The clever way Indiana is resurrecting its old, rusting railroads.

When I was a kid, I went on a lot of nature walks with my mom.

We lived in the country in Central Texas and had a little plot of woods all to ourselves. We walked around big, ancient oaks and twisted, gnarly mesquite trees. Sometimes, we'd find a tree covered in big, ropey mustang grapevines and I'd climb up into the trees, pretending I was in the Swiss Family Robinson.

Other times, we went looking for animals. My favorites were the green anole lizards that lived on trees and flashed their red neck flaps at you.


Technically, it's called a dewlap, thank you very much. Photo from R. Colin Blenis/Wikimedia Commons.

There were also tiny black-and-white beetles with rock-hard shells that lived on fallen logs. If you touched them, they played dead until they thought you were gone. And sometimes we even saw deer.

Nature walks are a good way for families to bond. And they're pretty healthy too.

Science shows that spending just a little time outside (walking, looking at the trees, or even catching Pokemon!) can be good for you — it reduces blood pressure and improves mental health. There are even studies that suggest spending time in nature together can help families get along.

But here's the problem: Not everyone has access to nature, even (and especially) in rural areas.


Does this count as nature? Not really. Scott Olsen/Getty Images.

It's easy to imagine how someone living in downtown Chicago might struggle to find nature. But living outside a city doesn't guarantee access to trails and forests, either.

For example, imagine living in farm country. Though you're definitely not in the city, miles and miles of corn fields are just as much an artificial creation as any apartment building (plus the farmers probably wouldn't be happy with you trying to picnic in the middle of their fields).

This is actually a significant problem, so two researchers (University of Illinois professor Ramona Oswald and doctoral student Dina Izenstark) recently examined the lack of nature access in rural America. They found that although a lot of parents may know how great a nature walk can be for both your mood and your body, long distances or costs keep them from getting their families into nature.

“The moms in this study know about health and what to do to be healthy,” Oswald said in a press release. “It’s not a lack of education. It has to do with barriers and access to resources."

But what if we could erase these barriers? Enter the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit that's giving people access to nature in a cool way: by reviving old railway lines.

Photo via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy/Eric Oberg, used with permission.

You see, the United States is criss-crossed with old railway lines.

Photo via iStock.

Many of them are still in use, but many have been abandoned.


Photo via iStock.

But just because they're abandoned doesn't mean they can't still be useful.

These abandoned lines can have new life breathed into them. Take the Cardinal Greenway in central and eastern Indiana.

Way back in 1993, the nonprofit Cardinal Greenways bought 60 miles of abandoned railroad in eastern Indiana and, after teaming up with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy for logistical help, began the hard work of turning it into a nature trail. (Rails-to-Trails support projects all across the United States.)

Photo from Cardinal Greenways, used with permission.

Tearing up a big metal railroad to make a nature trail might seem like a lot of work. But the railroad is already set up for nature walking success.

Most railroad tracks are already built up off the ground (so they don't flood), and they can support a lot of weight. Even better, trees don't grow on railroad tracks, so there's less vegetation to cut back to make a trail.

Cardinal Greenways' first 10-mile stretch opened in 1998.

They also added updated features like new bridges, benches, and informational signs.

Photo from Cardinal Greenways, used with permission.

There is also a playground and exercise equipment. You can even borrow a bike. It's free, too. Cardinal Greenways relies on volunteers and donations to maintain and expand the trail.

Today, the Cardinal Greenway runs for 62 miles, winding through more than 10 small towns as well as nature preserves and parks.

Photo from Cardinal Greenways, used with permission.

Families can walk or bicycle it, giving them easy access to nature and a safe place to exercise, no matter whether they're urban or rural.

A lot of different places have hit on replacing old railway lines with nature trails. Chicagoans might recognize the Bloomingdale Trail, for instance.

Photo from Victor Grigas/Wikimedia Commons.

The Bloomingdale Trail is a greenway that runs for about three miles in Northwest Chicago. You might never guess it used to be an old elevated train line.

In fact, your favorite running trail may have started its life as a railroad track. The Gloucester Township Trail in New Jersey, the Shelby Farms Greenline in Tennessee, and Mississippi's Tanglefoot Trail all started as old train lines, too.

Projects like this give both urban and rural families access to nature — using resources we already have.

Nature walks with my mom are some of my fondest childhood memories, and I'm sure those walks are part of the reason I'm still in love with nature today.

It's awesome to see projects like this making sure everyone has access to those memories like I did.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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