by Elena Medaras, Communications Support Specialist – Ice Age Trail Alliance
One year ago, I was a National Trails System newbie. My investment in National Trails – like any hobby, passion, or even obsession – began with simple curiosity. Equipped with enthusiasm for outdoor recreation in my home State of Wisconsin and a general understanding of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, I accepted an AmeriCorps VISTA position in outreach and communications with the Ice Age Trail Alliance.
AmeriCorps service has helped me transform an amorphous interest in the Ice Age Trail into a professional experience at the nexus of communications, land conservation, and outdoor recreation; but other opportunities exist for delving into a personal or professional interest in the National Trails System.
One such opportunity is the PNTS Trail Apprentice Program (TAP). The TAP brings together a group of 18-28-year-olds who share an interest in the National Trails System. The 2020-2021 virtual cohort – of which I am honored to be a part of – includes 23 Trail aficionados.
Trail Apprentices are launched into the world of National Trails and connected to a robust network of National Trails System professionals. Through a series of workshops, we are offered the resources, tools, and guidance to work towards promoting equitable access to public lands and supporting the National Trails System through outreach, fundraising, and advocacy.
With the incredible increase in use and visibility of National Scenic and Historic Trails, programs like TAP are especially relevant for engaging new audiences with the National Trails System. This boost in public recognition is an exciting opportunity for those who support and appreciate public trails to welcome the next generation of Trail Apprentices, trail users, land stewards, and volunteers.
Given the opportunity, the next National Trails System newbie could–like me–turn their newfound interest into a personal and professional passion for public trails.