Benefits of Trails

Perfect strangers are always coming up to me and asking "what is so good about trails anyways?"

Ok, that's a lie, but if they did, here is what I'd tell them:

1.  People like trails
2.  Trails improve our physical and mental health
3.  Trails get us places we want/need to go without polluting the air
4.  Trails take us to beautiful places (aka "into nature")
5.  Trails are an essential piece of alternative transportation networks and using alternative transportation saves you money

1.  A quick visit to Pinnacle Mountain State Park or the Big Dam Bridge on a nice day is all the proof you need that people like trails.  People love going with their dogs, kids, friends, and significant others on trails because it is fun.  Instead of having me explain exactly why trails are fun, why not go conduct some field research yourself? Maybe visit some places discussed on this blog or in my books (displayed prominently on the main page).

2.  Experts are always encouraging us to get at least 20-60 minutes of moderate exercise 3-7 times a week.  Whether they know it or not, people walking, hiking, jogging, running, and paddling on trails are doing just that.  When my dad and I accidentally hiked 18 miles on the Ouachita Trail in August, we got a lot more of that moderate exercise than we were hoping for.  Many people seem to find exercising outdoors on trails to be more stimulating than running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.
The book Last Child in the Woods makes the case for trails and exposure to nature improving mental and physical health in much more detail if you remain unconvinced.
This article details how "parks are a part of our healthcare system".  Here is another article on the mental and physical benefits of hiking.

3.  Little Rock's River Trail, Fayetteville's Scull Creek Trail, Portland's Springwater Trail, and Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Trail are heavily trafficked bike/pedestrian trails that are used for commuting in addition to recreation.  Every time someone chooses to run an errand, visit a friend, or commute to work via foot or bike instead of by car they are keeping asthma-causing, smog-forming, acid rain-producing, planet-heating pollutants out of our air.  Every mile you travel by foot or bike instead of by car prevents the release of ~1 pound of CO2 into the atmosphere.
More people will opt to leave the car at home as access to viable alternatives is improved.  We need longer, more inter-connected, well-maintained trails that connect residential, commercial, and recreational areas.  Since trails are not as wide and people are lighter than trucks, trails are much cheaper per mile to build and maintain than roads.

4.  As you might have guessed, I've been on a lot of trails in my day and almost all of them took me somewhere beautiful and interesting.  One benefit of being on foot or bike instead of in a car is that you are more a part of your surroundings as you travel.  You can hear, smell, and feel nature as you pass through it.  Trails make the journey as valuable and enjoyable as the destination.

5.  Trucks and SUVs get 10-20 mpg.  Compact cars get 30-40.  Scooters get 60 - 150 mpg.  Bikes and feet don't use any gas at all.  Think how much money you could save if you switched over to biking or walking to work or school!  At my last job, I had a pretty short commute as commutes go and still managed to save $20 a week when I biked to work instead of driving (a hybrid even!).