On Celebrate Trails Day (this Saturday, April 22), Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), the largest U.S.-based trails advocacy organization, showcases the impact of trails and trail systems on people, places and the planet by encouraging everyone to get outside on trails.
Joining this year's celebration is the Borinquen Trail in Puerto Rico as part of its partnership with RTC. In addition, Borinquen Trail will collaborate with RTC on technical assistance initiatives and advocate for funding sources and best practices in trail implementation. Since 1992, RTC has helped advocate for more than $20 billion in funds to support more than 40,000 trail and active transportation projects throughout the nation.
The Borinquen Trail is a 600-mile multi-use trail for walking and bicycling, endorsed by RTC. The trail repurposes former railroad right-of-way encircling the island, including breathtaking beachfront and historic tunnel segments. The route will connect 22 municipalities and, once fully implemented, could generate up to $673 million in annual user spending through direct, indirect, and induced economic effects. Adding to this sum will be the growth and creation of businesses associated with the outdoor recreation industry, including restaurants, sports equipment and bicycle rental establishments, history and tourism groups, hotels, and more. The trail could support between 4,708 and 7,294 jobs and is expected to spur an annual $21-41 million in new island and federal tax income.
The implementation of the Borinquen Trail has already begun, a critical step in the island’s journey to a more sustainable environmental, and resilient future. Last month, planning for the Borinquen’s pilot project in Playa de Ponce (in the south of the island) was completed, and new local partners are joining to drive construction and designation of the trail. When finished, it will establish a multimodal connection between two historic centers: Playa de Ponce and the municipality’s town core.
The Borinquen Trail has the potential to significantly increase tourism island-wide, create thousands of jobs, and improve public health across Puerto Rico. With the rail-trail already in motion, there is much to look forward to as its route unfolds over the coming years. To learn more and support this effort, visit https://www.rutaborinquen.org.
Celebrate Trails Day is the annual celebration of the spring trail season, recognized on the fourth Saturday in April. The national celebration is organized by RTC, the largest U.S.-based trails organization—with a grassroots community more than 1 million strong. RTC is dedicated to building a nation connected by trails, reimagining public spaces to create safe ways for everyone to walk, bike and be active outdoors. Follow #CelebrateTrails on social media for updates, and connect with RTC at railstotrails.org and @railstotrails on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
INTERVIEW: Juan Mullerat
Can you share more about Plusurbia and the kinds of projects your team focuses on?
At Plusurbia, we focus on making cities better places to live and work by improving walkability, affordability, and context. Our projects range from creating walkable neighborhoods with a mix of housing types to creating inclusive public spaces that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. We also specialize in leveraging data to create targeted solutions for communities facing gentrification and displacement, such as developing tools to help assess the potential effects of development decisions on existing residents.
Our firm has always balanced private, public, and pro-bono projects. We work for municipalities or the state, we work with private developers and property owners, and then, this is the exciting side of our studio: we get involved with non-profits or communities with limited or no budgets to help them improve their neighborhoods. We are currently involved in Ruta Borinquen, a not-for-profit effort to revitalize communities along a 426-mile stretch of the former railway in Puerto Rico. We are designing and implementing pocket parks in various neighborhoods, and we are working with some communities experiencing very aggressive displacement.
Our team is committed to engaging local stakeholders throughout the planning and implementation process so that all voices are heard and community vision prevails. Ultimately, we aim to ensure that all communities become safe and accessible places with robust amenities and the tools to improve lives.
Gentrification and climate change are both at the forefront of planning. However, the combination of the two, climate gentrification, is still a fairly new term and a concept we're just now trying to wrap our minds around.
For our listeners, can you explain what climate gentrification means and give examples of how you've seen it play out in Miami or other cities?
Last January, our team collected information for an ongoing economic impact analysis of the trail, which will provide hard numbers to prove its value. Dylan Gehring and David Soto visited existing trail segments that will one day be connected and integrated into the future 595 mile Borinquen Trail. They ran trail counts every day during peak-use times and collected trail user spending data by conducting brief surveys. They also examined portions of the old railroad embankments and bridge systems that are not currently trails. Among the trails surveyed, Paseo Lineal Río Bayamón proved to be the most popular and highest-quality segment.
Dylan and David conducted seven days of consecutive data collection across five trails (2 trail segments were repeated to determine the factor of difference between weekdays and weekends) which garnered about 550 responses. The selection of the trails studied was tied to the necessity of having an example of each typology: urban, suburban, rural, beachfront, and natural preserve.
This data will be used for an economic impact analysis and to continue to assess and design future segments of the Borinquen Trail.