4 Benefits of Building Trails in Brownsville, Texas

Last year, the city of Brownsville, the National Parks Service, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy teamed up with regional and local partners to make the Caracara Trails Vision–a plan to implement a 428-mile trail network throughout Cameron County–a reality. However, there is much more than public health that benefits from building a trail in Brownsville. Economic and transportation advantages and even the impact on community pride and identity are just some of the few other benefits that Brownsville only has to gain. Let’s take a closer look at all of these benefits down below. 1. It Brings Positive Health Impacts Caracara Trails is intended to create a unified region that promotes and encourages a healthy lifestyle. In short, if residents live within a certain distance of a trail, they are more likely to be active. Brownsville has been ranked fairly high in diabetes and other chronic diseases, giving the city commissioner, Dr. Rose Gowen, the urge to focus on the health of her community. Creating a large network of trails would do much more than make our city healthier–it also has economic and transportation benefits. 2. It Presents Economic Advantages The term “active tourism” has been practiced throughout the United States and is a concept to gain billions of dollars in tourism every year. Therefore, building a trail in our city would potentially bring in revenue through active tourism. Each trail network has to be equitable, giving as many locals as possible access so everyone could get onto the trail to use it. Building a trail would provide an economic return and give us the opportunity to save up to six million dollars in health savings. Aside from the economic benefits, investing in a trail also: Resolves economic development issues. Results in more shops and restaurants along the trail. Attracts more tourists, which brings in more revenue to local businesses. Creates great memories for community members. 3. Transportation/Livability In addition to ensuring a safe place for people to enjoy recreational activities, trails often function as useful transportation passageways. Trails can be a critical element to a full-scale urban or regional multi-modal transportation system. Many parts of the country incorporate trails and similar facilities into their transit plans, depending on trail facilities to transport people in and out of transit stations safely and efficiently. Giving residents the option to avoid congested streets and highways, and travel through natural areas on foot or by non-motorized methods, is a significant factor in a community’s “livability.” 4. Community Identity Many community leaders have seen the way trails have become sources of community identity and pride. The renewed sense of community in our city can bring in a new sense of pride for us Brownsvillians. Ultimately, this project wouldn’t just help the people of Brownsville, but all of Cameron County in many ways–from income due to tourism to easy access for locals to use the trails for working out. Outside of Brownsville, there are other projects including the South Texas Eco-Tourism Center and the Arturo Galvan Coastal Park that may offer the same benefits to those living in the area. Discover More About the Benefits of Building Trails in our City and How You Can Help Us Achieve It Today Contact Caracara Trails Now

‘Greenway Stimulus’ Could Bring Boom in Bike and Walking Trails

If you’ve ridden a bike in New York City, you’ve likely found yourself, perhaps unknowingly, on one of its designated “greenways.” The Hudson River Greenway, the most heavily frequented bike path in the U.S., runs up and down Manhattan’s western waterfront. The nearly complete Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is a 26-mile ride past some of the borough’s most popular destinations, like Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. Parks in Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx are also traversed by greenways. Thanks to the persistent pandemic-era bike boom, these routes are seeing a surge in use: Bike traffic on the Hudson River Greenway often appears to match the paralleling West Side Highway. Last summer, around 150,000 cyclists a month — or about 5,000 a day — passed through Kent Avenue, in Williamsburg. This year is on track to surpass that. (Now there are calls to widen it, as a recent video captured more two-wheelers than four.) But New York City’s greenway system is more a collection of fragments than a cohesive network. There are gaps where riders must dismount or ride in mixed traffic; some stretches lack protection from speeding cars and trucks, much less any “green.” And the five boroughs aren’t fully linked. That story, writ large, is repeated nationwide, as the U.S. greenway network comprises a similarly haphazard collection of park-like bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented paths that thread through and between cities. True greenways are more than just bike lanes: Ideally, they’re a multi-use amenity that combines transportation and green space, uplifting the communities around them even as they provide a way to get around. Some of the most celebrated modern examples, like Atlanta’s BeltLine or Chicago’s The 606, are linear parks making use of former rail beds, drawing droves of cyclists and strollers — and juicing property values along the way. More greenways are en route nationwide. In May, Detroit officials broke ground on the $200 million, 28-mile-long Joe Louis Greenway. In New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo cemented the Empire State Trail between downtown Manhattan and the Canadian border late last year, while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has committed $723 million toward finally finishing a greenway around Manhattan by 2029. “Greenways connect commercial corridors. They’re green infrastructure — not just because of the green space, but they also get people out of cars,” says Terri Carta, the executive director of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, which has pushed for the completion and stewardship of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. “They create habitats and have co-benefits for surrounding neighborhoods.” Along with 30 other organizations, Carta is helping to lead the “Greenways 4 NYC” coalition calling on the federal government to commit $1 billion in any potential infrastructure bill to a more elaborate vision: a 400-mile protected five-borough greenway, an idea the city proposed nearly 30 years ago. “This is infrastructure that goes through our cities,” says Jon Orcutt, the communications director of Bike New York, an advocacy group. “It’s the connective tissue. But the crux of it is really those connections.” Nationwide, greenway boosters are thinking even bigger. A chorus of advocates believe that the time has come for a “Greenway Stimulus.” About 200 environmental and active-transportation organizations, including Carta’s, are stepping up pressure to carve $10 billion out of the Biden administration’s prospective American Jobs Plan, or corresponding infrastructure-related bills, to help complete hundreds of proposed walking and bike trail projects around the country. The ultimate goal: a nationwide network akin to the interstate highway system — but for cyclists and walkers instead of cars and trucks. Greenways rising At an estimated 50 million users last year, the East Coast Greenway (or ECG, for short) is the “most visited park in America,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, the executive director of its Alliance, the nonprofit which advocates for its development and is helping to coordinate the Greenway Stimulus push. The ECG is the longest of its kind in the country; the route paints a 3,000-mile path from Maine to Florida, hitting 15 states and 450 communities along the way. But it’s not a seamless journey: As of last year, only a third of the route is protected and off-road. The rest of the way, users are sharing the pavement with motor vehicles on standard roads. And it took three decades to get to this point. “Just connecting all the greenways was the beginning,” Markatos-Soriano says. There was no clear start date for America’s greenways. The term itself emerged in the urban parks movement of the 1800s, when visionary designers like Frederick Law Olmsted and Charles Eliot were concocting parks for major American cities. They were initially envisioned as belts of green connecting larger tracts of land, like Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system. The aim was less utility than aesthetic. A more formal flurry of action came after the 1991 passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which, for the first time ever, made multi-use trail projects eligible for most federal highway funding. The East Coast Greenway Alliance formed a year later, playing a facilitator role; the first markings of the Greenway, in 1996, were an amalgam of five trails in four different states. The projects that have come since are the result of efforts by local organizers, city and state planners, and groups like the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which focuses on transforming unused rail beds into multi-use trails. (Among their signature in-progress projects: the coast-to-coast Great American Rail Trail.) The fitful rise of the greenways mirrors the federalist-fractured approach America has historically taken to its transportation networks, which have lacked any major coordinated investment since President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956. The dollars that have come from Washington have mostly been through appropriations or existing programs; early segments of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, for example, were funded when a federal grant was secured by Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez. As they tend to, cities and states stepped in to fill the void.  Locally, investing in greenways pay dividends, Markatos-Soriano says, citing economic impact studies the Alliance has conducted up and down the corridor. The nearly 70 miles of greenway in North Carolina’s Triangle region, for example, generates more than $90 million in economic benefits every year, according to an Alliance

The Caracara Trails: Building and Bridging a Community Together

Imagine 428 miles of nature and culture at the reach of your fingertips–or in this instance, your feet. The Caracara Trails are just that; a plan to build and connect trails in Brownsville to create a 428-mile network that not only attracts locals, but people around the country as well. Texas is a huge place, so there are so many incredible things to do in Brownsville. Simply because of its size, nearby cities can often get ignored. With the Caracara Trail, we plan to change that. Healthy Living as a Community The Caracara Trails will not only leverage on, but promote a healthy lifestyle in the Brownsville and much of the Lower Rio Grande Valley community. The Caracara Trails encompass such a wide area of Cameron County. Because of this, there is bound to be easy access for anyone interested in visiting the trails or wishing to kickstart their healthy lifestyle in Brownsville and its surrounding areas. In return, the Caracara Trails are meant to create a sense of community and boost the local economy by interconnecting different historic, natural, and commercial sites–making the Caracara Trails more than just a local community emblem, but a tourism magnet, too. From Cameron County to the U.S. We know Brownsville has gorgeous architecture and is vibrant with colors and culture, and the Caracara Trails are meant to showcase these. With South Padre Island and its surrounding areas already being somewhat of a national tourist attraction, the Caracara Trails aim to attract a wider variety of tourists and guide them towards the amazing things Brownsville and Cameron County has to offer, placing the Lower Rio Grande Valley right under the spotlight. In this manner, tourists will not only focus on one section of the county, but are more likely to spread out and explore. Making it Happen The Caracara Trails are still in the process of coming to life. However, a lot of the main components we need to achieve this vision are already there. As part of the big Caracara Trails project, there are six catalyst trail projects that will set the groundwork for the bigger trail network: Arroyo-Resaca Hike and Bike Segment Bahia Grande Trail Segment Battlefield Extension Trail Segment South Padre Island Trail Segment Arroyo Colorado Paddling Trail Segment Laguna Madre (U.S. Bicycle Route) Segment As part of the Caracara Trails project–and in addition to our six catalysts–the Queen Isabella Causeway Project would provide the trail network with a dedicated, barrier-protected bike and pedestrian lane with an additional access route between Port Isabel and South Padre Island. All in all, the Caracara Trails are a project that has only been possible thanks to the joint work of The City of Brownsville, the National Parks Service, and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, along with many of its neighboring towns and cities. Once complete, extensions and all, the Caracara trails will comprise 230 miles of multi-use trails, 120 miles of U.S. Bicycle Routes, and 78 miles of paddling trails. The Caracara Trails are a project for the community and we cannot wait to welcome you all to the natural beauty of Brownsville! Learn More About the Caracara Trails and How You Can Help Now Contact Us Today

People are Getting Excited About Caracara Trail’s Brownsville Battlefield Trail Extension

Early in 2020, the City of Brownsville, the National Parks Service, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy teamed up with regional and local partners to work on a project meant to improve the health of residents in the Rio Grande Valley. In an effort to give Texans more opportunities to get outside and get active, the partnership is working to complete the Caracara Trails Vision: a plan to develop a 428-mile trail network around Brownsville and its neighboring towns and cities throughout Cameron County. The Brownsville Battlefield Trail extension was the first step in jumpstarting the trail project, providing residents and potential tourists with more fun and healthy things to do in Brownsville. Let’s learn about why this trail was developed, how it was funded, and what’s coming next to the Caracara Trails Vision. Improving Health Outcomes for Cameron County The development of new trails in Brownsville brings with it several different benefits for residents. First, the development of the trail network is expected to increase physical activity by 22% in Cameron County. Physical activity is essential to a healthy lifestyle and helps reduce individuals’ risk of serious health issues significantly. “As we break ground on the Battlefield Trail Extension, we’re marking a turning point for the health, wellness and economic potential of our region,” Rose M.Z. Gowen, M.D., Brownsville city commissioner and a board member of RTC told reporters. Giving Brownsville a Boost While seeking better health outcomes for Brownsville residents and other Texans is reason enough to invest in a project like the trail and its extension, there are actually other indirect benefits that residents will see, as well. The increase in physical activity is expected to result in savings of as much as $12.3 million in health care costs for Cameron County. The improvement in health, health spending, and living conditions in Brownsville is also expected to contribute to a surge in investments in the area. “The Caracara Trails vision is already bringing new investment to Cameron County in the form of federal and private grants… Our trail network vision and all that it can deliver for the health and economic growth of our region is being realized with each investment, each mile of trail built and each person who gets out for a walk, a run or a ride.” Exciting Upcoming Things to do in Brownsville The Battlefield Trail extension was merely the first step in the Caracara Trails Vision for Brownsville. Moving forward, work is expected to be completed on a 2.5-mile trail project connecting Brownsville to Los Fresnos, as well as a 1.1-mile Los Fresnos Hike and Bike Trail. Outside of the Brownsville area, projects include the South Texas Eco-Tourism Center and the Arturo Galvan Coastal Park. Ultimately, the Caracara Trails are meant to connect the entire Lower Rio Grande Valley and will include 230 miles of multi-use trails, 120 miles of biking trails, and 78 miles of paddling trails. Get Active and Learn More About Our Trails in Brownsville and How You Can Help Today. Contact Caracara Trails Now