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by: Jacob Very, Program Administrator
Many of us are familiar with the rails to trails system in our area; the most notable being the Great Allegheny Passage that stretches from our fair city of Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. to complete a 335 mile bike path. Did you know that Pennsylvania actually has the most Rails-to-Trails in the entire country? With an astonishing 170 trails already established (and more in process), PA is a whopping 52 trails ahead of the second-place state – Michigan with 118.
All 50 states have some kind of Rails-to-Trails presence. Originally, as the railroad industry began shrinking and consolidating, tracks were removed with no plans for replacing them. Over time, more and more people began using these old tracks as walking and biking lanes. Thus, the Rails to Trails system was born!
Katie Harris, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy spokeswoman, says that “A lot of the trails in Pennsylvania are world-class trails.” In addition to having the most completed trails of any state, Pennsylvania also has more projects that are in process than any other state. Isn’t that awesome?! Where Pennsylvania falls just a little bit short is in overall mileage of trails. Currently, we are in fourth place with a total of 1,740 miles of trails while Michigan has 2,365 miles, Minnesota has 2,337 miles, and Wisconsin with 1,800 miles. But we’ll take two out of three any day!
Right now, there are about 22,000 miles of trails in the United States and once all the current projects are completed, that number will jump to about 30,000! If you want to find out any more information on the Rails-to-Trails system, check out the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.