by Kathy DeCoster, Advocacy and Policy Director, Partnership for the National Trails System
Talk about trial by fire! I began my tenure as the Partnership’s Advocacy and Policy Director in late January 2020 by testifying before Congress on trail funding needs, followed immediately by the whirlwind that is Hike the Hill! While I was familiar with the activities of the Partnership and its member organizations from a three year stint as a member of its Board of Directors, I learned very quickly that the trails community has a unique and powerful voice with our Federal agencies and in the halls of Congress. It is very clear that we have the opportunity to harness the collective strength of the Partnership and its member organizations to even greater effect, and I am happy to be working with so many of you to bring that to fruition.
Over the past few months, our advocacy and policy efforts in Washington, D.C. have been very successful, due in large part to the experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm that individual trail organizations bring to the table. The Partnership’s annual Hike the Hill event in early February—sponsored in partnership with the American Hiking Society—was another resounding success! The relationships cultivated and enhanced during the hundreds of visits to Capitol Hill and various Federal agencies set the table for ongoing effective outreach on budget and policy issues affecting the National Trails System and beyond. It’s impressive what we can do!
The challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic are consuming all of Congress’ time, and that could be the case for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t mean our bread-and-butter issues won’t be addressed. But the fact that our national trails are so closely tied to local communities and economic vitality make it likely that we’ll play a role in economic recovery efforts going forward. We have so much to offer, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to move a trails agenda forward over the coming months.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.