he vision behind rail-trails is
partly functional: Take a dis-
used industrial corridor and
convert it into a pathway that
people can use for transportation and
recreation. But many communities go a
step further, using their scenic paths to
connect users with visual art.
In some places, pieces are com-
missioned as part of a master plan to
infuse the trails with art for all to enjoy.
Elsewhere, guerrilla artists create mas-
terpieces without seeking permission
first. Often these pieces are welcomed
and left in place.
Here are four great examples of art-
work that has helped beautify—and, at
times, add intrigue to—trails.
Danielle Taylor is executive editor of the
National Recreation and Park Association’s
Parks & Recreation
By Danielle Taylor
Leonard Swanson Memorial Pathway, South Dakota
The world grieved in December 2013 at the death of anti-apartheid activist and for-
mer South African President Nelson Mandela, and one anonymous mourner in South
Dakota channeled his emotions into an artistic challenge. Two days after Christmas,
users of the Leonard Swanson Memorial Pathway in Rapid City, S.D., discovered that
a volleyball net near the rail-trail had been covered in plastic wrap bearing a mural of
Mandela and the messages, “Inspire!” and “What are you about?”
No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the artwork, which faced busy
Omaha Street as well as the trail in Founders Park. Its existence was short-lived, as it
was destroyed by wind just a few days after it was erected. But community members
applauded the artist’s use of plastic wrap, which didn’t cause permanent damage as tradi-
tional graffiti would.
Our philosophy is that our parks are public property, and we respect the joys of free
speech,” says Lon VanDeusen, Rapid City’s parks division manager. “It was a timely
A View From…
Chris Huber/Rapid City Journal