We love getting out on the trail. But how often do we think about all of the work that goes into building and maintaining the trails we know and love? It’s easy to forget that someone has struggled every rock staircase, bridge and drainage into existence. That’s why this National Trails Day, June 2, the American Hiking Society is asking all of us to take a moment to think differently about the places where we recreate.
“It’s so easy to get out on the trail without thinking about the people who have come before, who have advocated, built and maintained these amazing trail networks. There are a quarter of a million miles of trails across the country, put there by people like you and me,” said Wesley Trimble, programs outreach and communications manager at the American Hiking Society.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, which established national trails in 1968. Twenty-five years ago, National Trails Day was founded to celebrate the Act’s 25th year. National trails are special because once designated by Congress, they are maintained and protected by federal agencies, keeping them open to the public for future generations. For the past quarter of a century, on National Trails Day, the American Hiking Society has encouraged people to get out and enjoy, build and maintain trails.
“For 25 years, REI has participated in National Trails Day. It’s a day that unites the larger trail community behind a common cause of stewarding, celebrating and enjoying our national trails system, said Taldi Walter, government and community affairs manager for REI. “This year REI will host or participate in events across the country with a goal of enhancing the quality and accessibility of our national trails for all.”
This year is a little different than years past. Since National Trails Day’s inception, three-quarters of all registered events have been recreation based, like trail runs, mountain bike rides or water sport events, and one-fourth have involved trail building and maintenance. This year, the American Hiking Society wants everyone to take the pledge: Leave the trail better than you found it. They’re asking us all to improve a trail, whether we’re volunteering to build or maintain a trail or using one (i.e., pick up that piece of litter you see as you’re hiking). The goal is to improve 2,802 miles of trail, or the distance across the United States, in a single day.
“Volunteering is really critical in this day and age, when there isn’t funding to maintain existing trails and build new trails. It’s very important that people who enjoy using trails take some time to help maintain and improve those trails,” Wesley said.
The American Hiking Society has built partnerships with organizations around the country, including REI retail stores. Anyone can register an event, and events can be as simple as an organized hike, ride or paddle or as complex as a large trail-work festival. National Trails Day is a grassroots effort that’s all about building connections.
Consider pitching in to help to maintain a section of your favorite trail or host your own trail-building event with friends or family. Showing our trails a little love is up to us. Will you take the pledge to improve a trail on June 2?