Message from the Executive Director Fall 2021

This time last year, the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) had just relocated from Madison, Wisconsin to a virtually empty office building in Washington, DC – a building located in the downtown of the nation’s capital that would be brimming with activity but for pandemic-related closures. 

And what a difference a year makes. Since we relocated, we’ve welcomed new staff, Board members and committee leaders to increase our programmatic focus and bring new perspectives to our work. We’ve launched a regular webinar series and working groups on topics important to trails to promote learning, peer exchange, and the sharing of best practices. At our annual ‘fly-in’ event, Hike the Hill®, held virtually in 2021, and through ongoing advocacy and policy work, we made strides in elevating the profile of National Trails and worked with our Federal partners and legislators to advance National Trails System priorities. For the second consecutive year, our Trail Apprentice Program has engaged its largest cohort yet following its reimagination in 2020 as a virtual, career-exploration-focused program. Similarly, we once again held the National Trails Workshop online with more people registered than ever before. We’ve forged new partnerships, including one with Bell’s Brewery that resulted in an awareness campaign that far exceeded its goal with thousands of hours being pledged to spend on trails in September and October. Just to name a few examples.

With momentum building and incredible opportunities ahead for National Scenic and Historic Trails, PNTS will begin a strategic planning process this fall to outline long-term goals and chart a course to achieve them. I expect it to be a pivotal plan for PNTS, one that encourages us to reflect on what has been and consider what could and should be prioritized over the next several years. 

Over the coming months, we will ask for input and I hope we can count on you to share your open and honest thoughts so the next PNTS strategic plan is a roadmap for the organization and a rallying point for growing a network of champions for a vibrant, world-class National Trails System for all. 

And, as we continue to build momentum in 2022 through strategic planning, Hike the Hill®, new or expanded programs and more, I will look forward to revisiting this message about where we stand today and reflecting on what a difference a year makes. 

All the best,

Valerie Rupp