Winner: Hudson River Greenway and Water Trail, N.Y.
At 256 miles, the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail reaches from the heart of the nation's most populous city, all the way to Whitehall, N.Y., in the shadow of the Adirondack Mountains on the Vermont border. Alongside it on land, nearly 500 miles of Greenway trails in more than 100 segments dot the landscape. The 2009 quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's voyage saw a flurry of additions to the trail network, and work continues, with three new water trail sites and eight new trail segments added in the last year.
Learn all about the Best New Trail winner!
About the Nominees
Metropolitan Branch Trail, Washington, D.C.
Even at just 2.5 miles, the Metropolitcan Branch Trail, which more than doubled its length in 2010, is anything but small: The rail trail connects three neighborhoods Edgewood, Eckington and Brookland to downtown Washington, D.C. and is heavily used by bicycling commuters. In the coming years, the trail will grow to eight miles, connecting downtown to Silver Springs, Md. and to the 11-mile Capital Crescent Trail.
The Wateree and Congaree River Blue Trails, S.C.
The 50-mile Congaree River Blue Trail, designated in 2008, connects South Carolina's capital city, Columbia, to Congaree National Park, and to the Wateree River Blue Trail, a 75-mile-long trail also in the early stages of development. The Wateree trail got a boost in 2010 when American Rivers helped spur Kershaw County to set new land use laws protecting 100 feet of forest on both sides of a 30-mile stretch of water.
The Atlanta BeltLine, Ga.
The Atlanta BeltLine is still more an idea than a reality, with a few short miles completed, but Kaid Benfield, NRDC's director of sustainable communities and smart growth, calls it "America's best smart growth story". Why? More than just a recreational trail, the 22-mile rail-trail loop will connect 45 city neighborhoods including some of its most neglected to each other, to parks and public transportation and to the city's commercial center. The first trail section opened late in 2009, the second in 2010, and there's much more to come... over the next decade or two.
The Shelby Farms Greenline, Memphis, Tenn.
Connecting one of the nation's largest urban parks, 4,500-acre Shelby Farms, to Tennessee's largest city, Memphis, the 6.5-mile Shelby Farms Greenline opened in October 2010 to great fanfare. And it's getting bigger. There are plans to connect it to hundreds of miles of trails in and around the city.
Bridge of Lions, St Augustine, Fla.
Thirteen years after a planned demolition landed St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of most endangered places, the rehabilitated 1927 bridge re-opened in 2010 and not just to vehicles. In its latest incarnation, the marble lions at its Western gate now greet pedestrians, too, who can enjoy its tile-roofed towers and graceful arches, and the views it offers of the Matanzas River and St. Augustine, one of the nation's oldest cities.
- Dan Shapley