More About the
As the Link Trail was researched and planned, it became clear that the trail was not only an exciting candidate for National Recreation Trail - one that connects hikers over uplifted interior highlands and watershed lowlands between two prominent mountain ranges (and one that might one day host international or competitive cycling tours) - but it had the added benefit of being a great candidate for the first National Cultural Trail.
The Mile Zero Trail Association was founded as much to be a national cultural and educational organization, as a promoter of healthy activity, a trail-blazing social organization, and an advocate for access to parks and trails.
Whether or not the organization will focus any of its collective energy to receive a designation "National Cultural Trail" (since such designation doesn't officially exist), is not important. Making the physical and cultural connections is critical. What matters is that the group succeeds in utilizing the potential of the diverse places along the trail for all the interests and quality of life they offer. Imagine, as a modern trekker, you walk where Sherman's soldiers marched during the American Civil War and where James Meredith set out to "March Against Fear" a century later. In a bus or autonomous vehicle, a tourist will follow the route of Freedom Riders and Dust Bowl Refugees. Cyclists will cross the historic tracks of the railroads and the footpaths of the Underground Railroad, over the agricultural Cotton Belt and the range of great bison herds.
From the ancient Puebloan villages that surround Taos Pueblo (UNESCO World Heritage Sites connected by culture and trade), and the monumental sites of the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement, to the great trail towns and historic recreation communities (like Medicine Park, Oklahoma and Hot Springs, Arkansas), and the places where music and social integration milestones were made, the trail is indefinitely lined with interests and educational potential. Little Rock, Memphis, Tupelo, Muscle Shoals...
...Historic railroad crossings (Chattanooga and Huntsville), urban places on the Bankhead Highway (Dallas and Fort Worth), rural places on Route 66 (Clinton and Elk City, Oklahoma, and Shamrock, Texas), mountain passes (Raton, New Mexico and the Cherohala Skyway), volcanic lands (Capulin, New Mexico), dinosaur crossings (Clayton, New Mexico), ancient human archaeology sites, indigenous capitals, colonial capitals, pioneer trail intersections, river towns, farm co-ops, and on and on. Every place on the planned trail has value and interest. Whether for the challenge, the scenery, the adventure or the cultural interaction, the experience is exceptional and rewarding.
The mission and goal of the Mile Zero Trail Association becomes substantially different than that of most trail associations and conservancies. It calls for a different strategy in trail development and a unique plan for operation of the organization.
The strategy is to meet the station to station needs for travelers. That means looking at the frequency of lodging, information services, interesting activities and welcome centers for travelers. At the present state in planning, lodging (hotels, guest houses and camping) is available for auto tourists; it is nearly fully available for cyclists; and, needs improvement for most foot travelers. Where it may currently work for super hikers and sport walkers, or hikers that use support vehicles (that may transport them from end points to camps or hotels), a greater frequency of lodging is needed for typical backpackers, thru-hikers and casual explorers.
The fact that it will take time is actually an asset. Rather than wait around, that reality gives the Mile Zero Trail Association and the Chapter Organizations time to work toward many productive initiatives for the communities in their areas.
The organization opportunities become very exciting. It is clearly possible to form a trail linked by activities and interests. Chapter Organizations of the Trail Association will be the key. It is hoped that they will have very diverse ideas. The full trail - a virtual 1,600-1,800 mile hallway that connects exciting outdoor museum galleries - could be a "walk of fame", if volunteers want to develop it, or a "geological journey", if visitors want to explore its physiography, but communities may see very distinctive and different needs.
Since the needs of the communities and the needs of the trail are similar (visitor services, economic development, community activities, etc.), most any idea will help - community gardens, backpackers quarters, art spaces, farmers markets, lecture series, food demonstrations, social centers, patios and fire pits, preservation of historic buildings, home- and ride-sharing services (with new and unconventional approaches to these), tour organizers, etc. Collectively, Chapter Organizations may want to pursue fun ideas, a culture quest, or an "amazing race" themed tour. They will decide through meetings at periodic conferences.
Learn more about the Mission, Principles and Goals.
Explore further by reading the Welcome Message.
More information about the Link Trail
View more photos below to consider the wide range of possibilities for activities and facilities.