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U.S. conservancy plans first cross-country trail

In this image, three bicyclists in brightly colored shirts and black shorts bike down a wooded street.
Cedar Valley Nature Trail in Iowa. Photo: Liz Zabel, courtesy GO Cedar Rapids

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recently announced plans for a coast-to-coast bike and walking route from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. There's an interactive map for this entirely car-free way to get across the country here.

Why it matters: The Great American Rail-Trail will be the nation's first cross-country trail, linking more than 125 existing trails and 90 trail gaps over more than 3,700 miles.

  • Connecting the trails could put nearly 50 million people within 50 miles of the route.
  • The trail is mostly comprised of defunct railroads turned into walking and biking paths.
  • Finishing the trail could take a couple of decades.

The backdrop: The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was founded in 1986 to help convert former rail corridors into public trails for bikers, strollers and other active users.

  • Co-founders David Burwell and Peter Harnik were railroad history buffs, and a coast-to-coast backbone was always part their vision, CityLab notes.