Do rail-trails attract crime and vandalism to neighborhoods?
No. There is no evidence that rail-trails cause an increase in crime. In fact, trail development tends to decrease the risk of crime in comparison to an abandoned and undeveloped rail corridor.
A 1998 study published under the oversight of the National Park Service that included nearly 372 rail-trails showed an excellent safety record. Only 3 percent of rail-trails reported any major crimes at all.
The study also showed only a quarter of rail-trails reported minor crimes such as littering and graffiti. Five percent reported trespassing and less than 1 percent reported burglary. These problems are easily addressed with proper maintenance of the trail.
How do local law enforcement officials view the safety of the rail-trail?
HPD Chief Guy Howie chaired the 2009 committee that recommended the city use the rail spur as a greenway. Howie has consistently said the project will be a safety improvement. The increased presence of law-abiding citizens and the increased visibility of a cleared pathway will deter most criminal activity, Howie said. The most popular parks in Hopkinsville are also the ones that see the least crime.
The chief expects to utilize the existing police force for trail security. HPD already has the all-terrain vehicle, Segway personal transporters and bikes that enable his officers to travel the trail with ease.
The patrol of many rail-trails is done by volunteer groups. Howie said that his vision for public safety welcomes the participation of neighborhood watch groups and other community-driven efforts.
How can trails be made as safe as possible?
Trail advocates should be sure to address security concerns beginning in the planning stages and continuing through the development of a trail's management plan. The trail's design can also enhance safety, such as landscaping in a manner that limits deep shadows and hiding areas or installing emergency telephones in key areas along the trail. Various safety programs can be used once the trail opens, ranging from limiting use to daylight hours to establishing volunteer trail ranger programs and holding periodic "safety days."
The best safety features for a rail-trail do not add greatly to its cost. They include call boxes, access for emergency vehicles and impediments for unauthorized motor vehicles.
Regularly budgeted maintenance can also get a boost from volunteer groups committed to pick up litter and cutback overgrowth.
What about public and private liability?
Generally trails are covered by the overall insurance policy of the public entity that manages the trail. Public liability risks from trails are small relative to other public services like roads, playgrounds and swimming pools. By taking safety concerns into account when designing and maintaining your trail, you can lower these risks. With respect to liability risks to trail neighbors, private landowners are protected by recreational-use statutes in all states except Alaska and in the District of Columbia. Under these statutes, a landowner who does not charge a trail access fee will not be held liable for injuries sustained on his/her property unless an injured person can prove "willful and wanton misconduct on the part of the landowner."
Will the Trail affect your property value and ability to sell?
If so, the impact is more likely to be in your favor.
The dozen most-cited surveys of residents and real estate agents of trail-neighbor property show the majority of respondents saw either an increase or no effect on the value of their property. The surveys range from many U.S. cities and date between 1987 and 2002. Some compared the impact on properties adjacent to the trail with the impact on properties nearby. In many cases, property value did not change. Among residents who did see a change, however, those whose homes went up in value far outnumbered those who saw a decrease. Each survey found those property owners with decreased value to be in a small minority.
The realtors in these surveys were more likely to see the rail-trail as a value booster than as a value depressor. In one large study, more than 90 percent of realtors questioned indicated they use the rail trail as a selling point in their advertising. Overall, these surveys more frequently showed an increase in value the closer the property was to the trail.
What about the privacy of those living near the trail?
According to a National Park Service study, The Impacts of Rail-Trails, most adjacent owners experience a minimal loss of privacy from the establishment of a rail-trail. Generally rail-trails have a thick row of already established trees and shrubs along their edges. In some cases, adjacent landowners have already taken steps to ensure their privacy from trains, passengers, train crews and other former corridor users. Often, trail design specifications will call for additional vegetative screening to be added to the trail corridor to protect privacy. Fencing is expensive and rarely necessary, although some landowners do erect fences-often with a gate so they can access the trail.
Do trail crossings create traffic hazards?
No, when properly designed. An advantage of rail-trails is that they tend to have fewer road crossings and driveways than on-street trails. Where crossings exist, well-placed warning and directional signs-both on the road and the trail-can prevent problems and help trail users and motorists avoid dangerous situations. In addition, trail advocates can work with the community to develop user education programs that teach trail etiquette and bicycle safety.
Who owns the abandoned rail corridor?
The City of Hopkinsville.
How many miles of trail are proposed?
Phase 1 of the current rail trail proposal includes development of 2.1 miles of greenway. There are approximately 7.4 miles of rail corridor starting at the Eagle Way Bypass and ending near the Library downtown, in addition to the spur that crosses South Virginia Street.
How much will the Trail cost?
We are working on estimates. However, there are Federal, State and Private grants that will cover most of the expense of developing the trail. The Federal TEA-21 grant will cover between 80 and 95% of the development costs. Additionally, other grants may be used as the matching portion of the TEA-21 grant, up to 95%. The local match can include in-kind donations such as city labor, equipment and other resources.
What are the Benefits of a Trail?
Studies have shown that Economic Benefits generally range from $3 to $15 per visit on consumables like sports drinks and snacks, and annual accessory purchases can increase from $100 to $250 per person. In addition there are wholesome health benefits to the community. Overall, opportunities for enhanced quality of life in and around Hopkinsville can only be improved.
Who uses the Trail?
Nearly 90% of traditional trail users are bikers and walkers.
GREENWAY CONVERT TESTIMONIALS
Former rail-trail opponents became its biggest supporters after the greenway arrived. The following letters to the editor of the Rails-To-Trails newsletter Trail Talk in 2000 show dramatic turnarounds.
Kristine Poelzer, Arden Hills, Minnesota
In 1990, Arden Hills Parks and Recreation wanted to put in an 8-foot wide blacktop trail cutting through several blocks of residential area in my neighborhood. The paved trail was to be on an NSP easement under existing power lines heading northeast from County Road D to Country Road E. It would follow the power lines between homes and not along roadways, but cutting across them instead.
I openly opposed this trail as I voiced my opinion with neighbors, the Mayor, and at the City Council Meeting. Since this trail would be next to my back yard and I had no personal use for it, I felt it was a bad thing to have. I envisioned all sorts of horrible things happening to take away form the pleasant backyard I had come to love. I was so against the building of this paved trail, I had no desire to listen to the good things proposed to result from its existence. To my good fortune, the City Council opted not to implement the voices of naysayers as they know what was in the best interest for the long term of our neighborhood. They voted to build a paved trail.
Without this trail, my son would not have learned to inline skate at such an early age, nor bicycled on his own over to his grandmother's house, who lives near the other end of the trail. Without this trail my neighbor and I wouldn't have taken up our early morning walks. Without this trail people wouldn't be able to link up as quickly or easily or safely with other trails in communities next to ours. Every day of the week and almost every hour of daylight, someone is right at the edge of my yard behind my house as they use this paved trail - walking, running, jogging, inline skating, bicycling, pulling a wagon, pushing a stroller, or walking a pet. Because of this friendly sort of 'traffic,' numerous eyes are watching my house whether we are home or not; that's old fashioned neighborhood security that money can't buy.
There's been no problem with litter, noise or window peepers, and no damage to the trail or my property. There's been plenty of smiles on my face, though, as I've watched from my kitchen window or my deck the families sharing time together on bikes and trikes, groups of kids with beach towels or fishing poles in their wagons heading for the lake, early risers getting in their aerobic exercise, or couples catching the last rays of a sunset as they stroll along after dinner.
As I came to realize the positive effect this trail has had on our neighborhood, I recently sought the appointment from the city council to serve as a citizen representative on the master plan task force for the Ramsey County Park that includes the beach at Lake Johanna. Working with this group I've become a strong advocate for the inclusion of both paved and non-paved trails for recreational use throughout the 400-acre park.
Recreational trails give big payoffs at little or no risk and offer everyone lots of possibilities.
Dianne, an Adjacent Property Owner from Wayne Township, Indiana
I am an adjacent landowner to the former B&O corridor in Wayne Township. About five years ago I heard that a not-for-profit group (and then Indy Greenways) wanted to turn the corridor into a bike path. I was outraged. I had that disease called NIMBY (not in my backyard).
I went to a meeting in 1994 where the folks of Rail Corridor Development Inc. talked about the trail. Still, I wasn't sure I wanted this trail in my back yard. I went to a public meeting in 1997 at Brownsburg and found out that there were lots of people like me ... ones who didn't want a trail. But, as a result of that meeting, I was able to talk to some folks who told me to find out for myself what a trail would be like. So I walked the corridor behind my house as far as I could go and found it breathtakingly beautiful. There are actually high bluffs along that former corridor.
And then, I went to Broad Ripple and walked on the Monon Trail. There I saw people walking, riding bikes, pushing baby strollers and doing stuff that we did in the "good old days." And they were friendly and said hello and were minding their own business. What an eye opening experience. What I did not see were people who walked along and gawked into windows to see what people in those houses were up to. In most cases, I didn't even see the houses because of the dense shrubbery. I did not see trash strewn all over the place. I didn't see people riding down the corridor with stolen merchandise. I didn't have to jump into the ditch every other minute to get out of the way of a car doing 50 in a 35 mile an hour speed zone on a road with not side berms. I liked what I saw.
I then saw the same good things on the Fall Creek Trail and over the years on the Central Canal Towpath, the Pleasant Run Trail, the White River Trail, Pogues Run Trail, the Downtown Canal and the Promenade behind the Zoo. I found out for myself that I was just like those people I saw on the trails. I enjoyed going on the trails. And most of those trails were in somebody's back (or even front) yards.
I figured out for myself that having a trail in my back yard would be a big asset and I have done a total conversion on my opinions of trails. After all, someone just driving up in a car can do all of the bad things that can supposedly be done on a trail in my front yard. I am for trails and I am especially for the proposed B&O Trail.
When I attended the Master Plan Update at Thatcher Park August 23rd, I discovered that the B&O Trail is in the master plan to be developed by Indy Parks Greenways. Also presented at the meeting, the B&O corridor is on the Regional Bike and Pedestrian Plan as developed and approved by the Department of Metropolitan Development. The plan calls for it to be implemented by Indy Greenways. And, it was also recently announced that Hendricks County received a 2.36 million-dollar grant to purchase and develop the B&O Trail in Hendricks County.
Someday soon, the West Side of the metropolitan area will have a wonderful asset to the community in the form of the B&O Rail-Trail. This will make a great addition to the Indy Parks Greenways system.
I would urge other folks who have the "not in my back yard" attitude, to go and find out for themselves that the things that they imagine will happen are just that... imaginings.