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The Growing Importance of Rail Trails

As people get out of doors as both a form of exercise and escape from the pandemic, many are turning to rail trails as a place to walk, run and bike. Nationally, the Rail to Trails Conservancy is gathering steam to create the Great American Rail-Trail, a nationwide trail connection from coast to coast. Locally, the Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council is working to connect the current Shippensburg to Newville trail to its Carlisle trailhead. The LeTort Spring Run Nature Trail is a hidden gem located near the hustle of Route 81 here in Carlisle and is expanding its footprint. Further rail trails can be found in the surrounding counties here in Central Pennsylvania.

Rail trails are ideal for beginners of outdoor activities due to their relatively flat landscape and hard, even surfaces. More advanced enthusiasts can take advantage of the longer lengths to extend their training. Seasonal changes give these trails an enjoyably different feel each time.

Access to the trails is easy and can give one an opportunity to explore different sections. During the pandemic, my grand dog Holtby and I began to explore the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail with a goal of covering every mile walking. From the more urban areas around Shippensburg to the rural farmlands of the countryside, one can glimpse the diversity of the landscape within our region. As we covered all the miles, Holtby and I enjoyed the time together.

Often, one has the trail to oneself, offering moments of meditative contemplation, providing solace and serenity. At other moments, a fellow traveler passes, often with a wave and a hello, giving connection in times where we often feel disconnected from one another. 

Moreover, one can easily slip away for an escape without having to travel far. The LeTort is easily accessible from within Carlisle and one can be transported to rural ideal, even with the hum of trucks rumbling nearby.

It is this connection, to nature, to others and to communities that make rail trails important to me. I see the rail trail as a means of exercise but also means to reconnect to nature and our communities. If you have not explored our local trails, take advantage of the warmer weather to get out and check them out. If you like me, see their importance, become an advocate to support local trails and to expand them nationally.

Here are some resources to explore:

Opt outside!

– Joe

Joe is a store associate at ARC in Carlisle. He loves running the city streets and hiking the great outdoors. In addition to being outside, Joe is a DJ and art columnist. He is a dad of two and has been married for nearly 30 years.