(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 452: Beyond Greenways

September 27, 2023

This week we’re joined by Bob Searns to talk about his book Beyond Greenways: The Next Step for City Trails and Walking Routes. We talk about grand ideas for walking trails that circle whole regions and more local routes that make up a new mode of green infrastructure in cities.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our archive site.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript:

Jeff Wood (1m 25s):
Well, Bob Searns, welcome to the Talking Headways Podcast.

Bob Searns (1m 49s):
Great to be here.

Jeff Wood (1m 50s):
Yeah, thanks for being here. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Bob Searns (1m 54s):
Well, let’s see, where do I start career-wise, I’ve been a trail and greenway developer for about 50 years, I guess. I live in Littleton, Colorado and have specialized in Greenways. When I say developer, basically what that means is putting projects together, kind of doing the planning, organizing the teams to get the projects built, and then raising money, securing rights away, and getting projects built through completion. So in my professional life, that’s what I’ve done. I’ve shifted a little bit more to two new careers.

Bob Searns (2m 34s):
One is a bar band musician. I’m a bass player and my day job is, I’m working as a writer now.

Jeff Wood (2m 42s):
That’s cool. Let’s go back in time a little bit and I wanted to know what got you into the outdoors or Trails or you know, what got you into the work that you’re doing now?

Bob Searns (2m 51s):
You know, there was kind of one of those epiphany moments for me when I was in my teens. I guided canoe trips in Algonquin Provincial Park, which is a huge wild area north of Toronto. And just kind of remember that experience of being out in the outdoors and just in a really wild place. There was no roads, just, you were just out there and, you know, I I just kind of remembering, hearing the loons crying one night and, and singing, I guess is a better way to put it and thinking, boy, this is, this is just a wonderful experience. And so I, I got kind of into the outdoors that way.

Bob Searns (3m 33s):
Also got very concerned about trying to preserve open space and particularly people’s access to enjoy open spaces. And I moved out to Colorado actually to pursue my skiing habit and took a job with the Denver Planning Office here and got assigned to work on trying to improve and restore the South Platte River. So that’s kind of a little bit of a background of what got me into this. Some of it was serendipitous and some of it was by intent. My background educationally, I, I have a master’s degree in architecture, studied economics and law and all those things kind of combined together to kind of make it helpful for me to be what I’d like to call myself as a green project developer.

Bob Searns (4m 20s):
That’s kind of my goal.

Jeff Wood (4m 22s):
Well, let’s talk about your book Beyond Greenways, the next step for City Trails and Walking Roots. What was kind of the impetus for writing this book? Well,

Bob Searns (4m 29s):
As I mentioned, I’ve been building Greenways for a whole lot of years and Greenways are, in many cases urban Greenways are multiple use hike bike paths, typically paved paths. They follow river streams, railroads and that sort of thing. And after doing a whole lot of those, I kind of thought about, you know, what’s a next direction? And I kind of had an epiphanal experience with that too. I went to give a presentation in Korea. I went to Jeju Island, which is kind of a Maui sized island. It’s a resort destination in Southeast Asia and they have a walking path that encircles j j Island along the edges where the landscape meets the sea.

Bob Searns (5m 18s):
And the emphasis, as I mentioned, is primarily on walking and little biking is permitted. And that experience just kind of got me thinking about a new way of visualizing Trails, particularly urban Trails and, and beginning to think about walking Routes. And so kind of inspired by that, I came back home and was trying to decide what to do next with my life. And so I gathered up some family members and some friends and a couple of dogs and we decided we were gonna do a hike around Greater Denver. We were gonna walk around the edges of the metro area right on the very edge, you know, where the city meets the countryside through the mountains and through the prairies.

Bob Searns (6m 2s):
It was about 150 mile trek. So a bunch of us got together and just started walking. We did it on weekends, one weekend after another. And I was pretty amazed by the experience of what it’s like to be out walking on that edge. And I began to think, gee, this could be kind of a new geometry for thinking about green spaces and green infrastructure for people. And combined with that, I was doing some planning. I was working in one working class, now it’s kind of more of a, a mixed demographic suburb of Denver Commerce City. I was working for a health agency there trying to come up with a, we call it the walk bike Fit plan. We were looking at different ways to get people out into routine physical activity.

Bob Searns (6m 46s):
And at one of the public meetings to elderly women came up to me and said, you know, we just want a place to walk. You know, we don’t have to jump out of the way of bicycles. We don’t have trash cans in our way. We just want a pleasant, comfortable place to walk every day. And I got thinking about that and I thought, well, how do we do that? And so I began to think about the notion of trying to create walking loops in cities so people could routinely engage in walking. And so I kind of got out and went out the door of where I was living and just started finding different roots. And my wife and I walked all kinds of loops all around the Denver metro area and we started doing it when we visited other communities.

Bob Searns (7m 31s):
And so I, I got into this notion of maybe having an in-town counterpart to these grand loops on the outer edges of the cities. And so those two ideas continue to ruminate and that kind of began to form into, you know, a concept that I thought, well maybe this is, you know, a new mode of green infrastructure and maybe I could write a little bit about this. So I got together with the good folks at Island Press and they, they liked the idea and so they asked me to write the book. And so that’s how I got where I got right now.

Jeff Wood (8m 9s):
Well, yeah, I mean, and the interesting thing to me was that thinking about an evolution of Greenways, something to the next level of, and towards this idea of Grand Loops and town walks myself as a former distance runner, I ran at the University of Texas and I actually lived in Boulder for a summer and stayed at some of the CU folks’ house while they were gone for, you know, a few months. I got to understand what Trails and better Trails were actually were Now Austin has Lady Bird Lake and we have Trails throughout the city that you can get to eventually. But you know, it’s nice to be able to go up to the Walker Ranch loop where it’s nice to go up to some of the Trails down on the flats that are through the meadows and things like that. I appreciate that. And I, I, I’m just kind of thinking about that evolution from Greenways where people could walk and bike and do what they’re doing to this new iteration that you’re thinking of thinking of, which is the Grand Loops and the town walks.

Bob Searns (8m 57s):
You know, it’s interesting you mentioned running too, because you know, by walking what I mean is really all modes of foot travel and that includes running and for the book. I interviewed a number of runners and even some extreme athletes who did these mega runs and all the different ways that people engage. And you’ve got walking, you’ve got running, you’ve got hiking, you’ve got trekking, there’s now an urban hiking movement where people plot out roots and walk around those kinds of areas. And so I began to think about all the different ways and also includes a range of abilities. You know, we, we wanna think about people with disabilities too. So it’s interesting you brought that up, that walking really goes way beyond just, you know, taking one step after another.

Jeff Wood (9m 42s):
So tell me more about this evolution, like the evolution of Greenways into what you’re describing as Grand Loops and town walks and like some of the history of the Greenway movement and a little bit of the evolution into what you’re talking about, which is these loops that go all over maybe metro regions or smaller loops that just kind of maybe go around a neighborhood.

Bob Searns (10m 0s):
Right. Yeah, well you know, the Greenway movement, and there’s a number of books out about this kind of evolved from Olmsted. He was kind of the father landscape architecture built these parkways, you know, a hundred years ago that kind of connected green spaces together in cities. And they were kind of a place where people could get out and go for a carriage ride and get out of their, you know, the factory workers and so on could get out of those kind of dingy environments and into the green space. And you know, it was kind of a counterpoint to, you know, what was somewhat of a, an oppressive workaday life in those days. And then the greenway movement began to evolve from that with, you know, their bike paths in Europe and people were kind of interested in that.

Bob Searns (10m 48s):
But also it was a way to kind of have a counterpart to maybe the domination of the automobile. And you know, Greenway started to follow mostly rivers and streams, railways, sometimes rich lines, but really they were quarters that followed what I call the grain of the landscape of the topography. And so they’re kind of limited to the space that they’re in and they’re not necessarily readily accessible to everybody’s doors. So I began to think about, well what if we thought of the whole metro areas, our canvas that we’re working with, not just, you know, the topographical features, could we begin to overlay quarters onto that canvas and really put them anywhere?

Bob Searns (11m 31s):
And in a way, Greenways follow the grain of the landscape and Rail Trails and a lot of urban Trails, whereas Grand Loops and town walks kind of go against the grain. They’re kind of established more to link features together. I’ve also referred to these as front country ways closer in places where people can get out and recreate. So that’s kind of how this little bit of a different rendition evolved for green infrastructure

Jeff Wood (11m 59s):
And it’s really interesting. I’m interested also in that frustration you have with Greenways that they’re only going along rivers, along creeks, along, you know, rights of way from utility companies, those types of things, rather than kind of integrating into a larger regional network. Yeah,

Bob Searns (12m 12s):
And I wouldn’t say it’s a frustration, but it’s just a different way of looking at it. Greenways, you know, I’ve done it for five decades, they’re really important things and they’ve transformed a lot of natural features. But Michael is more to kind of highlight a different aspect of urban areas and also, you know, really the notion of making every doorstep a trailhead, making it more equitably accessible to diverse populations. Having places that are closer in where you could actually go on a trek. You know, one, one person I talked with about the Grand Loop said they kind of envisioned taking the Appalachian Trail and wrapping it around a city, which I thought was a really interesting perspective.

Bob Searns (12m 57s):
One thing else I wanna add is the notion of walking versus building Trails. As I mentioned, a lot of Greenways have paved bike paths, not as much necessarily now, but they always have. That’s very expensive infrastructure to build ’cause you have to engineer it for bicycle use. I like to call a person on foot, the human powered a t v, you can walk just about anywhere you know, with your feet. And you also don’t have to worry about a flat tire or even any piece of equipment except your two legs. And so I think in a way that gives people more flexibility. So it’s a little bit easier to build these kind of quarters now ’cause you don’t have to put in a paved trail and really expensive pedestrian bridges and retaining walls to be able to put a 12 foot wide path.

Bob Searns (13m 48s):
And you can go with a narrower kind of quarter, you can walk in the streets where a street’s walkable. So there’s that flexibility factor. I would say Mountain bikes also have somewhat of that flexibility as well. But particularly when you’re on foot, you’re much more flexible where you can go and it’s much easier to build or designate walking Routes for people.

Jeff Wood (14m 11s):
Yeah, we always liked Wood chip Trails or gravel Trails or dirt Trails for running. It was easier on your knees when you’re doing 20 miles for sure. Yeah. As

Bob Searns (14m 18s):
A trail runner, you, you get that for sure. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (14m 21s):
I wanna also talk a little bit about the difference between United States and other countries when it comes to things like right to Rome and how the acceptance of open land is taken here versus maybe other places.

Bob Searns (14m 33s):
Yeah. You know, and that’s something that, that just inspired me. Robert McFarlane, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him, he’s an author who wrote about Walking Ways. He’s actually a Scottish author and I, I read his book and was so inspired by it, the Old Ways was the name of the book, just the notion of being able to go out on the landscape. And there’s a number of nations, Scandinavia I think may have originated it, the notion that in Europe you’re freer to kind of go out on the land pick berries camp, you know, the idea is that you just close the gate or you don’t disturb the livestock and that sort of thing.

Bob Searns (15m 15s):
Whereas in the US North America, mostly in the US I think there’s this sense that people don’t want intruders on their property. You know, you might get shot if you go on somebody’s property in camp or or pick berries or whatever. And there’s been a number of articles, in fact recently there’s a story in the New York Times about this just a few weeks ago that, you know, it’s, it’s been sort of taken for granted that this has been a limited access problem in the US but now there seems to be some reversals, for example in England where, you know, some of the powers that be are trying to close off these rights away. And so there’s been a lot of protests, there’s been people going out and you know, illegally camping and illegally swimming.

Bob Searns (16m 2s):
But it’s just that idea of not having that freedom. And you know, when you begin to think about the right Rome too, you know, Colorado is kind of a place with a lot of open lands, but you can’t get to them anymore because there’s traffic jams When you try and get to the national forest, you’ve lived here so you know the national parks. And so that restriction is there too. And you just don’t park your car and just wander off on anybody’s property. You gotta get to these public open spaces and they’re crowded, they’re hard to get to, particularly with people with limited means if they can’t afford the money, you know, for gas or whatever. There’s also a concern that I interviewed a number of people who are in minority groups and you know, they just don’t feel welcome in many cases and actually afraid, you know, for their safety in some of the places where they don’t feel welcome.

Bob Searns (16m 54s):
So the right to roam is I think an increasingly important consideration. And you know, I don’t envision having the kinda laws like they have in Europe or the British laws that are now somewhat being eroded. I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen here because of the kind of private property values. So really what we’ve gotta do is establish places where people have those rights. It, it’s a compromise, but at least establish those places. Particularly if we think about Grand Loops, you know, at least maybe we develop these kind of, you know, greenbelt spaces around metro areas where people can just get out on the land and feel like they can walk from one place to another.

Jeff Wood (17m 36s):
In the book that you also discuss how hard that is in terms of like legal issues, you know, easements. Yes. Those types of things. And I appreciate you laying out all the details and I think that’s one of the important benefits of the book. But I’m wondering about those ways of getting land to be used because it is more complicated than maybe having a national law that says you can go from Lewis to East born, you know, without worry.

Bob Searns (18m 1s):
Yeah, land acquisition is a huge thing and, and in my career building Greenways, we just ran into that all the time. It could take five years to acquire right away, you know, it was just a struggle all the time. And so, you know, at least if we get those ideas out there, maybe some of that land can be set aside. Cities have done that. Phoenix and Las Vegas have actually built Grand Loops. Well Phoenix has one around their city and, and Las Vegas, there’s a number of other ones too. And they’ve managed to make these connections. One of the things you do is, is to try to connect together existing open spaces like state parks and other things ’cause you’ve got those sort of bulbous areas of green already that you can begin to link together.

Bob Searns (18m 48s):
The other thing is sometimes is using road right of ways, you know, it’s not always great being mixed up with cars, but again, as I mentioned with the human powered a t v, you can walk along the edge of a road and if it’s low traffic, a country lane or what have you, or a designated space in the right of way, you know it’s relatively safe and maybe you can enhance those spaces and not ideal, but you know, that’s the other option is there is that flexibility. But Jeff, your point’s well taken. It’s, it’s a long term struggle. It can take, it can take two generations to build a greenway. So that’s one of the reasons I wanna get this message out now and cite some of the examples of cities that have done it so we can start to do that kind of thing.

Bob Searns (19m 36s):

Jeff Wood (19m 37s):
Wanna talk a little bit more about town walks too. I think those are an interesting idea. And here in San Francisco, you know, during the pandemic specifically, but even before that I was able to just kind of go out my door and walk in any direction that I wanted to and you know, go up the hill, go down the hill, go to a street and get coffee or whatever it is. But you can take different loops and you’ll always end up where you want to end up. And so I’m interested in this idea of town walks because I think it is more of an accessible way to create Trails for, you know, people that live in cities.

Bob Searns (20m 6s):
Yeah, and I think there’s two kinda levels of maybe three levels of town walks that I kind of envision. One of the are the formerly built ones that are planned and established. And there are some, you know, these might be more destination walks. There’s some that are low end in Tucson it was two women with a historical society that got ahold of some leftover city paint, the city a streets department had. And they painted a turquoise colored stripe. They identified some good walking surfaces, safe street crossings. They made a loop around the Presidio area in the historic part of Tucson. And with the can of paint literally. And I went and walked that with some friends and you walk from all these historic places you can stop at restaurants, go through the old barrios.

Bob Searns (20m 53s):
It’s a great way to experience Tucson as opposed to driving along by all the strip malls or whatever. You really experience it. So that’s one way to do it. Denver is actually developing something called the 52 80 Trail, which is gonna be a five mile trail around the downtown area that’s going to be probably a hundred million dollar project. They’re gonna massively convert the streets into these really high-end, very nice walking spaces and biking spaces, both walking in, biking. So that’s kind of one level where you’re actually building infrastructure at the next step. It can be more neighborhood and local activities of just maybe cities establishing a couple areas where they improve the sidewalks provide shape ’cause it’s gotta be a pleasant experience for people aren’t gonna do it.

Bob Searns (21m 41s):
So providing those kind of spaces, and maybe they’re done first as kind of proof of concept projects. Maybe they’re three mile loops and they’re put in different areas in the city and then you hope that they become viral and spread. So that’s another layer of this thing. And then yet another layer is kind of what I call doorstep walks. And that’s kind of, you do it yourself and you go out your door and you figure out a way to walk. But not everybody has that. There are just a lot of neighborhoods or barriers where you just can’t comfortably do that. So what we need there, my colleague Mark Fenton likes to say he’s a, he’s a walking specialist about the need to build infrastructure, have policies that go for the infrastructure.

Bob Searns (22m 28s):
So there’s really multiple, you know, layers and levels of making these things happen. And I kind of go through that in the book and try to look at those different directions.

Jeff Wood (22m 38s):
What do you think of these new ideas of Trails in cities, the 52 80, the cultural trail in Indianapolis, others like that? I saw you mentioned them in the book, but I’m curious kind of your thoughts on this new I idea, new to a lot of people, it’s not new necessarily, right? But new to a lot of people idea that you can actually build a really comfortable place for people to walk in bike in a city.

Bob Searns (22m 57s):
Well it’s a different mode, you know, I think it’s hopefully, as I say, it’s Beyond, Greenways, it’s a different mode evolution. And I think if we can get a number of these built and showcase them, then I hope it will spread. I think it’s essential because we didn’t really get into the health and solace and pleasure benefits of walking activity daily, but lately, in fact, it’s been funny, I’ve been watching the news and there’s constantly a story about, you know, walking helps with stopping Alzheimer’s or people getting cancer and just all these findings, you see them almost every day in the news now, you know, that’s important.

Bob Searns (23m 38s):
But the other important thing is just the daily feeling good. You know? And all the stress in our society being able to, to get out and just feeling great after just having a walk or a run, which doesn’t take a whole lot of equipment or infrastructure if you have a decent place that you could do it. So I think this is a critical part of our infrastructure. You know, I think there’re a new kind of overlay park and there just as important or maybe more important than the traditional parks. Traditional parks, many of them have kind of become athletic competition areas. Not all of them, but you know, we need other places. There’s also the side of it of social interaction. We’re increasingly isolated.

Bob Searns (24m 18s):
We kinda learned this during the pandemic that at least if you could get out and walk, you could kind of see other people out there. The other thing about walks like this is they connect to what a guy just saw. Some of his writings, I think his name is Mark Fink, and he talks about libraries particularly, but he talks about what he calls third places. Now your first place is your home, your second places where you work, and your third places where you go like a coffee shop or a library or a bar or whatever to socialize. And so there’s this social connection aspect. So I think they’re pretty important on multiple levels. And it’s just kind of a little bit different way that maybe goes beyond the traditional parks.

Bob Searns (25m 2s):
And Greenways for that matter is places to routinely engage.

Jeff Wood (25m 7s):
One of the things mentioned in the book was the idea of pleasure and, and happiness being more of a push for people than maybe, you know, the need to stay fit or you know, a way that they hang things on themselves to be able to, to make themselves go out and exercise. So I think that’s a really important point. It, it feels good to get out, then you’re more likely to get out. And also, the other thing that I wanted to ask you too is making these spaces and making them more natural maybe than they might be already because of the way that our streets and roads are laid out. They might not be, you know, those oasis of plant life or forests that you can walk through, but you can kind of get them to that place eventually, right?

Bob Searns (25m 45s):
Yeah, I think there’s, there’s kind of a tail wags the dog opportunity here and, and it’s partly getting out of silo thinking. There’s all kinds of synergistic connections. I’ve been on LinkedIn lately and I’ve been sort of networking with a, a bunch of placemaking and urban forestry people and biome people and library people. And one of the interesting things that I’ve seen a lot is about reforestation and can you use these to these walkable Routes because you know, in the book I kind of talk about having a cross section that has trees and landscaping in, in Denver for example, where the 52 80 walk is doing that.

Bob Searns (26m 26s):
That urban forestry is a big aspect of that. And you can green these areas and also you can create maybe little nooks and nodes. There’s been a lot of chatter about that on LinkedIn now too, about creating these little shaded nodes where at least people can get into some shade, you know, get cool when it’s really hot. Maybe even have some misting devices or something where you can get cooled off. So I think we wanna think beyond just walking, but all these synergistic ways that you’re really creating like a charm bracelet, you can think of it that way. You build, you build the necklace and then you can hang all kinds of stuff off of it. Good stuff.

Bob Searns (27m 6s):
Yeah. You know, so that’s part of the picture.

Jeff Wood (27m 9s):
How important is wayfinding when it comes to these situations?

Bob Searns (27m 13s):
You know, it’s critical. You really, you really need that. It doesn’t have to be super fancy or complex and I don’t think you can rely totally on your cell phone to find your way. You know, it’s a tool. But you know, a lot of times when I’m out there I like to listen to audiobook, you know, some people would criticize me for that when I’m walking, but I like to do that or listen to music podcasts. That’s just how I like to do it. But to find my way, I’d rather have artifacts out there in the environment and those can become sculptural pieces. The JJ Ali Trail, for example, in Korea I mentioned they use these little sculptures of these little horses that kind of point in a direction.

Bob Searns (27m 53s):
You can just put an imprint in the sidewalk, but knowing where you are, how far it’s to get to something where the different amenities are that you might need, wayfinding does all that. So wayfinding is critical to that. And really in some ways you can lay out a very basic grand looper walking trail just using wayfinding. And it can be really simple. For example, the rendez in Europe, they just put a, you know, a slash on a lamppost, like a colored slash, you’ve probably been on them and you just follow those and that takes you on the route that you wanna follow. So it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. You’re

Jeff Wood (28m 32s):
Giving me some good ideas for activism as well, thinking about creating roots and maybe putting some paint down that might not be allowed, don’t get arrested. I’m thinking also about urban growth and how cities grow and sprawl and building these loops and Trails it’s good to, you know, protect spaces so that they don’t, you know, succumb to the growth. But at some point some of the places that you might build might have trouble staying that way unless they’re protected. So how do you make sure that the trail that you create or a grand loop that you create will always be there if you’re having to make these deals with landowners and things like that that might get rescinded at some point?

Bob Searns (29m 13s):
Yeah, I mean I think that’s the dilemma. Ideally you wanna get permanent easements that are in perpetuity if you can get them. But we’re starting to see that struggle in places like London and Toronto, which both have green belts or green belt movements. And now there’s pressure, particularly in London, there’s been stor and Toronto too. There’s been stories about, you know, housing’s getting expensive, people want more room and they’re eyeing these places and they’re gonna begin to erode. But one of the things I think by creating these Grand loops is at least you might create more of a constituency and a consciousness because a grand loop really makes these places accessible and plus they’re gonna build their own economies along them.

Bob Searns (29m 56s):
So you’re gonna get what I call I brand the name trail towns, you know, these are communities that thrive based on trail business that comes to those towns. Amy Camp’s written a great book about that in Pennsylvania where they’ve done this, so, so the point is is that there’s a lot of tools that are available and there’s pretty big threats and, and I’ve been pretty fascinated with the whole notion. Some of the listeners may not know about Ebony or Howard and his green belt movement about a hundred years ago where he envisioned kind of preserving these areas around cities and it sort of took in some places, but in a lot of places it has hasn’t. So I’m really interested in seeing how we can maybe further that.

Bob Searns (30m 36s):
The other thing I’ll add to that is that if you can create a great experience along a trail, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a five mile long strip. It’s the perception that you have. You know, on a greenway, that’s one of the nice things about a greenway. A lot of times you’re down on a river quarter and you don’t really see the urban development above you, you know, up on top of the banks. But if we can create spaces with buffers and landscape edges, that might be a way to do it. Another thing we can do is think that if one of the rings gets developed, if that edge gets developed where we build the first one, maybe 20 years later we build another one further out so they become concentric Grand loops, which are really overlaid parks.

Bob Searns (31m 19s):
They each have their purpose. The one in more urban areas, they’ll probably get more use, but it’s just gonna be more urban. You’re not gonna have that same experience. So those are some of the kinds of things I think we’re looking at in terms of those edges. But the controversies are alive very much Toronto, London, those battles are going on right now. So, and other cities don’t even think about green belts.

Jeff Wood (31m 44s):
Do you have any favorite Trails that you ply?

Bob Searns (31m 48s):
Oh God, there’s some close to home that I really like. I’m trying to think of one. I really like the Turquoise Trail in Tucson, just because it was so easy to build. Well, not easy, they had to advocate, but it was so affordable to build and it just offers you such an amazing revelation of Tucson. So that’s one of my favorite town walks. And I really like to walk around Denver, you know, I guess the grand loop around Denver isn’t yet built. I did do a plan for it that was kind of published here, but it was never officially adopted as a project because it was gonna take about 10 or 12 different entities to agree to do it.

Bob Searns (32m 33s):
But it turns out it’s getting built anyway. It’s probably about 40 or 50% in place just because the communities are sort of seeing that connectivity and they’re just doing it by, it’s just logic, you know? So that’s one of my favorites and that’s ’cause I walked it, you know, just walking around Denver. It’s an amazing experience.

Jeff Wood (32m 55s):
You’ve been doing this for a while and obviously you wrote a book about it, but I’m curious if you were surprised by anything in writing the book. Obviously that’s a guide to doing these types of projects, but was there something that you maybe came across or thought about differently because of putting together the book?

Bob Searns (33m 11s):
Well, you know, my biggest surprise is, is when I first started thinking about this, I thought I was just absolutely crazy, you know? And I was thinking, you know, what’s this crazy idea who’s gonna do this? And then I discovered there’s one in Phoenix one, you know, one in Las Vegas. I found out, hey, people are doing those things. So that I guess was, it was a pleasant surprise. It made me feel a little more confident about what I was writing about is people are actually out there proving it. So I think that that was, you know, a big surprise. I don’t know if I’d call this as a surprise. Exactly. You probably noticed on page 1 95 of the book, there’s, I did a series of thought experiments about, you know, what if different cities tried these things, I look at Dallas, Sarasota, Buffalo, New York, and some other places.

Bob Searns (33m 59s):
Well the Buffalo New York one, I’m gonna attempt to walk next month. And so I’ve started laying out a roof. And you know, one of the things about these Grand Loops is that it relates to something called ultra ultralight backpacking. In other words, my goal and the goal of people write about this stuff is to carry 15 pounds or less on your back. So, and how do you do that? Because, you know, carrying a sleeping bag of a tent and food ain’t gonna happen. So the thing is, is when you’re out on the edge of a, of a town, they’re little towns and hamlets and places along the way you can stop. So I plotted out a route that I’m gonna hopefully walk next month, and I got out Google Maps, which I found two things, I found two things incredibly useful.

Bob Searns (34m 45s):
One was Google Maps to plot these things out because you and I discovered, I really had to figure out, you know, where was I going to eat? Where was I gonna sleep, where was I gonna find water? What if it started storming? So there is a process that you have to go through on your own to figure these, this thing out. And I realized that kind of generates the need to start providing these facilities, you know, when you develop these Trails, you know. But the other thing I learned is that there are tools you can use. For example, Uber and Lyft, you know, I, I kind of discovered in Buffalo, I was kind of getting nervous, getting kind of scared, you know, that I’d be out there and you know, what if I got tired of my leg got sore, whatever, well you can, you can call Uber, they’ll come pick you up and take you into town.

Bob Searns (35m 31s):
So the idea is, I guess the surprise was, is you do need to do some planning when you do these things, but I think it’s doable. I’ll find out next month. Yeah. You know, and that’s part of it and part of it is that there’s some new technologies like Uber and Lyft and the, and Google, these digital resources you can use that you couldn’t use a generation ago. I could look at every route in Buffalo. I put the little yellow man down on the road, I could see if it was walkable. You know, so, so the technology and some of those changes were, they’re, they’re kind of a pleasant surprise, although, you know, it’s a little challenging to realize that. You don’t just say, oh, draw a line and say I’m gonna walk this.

Bob Searns (36m 13s):
You’ve gotta do some prepping for trekking. But that, that’s actually kind of fun to do.

Jeff Wood (36m 18s):
A bunch of my friends and I, we go on these, these man trips every three years or so of my high school friends. And one of the years a friend of mine was living in London, and so we decided to go down on the South Downs Way, which is on the south coast of England. And basically what we did was we started in Lewis and we just walked through the Trails that existed through other people’s land. And obviously there’s, you know, there’s cow fences and things like that Yeah. Where you open and you make sure you close ’em and those types of things. But then we got to this little town called Alfredton in the middle between Lewis and and East, born before the Seven Sisters. And we just, you know, we already planned it ahead of time and we just decided that, you know, we were gonna pack light and we weren’t gonna do camping or anything like that, but we just stay in the hotel and drink at the pub when we finished our walk that day.

Jeff Wood (36m 60s):
And so the next morning we woke up and we kept trekking. And, and I think that’s a just kind of a fun way to think about, you know, walks. And it doesn’t have to be, you know, the Appalachian trail. You don’t have to spend a month or two months to, to traverse certain things, but you can actually get places and have a nice little weekend where you get out in nature and enjoy your friends company and you know, see new places. I just, I just really love that idea of being able to hitch a ride onto trail and spend some time with friends and just see where it takes you.

Bob Searns (37m 31s):
Yeah. You can do a segment and then come back and do the segment a a week or a month or even a year later and, you know, you kind of tri triggered something that I’ll add that kind of inspired and enabled me. And that’s the writings of guy named Bernard Olivier. And he, he’s one of the other people that got me going in this thing. He was a French journalist and when he turned 60, his wife had just died and he was kind of pressured to retire, you know, from his career. And he was pretty despondent and he went out and walked the Camino de San Santiago, which a lot of people do that’s to trail across northern Spain. But then he decided he, he was gonna walk from the Silk Road route, which is a 7,000 mile quarter.

Bob Searns (38m 17s):
This is a guy who’s like now 6,162, and he is just gonna go out there and start his stumble, you know, caring is basic necessities and just start walking. And he actually documents this in a three book series called, it’s in French. It’s, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right, the series in English is, it starts with out of Istanbul. And, but I actually met this guy flight. That’s how I kind of learned about all this. But every time I think about plotting one of these things, I think about Bernard who is like, you know, 62 or whatever, he was years old going out there and walking across, walking through Uzbekistan,

Jeff Wood (38m 59s):
You know,

Bob Searns (39m 0s):
And, and the thing is, you know, these are, some of these are pretty rough places, but he always seemed to find somebody who would take him in and offer him tea and let ’em sleep in a yard. You may not find that necessarily in America. I, I’m a little nervous sometimes about going through a door, you know, these days. But I also learned that a lot of times just serendipitously like you were describing, you just kind of meet people and people help you out. Like they help Bernard out and he made the journey, you get over a three year period and walked the 7,000 miles and then he went back and actually he was so inspired that he created this therapy program for delinquent youth.

Bob Searns (39m 41s):
Instead of going to jail, they would go on a long trek with Bernard or his people as kind of a way of, you know, reintegrating themselves. So anyway, just saying that there’s, when I heard you describe that, you know, and I’m kind of an organized guy and sometimes a little o c d and anxieties and sometimes you just have to go out there, you know, take the right precautions but kind of cast your fate to the winds and hope you find that pub or that place. And that’s part of the excitement of the journey.

Jeff Wood (40m 11s):
Yeah, for sure. It reminds me of, we had Jonathan stalls on recently. I don’t know if you know who you’re familiar with, John. I know’s work. Yeah. Great guy. He was talking about those trail angels, the people that are out there, you know, that, that come when you’re, you’re out there and lenda hand when, when you need it the most. Yeah. And Bernard’s walk also reminds me of Paul Spic, who I’ve been following in National Geographic for, for years. Going from the great RI Valley to Tiara del Fuego walking. So lots of, lots of distance there and a little bit more stressful maybe going through certain parts of Myanmar at the moment. Yeah. Well, what’s next for you? Like, what’s the next journey you’ve got besides Buffalo? Obviously you’re doing that, but do you have any more books planned? Are you looking forward to planning more of these Grand Loops?

Jeff Wood (40m 51s):
What’s next?

Bob Searns (40m 51s):
Well, assuming I get around Buffalo, which I think I will or I’ll give it my best shot, I’m actually thinking of working on a sequel, Beyond Greenways, you know, as kind of a how to and an advocacy book and kind of a social change book. I’m thinking more about something maybe a little more late oriented this time and I wanna kind of take a look at the roots that people follow in the ways they follow those roots and, you know, then get into some of these layers of the experiences and, and maybe go back and revisit my friend Bernard Olivier again and Jonathan Stalls and some of these other people.

Bob Searns (41m 32s):
So a long answer to a short question, I, I am contemplating a sequel that’s gonna be maybe a little bit more emphasized to lay people who just wanna get out and walk, maybe share some of the kind of stories that you described in the south of England. So that’s what I’m thinking about at the moment.

Jeff Wood (41m 50s):
Awesome. Well I’m looking forward to that.

Bob Searns (41m 54s):
I’ll get busy.

Jeff Wood (41m 56s):
The book is Beyond Greenways The Next Step for City Trails and Walking Routes. Bob, where can folks find it if they wanna get a copy?

Bob Searns (42m 1s):
Well, you can Google Beyond Greenways and you’ll find it. It’s Barnes and Noble, the usual place. Amazon, Google Books Island Press is the publisher. But go ahead and Google, if you’re interested in buying the book, go ahead and Google Beyond Greenways and you should be able to get it. They’re same two or three days delivery. It may even be in a, in the stores now. So it’s out there.

Jeff Wood (42m 24s):
Awesome. Walk to your local bookstore and see if you can

Bob Searns (42m 28s):
Walk. Yes. Walk to your

Jeff Wood (42m 29s):

Bob Searns (42m 30s):
Store. Hopefully in a few libraries too. It’ll be available.

Jeff Wood (42m 35s):
Yeah, it’s awesome. You know, I think it’s a really good guidebook for folks who wanna do this, you know, who wanna put together something in their region or, or even in their city. And so I hope folks, you know, get a chance to get it if they’re thinking about doing that or even if they’re just thinking about walking. I think, you know, it’s a subject that we like to talk about here on the show. And yeah, we’ve had a lot of great folks come on and talk about Antonia Ick and, and Jonathan and you. And so this is kind of the a series I I put together and this is a really good planning book, so I appreciate that. Thank, you Bob, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

Bob Searns (43m 5s):
Well Thank you, it’s been great talking with you, Jeff, and best to you and Thank you very much.

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