Have you ever heard the trail adage: “It’s a simple footpath”?
But, when it comes to privies, shelters, signage, re-routes, protecting adjacent corridor lands, and on-going funding for staff, interpretation, and programs, there is nothing simple about managing our National Scenic Trails.
That’s why ‘Hike the Hill’ takes place every year, allowing AMC and other trail advocates to bring our message of trail needs to Members of Congress and agencies in hopes that funding and support will continue and will grow over time. Earlier in February, AMC’s Director of Conservation and Recreation Policy, Heather Clish, and New England National Scenic Trail Coordinator Bridget Likely traveled to D.C. as part of ‘Hike the Hill’, to increase awareness among federal agency and congressional leaders of funding and other needs for the National Trails System, which is comprised of thirty National Scenic and Historic trails throughout the country.
AMC manages sections of two of the country’s National Scenic Trails; The Appalachian Trail and the lesser known New England Trail (NET). The NET is a 215-mile trail that runs from the Long Island Sound in Connecticut through Massachusetts to the New Hampshire Border. AMC manages the Massachusetts section of trail, while the Connecticut portion is overseen by the Connecticut Forest & Parks Association. Unlike the majority of the National Scenic Trails, the NET traverses through several densely populated areas. Currently, nearly two million people live within ten miles of the trail, allowing it to serve as a gateway to the outdoors for urban residents, college communities, veterans, and much more.
The NET received its federal designation in 2009 and continues to be a work-in-progress. Over half the trail runs through private land, and congressional support is needed in order to ensure that land is protected. During their time in D.C., AMC brought this to the attention of the staff of Massachusetts Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Representatives Jim McGovern and Richard Neal. AMC advocated for their support of several pieces of legislation to be introduced this year which if passed, would heavily contribute to trail protection.
To permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund – This would allow for the continuation of an act which uses revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to protect public lands through federal land acquisition. Learn more >>
Join us in taking action to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund today:
Complete America’s Great Trails Act – This act would allow tax credits to be given to those who contribute to the conservation of a National Scenic Trail.
National Scenic Trail Parity Act – This act would give the NET, along with the Ice Age Trail and the North Country Trail, ‘unit status’ within the National Park Service. This status is already given to National Parks, Historic Sites, and other designations, and would open up additional sources of funding for the trails.
Along with legislation, AMC encouraged the robust and continued funding of the New England Trail through the National Park Service. While volunteers were able to contribute over $575,000 worth of time on the NET in 2016, continued federal funding is necessary to also provide the materials, staff support, and programming for trail upkeep and engagement.
The response from staffers during the meetings was consistently positive and enthusiastic. All four congress members have done great work in the past to advocate for the importance of trails, and AMC was assured that they would continue this work going forward. Their voices and the voices of their constituents are critical for the continued protection of the New England Trail.
To learn more about the New England Trail, and to read about our 2016 Accomplishments please visit newenglandtrail.org
Bridget Likely, New England National Scenic Trail Coordinator