T.R.A.I.L., “Transportation Recreational Alternatives in Louisiana,” is a non-profit organization created to do what its name suggests: provide transportation alternatives in the state and corresponding recreational opportunities. T.R.A.I.L. works specifically in the Acadiana area to make our transportation arteries pedestrian and bike friendly.

The most exciting of T.R.A.I.L.’s current projects is its Atakapas-Ishak Trail initiative. Lead by Scott Schilling, with the assistance of volunteers, the Lafayette Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Rotary Club of Lafayette North, the organization received support from the cities of Lafayette, Beaux Bridge and St. Martinville to build a bike trail connecting their respective downtown areas. The trail will run along the bayous Vermilion and Teche, through many areas currently accessible only by foot or boat.

Recently, the FHWA Recreational Trails Program for Louisiana awarded T.R.A.I.L. a grant of $100,000 per year through the Community Foundation of Acadiana to develop the Atakapas-Ishak Trail. The project is currently in the design and engineering stage of “Phase 1,” connecting downtown Lafayette to Beaver Park, Vermilionville, and the Jean Lafitte Cultural Center of the National Park Service. More funding is needed to complete the project.

The philosophy behind T.R.A.I.L. is composed of principles of smart-growth urban development, conservation, economic development and public health. An opportunity to walk and bike as transportation encourages exercise, the use of mass transit, and reduces greenhouse gasses. Alternative transportation routes will also allow current residents of limited means access to resources and jobs previously unavailable to them.

T.R.A.I.L. believes that communities that implement smart growth planning, encourage environmental responsibility, and support active life styles will attract members of the creative class and businesses that might otherwise choose to remain or relocate to more progressive urban areas. By simply developing safe bike paths and walkways, the Acadiana area will be on track to having an urban aesthetic that compliments its economic and cultural riches.

We encourage those interested in volunteering to assist in the development of the Atakapas-Ishak Trail or other T.R.A.I.L. projects to join our Yahoo! group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/trails4la/ or call Bradley Black at (337) 680-9662.

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