The Northeast Texas Trail (NETT) cuts a serpentine path across the fertile plains, from Farmersville near Dallas to New Boston, 23 miles from Texarkana. The trail is 130 miles of former railroad corridor converted to a premier outdoor experience.
NETT is the longest rails-to-trails project in Texas and the fourth largest in the U.S. There are stretches that are paved, stretches that are double-track dirt paths, and stretches where obstacles block the path. About 75% of the trail is open at any time, with volunteers constantly battling Mother Nature and searching for grant money to maintain it.
Built in 1886, the rail line served the farming communities until 1995. Since 2001, the trail has come together one piece at a time, says Earl Erickson, a spokesman for the Northeast Texas Trails Coalition, the group coordinating the construction and maintenance. "There's still a lot to do. It can be an economic engine for the communities."
The trail crosses 19 towns and seven counties. For the owners of grocery stores, cafes, antique shops, and hardware stores, the trail means new customers for markets that are shrinking. For communities it means new businesses opening to cater to the trail riders and hikers.
"The longer the trail, the further people will come to use it, and the longer they will stay," says Erickson, a former world-class cyclist.
For maps and information about NETT, go to www.northeasttexastrail.org.
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