From Railroad Lines and Landfills to Running Trails and Playgrounds: Exercise for the Whole Family Right in Your Own Backyard

By Melissa Greer Dreyfus

As the oppressive heat of summer is now fading into fall, I am able to take more time to actually enjoy my surroundings in the great outdoors during my weekend runs. (This is in contrast to summer outdoor running, where my goal is to make it to the next drinking fountain without over-heating.) I’ve always enjoyed trail running as a means to escape some of the traffic and intensity of living in the Nation’s Capitol area. I’ve had the opportunity to test out several of the great scenic running/biking trails in the area including the Mount Vernon Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Trail, Rock Creek Park Trail, Rock Creek Trail and Capital Crescent Trail.

Amazingly, the Capital Crescent Trail and thousands of miles of other trail systems across the country were constructed along old railroad routes. The Capital Crescent Trail follows the route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Georgetown Branch rail line. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to assisting local communities in converting unused railroad corridors into trails”. There are many trails not only in the DC Metro area, but across the country. Trail information is accompanied by local resources such as hotels, to plan a complete getaway virtually anywhere in the U.S.

Not only can you exercise on former railroad routes converted to trails, but land reuse options also encourage a variety of community recreation activities.  The Superfund Redevelopment Program at EPA is helping communities return some of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites to safe and productive uses. Along with cleaning up these Superfund sites and making them protective of human health and the environment, the Agency is working with communities and other partners in considering future use opportunities and integrating appropriate reuse options into the cleanup process. Communities across the country now have areas such as recreational model airplane flying fields, open space, athletic fields soccer, football and baseball, playgrounds, and equestrian trails on land previously contaminated and unavailable for public use.

Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are critical for combating the obesity epidemic among children in this country. By providing a variety of fun activities, and exercising as a family, we can lead a healthy lifestyle and set a good example for kids to follow as they grow. Along with the great sight-seeing, these trails and recreation facilities offer excellent options for outdoor activity close to home at little to no cost.

Grab your friends and family and explore options for outdoor activities in your own backyard!

About the author: Melissa Greer Dreyfus is an Environmental Health Scientist in the Community Involvement and Program Initiatives Branch in EPA’s Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation in Arlington, VA.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.