Outreach and Engagement

From instituting novel programs to engaging individuals of diverse backgrounds, this work is done in the interest of ensuring that the Trails are welcoming and accessible to all.

Conference attendees participating in Cherokee dance at Kituwah Mound. Photo by Troy Poteete.

Many public events brought communities together to celebrate the culture, history, and scenery of the trails. The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail completed its second year of the Trail Ambassador Sail program. The program taught citizens about privateers and the African American experience during the War of 1812 aboard the replica War of 1812 schooner PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II, as it sailed the Chesapeake Bay, engaging participants in the history of the regions along the Trail.

At the National Pony Express Re-Ride, 900 riders and horses traveled the length of the Pony Express National Historic Trail to deliver commemorative letters to Old Sacramento, California in just ten days. This reenactment is an annual tradition that honors the Trail’s history and still holds many of the dangers that the riders faced historically.

The American Solar Challenge—an international collegiate STEM program competition—took place in July with almost a dozen teams traveling the Oregon National Historic Trail. Teams comprised of engineers, designers, fundraisers, public relations managers, and logistics coordinators, along with 100 support crew members, designed, built, and drove solar-powered cars in a cross-country rally event covering a 1,500-2,000-mile course.

The 25th Annual National Trail of Tears Association Conference and Symposium welcomed attendees on an extended field trip to significant sites along the Trail of Tears. The event culminated in a traditional Cherokee dinner and presentations, including one by Dr. Brett Riggs about a recently discovered Cherokee removal route that may lead to an addition to the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

The Santa Fe Trail Association partnered with the Ft. Larned Historical Society, Santa Fe Trail Center and Fort Larned National Historic Site to present Rendezvous 2022: Youth on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. The event showcased experiences from a diversity of youth on the Trail. There were Santa Fe Trail songs performed by local grade school students and musician Jeff Davidson, a panel discussion and a showing of ”The Contested Plains,” a Santa Fe Trail poetry reading, and a visit to Fort Larned.

E Mau Nā Ala Hele hosted a “walk and talk” along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail from the Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park Visitor Center to Kauleolī and back to educate hikers about the area and the history of the trail.

Many trails collaborated with partners to spearhead creative projects and develop new strategies to grow and improve the trails system. In collaboration with the National Trails office, Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation completed a survey and assessment of historic buildings associated with the 1846-1847 Mormon exodus from Nauvoo along the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail. They coordinated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ History Department and other property owners, opening the door to new partnerships and resource preservation efforts along the NHT.

Along the Arizona National Scenic Trail, The Arizona Trail Association worked in collaboration with the Tohono O’odham Nation to develop a trailhead sign that tells the story of a prominent mountain range as a cultural landscape from an Indigenous perspective.

Collaboration with communities, organizations, and governmental entities has allowed many trails to develop and expand their reach across land and culture. In the southwest, the Arizona Trail Association partnered with Wildlife Corridors LLC to build a new trailhead and connector trail to improve access to the Arizona National Scenic Trail near the town of Patagonia. This project helps bring outdoor recreation to rural communities and helps to create a critically important wildlife migration corridor. The organizations also worked together on interpretive signs, bilingual translation, the development of trail ethics, and public outreach.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is in the process of designing its next strategic planning process. In order to prioritize community feedback, 250 people (including non-traditional stakeholders such as hikers, equestrians, and trail town business owners) were invited to share. Most importantly, members of historically underrepresented communities, such as communities of color and LGBTQIA+, were specifically invited to provide critical perspectives for PCTA’s ongoing culture change. Around 80 people attended the online sessions and presented tremendous diversity in perspectives and needs around their work for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail has acquired six properties that will be used to expand the Selma Interpretive Center. The expansion will enhance the visitor experience and understanding of the history that the Trail commemorates, interprets, and preserves, through educational programming, accessibility, and opportunities for the community.

The North Country Trail Association’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Mini-Grant provides funding to community programs that serve people experiencing barriers to outdoor experiences and is creating programming in connection with the North Country National Scenic Trail. Last year, the grant program supported six projects in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, engaging over 110 participants.

In Kansas, the Nez Perce Foundation has been working tirelessly on several projects associated with the Nez Perce National Historic Trail. They are collaborating with the City of Leavenworth to establish a memorial, expected to break ground in 2023, dedicated to Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce people who were incarcerated at Ft. Leavenworth. They are also working with the Native American University in Lawrence to establish an annual First Nations Cultural event to draw attention to the time that the Nez Perce people were held at Ft. Leavenworth. The Nez Perce Foundation is also in conversation with Governors, U.S. Senators, Congressmen and women, State Legislators, Mayors, and city council members about extending the trail. For years, the Nez Perce people have advocated for the extension of the trail. The Nez Perce journey did not end with their capture at Bear Paw, but also included their transport to Bismarck, ND, Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Baxter Springs, KS, Quapaw, OK, and finally to Oklahoma for 8 years before they were allowed to return to the Northwest.

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail (SSBNHT) had a successful summer of the Fort McHenry/SSBNHT Paddle Project, which provides fun, meaningful, educational, and recreational guided paddle programs for youth and veterans. The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail Stewards Program was also a success, connecting students and communities that live along the SSPNHT with historical events that occurred in their backyards. 

Trail organizations are artistically preserving past and present through storytelling, visual experiences, performances, and weaving history and modern culture into a single trail. The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (Azna Trail) travels through Salinas Valley and its complex Indigenous history and rural-to-urban present-day reality. As the Salinas Valley attempts to grow an agritourism identity, the Anza Trail is emerging as a historic connector that can join different elements of the valley (such as farm stands and wineries) while telling a story that illuminates layers of the Valley’s culture. The Anza Trail has joined efforts with the Salinas Valley Tourism Bureau and the University of California students in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design to develop a design strategy to thread these layers together in creative collaboration.

Along Highway 115 in southwest Utah, over eighty steel Silhouettes of Mules have been constructed and erected by Old Spanish Trail Association (OSTA) volunteers. These silhouettes are a visual reminder of a historical time when mules carried goods between New Mexico and California. These installations are linked with their new Mobile Map, which helps bring the trail to life by educating users about the history of OSTA. The Old Spanish National Historic Trail Mobile Map helps bring the trail to life by providing directions, location, and interpretation with pictures and safety information. It is supported by on-the-ground interpretation and a network of certified sites where the map can be downloaded with a QR code. 

Throughout 2022, the Santa Fe Trail 200th Timeline Exhibit was displayed at museums, libraries, and events along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail. The portable exhibit offered a timeline featuring over 150 significant places, people, and events to communities along the length of the Trail, allowing museums, libraries, or historical societies to bring visitors to their venues.

Musician and producer Brian Beattie and renowned visual artist Valerie Fowler created a forty-minute artistic performance called “A Time Traveling Trip Across Texas!” detailing the history of El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail across space and time. The performance—called a “crankie”—debuted at ElCaT’s annual meeting in Floresville, Texas, and has been performed in multiple locations across the trail.

The North Country Trail Association (NCTA) collaborated with StoryCorps to record and archive conversations about the people who have helped to develop, maintain, protect, promote, and use the North Country National Scenic Trail. Through recording, sharing, and preserving these conversations, the collaboration hopes to recognize the Trail’s dedicated volunteers and members and to tell the stories and history of the Trail through a unique lens.