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You could soon bike or walk across the country on one contiguous trail

The Great American Rail-Trail aims to be the nation's first cross-country multiuse trail, spanning 3,700 miles over 12 states between Washington, D.C., and Washington state. [Rails-to-Trails Conservancy]
Published May 10

It's called the Great American Rail-Trail, an ambitious project that aims to create a cross-continental trail system allowing anyone to walk, bike or roller-blade from Washington, D.C. to Washington state with no interruption.

The proposed route, which would link 12 states across more than 3,700 miles of trail, was unveiled Wednesday by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit group aimed at creating a nationwide network of multi-use trails using defunct railroad lines.

"Since the 1980s, RTC has understood the potential of a trail like the Great American Rail-Trail that could connect the nation," Ryan Chao, president of Rails-to-Trails, said. "That vision has been a guidepost for the organization for 30 years. Now, we have the chance to create from that vision a national treasure that unites millions of people over thousands of miles of trail."

If completed, the route would be the first of its kind in the U.S., but could take decades to complete. Currently, the organization said, about 52 percent of the trail is complete via 1,900 miles of existing trail. About 1,700 miles of trail would need to be developed to make the trail a reality.

The largest portion of new trail would run from western Nebraska through all of Wyoming and most of the proposed Montana portion.

"We know that it will take a significant investment of time, resources and energy to complete the Great American Rail-Trail—but it will be worth it, Kevin Mills, a policy director at Rails-to-Trails said. "It will take the help of trail lovers and leaders to bring this vision to life. Federal, state, local and private investment will all be needed to complete this project."

The organization said the route was developed with the help of state governments and local trail planners and managers. It analyzed more than 34,000 miles of trails and trail plans over a 12-month period to come up with the proposed route.

As Rails-to-Trails prepares to aid local partners in working to complete the trail, it's trying to build awareness and enthusiasm by setting a goal to get 1 million pledges of support from around the country. The organization asks anyone looking to pledge or get more information about the Great American Rail-Trail to visit greatamerocantrail.org.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts.

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