Saturday Is National Trails Day. This Year It's Very Different
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
The American Hiking Society (AHS) promotes the event. Last year, the AHS launched a campaign to set a world record to have the most people helping improve trails in one day. This year is a very different story, due to recent developments like social distancing from COVID-19 and the nationwide protests of systemic racism.
While National Trails Day will continue on a local level, AHS has canceled all of its promotions and activities lest it detract from the Black Lives Matter movement.
The official page for National Trails Day is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. It goes on to advocate for equal access to the outdoors:
"In its quest to be an ever-stronger ally, so as not to take space from the very important discussions and protests around racism in America and, in particular, around police brutality of Black bodies, American Hiking Society will suspend its promotion of National Trails Day this year. Instead, we will be taking allyship actions, including: amplifying Black voices in the outdoor community; sharing resources on racism in the outdoors that will link back to publications and content authored by people of color; and urging our supporters to call on Congress to pass legislation that provides equitable access to quality natural spaces for ALL . We thank our partners who have supported this decision to re-focus our efforts where we feel they are needed most at this time."
While calls to improve trails have mostly been suspended so people can keep a safe distance from each other, hiking trails across the country have seen an uptick in visitors as other activities have been closed to them.
"During the COVID-19 quarantines, more and more people have been discovering the mental and physical benefits of getting outside in their neighborhoods, to the point of a 200 percent increase in trail usage in cities across the country," according to an AHS statement.
On Martha's Vineyard, in Massachusetts, the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation and the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Commission canceled its annual cross-island hike, even though attendance on trails has been up, according to the Martha's Vineyard Times.
"We've noticed a surge in use of all of our trails and sanctuaries, and also of the TrailsMV app," said Adam Moore, executive director of Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, to the Martha's Vineyard Times. "Even though there may not be an organized group hike, I think there may be more people out hiking than ever. It's been an extraordinary time for trails, for people's enjoyment of them, and for our need to keep them up and maintain them."
On the other side of the country, in Spokane, Washington, the Evergreen East organization is asking for volunteers to help complete a mountain bike trail in a conservation area. According to The Spokesman-Review, trail project leaders will be on hand for instruction and to ensure that current social distancing guidelines and safety precautions are followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In Lyme, Connecticut, students from a local high school practiced safe social distancing all spring to groom three trails that are ready to open the public on National Trails Day, according to Lyme Line.
In Portland, Maine, the South Portland Land Trust is releasing a new map of five trails just in time for National Trails Day.
"Now more than ever, trails and open space are critical to the mental and physical well-being of the city," the land trust said in a release, as the Portland Press Herald reported. "While some beaches and other parks are closed, land trust trails all over the state, including South Portland, are providing a relief valve."
Even though a lot of volunteering opportunities are canceled, there are ways to enjoy National Trails Day and lower your carbon footprint. Suzan Bellincampi, sanctuary director for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Martha's Vineyard, shared recommendations with the Martha's Vineyard Times.
"I'd recommend people think about exploring a new place they haven't seen, or maybe something right in their backyard. In times of climate change, the lower your carbon footprint, the better," said Bellincampi. "That would also protect, from a global perspective, all these places that we hold so dear."
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