Yesterday, splashed on the front page of the newspaper, was an exciting article. Pennsylvania, home of the former Pennsylvania Railroad is full of abandoned railroad tracks. Happily, these tracks are being converted into multi-use trails, not only in Pennsylvania, but throughout the United States. I use these pedestrian trails on a regular basis.
I run on the Lancaster Junction Trail, which is located less then a ½ mile from my front door. However, in the 1980’s a highway was cut through farmland and now provides an impenetrable barrier between myself and the trial, forcing me to take a nearly 2 mile detour. Thankfully, my legs work just fine making this inconvenience just an annoyance and not a true impediment to trail usage.
I regularly bike commute to work using the Lititz to Ephrata rail trail, which when completed will stretch roughly 8 miles and link the towns of Lititz and Ephrata via a direct completely pedestrian path. I believe that within the next year, a bridge is slated to be refurbished allowing for the connection of the final trail sections.
Another bride on the Enola Low Grade Trail is needed to complete a trail that when finished, could stretch from Lebonon, PA to Philadelphia. That is the long term plan, but in the near term, this bridge is major gap in linking Turkey Hill to Quarryville. Putting these pieces together is exciting stuff.
As someone who road nearly 135 miles over several days last year on the Great Allegheny Passage, I’m well aware of the joys of long distance bike travel. The fact that this travel can be done without cars and through beautiful scenery improves the experience immensely. Yet, as I read through the article, I slowly became disappointed, as it appears this vision of the future is just that, a vision. Multi-million dollar costs were mentioned, state officials, who sing praises but don’t write checks were interviewed. I lost hope. I’d like to experience these jewels before I have gray hair, or I’m the one riding in the wagon while my adult kid pedals. The article didn’t mention any fundraisers or donation options.
This set the rusty wheels of my brain into motion.
Why do we place so much faith in our government? I intentionally attempt to avoid the constant news chatter involving apocolyptic scenarios in which our incompetent leaders accomplish something that will ruin the world, or fail to accomplish something that will save the world from ruin. Despite my best efforts to avoid this cacophony of noise, I bump into enough information to gather that our government at all levels apparently fails at everything it touches.
Healthcare is a fiery train looking for any track to jump and careen into the abyss, social security pays out less then needed to live (obviously), and our wonderful state thinks borrowing from future tax income is the best way to pay today’s expenses. Pensioners cry foul whenever the money runs out or payments are cut, citing promises as if they are 4 years old, and can’t believe they didn’t get a pony for their birthday.
Why do we put so much faith and trust in institutions which have no track record of success? Why should I sit back and cross my fingers and hope the government saves the day? This is the same mentality individuals have concerning student loans or retirement planning. My wife and I have student loans, they bring no joy to my life, yet I knew the deal when I signed the papers. I also know that if I want rid of them, I should pay them back. Hence the reason, I’ve learned how to acquire airline miles, allowing me to travel for greatly reduced rates; I rarely eat at restaurants, I drive a 13 year old car with rusty accents around the wheel-wells. I have a $13 per month cell phone plan, and I don’t have cable TV. I own one pair of jeans, have been to a Starbucks once in my life (that’s true), and no longer own a gym membership. None of these things bring me joy, or make me a martyr, rather they are simple choices allowing me to pay off my loans faster and save for the future. I treat my pension as if it isn’t there, which I know is the case for many, so I am thankful, but I choose not to depend on my employer and government entities to fund my future.
Getting back to the trail, surely, if there are enough people like me who think these trials are a wonderful idea, we should be able to raise the funds to make them a reality. What can I do to eliminate or reduce the dependence on government grants and instead make something happen. First, I can use the trails that already exist, if they aren’t used then why would we expand their reach? That’s the easy answer, the hard answer, is how could I become a fundraiser? I could start by making a donation, but this would produce a limited impact, how can I produce a larger impact for something that I’m passionate about? The truth is, I’m not really sure, but I don’t see why adding fundraiser to my resume is something beyond my capabilities. Do any of my readers have any experience in this area, or do you have any ideas in ways I could get involved? I’d love to hear them.