Department of History
Multi-use, recreational trails are spaces of potential conflict between groups of walkers, landowners, policymakers, and urban residents. Many urbanites have seen the development of rail trails as an antidote to economic decline and automobile congestion, as well as a source of new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Residents of suburban and rural communities, however, have sometimes feared the crime, vandalism, and government intrusion that the trails would bring to their isolated neighborhoods. The development of rail trails, therefore, highlights the increasingly fractious relationship among various metropolitan constituencies, even as many policymakers and advocates heralded trails as essential components of the nation’s new outdoor recreational infrastructure.
Silas Chamberlin is an environmental history doctoral candidate. He received an MA in history from Lehigh in 2008 and a BA in history from Temple in 2006. Silas is working on his dissertation, titled "On the Trail: A History of American Hiking," which is a national study of hiking and trail policy prior to the National Trails System Act of 1968. In addition to presenting his work at several conferences, a revised version of his MA thesis was published in the journal Pennsylvania History as "To Ensure Permanency: Expanding and Protecting Hiking Opportunities in Twentieth-Century Pennsylvania." Outside of academia, Silas works with the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor to develop the 165-mile D&L Trail and serves as secretary of the City of Allentown's Environmental Advisory Council.