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Historical Geography of Urban Trail Networks

Authors: Jeremy Bryson*, Weber State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: urban, trails, historical geography
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Many cities around the United States have integrated urban trail networks--or, citywide networks of non-motorized, multi-use pathways used by bikers, hikers, or runners for transportation and recreation--into their urban landscapes. Research has shown that urban trail systems can help provide residents with healthy active transportation options, increase economic development through trail tourism, and can benefit the environment through greenspace preservation. As important as this research is, it tends to ignore the temporal and spatial development of trail systems; treating the networks, instead, as if they have always existed in their places. In this project, I aim to develop a framework through which we can better understand the historical geography of urban trails so as to better inform the future planning for these important features of many American cities. Through this research I will explore where, why, how, and at what costs and benefits these trail networks were created. I anticipate that an analysis of the economic, social, environmental and political costs and benefits of the development of urban trails will yield valuable insights.

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