Feature Article - October 2008
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Hit The Trails

Building Active & Vital Communities

By Dana Carman

Some of the programs available for trails:
National Recreation Trails Program

The National Recreation Trails (NRT) program is spearheaded by American Trails in conjunction with the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The program paves the path for local and regional trails to be designated as NRTs and part of the National Trail System.

The National Trail System, which turned 40 in 2008, comprises 200,000 miles of National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails. The latter two may be designated only by an act of Congress, while NRTs can be designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture. Trails designated as NRTs are supported by the NRT program, which provides promotion, technical assistance, networking and access to funding. According to American Trails, the program's goal "is to promote the use and care of existing trails and stimulate the development of new trails to create a national network of trails and realize the vision of 'Trails for All Americans.'"

This year, 24 new NRTs were designated by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne just prior to National Trails Day on June 7. These trails joined more than 1,000 others encompassing more than 12,000 miles of National Recreation Trails. American Trails maintains an online, searchable database of these trails as well as information on how trails may be nominated for NRT designation. For more information, visit www.americantrails.org.

National Trails Day

National Trails Day is the signature trails awareness program of the American Hiking Society, which "works to protect trails and promote the hiking experience," said Seth Levy, manager of the Western Public Lands Initiative with the American Hiking Society. The program is a celebration of trails that introduces people to trails, thanks the many volunteers and organizations that contribute to the health of trails, and raises awareness for trails. Generally held the first Saturday in June, there were more than 1,100 registered National Trails Day events in 2007. On the organization's Web site are several resources to enable you to host your own National Trails Day events at www.americanhiking.org.

Volunteer Vacations

How great is it when you can visit a beautiful place, enjoy hiking and do your part to help trails? The American Hiking Society offers Volunteer Vacations to do just that. There are 70 trips a year of every level challenge, Levy said. They'll take you to some of the most interesting places you may ever see. Levy detailed watching orcas frolicking in the sunset off the coast of California on his last excursion with Volunteer Vacations. For more information, visit www.americanhiking.org.

Rivers, Trails, & Conservation Assistance Program

This assistance program has contributed to the protection of more than 700 miles of rivers, the creation of over 1,400 miles of trails and conserved more than 63,700 acres of open space through its partnerships. The RTCA does not provide grants but does facilitate the necessary steps and elements to assist local organizations with their conservation efforts. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/ncrc/programs/rtca/.