What You Can Do
Where did the Mile Zero Trail Association begin? At Mile Zero, of course.
In 2014, after a three-year study that examined the impact, usefulness and numbers of visitors to the nation's great museums in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it became clear to Houston Institute for Culture that the best possible contribution the organization could make to Houston, the nation and the world, is to become an innovative new museum of culture - like the national museum of culture (the Smithsonian Institution), but starting fresh with new ideas and modern realities - raising its capability to benefit 25,000 people to 2-5 million people.
Houston Institute for Culture reduced its activities in 2015 in order to have time to work toward such a lofty vision and presented the concept for the museum, with possibilities to locate it in Houston's historic East End, International District or even the vacant Astrodome. But Houston has not often been the most visionary of American cities and has lagged far behind its potential to serve education and visitor interests. As one Houston philanthropist said, "We already have a museum."
Lack of vision in Houston, along with neglect of education and quality of life in Texas in general, was admittedly very frustrating and clearly an obstacle, but the idea found new life in Dallas-Fort Worth. Initially, the concept was not one that city representatives in strategically-located, central Metroplex communities, like Arlington, could understand or even imagine gaining support for from their community leaders.
People in other DFW communities, however, were interested in the kinds of initiatives that could make the Metroplex a better place to live, start businesses and relocate companies. An aggressive business economy that looks out for itself doesn't consider the prospect to build a beneficial new attraction for the city or region as an easy proposition, however, since education and visitor-driven enterprises generally fall far down the list of priorities, well behind municipal bond proposals to keep up existing infrastructure and bids to lure Amazon's HQ2 to North Texas.
While considering the many exciting initiatives that could be accomplished in DFW if the business community could understand the larger benefits, we discovered several possibilities that we could create and build as a group of ordinary people, and not only that, but the ideas were the start of great national and international projects.
The concept for one of the projects - the Great Plains to Interior Highlands Trail, or the Link Trail - came about from a simple comparison of recreational activities and the natural assets of various American cities. As a group that made many wonder-filled adventures around the United States and Mexico, we were very familiar with the Wichita Mountains to the Northwest and the Kiamichi and Ouachita Mountains to the Northeast of the Metroplex. In fact, the founder of Houston Institute for Culture, the museum of culture concept and the Imagine a Museum organization, Mark Lacy's own father (an engineer and surveyor) worked on construction of Oklahoma State Highway 1, the Talimena National Scenic Byway, through the Ouachita Mountains.
While conducting surveys, holding focus groups and giving presentations for civic organizations, we discovered that many people in DFW are not aware of the mountains just two to three hours away. Nor had most of them heard of the Cross Timbers, the Balcones Escarpment, the Arbuckle Uplift or the Anadarko Basin. They never considered the region to be a place with dramatic topography, unique geological features or challenging recreational potential.
By recognizing the potential to connect the Metroplex to many more scenic and educational opportunities, we discovered an even greater possibility.
While not lengthy or tall ranges like the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains, the Wichita and Ouachita Mountains are none-the-less spectacular, unique and beautiful. The Interior Highlands, along with the cultural and geographic intrigue of the Great Plains and Mississippi Delta, present a tremendous possibility to connect the two North-South mountain ranges with an East-West intermodal trail for hikers, bikers, wheelchair athletes, trail horse riders, tour groups, and more. And that's just one of the possibilities for an exciting new organization, a trail association working to carry on the traditions of numerous other great trail associations:
Wonderland Trail Association, National Park-to-Park Highway Association, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Natchez Trace Parkway Association, Trail of Tears Association, Nez Perce Trail Foundation, Washington Trails Association, Pacific Northwest Trails Association, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Arizona Trail Association, Florida Trail Association, Great Eastern Trail Association, Ozark Trails Association, Old Trails Road Association, Good Roads Associations, Partnership for the National Trails system, and many more.
And that's not all. The Mile Zero Trail Association will advocate for a National and International Historic and Interpretive Trail. The organization will support the building and establishment of youth camps, camp facilities, interpretive visitor centers, as well as implementation of environmental and educational programs, like a re-envisioned tree "shelterbelt" and camp quarters using highly efficient "Usonian" building techniques.
The organization will promote events - conferences, mini-festivals and markets - on the trail, and work toward establishment of an activity, hospitality and media center with a seed farm as its headquarters.