“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down, livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town; I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, but is that because he’s a victim of the times.”
Without even trying, Johnny Cash was a larger-than-life character. Beyond his Man in Black persona, he was also an outspoken voice for prisoner’s rights. With his 1968 concert at California’s Folsom Prison, he left a lasting impression on the entire area. So, it only seems fitting the town would dedicate a memorial trail — and a whole lot more — in honor of the iconic musician.
In October, California unveiled the newly completed Johnny Cash Trail. The celebratory event kicked off in Folsom (where else?) with an outdoor festival, fun runs, bike rides, live music, and a Michelin star-worthy fine-dining affair. The ribbon-cutting ceremony included a heartfelt speech by daughter Cindy Cash, who noted how honored her rather humble father would have been by the dedication.
The trail incorporates a tunnel under Prison Road at Natoma Street, a full mile of paved track, and a nearly 200-foot arched wooden bridge with sweeping views of the American River Canyon. The full two-and-a-half-mile expanse now provides runners, walkers, and bicyclists an easy way to access both the American River Parkway trail and the charming Folsom Historic District. A three-acre Man in Black Park is also in the works to expand the public-use space.
The trail’s first section — including the Johnny Cash Bridge that crosses Folsom Lake Crossing Road — opened to the public in 2014. The bridge’s unique design was inspired by that of the East Gate guard tower at the now infamous Folsom Prison. It was here that an iconic photo of Cash was snapped ahead of one of his prison performances. Thanks to a $3 million investment through grants and other local funds, this second section ties into a route in Sharon Williams Rodeo Park.
The Johnny Cash Trail is also looking be an active part of the local art community with eight large installations currently in the works. The effort is being funded by the Johnny Cash Trail Art Experience through the Folsom Arts Association. Donating members can memorialize their contribution with a plaque on a wall near the bridge that overlooks what will soon be Johnny Cash Legacy Park. Two large bronze guitar picks will also bookend the Johnny Cash Trail. To fund the construction and upkeep of these plectrums, donors can purchase one of only 100 framed, limited-edition license plates made inside Folsom State Prison.
Feature image courtesy of Johnny Cash/Facebook