By Gary Werner, Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System
The National Trails System 50th Anniversary next year provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to focus much greater attention on our national scenic and historic trails and to inspire both our longtime supporters and new friends to contribute more to help us sustain them. Anniversaries inspire recollections of happy experiences of the past and celebrations of accomplishments. We certainly have many successes and much progress to celebrate with our 50th Anniversary commemoration. In over 50 years the National Trails System has grown from two national scenic trails to 11 of them plus 19 national historic trails and almost 1,300 national recreation trails. The national scenic and historic trails span more than 55,000 congressionally authorized miles in 49 States. Through the “railbanking” authority in the National Trails System Act (which became law October 2, 1968), more than 22,000 miles of multi-use rail-trails have been developed in cities and rural areas throughout the country. Our nonprofit trail organizations supporting these trails regularly organize tens of thousands of volunteers who contribute more than 1 million hours annually to help keep them open and enjoyable for the millions of people who travel them.
Just as importantly, we must remind our elected officials and our fellow citizens that all of our national scenic and historic trails are still “works in progress.” There is much satisfying work yet to be done to make them fully usable and beneficial to all Americans. For instance, there are more than 4,000 miles of gaps to close to make the national scenic trails the continuous pathways intended by Congress and hundreds or perhaps thousands of significant sites along national historic trails remaining to be fully explored, interpreted, and preserved. While we invite new people to enjoy the many benefits national scenic and historic trails provide and to celebrate the trails with us, we must also ask them to help us further develop, protect, and sustain them. While recognizing 50 years of progress we must resolve to provide the impetus for even greater progress in the next 50 years by using this anniversary to draw more resources, both public and private, toward sustaining the joyful work of trail making. Please help us do this good work of securing more resources during 2018.
We have a number of ways to help you show and share your love for national scenic and historic trails through the 50th Anniversary year and beyond. You can show your support for the National Trails System by purchasing and wearing 50th Anniversary buttons, patches, hats, and shirts. Plan on joining other leaders and activists from the various national trails in commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System during co-located conferences October 22-25, 2018 in Vancouver, Washington. Help organize 50th Anniversary celebrations along your national trail throughout 2018. If you enjoy taking pictures of your favorite places along our national trails you can participate in a Trails 50th Anniversary Photo Contest. To find out more about these and other opportunities to join in the 50th Anniversary fun and keep current on new opportunities, visit www.pnts.org and www.Trails50.org.
You can also directly support the National Trails System and the work of planning and organizing activities to commemorate the 50th Anniversary by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Partnership for the National Trails System in the enclosed envelope or at www.pnts.org. Although the Federal agencies involved with the National Trails System continue to provide funding for PATHWAYS Across America and are helping to fund some of the activities and events planned to commemorate the National Trails 50th Anniversary, this funding does not cover all of the costs the Partnership is incurring to provide the quarterly magazine, monthly e-News, and monthly webinars about critical topics nor to lead the planning for 50th Anniversary activities.
To use the 50th Anniversary to increase both public and private funding support for the National Trails System we plan to increase our advocacy with Congress and expand the circle of corporations and individuals supporting the national trails. We cannot use any Federal funding to engage in either of these activities. We rely on tax-deductible contributions from generous supporters to enable us to lead and organize advocacy and collective fundraising for our national trails community and to close the gaps in the funding for the services we regularly provide to share and distribute useful information throughout the national trails community. Please help us continue to provide these services through your financial contribution.
Have a delightful winter enjoying our national trails!
• Purchase and wear 50th Anniversary merchandise available at www.Trails50.org/shop
• Organize 50th Anniversary celebrations along the trails
• Participate in the Trails 50th Anniversary Photo Contest that will kick off in winter
• Attend the National Trails System Conference October 22-25, 2018 in Vancouver, Washington
• Contribute a tax-deductible donation to the Partnership for the National Trails System
For more information, visit www.pnts.org/new/ntsa50 or sign up for the 50th Anniversary e-News at www.Trails50.org/contact.