Picture this: It’s 6AM, and you’re out for a run. Fellow joggers pass, headphones in ears jamming to favorite tunes. Bike commuters whoosh by en route to desks in downtown high rises. Retirees glide past on cruisers wheeled out from garages for morning rides. Crossfit addicts jump, squat, and sweat through another adrenaline fix. You’re on a tree-lined trail that stretches 3.5 miles through the heart of the city and is a key recreational and transportation link for the more than 300,000 people that live within a mile of the path.
It’s early. Hot. Brutally humid. You haven’t had your morning coffee. For the first few minutes until you settle into a groove, you are convinced that you boarded the wrong flight and landed in the wrong town. This just doesn’t quite make sense. Yet here you are in Dallas, and this is the Katy Trail.
Last week found me on a multi-hop trip through Texas, and Dallas was my last stop. I went to check out this year’s New Cities Foundation summit which centered on re-imagining cities for the future. While the conference was hosted downtown in the Dallas Arts District, I intentionally stayed in an Airbnb away from the activities because I wanted to get a sense of real life for those who do Texas-style city living. Plus, I’d heard so much about this trail that I had to check it out.
Revived from a defunct train line, the Katy Trail is yet another example of a rails-to-trails project that is transforming the neighborhoods that it touches. The economic impact in Dallas is obvious, as evidenced by the multiple construction cranes that peek over treetops like giant, industrial giraffes. 8000 new housing units have gone up in the past few years, and more are on the way. Dallas developers report a 25% premium for properties along the Katy Trail.
This is a neighborhood on the move. And with a gem like the Katy Trail in the backyard it’s obvious why.