Interpretive/Nature Trails

Local trails serve as heart of communities

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One great part of the local region is the ability to enjoy nature, and for many, that means walking, biking or hiking on the wide variety of available trails. Too often though, people look at trails for their recreational and/or environmental aspects, failing to see the big picture of what trails can bring to communities, including economic, transportation and public health benefits and a positive effect on community identity.

In addition to providing a safe place for people of all ages to enjoy recreational activities, trails also function as a transportation system.

“The ability to avoid congested streets and highways and travel through natural areas on foot or by non-motorized means, is a large factor in a community’s “livability,”” reads a story on the Rails to Trails Conservancy website.

Trails also have a positive impact on environmental conservation, by helping preserve natural landscapes and offering opportunities for protecting plant and animal species. Through the use of trails, humans can experience nature with minimal environmental impact.

Many communities have experienced economic revitalization, due in part to trails. Trail-based tourism brings in sometimes millions of dollars of revenue from people patronizing local shops and restaurants.

“The return investment is significant, not just for return dollars — for improving the community and making it a place where young families want to relocate,” said Kent Spellman from the Rails to Trails Conservancy in a promotional video.

Trails can also have an impact on the preservation of history, connecting historic sites and providing an opportunity for individuals to physically experience places where historical events once occurred.

Take the Knox & Kane Rail Trail for example. After the recent installment of four interpretive signs, as well as a mural telling the story of Mount Jewett’s Swedish heritage, individuals can experience a piece of history while enjoying some exercise outdoors.

Speaking of the Knox & Kane Rail Trail, Linda Devlin, executive director for the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau, recently contacted The Era about an exciting trail connectivity expansion, “to include connecting the completed part of the Knox & Kane Rail Trail in Kane to Lantz Corners and the section already completed from Lantz Corners to the Kinzua Bridge State Park.”

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