Thursday, March 24, 2016

Elevated Urban Trailways: Getting Away from it All in the Midst of it All

For many years, I lived in the Hudson River towns north of New York City. In addition to enjoying easy access to Manhattan via the scenic Hudson River Line of Metro North Railroad, I loved the fact that I could walk from village to village via a linear park called the Old Croton Aqueduct State Historic Park

This simple dirt footpath lies atop the Old Croton Aqueduct, an 11-foot high, 41-mile-long elevated tunnel that used to carry water to New York City from the Croton River in Westchester County. 

In my towns, it ran parallel to the Hudson River, just east of Broadway, crossing local streets and passing behind backyards. During winter months, when the trees are bare, you can see the river down below, to the west of the Aqueduct trail. In the middle of densely populated hill towns, the Aqueduct is an urban treasure, a quick getaway into nature and a slower pace, the rhythm of your feet and your thoughts. During the leafy spring and summer months, you can enjoy the dappling of light and shade created by the tree canopy along the trail.

In Dallas TX, the Katy Trail is a footpath, inline skating and bicycle path that runs through the Uptown and Oak Lawn sections of the city. It follows the path of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, which was also called the MKT or the Katy. This linear park is wide and paved, lined with trees that arch together overhead. It's elevated over the neighborhood, creating a sense of escape and tranquility. 

One of the most famous elevated urban trail ways in the United States is the High Line in New York City. As a train line that extended from 34th Street to Spring Street, it was originally designed to run though the middle of the streets, rather than over the avenues, in order to carry goods to and from Manhattan's largest industrial district at the time. Now the High Line is a linear urban park 30 feet above the street that features a variety of architect-designed paving, planting, seating and feature designs along its entire length on the West Side of Manhattan, from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street.

In contrast to conventional parks, which typically offer walking trails that circle back on themselves, linear parks give one a sense of forward motion and exploration that extends for miles ahead.

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