people, their neighborhoods and places of historical as well as natural interest. And some railroad transportation hopefully stays in service to take you home on a flat-tire or thunderstorm-surprise day.

[1] Jan Meyer: Lanesboro, MN. Smithsonian April 2011, 42 (1) page 9 [].
[2] Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trails [].
[3] “Jan Reiners” – auf schmaler Spur von Bremen nach Tarmstedt  (“Jan Reiners” – on a narrow rail gauge from Bremen to Tarmstedt) []
[4] Rails-to-trails conservancy [].

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