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A Look at Greenways 

04-04-2019 11:13

Since the 1960s Congress has considered the establishment of a national scenic-byways program to mark America's most popular, pleasant, and breathtaking roadways as special natural and cultural resources. Only recently has such a program been legislated-as Section 1047 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. In the meantime three federal land-management 'agencies and several states have named their own scenic byways and have created their own programs. The federal agencies with designated scenic byways are the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the United States Forest Service.

For the National Park Service, parkways constitute a special type of park unit. A parkway is a highway for recreational passenger car traffic with a wide right-of-way that insulates the roadway from abutting private property, minimizes intersections and access points, and protects natural scenic values. The first National Park Service parkways were developed in the 1930s, most notably Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Natchez Trace Parkway. Today there are nine parkways in the National Park Service system, four of which are in or around Washington, D.C.

The Bureau of Land Management has recently developed a system of scenic roads in eleven western states called Back Country Byways. As of January 1992, forty-six roads (2,250 miles) had been designated, but the system is dynamic and the number of roads is changing. Back Country Byways are classified as four types, depending on the surface and general conditions of travel, but most require trucks or four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Bureau of Land Management is placing interpretive kiosks along all Back Country Byways.

The United States Forest Service created its scenic-byway program in 1988, designating roads within the boundaries of existing national forests. The United States Forest Service scenic highways are protected principally by federal ownership of the national forests through which they pass, although in some cases scenic easements have been used as well. As of January 1992 there were 100 roads designated in the United States Forest Service scenic-byway system.


Approximately three fifths of all states have designated some roads as "scenic." In a number of states scenic-byways programs are authorized by legislation and are based on published standards and procedures. Some states have no formal scenic-byways program but have designated a road or some roads as scenic, usually as part of a special initiative. Following are descriptions of three exemplary state scenic-byways programs.

California has one of the strongest scenic-highway designation programs. Although the local jurisdiction takes the lead in designating a scenic road, the state department of transportation (Caltrans) works with the local jurisdiction on a road-protection plan. Ideally, the protection plan includes zoning for a 2,000-foot corridor and addresses land use, billboard controls, planning for underground utilities, and landscaping. For example, Ventura County protects Highway 33, a state-designated scenic highway, through an overlay zone that is detailed in the zoning ordinance. All development within the overlay zone, including grading or removing native vegetation, must be approved by permit.

Virginia Byways are state roads passing through areas of scenic, cultural, or historical importance. Virginia's scenic-byways program was created in 1966 by legislation that gave the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board joint responsibility for road designation. In most cases Virginia Byway designations have originated with the interest and nomination of local governing bodies. Preference is given to roads with compatible local comprehensive planning and zoning already in place. Altogether there are twenty-four designated Virginia Byways--some 800 miles of road. Most are in nonmetropolitan areas of the state.

Wisconsin's Rustic Roads Program was established in 1973 to preserve certain roads from modernization, excessive traffic, and development. As of January 1992 there were sixty-two designated roads, a total of approximately 280 miles. Roads are designated through nomination by local citizens and approval of the rustic roads board of the state department of transportation. All are low-volume, low-function roads that have some outstanding feature, such as terrain, vegetation, or historic significance. Rustic roads receive uniform identifying signage. Protection of the corridors is left to local jurisdictions.


In November 1991 Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, part of which provides funds for a scenic-byways program. Within the next six years the department of transportation will provide $50 million in assistance to states for creating and expanding their scenic-byways programs. An additional $30 million will be available for three years to states with existing byways programs.

The act gives funding priority to plans that conserve scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, and archaeologic resources while providing for increased tourism, and to projects for which there is a strong local commitment to maintaining the road's scenic integrity. Money can be spent to construct facilities that will enhance road use for bikers, pedestrians, and recreational water users as well as for motorists.

The act also establishes a seventeen-member Scenic Byways Advisory Committee to advise the department of transportation in creating minimum standards for scenic designation by state and federal agencies. The committee will include officials from federal agencies as well as representatives of state and local transportation agencies, historic preservationists, conservationists, the tourism industry, and recreational users. The recommendations made by the committee will address operation and management standards for maintaining and improving historic and scenic qualities of the highways and strategies for protecting and enhancing the landscape and view corridors adjacent to the highways.


The National Trails System Act of 1968 established a national system consisting of four types of trails. National scenic trails are intended as continuous routes within protected corridors created for recreational purposes. National historic trails recognize past routes of exploration, migration, and military action. They are not continuous trails but connect historic sites and trail segments. National recreation trails provide a variety of outdoor recreation uses in or accessible to urban areas. Finally, side and connecting trails link parts of the national system to other trails or sites.

National scenic and historic trails are only authorized and designated by acts of Congress. Two were created with the original legislation (the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail); fifteen have been designated through subsequent legislation. Recreation and side and connecting trails are designated by the secretary of the interior or the secretary of agriculture with the consent of the owner(s) of the property involved, which may be federal, state, or local governments or private individuals.

As of January 1992 there were eight scenic trails, nine historic trails, and 780 recreation trails nationwide. Only two side and connecting trails have been designated, both in 1990.

Although national scenic and historic trails are designated through congressional legislation and are overseen by the National Park Service, their management and maintenance are shared by state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. The Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, for example, has been established by and is managed through the cooperative efforts of various entities. The National Park Service administers the trail as a unit of the park system through its Midwest office in Madison, Wisconsin. The state of Wisconsin provides a matching fund to local groups of up to $500,000 annually to develop and protect the trail. The Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation protects the trail on private land through acquisition of land and easements. The Ice Age Council, a membership organization, works with local landowners and performs much of the work to build the trail.


The Rails-to-Trails program involves the conversion of abandoned railroad rights-of-way to recreational trail corridors. The National Trails System Act of 1968 states that the Interstate Commerce Commission, as well as other federal agencies with jurisdiction over rights-of-way, shall cooperate with the secretary of the interior and the secretary of agriculture to assure that properties suitable for trails may be made available for such use.

The process of converting a rail corridor to a trail can be difficult and complex, depending on the type of railroad abandonment procedure, the degree of railroad ownership (land or simply the right-of-way), and the willingness of adjacent landowners to relinquish claims to the rights-of-way. In 1983 the National Trails Act was amended to allow "rail banking," a process by which railroads do not have to abandon rights-of-way but may hold them for future transportation use. In such circumstances railroads may choose to transfer rights-of-way to states, political subdivisions, or private organizations willing to assume full responsibility of management for interim recreational use.

In 1985 the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was established as a nonprofit membership organization that works with local communities and groups to assume management of abandoned or banked rights-of-way. The conservancy has greatly facilitated the rails-to-trails conversion process. The National Park Service also provides technical assistance to communities in rails-to-trails efforts through their Recreation Resources Assistance Division.

As of January 1992 there were more than 440 rail-trails (4,890 miles) across the United States. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy expects to recognize the 500th rail-trail conversion by the end of 1992. The Midwest region has more rail-trails than any other region of the country.


States have implemented varying types of trails programs. These range from the oversight and maintenance of established trails within the boundaries of existing state parks to ownership and maintenance of multiple trails on converted railroad rights-of-way to the provision of matching grants to local jurisdictions for trail development and maintenance. Following are descriptions of four representative state trails programs.

Colorado's trails program, instituted in 1971, was initially administered as a program to promote greenbelts within thirty miles of cities with populations exceeding 50,000. In 1982 the Division of Parks and Recreation was able to expand its trail program statewide with funds from the state lottery. Since then Colorado has constructed more than 140 miles of new trails while coordinating a mammoth volunteer effort to maintain existing trails. The Trails Program funds local trail proposals on a merit basis, favoring proposals that connect to the network of existing trails and have strong local support. Additionally, the Division of Parks and Recreation collects registration fees at state parks from snowmobiles and off-highway vehicles to improve the trail system for vehicles.

Most of the Iowa state trails are within the boundaries of state parks administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Department of Natural Resources owns the right-of-way of one former rail corridor that has been converted to a trail in Dickinson County, the nine-mile-long Iowa Great Lakes Trail. The rail-trail is managed under a twenty-year contract by the Dickinson County Conservation Board. Iowa's Recreational Trails Program provides annual funding of $1 million from the state gas tax as grants to local agencies, municipal corporations, counties, and nonprofit organizations for recreational trail development. The program is administered by the state Department of Transportation. Applicants must provide at least a twenty-five-percent funding match. As of January 1992 twenty-six trails were funded through this program (including the Great Lakes Trail in Dickinson County). The majority of these were rail-trails.

Minnesota has an extensive trails program in place, operating some 1,000 miles of trail within the boundaries of state parks and more than 800 miles of state-owned trail corridors and providing grants to local jurisdictions for trail establishment and management. Minnesota's state trails offer recreation for biking, hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Included in the state trails system are five rail-trail parks. The Luce Line State Trail, for example, is a sixty-four-mile-long former rail corridor for hiking and biking just west of Minneapolis.

Vermont's state trails are all located within state parks, but the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation cooperates with the United States Forest Service and recreational clubs to maintain a network of more than 5,000 miles of trails. Of these, half are snowmobile trails that rely on an informal right-of-way system worked out between the state and private landowners. In the Vermont Trails Council the state encourages a leading role for such private hiking clubs as the Green Mountain Club, and a strong snowmobile association, the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers. The Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation provides information about trails, lobbies the legislature for funds to maintain the system, and serves as a liaison for trail users.


The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 was passed primarily to protect rivers in a free-flowing state without impoundments, diversions, and other water-resources projects. For river segments designated to the national system the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is directed not to license the construction of any dam, conduit, reservoir, transmission line, or any other project, and no other federal agency may construct a water-resources project that would adversely affect the river segments.

River segments are generally designated through acts of Congress; however, states may apply to the secretary of the interior to have state-designated rivers included in the national system. These receive the protection of federal designation, yet are administered by the states at no expense to the federal government. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act named eight rivers to the system; since 1968, 115 additional river segments have been added, the majority through acts of Congress.

Rivers in the system are designated wild, scenic, or recreational, depending on their condition at the time of designation. Wild rivers are free of impoundments and are generally inaccessible except by trail; scenic rivers are free of impoundments, have largely undeveloped shorelines, but are accessible in places by roads; recreational rivers are readily accessible, have some development along their shorelines, and may have undergone some impoundment.

Wild and scenic rivers are administered by one of the federal land-management agencies: the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or the Fish and Wildlife Service. These federal agencies develop river-management plans, manage federal lands in the river corridors, and, if necessary, control recreational use of the rivers. They may acquire land or easements in the river corridors, depending on the management plan. States are responsible for water rights, water quality, and the administration of state land-use regulations on nonfederal lands along the rivers.


Wild and scenic rivers programs administered by states vary considerably. Most states passed wild and scenic river legislation in the late 1960s or early 1970s and designated rivers to their systems but have done little to enlarge the systems in recent years. Following are descriptions of three representative state rivers programs.

Maine's River Program operates with minimum land-use controls on most rivers and stringent control on a few rivers of statewide importance. The Maine River Act was passed in 1983. The act categorized many of the state's rivers and segments of rivers into four classes, each with certain restrictions. The strength of Maine's program lies in a set of minimum standards that all localities are required to adopt for both rivers and shorelines. Additionally, the state itself is the primary regulating body in Maine's vast unorganized territories. There, the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission act jointly in creating and enforcing zoning ordinances. Any proposed changes that affect the scenic or environmental quality of rivers must be reviewed by both the Land Use Regulation Commission and the State Rivers Program.

The Michigan Natural Rivers program was established in 1970 and is administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Fourteen river segments have been designated in Michigan, a total of almost 1,700 miles. The staff of the Department of Natural Resources or local citizens groups may recommend a river for designation study; a management plan is developed in cooperation with local citizens. The Natural Resources Commission approves the plan and designates the river as wilderness, wild scenic, or country scenic. Impoundments are prohibited on wilderness and wild scenic rivers. All designated river corridors are protected through state or local zoning or local ordinances that govern lot size, setbacks, and land-use restrictions.

Oregon's Wild and Scenic Rivers Program was established in 1970 through popular referendum. The program includes more than 1,200 miles of designated rivers and affects the land within a quarter of a mile of each shore. Within the river corridor some activities are prohibited, such as dam construction and tracer mining. Although most new construction is allowed, it must first be reviewed by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department. The state, relying on rules established for each river corridor, must decide if the changes impair the scenic quality of the river. Proposals may be modified or denied. If landowners refuse to comply with the rulings, the Scenic Waterways Act allows for purchase of the land through eminent domain. The Parks and Recreation Department also plays a leading role in assisting citizens, localities, and other state agencies in developing required local zoning ordinances.

South Carolina has completed a comprehensive river assessment. The seventy-member committee that worked on the study represented the interests of government, recreation, conservation, and industry. The study evaluated and grouped 11,000 miles of river into fourteen categories. The study identified areas where conflicting uses were present and recommended areas suitable for state acquisition.

In 1988 the state passed a state rivers law that set a standard for river quality on state land. Because of inadequate funding, however, the state is unable to acquire land and cannot regulate beyond the boundaries of state-owned land. South Carolina is considering legislating land-use regulation to protect privately owned portions of river corridors.


The Recreation Resources Assistance Division of the National Park Service provides technical assistance to states, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to protect rivers and trails outside of the boundaries of national parks and national forests through the Rivers and Trails Assistance Program. The program provides assistance to states to assess and plan for river and trail resources statewide and to local entities to plan for and manage river and trail corridors.

States and local entities apply for assistance through National Park Service regional offices. The assistance is provided by regional staff. Assistance takes the form of consultations, demonstration projects, cooperative planning efforts, workshops, and conferences. If circumstances warrant, the request for assistance is passed through the regional office to the Washington, D.C., office of the division, which sets policy and coordinates assistance efforts. Selected examples of recent Rivers and Trails Assistance projects follow.

The National Park Service worked on conservation initiatives along the Ohio & Erie Canal, which is linked to the Cuyahoga National Recreation Area, and is providing ongoing assistance to a local coalition in planning the Cuyahoga River/Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor.

The Park Service is also assisting development of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail through Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. An automobile route paralleling Boone's travels will be marked with roadside signs.

Finally, the National Park Service is assisting and promoting the 240-mile-Iong New Hampshire Heritage Trail, which follows three of the state's largest rivers from Massachusetts to Canada. The National Park Service met with communities to build trail support and helped to develop local committees to construct the trail.


National heritage corridors are public/private initiatives that designate areas (typically river or canal corridors) linking historic and recreational sites. Their intent is both to preserve cultural resources and to promote tourism for the economic benefit of local communities. To date three national heritage corridors have been designated through acts of Congress: the Illinois & Michigan (I & M) Canal National Heritage Corridor in Illinois (1984), the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor in Massachusetts and Rhode Island (1986), and the Delaware and Lehigh Valley Navigation Canal National Heritage Corridor in Pennsylvania (1988).

There is no umbrella legislation governing national heritage corridors, and no federal staff oversee their administration. National heritage corridors are created largely through the efforts of local citizens and communities, but often with the cooperation of the Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service. Ultimately, because federally recognized national heritage corridors are designated by Congress, efforts must be aimed at influencing politicians to sponsor appropriate legislation.

The first national heritage corridor was the I & M Canal in Illinois. Credited largely to the efforts of Gerry Adelmann, the president of the Canal Corridor Association, the I & M designation involved cooperative planning between the National Park Service and numerous local groups, as well as the sponsorship of state legislators. The canal is overseen by a nineteen-member commission representing preservation, recreation, and business interests and government agencies. Commission efforts have involved signage, interpretive and promotional materials, trails development, and historic preservation and restoration. Within the corridor are numerous historic sites, museums, nature and forest preserves, parks, and trails-including the sixty-mile-long I & M Canal State Trail.

The three national heritage corridors, as well as ongoing efforts to designate new corridors, are largely in the Northeast or Midwest regions of the United States and are associated with transportation and industrial development of the early and mid-nineteenth century. Related to heritage corridors is America's Industrial Heritage Project, focused on nine counties of southwestern Pennsylvania. Through this project a congressionally created Heritage Preservation Commission in the Department of the Interior oversees the recognition, preservation, and protection of the region's resources based on the iron, steel, coal, and transportation industries.

Several states have formulated formal heritage park programs that are similar in intent to the national program-for example, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Additionally, other states have provided funding for heritage-corridor studies and are cooperating with local governments and communities in corridor designation.

Massachusetts's Heritage Parks Program has been operating since the early 1970s when efforts were begun to rehabilitate the deteriorating canal system and industrial structures in inner-city Lowell. Within several years a statewide program was developed creating a system of parks in historic urban contexts with the intent of stimulating economic development and providing open space. Today Massachusetts has seven fully operating heritage parks under the management of the Division of Forests and Parks. All are on land acquired by the state and include actual open green space. The parks have stimulated adjacent public and private urban renewal and have provided both a focus for cultural events and programs and much-needed open space in deteriorating downtowns.

Pennsylvania's Heritage Parks program was inaugurated in early 1990 to create a system of parks to preserve the state's industrial heritage, to enhance regional economies through tourism and employment opportunities, and to provide new corridors for recreation. Three of the areas-the Delaware and Lehigh Canal corridor, the Johnstown-Windber-Altoona corridor, and the Lackawanna Valley-are developing management plans; the others are conducting feasibility studies. Each heritage park will be operated through intergovernmental cooperative efforts. Planning and implementation projects will be funded through grants from the Department of Community Affairs.



In 1973 Wisconsin created the Rustic Roads Program in order to keep certain roads free from modernization, widening, development, and heavy commercial traffic. In 1975 the first rustic road was designated. As of 1990 the state had designated fifty-seven rustic roads, a total of some 280 miles.

Any governmental body may apply for a rustic road classification, and the road remains under its jurisdiction. A ten-person rustic roads board approves applications. To qualify for rustic road designation a road must be a low-volume local access road not scheduled for major improvements, with some outstanding features, such as terrain or historical significance. Most are two-lane paved roads, but they may be gravel or dirt.

Wisconsin's rustic roads are all marked with uniform brown-and-yellow signage. They are maintained to preserve their rustic character. Local jurisdictions are encouraged to enact land-use controls along the rustic road route and to install roadside markers for historic structures, places, and events. A recent survey of communities participating in the rustic roads program indicates that one of the major reasons for participation is the protection and preservation of the resources along the road; the benefits of tourism were seldom cited as an important concern.

Some rustic roads are designated specifically to preserve the historic character of the corridor. R53 in the Fox Valley of Outagamie County, southwest of Green Bay, is a case in point. It was designated in 1988 partly as a result of a local effort to preserve a 1922 double-arch stone bridge that was threatened with replacement. The Historical Society of the Town of Kaukauna nominated the 4.19-mile-long route. The roads of the town were originally built in 1857 and several historic structures are prominent along the route, including a town hall (formerly a schoolhouse) dating from 1878, a 1922 schoolhouse, a century-old farm, a stone silo more than 100 years old, and a cottonwood tree twenty-two feet in diameter. Some of the land along the route is zoned for resource conservation.

R53 is within the boundaries of the area of the proposed Fox-Wisconsin River systems heritage corridor between Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. Largely through the efforts of the nonprofit organization Friends of the Fox, legislation was introduced in Congress to designate the area a National Heritage Corridor. This region has also been selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a pilot project under the Heritage Tourism initiative. In addition to their scenery and recreation potential, the Fox and Wisconsin river valleys are rich in historic resources. An eighteenth-century lock system is still in operation along the Fox River.


The six-mile-long Storm King Highway is carved out of the rock cliffs along the Hudson River and connects the United States Military Academy at West Point with the village of Cornwall. The highway provides panoramic views of the river gorge where Newburgh Bay narrows dramatically. Storm King Highway was one of the first designated scenic roads in New York State.

The scenic roads program in New York is managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation. In 1980 the state passed the Scenic Roads Program, designed with the goals of protecting, preserving, and enhancing the natural and manmade scenic beauty; promoting a greater awareness and appreciation of the state's scenic, ecological, cultural, and historical attributes; and providing economic benefits by stimulating tourism.

Most of the 112 miles of road designated as scenic in New York are located within the Hudson River Valley. This is the result of the work of the Heritage Task Force, an advisory !!TOUD that has worked to rally local support around nominations. The task force was formed in response to increased development pressure that threatened the scenic qualities of the area. In 1985 task force members initially evaluated roads on a point system and submitted a plan that included not only roads with unique scenic and historic characteristics, but also less interesting roads that linked scenic roads together. The state rejected this proposal, choosing to focus the program on discontinuous stretches of particularly high-ranking highway. The Storm King Highway was one such area.

Each proposed road is evaluated on three criteria: The road must have exceptional composition; the road must provide significant opportunities to observe features of regional importance; and the local community must demonstrate significant local support for the designation. Through the efforts of the Heritage Task Force, both the towns of Highland and Cornwall at either end of Storm King Highway supported the project. Both towns submitted local maintenance and management plans dealing with such issues as sign age, billboard control, and scenic easements, a package of special guidelines that the state requires as part of the designation process.

The Heritage Task Force stresses the role of local support for several reasons. Not only is it necessary for success in designation, but local support also translates into the loyalty necessary to keep the highway up to standard in the absence of state enforcement. Seven years after its initial designation as a scenic highway, the one overlook on the Storm King Highway is maintained through an informal arrangement with the Cornwall Conservation Commission. A signage program is under way.


The Rock Island Trail northwest of Peoria is the only rail-trail in the Illinois state park system. The mostly shaded corridor provides occasional open vistas of prairie and farmland and crosses numerous waterways, including the historic Spoon River, which is spanned by an old steel railroad bridge.

The twenty-six-and-a-half-mile-Iong right-of-way was abandoned in 1963, acquired by the Forest Park Foundation in 1969, and deeded to the state that year. The Rock Island Trail was declared a state park in 1973, but it was another seventeen years before the trail was open for public use from one end to the other. The story of the Rock Island Trail is one of stormy opposition and persistent, never-give-up support from trail proponents.

From the beginning local landowners along the trail opposed it. They were concerned about vandalism and trespassing by trail users, the threat of land acquisition, inadequate drainage from culverts along the trail, and brush overgrowth. They proved persuasive with the state legislature. In 1975 the General Assembly prohibited spending public funds on the trail and over the years introduced numerous resolutions to sell the state park. Trail proponents organized Friends of the Rock Island Trail to take over fund-raising and trail construction. Several times, as a result of legislative proposals, volunteer work on the trail was suspended. In 1983, shortly after volunteers constructed decking and guard rails on the bridge over the Spoon River, the bridge burned. Arson was suspected.

With the help of the state Department of Conservation the conflict between trail proponents and opponents was finally resolved in 1986. The resolution assumed the form of a written agreement between the Rock Island Trail Property Owners Association and the Friends of the Rock Island Trail, Inc. The Department of Conservation agreed to fence areas of the trail to reduce the threat of trespass, replace and repair culverts, trim trees and brush adjacent to agricultural land, and buy property from landowners only on a "willing seller" basis. Shortly after the agreement was signed, the Illinois governor approved operating funds to complete and maintain the trail.

An eleven-member Rock Island Trail Advisory Board, representing a range of trail interests, oversees trail management by the Department of Conservation. The Friends of the Rock Island Trail continue to lend strong support. One of their recent efforts involves the restoration of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad depot in Wyoming, which the organization purchased in 1986 and which was listed in the National Register in 1987.


The Washington & Old Dominion Rail-Trail connects some of Washington D.C.'s suburban communities with the countryside community of Purcellville, Virginia. The greenway serves as a public utility route as well as a recreational park. Built on the right-of-way of the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, which stopped running in 1968, the park is only 100 feet wide. Throughout much of the forty-four-and-a-half-mile trail, two separate paths have been developed, one for bikers, hikers, walkers, and joggers, the other for horseback riders. The Washington & Old Dominion Trail is visited by approximately two million persons each year.

After the train stopped running, the Virginia Electric and Power Company purchased the railroad right-of-way and installed overhead power lines. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority began negotiating with the utility in 1971 and has slowly developed the land. The purchase of the right-of-way was piecemeal; it was begun in 1978 and completed in 1982. Altogether the park has cost more than $12 million. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has relied on grants from various federal and state agencies for acquisition and development, receiving a Rails-to-Trails grant from the Department of the Interior in 1973 to pave the most urban portions of the trail prior to acquisition. In 1978 and 1980 the Virginia Commission of Outdoor Recreation provided a total of $1 million, and in 1983 the Land and Water Conservation Fund awarded $160,000. The grants allowed the park to begin construction of a crushed-rock horse trail in 1985. Soon thereafter the trail was designated a National Recreation Trail by the United States Department of the Interior. In 1990 two bridges were constructed over highways.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority publishes a newsletter, Trail Times, and a trail guide, which points out local restaurants, bike shops, rest rooms, and other nearby trail systems. Both guides and newsletters are available in boxes in a number of "bubble" parks, which the park connects; many are located in old railroad stations designed with train motifs. Future plans include resurfacing sections of the trail and expanding it to connect to recently donated land adjacent to the Appalachian Trail.


The Little Miami River in southwestern Ohio runs 105 miles from its headwaters, cutting through Clifton Gorge and flowing through high bluffs to a wide floodplain and its confluence with the Ohio River. Along its scenic route are numerous sites of historical interest, including the prehistoric site Fort Ancient, a National Historic Landmark. The Little Miami was the first river in Ohio to be named to the Scenic Rivers Program, designated in three segments in 1969 and 1971. In August 1973 sixty-six miles of the Little Miami were designated by the secretary of the interior to the national Wild and Scenic Rivers System, eighteen as scenic and forty-eight as recreational. In January 1980 an additional twenty-eight miles of the river were designated as recreational, again by the secretary of the interior. The scenic river is managed by the state of Ohio under federal designation.

State oversight of the Little Miami River is handled by the scenic rivers coordinator for the southwestern region of the state. The coordinator serves as a liaison between public and private interests for the state, encourages and coordinates preservation efforts in the river corridor, and convenes the ten-member advisory council, which is made up of local citizens in the four-county area through which the river flows.

The designations of the Little Miami are largely attributable to the role of Little Miami, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed in 1967 to promote protective state and federal legislation. This advocacy group has overseen all aspects of scenic river protection and promotion. In 1979, five years after the Penn Central Railroad ceased operation in the Little Miami Valley, the organization lobbied successfully for Rails-to-Trails funds and state funds to purchase forty-five miles of the railroad right-of-way, which parallels the river.

Little Miami, Inc., works with local governments to develop protection plans and operates as a land trust, working to acquire protective lands and easements, some of which it turns over to public entities. Approximately twenty-five percent of the land along the Little Miami is in public ownership. The privately held land along the river is protected through vigilance and local efforts. Six out of the twenty townships along the river have river protection zoning, which governs a floodplain corridor of between 50 and 120 feet. Little Miami, Inc., works with developers in the corridor to assure that the river is protected.


The headwaters of the Mississippi River wind through an eight-county region of northern Minnesota. The management of the headwaters is overseen by the Mississippi Headwaters Board, composed of one county commissioner from each of the eight counties. The board manages the river through a conservation ordinance-a shoreline ordinance governing a corridor with an average width of approximately a mile and a half- and a management plan.

The Mississippi Headwaters Board was organized in 1980 when the National Park Service began undertaking preliminary master planning in anticipation of the area's designation as a national Wild and Scenic River. Local citizen concern about the federal designation was strong, and local leaders formed the headwaters board to begin their own plan for river protection. Eventually, the National Park Service recognized the strength of the board's planning efforts and dropped the Wild and Scenic River initiative. The National Park Service has worked in partnership with the Mississippi Headwaters Board over the last ten years through the Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance program. Recently, for example, as part of the updating of the management plan, the National Park Service reviewed the model ordinance section and analyzed alternatives on river protection zoning.

The Mississippi Headwaters Board operates with the advice of a twenty-four-member citizens advisory committee, representing landowners along the river, conservationists, the recreation industry, agriculture, the wood-products industry, and other interest groups. The board is also advised by a technical advisory committee that includes county zoning officials and representatives of the Chippewa National Forest, Soil & Water Conservation districts, townships, and the state Department of Natural Resources. The Board deals with all land-use issues within the headwaters shoreline region and works to keep its ordinance and management plan current and responsive.

Cultural resources protection and interpretation in the Mississippi Headwaters region have become increasingly important goals of the board. The Headwaters Heritage Task Force was created in late 1990 to promote awareness and understanding of cultural resources in the region and to advise the board on cultural resources concerns. A video on the natural and cultural history of the Mississippi Headwaters was recently completed. A second video on a survey of the archaeological resources of the region is planned. The Mississippi Headwaters Board is inventorying known cultural sites in the headwaters region, evaluating the cultural resources review process, and preparing educational and informational materials for landowners about cultural sites on their property.


The Ford Heritage Trails are a joint project of the Wayne County Parks Division, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and Fair Lane, the Henry Ford estate. The project consists of four self-guided tours through five counties of southeast Michigan and Windsor and Ontario, Canada, featuring historic sites relating to Henry Ford, the rise of the automobile industry, and modern industrial technology. The sites include a series of village mills owned by Ford, the Ford estate, Ford Motor Company buildings, museums, and villages. The Heritage Trails link geographically and thematically associated sites. Several of the sites, such as the Ford estate, Nankin Mills, and Greenfield Village are listed in the National Register.

The Ford Heritage Trails project began in 1985 with the cooperation of the Wayne County Parks Division and the Director of the Henry Ford estate. Some of these sites are owned by the Wayne County Parks Department, some by the Ford family (Fair Lane is owned by the University of Michigan, Dearborn), and some by other private owners but all participate cooperatively in the project. The Michigan Department of Transportation designed and erected thirty travel billboards advertising the Heritage Trails. A promotional brochure was financed through a grant from the Michigan Travel Bureau and matched by privately raised funds. The Ford Heritage Association is currently being organized as a membership organization to support promotion and development of the heritage concept.

The creation of the Ford Heritage Trails has had a dramatic impact on many of the participating sites. When the project began six years ago, most sites were abandoned buildings, unused and unwanted by local jurisdictions. Today most of the sites are being rehabilitated and reused for industrial, commercial, social, and cultural purposes. For example, Plymouth Mills is now a community arts council office, Northville Mill will be a library and senior citizen center, and the Rawsonville Plant will be privately developed as a museum of man-made energy.

Interpretation of the cultural resources along the Trails varies by site. Some sites, such as the Ford estate, are open for touring. A book describing the historic buildings along the Trails is currently in production. Interpretive markers will be erected at all the sites by spring of 1992.


At Battleship Cove, where the Quequechan and Taunton rivers converge in southern Massachusetts, the Fall River Heritage Park was created in 1978, the second in the state system after Lowell. Fall River was the country's largest producer of cotton textiles in the last half of the nineteenth century. This prominence was due largely to its deep-water port, which allowed the importation of coal for steam-powered looms. By the third quarter of the twentieth century, however, Fall River’s prominence had long faded, the mills had been abandoned, and the site where the park is today had been cut off from downtown by a three-level limited-access highway constructed during the 1960s.

All of Massachusetts's heritage parks serve three purposes: (1) to provide center-city open space, (2) to interpret and honor special aspects of a city's history, and (3) to work to stimulate public and private urban renewal. Fall River has been successful in meeting all three purposes.

The heritage park constructed at Fall River consists of eight and a half acres located on the waterfront on the site where coal was formerly unloaded. The park includes a visitors center, a landscaped esplanade, and a boathouse along the docks. State park staff believe that the provision of op n space along the river is the most important function of the Fall River park.

The heritage of Fall River is interpreted and celebrated through a slide show at the visitors center and a walking tour of the riverfront. The adjacent Marine Museum, although not part of the park, documents the history of the Old Fall River Steamship Line and interprets the functions of the city as an industrial port. There are several submarines and ships, including the USS Massachusetts, that can be boarded and toured. The park attracts more out-of-region tourists-approximately sixty percent-than most other Massachusetts heritage parks.

The development of the Fall River Heritage Park has stimulated as much as $20 million in additional community investment in neighboring areas. Many of the mills along the river house light industry or factory outlets catering to the tourists.


In 1990 Pennsylvania provided $550,000 for eight regional study and planning projects under the newly created Heritage Parks Program. The purpose of Pennsylvania's heritage parks is to stimulate economic development, historic preservation, recreational opportunities, and education. All are to be developed through intergovernmental cooperation. Three of the eight regions-the Delaware and Lehigh Canal, the Johnstown-Windber-Altoona corridor, and the Lackawanna Valley-are the most fully developed parks conceptually; management action plans for each are being developed in conjunction with the National Park Service.

Lackawanna Valley, in northeastern Pennsylvania, was a nineteenth-century hub of iron, coal, and steel production as well as rail transportation. Today, the region is characterized by polluted streams and culm banks-the scars of coal mining. It has experienced serious unemployment and outmigration with the deterioration of the region's economic base. Lackawanna Valley is using $110,000 of the state grant to develop its management action plan. Two teams of consultants worked on the plan with the project team composed of representatives from the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, the Lackawanna County Planning Commission, the city of Scranton, and the state Historical and Museum Commission.

Part of the planning effort for the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Park was a survey and data analysis of Lackawanna County's historic industrial sites, including iron furnaces, silk mills, breweries, foundries, a railroad roundhouse, and remains of the coal and railroad industries. The survey and analysis have played an important role in defining the boundaries and features of the heritage park.

The focus of the heritage park will be Steamtown, a forty-acre railroad yard in Scranton that has been declared a National Historic Site by the National Park Service. Here, the National Park Service is reconstructing the yard and assembling steam locomotives to illustrate the locomotive industry and the role of rail transportation in steel production. The heritage park will provide rail service from Steamtown to remnant iron furnaces and other industrial sites. The park's development will also focus on recreational opportunities. The Pennsylvania Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is currently studying rail-corridor possibilities and a proposal to link Steamtown with the Anthracite Heritage Museum.


Publication date: March/April 1992


Author(s):Shelley S. Mastran