YELLOW SPRINGS — When Rails to Trails launched 30 years ago, just 200 miles of trails existed in the nation. The organization has supported the creation of more than 22,000 miles of trails in the years past. It will allow individuals the opportunity to learn about its mission Saturday, as Rails to Trails celebrates 30 years of its Midwest office being located in Ohio and its recent move to Yellow Springs from Columbus at an open house, beginning 11 a.m. and offering a variety of activities.
“It (Rails to Trails) came out of Americans wanting more biking and walking trails,” Midwest Policy Manager Brian Housh of Rails to Trails said. “Basically the organization started as a way to help catalyze these practices and making it happen. Part of what was going on as well was a lot of railroads were contracting and being abandoned. There were the ideal place to put a trail because they were already laid out. That started this whole movement that continues today.”
Rails to Trails has a current focus on connectivity and meeting the needs of communities through its Projects of National Significance, which aims to develop more complete trails in areas that present the opportunity. Housh feels that trails not only benefit a healthy lifestyle, but economic development and the green movement as well. While the need for more trail mileage called for the creation of Rails to Trails in 1986, the current demand for alternative means of getting around without a car keeps it busy nowadays.
“A lot of work that takes place today is filling in the gaps,” he said. “We are the advocacy piece for the supporting communities that want trails. With almost 30 years, we have lots of case studies, examples, practices and expertise where we can go help communities do these things.”
Yellow Springs appealed to Rails to Trails as the new location due to its walk able streets and proximity to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Beginning 11 a.m., the Little Art Theatre will show films illustrating Rails to Trails, including “Rails to Trails Conservancy: An Introduction to Our Work,” “Pathways to Happy,” “The Rust Belt,” “Trailside Gallery of Idols & Icons a Big Hit in Florida,” “Is it Safe” and “Trails Mean Business.” A second showing of these short films will begin 11:45 a.m.
From 1 to 4 p.m., an open house and health-bike-green fair at the new office, 716 Xenia Avenue, will take place, which will include tours of the facility, mini massages, information highlighting feng shui and various local organizations as well as giveaways.
Beginning at 2 p.m., Greene County Commissioner Tom Koogler, Xenia Mayor Marsha Bayless, Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karen Wintrow and Yellow Springs Village Manager Patti Bates will deliver speeches and cut the ribbon for the new facility. Link Dayton Bike Share will offer a demonstration as well.
“We want to promote healthier places or healthier people – that’s part of our mission statement,” Housh said. “We think about health in a variety of ways, like the traditional physical health and healthy communities, like having economic development. We are trying to connect communities and be a resource for projects. It’s pretty wild – when you look around, you realize these things are happening everywhere.”