Message from the Executive Director Summer 2021

When reading this issue of Pathways Across America, I noticed a refreshed and palpable energy in the National Trails System. This energy is not new, it is long nurtured by many people, including many of you reading this issue of Pathways.

As we emerge from pandemic-related shutdowns, public interest in outdoor recreation continues to skyrocket. National Scenic and Historic Trails are abuzz with activity and programs, both in-person and online, showing us that the ‘crash course’ many of us had in virtual engagement over the past year and a half will help expand our reach and raise awareness for the National Trails System over the long term. Currently, an unprecedented number of trails seek feasibility studies or designation as National Scenic and Historic Trails, indicating a recognition of the value of trails as avenues for connecting people with nature and with stories that demonstrate the diverse and rich history and heritage associated with lands.

New government and community initiatives, some highlighted in this issue, are drawing increased attention to public lands. These initiatives present opportunities for the National Trails System to connect gaps in Trails and to increase trail accessibility and stewardship. They also challenge us to do the work to ensure a National Trails System that is conveniently accessible, engaging, and welcoming for all. This will take sweat equity, listening, learning, and so much more.

Time and again, National Scenic and Historic Trails across the nation show their resourcefulness and flexibility to change to meet the recreation needs of a growing population, just as intended in the National Trails System Act of 1968. Since the passing of the Act, National Trails have proven that they are much more than spaces for outdoor recreation. Undoubtedly, the story and the role of National Trails will continue to evolve to engage more people and add greater value to each of our lives.

We at the Partnership are excited and grateful to be a part of the incredible story of the National Trails System.

Yours in partnership,

Valerie Rupp